My GP Could Not Believe I Wanted a Baby at 46, but I Wouldn't Be without Edith for the World; as the Creator of Bridget Jones Falls Pregnant at Nearly 50 .
Byline: MARTINE OBORNE
BRIDGET JONES, currently heavily pregnant in her latest diary incarnation, would no doubt be proud: at the age of 48, her creator Helen Fielding is pregnant with her second child.
So what is it like to have a baby at a time when most women are looking forward to a quiet life?
Novelist MARTINE OBORNE, 48, lives in London with her husband Peter, a journalist, and five children, Catherine, 19, George, 17, William, 15, Matilda, eight, and Edith, one. Here, she describes her experience of giving birth in her late 40s . . .
LIKE Helen Fielding, I was significantly the wrong side of 45 when I had my last baby. I remember breaking the news to people and watching them struggle to do the mental arithmetic. Exactly how many years was it since my 40th birthday party?
'Poor you,' said some friends. 'What a nightmare going back to sleepless nights and nappies when you could be going back to work or taking amazing holidays - enjoying yourself.' I have to admit it was a shock when I first saw that thin blue line in the pregnancy test display. How would my ageing body cope with the stress of pregnancy and looking after a young child? How long would it be before I got to make that journey through the Sinai Desert I had been planning?
In the early months, I often felt like complaining, but I soon realised how many of my fortysomething friends were really quite envious of me. Not only did they assume I have the most amazing sex life, but many admitted to wanting another baby. They had thought they were too old, but the news of my miraculous conception was a source of renewed hope.
I once overheard someone say to a friend: 'Well, don't give up hope - do you know how old Martine was?' This, of course, made me feel ancient, but not as old as my 13-year-old son made me feel when I told him the news and he ran off to get his Guinness Book Of Records - convinced I was the oldest pregnant woman of all time.
My GP's reaction was hardly more reassuring. He automatically assumed I would want an abortion and refused at first to refer me to a hospital for antenatal care - until I'd had a chance to reconsider. He did not understand why, with four children already, I would 'choose' to have a baby at my age, even though it had been something of an accident and not really planned.
And so I set off for my first antenatal appointment in trepidation. I kept thinking about the doctor who had called me an 'elderly primigravida' when I was expecting my first child at the age of 29 - so what would be said now?
I'm not sure that I envisaged a crash team surrounding me on arrival and insisting I spent the rest of the pregnancy lying in bed, but I did expect at least some veneration.
The Afro-Caribbean midwife laughed, however, when I told her my age. 'My sister was 52 when she had her last one,' she said.
Medically, I was told, it should be a normal, straightforward pregnancy.
I was booked in for the usual tests and all went well. Until I told my doctor that I did not want an amniocentesis, which is designed to test for Down's syndrome in the foetus, the risk of which increases with age after the mid-30s. Suddenly my age became a real issue.
'But Mrs Oborne - a woman of your intelligence, surely you realise that at your age. . .' Exactly, I thought. There is a onein-100 chance of miscarrying a healthy baby as the result of an amnio - and that was a chance I did not want to take.
'But, at your age,' the doctor continued, 'the chances of chromosomal abnormalities . . .' I would just have to take that risk, I replied.
Could he not see that the risks of abnormalities may be higher for a woman over 45, but it is actually harder for a woman over 45 to do anything that would risk losing her baby? And if she had the test and found the baby had a disability, would she terminate the pregnancy - knowing she had little chance of conceiving again? …