Older mums: Why we are glad we waited to have a baby
With the number of mums over 40 now greater than teens for the first time in 70 years, we talk to two women who say parenthood is a blessing whatever the age. Una Brankin and Karen Ireland report.
Women aged over 40 are more likely to become mothers than teenage girls for the first time since the Second World War.
The Office for National Statistics revealed that last year 15.2 out of every 1,000 women over 40 gave birth compared to 14.5 of every 1,000 women under 20.
The landmark figure has been attributed to changes in society such as growing aspiration among young women and long-term contraceptive methods.
Meanwhile, women are delaying becoming mums due to education, careers, the cost of housing and the increasing instability of partnerships with potential fathers.
Singer Janet Jackson recently announced she is expecting her first child at the age of 49 while Shameless actress, Tina Malone, who had a baby when she was 50, now wants to have another at 53. Being an older mum now is clearly more common than in previous generations.
‘We now have time as parents which we didn’t when we were younger’
One women who knows all about being a first-time parent later on is a former Miss Northern Ireland.
Motherhood at 48 has brought great joy into the life of Majella Byrne Lloyd. The former beauty queen and her husband James, who works in the City of London, welcomed little Paul Patrick into the world last November, five years after their wedding day.
“Yes, I’m an older mother — I was in no rush and yes, he’s my little miracle,” says Majella, who’s originally from Newry. “Having a baby not too young has great advantages, especially if you are in a loving relationship. The support from a partner is important and that I have in abundance.”
A former bank executive, Majella went into event management after winning Miss Northern Ireland in 1987 and has lived in London for 24 years. Her work with clients such as Philips has taken her all over the world and she now manages teams throughout the UK, including those assigned to the annual Wimbledon tennis tournament.
Now on maternity leave, Majella’s pace of life has changed dramatically.
“I’ve always been a hard worker and I think my industrious approach in life has prepared me for being a mother,” she reflects. “Late nights and relentless days, looking after this wee person, does not seem as much of a chore as travelling around the world and working sometimes 18 hours a day, week after week.
“My mum says I have a great constitution — that helps. Life is different now. Back then it was all hustle and bustle and I loved that, and I miss it sometimes. But I’m very happily married and much more content now, with the baby. I have a great life.”
Given the increase in the numbers of women giving birth in their forties, Majella was pleased to find that she wasn’t treated any differently to younger mothers, and was never referred to by the unflattering term of ‘senior mother’.
“For me, personally, this is a good time for motherhood as everything — material wise and emotionally wise — was in place and we both were ready to share our lives with another human being without having money pressures,” she says. “But most importantly, we have the time now to be parents. We have lots of time to give and don’t seem to be rushing around so much as when we were younger.
“Also, we had no regrets at this age. We both have lived our lives. We’ve travelled the world and together went to all the nice restaurants and bars and theatres, and now we’re happy to be at home lots, looking after the little one.
“Now, when I hear a baby cry other than mine, my heart melts. I have a better understanding of others peoples’ kids these days.”
Baby Paul Patrick brought light into Majella’s family’s life at a time of darkness. He was born just six weeks after the death of her father Patsy, a popular car mechanic from Newry.
“It was devastating to lose dad — he was a great supporter of my work and he used to drive me everywhere. But as they say, God takes one heartbeat and gives another. Being a mum at any age is rewarding if God grants it, which he did for me, and for that I feel truly blessed
“I think having a baby anytime in life is glorious but you really must wait till you find that right person, in my opinion. It’s a tough job, so any help is welcome, whether you are 20 or 40.
“I personally have never felt love like it,” she adds. “It does help that he’s a very content, charming, well-behaved baby and really only makes noise for food — just like his mum.”
Majella’s advice to any woman in their forties contemplating having a baby is simply to follow all the standard rules.
“It’s important to relax and be healthy. Take your folic acid and don’t drink. With positive thinking, anything is possible.”
‘In my 20s I could stay up all night and party... getting up with a baby at 40 is hard’
UTV’s deputy political editor Tracey Magee, now 47, was 40 when she had her son Jack — at the time she thought motherhood had passed her by. Tracey, who is one of UTV’s most recognised faces, lives in east Belfast with her husband Ian (50) and Jack.
The busy reporter says she has worked hard to get her current job but admits, at one stage, she wondered if it had all been at a cost.
“I was very career driven and focused on succeeding in work which was really important to me. I was never one of those women who worried about her biological clock, until I hit 35, and then mine started ticking with a vengeance.”
Tracey, who wasn’t in a serious relationship at the time, says she began to worry that motherhood wasn’t going to happen for her.
“A lot of my friends had children who were starting school by this stage and I started thinking — is this not going to happen to me? Had this chapter in my life come and gone?
“I was devastated and of course there were babies everywhere I went and pregnant women. Reluctantly I started to accept that perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Having successfully climbed the career ladder in a political world dominated by men, she was worried she had left it too late to concentrate on her personal life.
“I had been in relationships but there were never any serious enough for me to consider marriage or starting a family with.”
Things changed, though, when Tracey met Ian, a video editor who was doing some work at UTV. They met and hit it off instantly. An office romance turned into love and the couple both knew it was what they wanted.
“That’s the advantage about doing things later in life. You don’t mess about as you know what you want,” says Tracey.
The couple got serious pretty quickly and a few years later they decided to try for a much-wanted baby.
“I was lucky as Ian wanted children, too, so we started trying. Fortunately it didn’t take very long before Jack was on his way.”
Tracey says she was blessed with a pretty uneventful pregnancy until the end when her blood pressure went up and she was forced to stop working.
“I hadn’t been resting properly and was working away so it’s no wonder my blood pressure went up. In the end Jack came two weeks early.
“My labour was pretty stress-free until the end when they said I had a couple of hours before it would be time to push. Five minutes later I was pushing and within two pushes Jack was out.”
Tracey said she was in love immediately with her little bundle and so delighted that he was fit and healthy.
“It was exhausting (being a mum) at the start. I think that was to with my age as in my 20’s I could stay up all night at a party, but here I was trying to stay up half the night with a crying baby and it was killing me,” she jokes.
As much as Tracey loves her work and is completely dedicated she admits jack is now her number one priority and if he needs her nothing else matters.
“Being an older mum I do feel so blessed and fortunate that this happened to me and Jack is 100% my focus in life.
“As older parents Ian and I are prepared for the sacrifices of having to sit in on a Saturday night and no more fancy holidays for a while. We had done all that so we didn’t feel like we were missing out.
“We’d had our fun and were ready now to settle down and devote our time to being a family.”
Tracey says she has friends with children of all different ages so she gets advice from them.
“Most of my friends who I went to school with have children who are in secondary school now. It’s great as I can go to them for advice on what lies ahead. We also have a close circle of friends and all our children have grown up together so they are very close.”
She admits to getting broody again when Jack was about two years old.
“I thought it would be lovely to have another one at that stage but it just didn’t happen for us. However, by that stage I was 42 and the risks would have been higher, so we just count ourselves lucky and are thankful for what we have.”