Dita De Boni 's Opinion

Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

On being 'old' and pregnant

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I am now 37 years old - just turned. I have two children under 3.5 years old. Just 20 years ago this would have been an absolutely ancient age to be giving birth / having toddlers, whereas now, I reckon I'm totally in the average range.

Not for all of New Zealand, of course. The average age for first children is 30, according to official statistics. For some groups, like Maori and Pacific women, the average age is younger still. And I can't prove it scientifically, but I also believe where you live plays a part.

When I go back to my home town of Pukekohe I can't escape bumping into the women I went to high school with, some of whom - at my age - are now grandmothers.
Lovely, smart, athletic women swallowed up too early into motherhood and having to spend their most vibrant years in menial tasks just to get by.

Sigh.

Depressing yes, but they might see me and my cohorts as depressing too. Coming down to earth with a thud from our rollicking 20s, and the tertiary-educated, middle class woman grapples with infertility, insanity (caused by looking after toddlers after so many years of living controllable lives), and reaching menopause as our children reach adolescence.

In my "new mum" group back in 2006, I was - by a long shot - the youngest woman there, having had my first child at 33. All four other mums were at least 3-4 years older.

Naturally our advanced age makes getting pregnant a near-miracle, but it has other repercussions. Our pregnancies cause aches and strains upon aches and strains, and not being able to dye our hair is a really big issue for those of us that have already gone grey (Not me, as yet, although I've dyed my hair since I was 14 so it would be hard to know!)

Our births are drama-filled. Our main concern in the preschool years is not putting food on the table but whether we should be going back to work or not.

Multiple children pose still more of a problem. If I want another child - and that decision's yet to be made - I need to get a move on. Some friends of mine have become infertile in between babies 1 and 2, and it's a shock for everyone.

For me the problem is not so much infertility but just, simply, actual aging.

There comes a time when you've got to face up to certain facts: wrinkles are here to stay. Those muffin tops will not disappear without huge effort. Squinting to see something is not a cute little affectation anymore but a genuine need. I couldn't thread a needle the other day and realised I was probably suffering from a genuine deterioration in eyesight. (Was I also suffering dementia for attempting to sew? I've never been able to do it properly at any stage in the past). Whatever the reason, being near 40 must make the joys of new motherhood that bit more exhausting.

Which is why I cannot see myself getting up for a newborn baby for much longer... I don't want to!

There must be a reason that fertility drops after 35, and that reason could well be this: you really are middle aged.

A refreshingly frank article from the Guardian recently illustrates the point.

The author finds herself naturally, accidentally pregnant at the age of 47 (after four children! You'd think you'd be able to avoid it after some 30 years of being sexually active, but I guess some women take chances thinking they're already menopausal).

The comment she makes about having half century-old eggs is confronting.

A lot of arguments for and against aged motherhood are advanced on the premise that women choose when to have children.

But for most women I know who start procreating in the mid-late 30s, they do so because they haven't yet found the right man, not because they have their dream partner and keep delaying things.

So many times modern women are considered selfish for this long lead-in time for motherhood, when in fact they are trying to create the right home environment.

And in any case, they pay for this delay: infertility, bodies that refuse to recover, and night wakings well into the years they should be kicking their last kids out into the world!

- Dita De Boni

Pictured above: Getting up to a newborn can be tiring. Photo / Getty Images

Dita De Boni

Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

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