43 and pregnant: How one woman challenged being labelled a ‘geriatric’ mother

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43 and pregnant: How one woman challenged being labelled a ‘geriatric’ mother

Cari Rosen has delved into her personal experiences to write her searingly honest memoir, The Secret Diary of a New Mum (Aged 43¼)

Alex Galbinski is a Jewish News journalist

Cari Rosen challenged why she was labelled a 'geriatric' when she fell pregnant aged 42
Cari Rosen challenged why she was labelled a 'geriatric' when she fell pregnant aged 42

Leafing through her pregnancy notes before her first antenatal appointment, Cari Rosen saw herself described as an “elderly primigravida” and baulked. While she was cognisant, aged 42 and pregnant, that she was no spring chicken, the term felt especially unpleasant.

This, along with other comments and shouty tabloid headlines about older mothers got her thinking. Why are older women criticised for having babies and older men aren’t? Why do people assume women are “selfish workaholics” or “career-crazed power freaks”, who put off having children, she wondered. What can be done so that an older mum doesn’t feel like a “fossil”?

A former journalist and TV producer, Rosen had been documenting on social media some of her amusing parenting escapades with her daughter, who is now 12.

A comment by a friend made her consider publishing a book and, as luck would have it, she was then working for a literary agent one day a week. The agent was interested – and the recently-published result is her witty, honest and searingly down-to-earth account of motherhood, The Secret Diary of a New Mum (Aged 43¼). 

It is true Rosen had advanced in her career. She had achieved, she says, what she had wanted to do, interviewing the likes of Sting, Yoko Ono and the Goombay Dance Band, alongside maintaining an active social life.

But she hadn’t met the person with whom she wanted to have children until she was in her late 30s.

“I didn’t ever intend to be what is charmingly called an ‘older’ mother, but it was circumstance and life…” Rosen admits.

Cari Rosen has delved into her personal experiences to write her searingly honest memoir, The Secret Diary of a New Mum (Aged 43¼)

“At my first antenatal appointment, I was called a geriatric mother and an elderly primigravida, which is not great for the ego! It makes you feel like some sort of antediluvian relic where you are really outside the norm.

“I kept seeing tabloid story after tabloid story telling me I had been selfish and career-crazed and that’s why I’d put having a family on hold – but that just wasn’t the case for me.”

She started talking to others and discovered many in her north London neck of the woods were in the same boat. “I found that nobody fitted the reasons the tabloids were giving, and I just thought it’s about time somebody told it like it really is.”

As Rosen writes, in Britain alone, almost 30,000 women in their 40s are having babies every year – a figure that has doubled in just a decade. She hears from an acquaintance that in Italy one in every 20 babies is born to a mum in her 40s and it is totally accepted. Rosen questions why this is not the case here.

She understands the risks of women leaving it late to have a baby, but says her research revealed this is not the case for most women and, conversely, many younger women have difficulty conceiving or do not feel in a position to have a child.

“People have said it’s ‘unnatural’ [to have a child as an older mother]. I didn’t have fertility treatments so what’s unnatural about conceiving a much-wanted child naturally?

“And then you hear, ‘it’s not fair on the child’. “Well, I tragically lost a friend very young who left very young children. None of us know what card life has for us, and all we can do is our best to stay healthy and well.”

Her quite serious observations about the sexism and judgemental attitudes expressed in relation to older mothers is punctuated in her book by witty observations about the parenting journey.

It is not just a good read for the older mother (who will nod knowingly at the mentions of school greaseproof loo roll, Pogles’ Wood and even shillings); it will also resonate with younger and especially first-time ones.

She relates hilariously how, for example, while pregnant, her breasts became “the size of watermelons” and is dismayed they were now considered a “suitable topic for dinner-party discussion”; how her neighbour in the hospital recovery room is “ready to run a marathon while I can barely make it back to bed”; and how, trying to breastfeed, her own “weeping is louder than the child’s”.

Rosen says: ‘Being a new mum is wonderful, bewildering and exhausting – however old you are’

As Rosen tells me: “The book is about being a new mother in a way anyone will identify with. My experience is exactly the same as a lot of friends, apart from the cultural references. Being a new mum is wonderful, bewildering and exhausting however old you are.”

Having had a miscarriage before becoming a mother, she counts her blessings, which is why she and her husband did not try for another child. “I feel very fortunate,” she explains. “I always wanted to be a mum and I did think it might not happen. I feel very lucky that it did.”

It is clear Rosen, who hails from Manchester, adores her daughter – but when it comes to motherhood, she reassuringly tells it like it is.

As a new mum, she writes that she spends “an inordinate amount of time trying to work out which way is up with the teeny, tiny nappies and how to change them without getting poo on the bed”.

She brings her daughter home and “we are eyeing each other suspiciously – she wondering whether I have a clue what to do with her (no) and me trying to work out what on earth the various squeaks and snuffles are supposed
to mean”.

Slowly, but surely, she learns and gets through each challenging stage. New mothers reading her book will feel she is there guiding them too – whatever age they may be.

The Secret Diary of a New Mum (Aged 43 ¼) by Cari Rosen is published by Duckworth priced £8.99. Available now      


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