Saturday 1 October 2016

Miriam Donohoe: Forget the pregnant pause, women – if you want a baby just go for it

Published 28/01/2014 | 02:30

Nicole Kidman and husband Keith Urban - she was in her 40s when she gave birth
Nicole Kidman and husband Keith Urban - she was in her 40s when she gave birth

Congratulations to RTE presenter Maura Derrane and her husband, Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy. The happy couple are joining the growing band of "late baby bloomers", with the patter of tiny feet due in March.

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At 43 years old, Maura is certainly on the older side for first-time motherhood. But the glamorous broadcaster – who co-hosts the afternoon show 'Today' with Daithi O Se – says she has reached a "very comfortable time" in her life and is looking forward to the new arrival.

"We're absolutely over the moon and it's a very exciting time. Everything fell into place for us. I'm at a very happy, comfortable stage in my life."

Maybe it was the pressure of the ticking biological clock, but only a few years ago Maura told 'RSVP' magazine that having children was not a priority in her life. "We're fine the way we are, we're happy the way we are. I've always been busy career-wise. I've never been very maternal. I've always been very animal-orientated rather than baby-orientated.

"Maybe I'll regret not having children . . . but at the moment I don't have any immediate plans to have any kids, and do you know what? I probably should have done it 10 years ago if I was going to do it."

More and more women are today putting off motherhood while they build a career, get financially secure, or choose to extend years of so-called "freedom" (as if having a child is a prison sentence). This is despite the fact that women are at their most fertile in their 20s. Fertility starts to decline for women from about the age of 30, dropping down more steeply from the age of 35.

Maura is not on her own by "going for it" later in life. She is part of a growing trend. Celebs Nicole Kidman and Halle Berry gave birth for the first time when they were over 40. Another RTE presenter, Claire Byrne, had her first child, a son, Patrick, in October aged 38. She was back on air in double-quick time and is certainly looking and sounding better than ever.

CSO figures back up the fact that Irish women are waiting longer before succumbing to sleepless nights, endless nappy changes and the expense of child minding. Mothers aged under 30 accounted for almost 35pc of births in 2011, compared to 44pc a decade earlier.

Giving birth is one of the greatest gifts a woman can experience. Yes, it brings with it huge responsibility and lots of heartache, too.

And it is important to stress that not everyone is blessed with being able to have children. It must be heartbreaking for women (and their partners) who desperately want to have a child and can't for whatever medical reasons.

Thankfully, great advancements have been made in the area of fertility treatment.

But it's a shame that there are so many women nowadays who feel they must wait before they experience this precious gift. Being pregnant or having a child does not mean your world stops – though I am the first to admit that sometimes there are hard choices to be made.

I had my son at 25, followed by a daughter at age 27. I never saw this as impeding my career, or restricting my life. We just got on with it. It was at the tail-end of the 1980s' recession, when mortgage interest rates were 14pc. It didn't bother us that we couldn't afford top designer baby gear, or that our house was not perfectly done.

We were the first among our gang of friends to become parents, the first to go through the night feeds, the first to say a temporary bye-bye to a social life. And as a mother I was the first of my friends to experience the guilt and the stresses of being a working mum.

I am rather smug sometimes now as I see friends still at the teen tantrum stage, shelling out a fortune in childcare, and not having the social life I enjoy.

Society does unfairly put pressure on childless women, who for whatever reasons can't have children or make a choice not to do so. It is almost a stigma. I hate that ignorant Irish expression "is there anything stirring?".

And remember that scene from 'Bridget Jones' Diary' when Bridget's seedy Uncle Geoffrey asked when was she going to get "sprogged up"?

"You career girls can't put it off forever. Tick-tock, tick-tock."

And no they can't. Tick-tock, tick-tock indeed. I would say to young women there is no need to take a pregnant pause.

You can't just turn fertility on like a tap. If you are healthy, and have met the right man, go for it.

Irish Independent

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