I was reading a blog by a fellow Mummy Blogger the other day about age and mummyhood; you know, the eternal question about which age is most ideal. Suddenly it hit me about the weird synchronicities in my life and how there were 3 potential ages and outcomes for my life.
16 – So Nearly A Teenage Mum
It might surprise people to know that I was very nearly a teenage Mum, and therefore can totally understand why young girls make the choice to get pregnant. Not because of council houses etc, etc, but because of an urge for someone who would love me, for me, and need me for me, not use me. It wasn’t a rational thought, it was a pretty lonely desperate thought.
I was a very bright, slightly serious, very responsible girl, who had been what is now termed a ‘young carer’ from an extremely young age (called an ambulance at 5 for my Mum) and I’d pretty much enjoyed the job, just like all young kids who are so resilient and adaptable to situations. But when I hit my teens it got much harder to deal with. During my ‘O’ level revision my Dad had a heart attack, was overdosed by the hospital and ended up in a diabetic coma. Although he recovered, he was pretty sick throughout my exams, plus the family company was being sold. The day that school finished, my Mum fell over the dog and broke her pelvis. So I spent the majority of my summer holidays nursing the two of them, as they refused proper help or to go somewhere more suitable.
It was that time of your life where you start to meet loads of new friends and your social life begins to take precedence. I was lucky, my new friends were willing to come to the house to see me, when I got a break. But after the stress of exams and a tough summer, I was becoming very resentful. I remember distinctly the thought running through my head, that if I had a baby, they would want me for just me, not as a potential carer for the rest of their lives. Now to all the shattered Mums out there, that might sound rather ironic! But it is different. I look in my daughter’s eyes tonight and in a way that young version of me was right and I do feel different about nursing her, than I did my parents.
So for the first time I rebelled when we went on holiday, which happened to co-incide with falling head over heels for a summer romance. The only reason that I did not come back pregnant, was that I happened to fall for someone younger than me (which I didn’t realise), who therefore didn’t take advantage of the potential on offer. Instead I came back a smoker; hell I needed something!
Wow, life would have been different if I’d tried harder to get pregnant. I reckon I would have enjoyed being a Mum, despite my age, and as caring came naturally, I would have taken to the role easily. But so many other things would have changed. Would my parents have helped, so that I could continue to study my ‘A’ Levels? I’m not sure, and even if they did, I suspect it would have been delayed. I doubt the rather disastrous 5yr intense relationship would have happened, as I wouldn’t have been so attractive with a baby. That would have saved some heartache, but also lost useful lessons. I might still have met my husband, if I’d managed to continue and do a degree, even if I’d gone for a local one instead, but again I wonder how attractive I would have been with a 4yr old child.
So here I would be, 40yrs old, with a 24yr old child. They would definitely have left college by now, so I would be free to enjoy my 40’s and make the most of them. They would have known my Dad for 4yrs and might remember him, and would have had 20yrs with my Mum. Plus, I would have had a Mum to talk to when I was tired, and upset, and a Mum to babysit or help out when I just felt like I couldn’t cope. However, my escape from home was combined with going away to do my degree (that was kind of what I’d been working towards since very young), so I might never have got away and stayed as her carer until she died 4yrs ago. But maybe as I learnt more about her from becoming a Mum myself, we might have found a more balanced way? Nahhh, I was too young, and I’ve needed to learn a hell of a lot in order to understand human behaviour, especially when it gets all twisted and knarly. But I reckon I would still have loved being a Mum.
26 – Why Not At The ‘Ideal Age’?
Ironically 3 yrs later I was told by a doctor that I was ‘barren’ and had to take pills for the rest of my life otherwise I would get ‘brittle bone disease or cancer and die’. So at 26 when I was ‘meant to’ be having kids, (we’d been together 6 yrs, married for 1yr) I wasn’t. My husband knew from the beginning that there were problems, but I did double check just before we got married. The specialist said that IVF wouldn’t work, but I could try fertility treatments. However, ironically if I did fall pregnant there was a high probability of multiple pregnancies, but he thought it unlikely I would be successful.
