Rachel Harris and her husband, David, were 40 and 43 respectively when she became pregnant for the first time after, initially, years of trying and then giving up. Their son, Max, is 4 in May. Rachel answers our questions.
How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant?
To be honest, I thought there was something wrong with me. My period stopped and I thought I was having very early menopause or something worse.
We had been married 16 years – I was young, 24 – and had never got pregnant. We realised after about seven years that it just wasn’t going to happen. We had all the tests; we were both pronounced healthy and fertile enough on paper; but it just never happened. We talked about IVF but it wasn’t something either of us felt comfortable about.
So how did I feel? In a word, blessed.
Were you concerned about being 40 and pregnant for the first time?
From my and the baby’s perspective, no. I was – still am – a very healthy woman and I knew my baby would be healthy too.
But I did dive into all the facts and figures about women my age becoming pregnant. I went through all the tests. I took all the precautions. I looked after myself and the baby, but I didn’t let myself be paralysed with fear either – which can happen if you read about all the things that can happen. I’ve learned that the medical profession has to balance risk and present the worst-case scenario.
I had bad morning sickness – a bit like Kate Middleton! – but otherwise it was a good pregnancy.
What about being older parents than the parents of Max’s friends?
We certainly did worry about this aspect of being ‘older parents’, and we’ve done all the scenario planning about when he is 18 and finished school, we’ll be 58 to 62.
We have friends who are 10 years younger than that now and their kids are through university and earning their own living! But there also plenty of people like us. Even when we’re at home in the country, Max’s best friend at play school is a little girl called Giselle and her parents are about our age too.
Both my husband and I are pretty fit and active so I’m not worried from the perspective of ‘keeping up’ with him.
Did you have to alter your plans?
We didn’t have to, but we chose to.
I could have got part time work at my company as it's very large financial services company which already had a good options for parents. But it also coincided with buying some land in the country not far from my parents so we decided to build on it.
We’ve now built our dream house and I plan that it’s the one we grow old in together! I now work on a consulting basis and just do bits and pieces when I am asked or if I feel like it.
My husband has to be in Sydney 3-4 days a week for about six months of the year but that works out okay as we have our apartment in Sydney which we were able to keep. Max and I go with him some weeks, but otherwise stay at home. It will be different when he starts school.
Did your life change much?
In a way, yes, enormously. A whole lot changed at once. We moved from Sydney to the country. I changed my work of the past 15 or so years. Of course, we had this new little person to care for.
But we also had the typical 'dual income no kids' lifestyle. Dinner out a few times a week, plays, pubs, cinema, you name it. Plus we would go on fantastic holidays overseas every year and weekends away.
We had our first family holiday away just last year - to a resort in Fiji. It was fun and fanastic, but very different and I felt as if I packed enough for a year! Kids need so much. Our last holiday away was when I was just pregnant. We went to Brazil for three weeks with one bag between the two of us.
Will you have any more children?
I could still have children. My obstetrician said to me it was possible now that I had ‘started’, it could happen again. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it makes no difference either. Max is 4 this May and I haven’t got pregnant again yet. I have read all the books about one child families.
What’s the hardest thing about being a mum?
I think being an older mum it would be unrealistic to suggest that I don’t feel more tired at times than a 25 year old with a similar age baby.
But the really hardest thing is coming to terms with the fact that you’ve got this gorgeous little person who you’re responsible for – well at least 18 years anyway – and you hope you’re doing the right thing as parents every step of the way. That's common to every parent, isn't it? Regardless of age?
What is your advice for ‘older mums’?
- If you want to have a child, don’t let your age put you off.
- Be aware of the risks and health concerns to watch for, but don’t be paralysed by them or be put off by them.
- Keep healthy and active yourself. I exercised right through pregnancy and still do.
- Find out about ‘baby’ things. I had closed myself off from reading about babies and children for years and all of a sudden this whole new world was before me!
- Don’t be frightened. Parenthood is wonderful and no-one is an expert.