Now, by this stage I was a stress junkie. I did not deal well with my Dad’s death, and had a huge discovery about my Mum which turned my life upside down and back again. I was doing really well in a mega stressful job, and working long days and hours. I organised my wedding in conjunction with my in-laws, which is just not ideal, however nice your in-laws are. There was NO WAY I could have handled twins or worse, it just wasn’t worth the risk. The problem was that everyone said it had to be in my 20’s, and that the slimmest of chances was slipping away. But we weren’t ready, I was too stressed and it wasn’t a priority for my husband. I insisted it would be ‘wrong’ to try for a baby just because of age (please do not think that I am criticising anyone who makes that choice – just wrong for us, that’s all).
I am SO glad that we didn’t try at that point, because one thing I am sure of is that I would not have handled it. I would have been filled with brain noise, and been a prime candidate for Post-natal depression, with no idea on how to tackle it. I wouldn’t have had time to heal the rift between myself and my Mum, which would have just added to the whole messy emotional state. Plus, my husband and I went through a key, although uncomfortable, shift in our relationship 10yrs later, and without it, I don’t think we could have had the family that we have today, or the future possibilities.
36 – Miraculous (and again at 40!)
So then we come to the 36 year old, walking up and down a corridor saying ‘Oh shit’ and starring in disbelief at a pregnancy test that is definitely positive. By now, I’d got so used to the idea of being ‘barren’ that I had totally accepted it, and was sure it was because I’d be a rubbish Mum anyway. Our marriage had been through some tough times, but my husband had also got his head around the lack of children, and we were just planning our very hedonistic mid-life together when I discovered that I was 2 months pregnant!
I didn’t get much chance to think it through, because during the next 7 months my Mum died (she did see me pregnant) and we moved house. So there suddenly in my arms, was this little boy. There was no family to rely on, not many local friends, but most crucially no one to interfere. Everyone said I was lucky to have a boy, because they are so affectionate, and they were right. I spent 3 months holding him, because he screamed if I put him down, and this little creature taught me how to just ‘Be’ in a moment. It was certainly hard, but I immediately found out this amazing thing; I LOVED being a Mum, and I reckon I’m pretty good at it what a surprise!
So It’s Extremes That Win For Me
Ironically that means that at 26 I’m sure, I would have been miserable, and perpetuated all the problems I’d seen in my childhood. Whereas the extremes of 16 or 36, were either before there was too much emotional baggage, or after it was ‘fixed’, giving me the chance to really enjoy being a Mum. So they are the ages that work best for me. Makes sense, as I’m not that traditional anyway!
If I’d been 16, I would have no worries about seeing my grandchildren grow up, and would have had more energy, which would be a big advantage. I had older parents (Mum was 43 when she had me), and there were definitely hardships that I felt due to their lack of health. But this is where I have some power over the situation at 36, because I have the gift of hindsight. So, I’m hoping that in the next couple of years (giving me some time to recover from the arrival of another surprise baby 7 weeks ago at 40!) I can shift my pretty good health up several notches, thereby ensuring I still get relationships with my grandchildren. It’s going to be hard work, but I’m sure it’s possible, wish me luck (ooh, and this time, I might be a bit more careful with that thing called contraception for a while!)
So, is there an ‘ideal’ age? The obvious answer is no. But it’s not that easy. The ideal age for me, was when I was going to enjoy it the most, but I was lucky to get a second chance. Now that I know what having kids is like, I would probably still go for 26 if it was my only chance, and hope that given time I would be able to fix the problems caused by my stress junkie status. Maybe that is one of the reasons why I’m so driven to help other Mums who are stuck in that place of discomfort at whatever age; I suspect it has a lot to do with it.
Here’s the link to the blog that got all this going in my head: A Modern Mother ‘Becoming a Mum in Your 40s’)