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What IS The Best Age To Have A Baby?
Research has shown that more women over 40 are having babies than women under 20 than ever before. In the last week it has been announced that Janet Jackson is pregnant at 50 and Geri Horner at 44. Woman & Home asked four women for their verdict on becoming a mother at different stages…
A mother in my teens…
Alice Montgomery, 43, is a
teaching assistant and lives in London with her husband Tony, 46. Their
eldest daughter Siobhan, 24, was conceived by accident three months
after they met. They also have two sons, Peter, 22, and Alfie 12.
one year my life changed beyond recognition. As an 18-year-old still
living at home, the biggest decision I made was where to go clubbing
with my friends at the weekend. Having children was something for the
distant future. Then I got pregnant and the following year I was living
with tony in a cramped rented flat, with a tiny baby who was reliant on
me for everything. However, my youth meant I breezed through pregnancy
and birth and I also had that teenage arrogance that I knew best. I’d
often ignore professional advice and follow myown instincts.
parents were supportive but strangers were often disapproving. One day
when Siobhan was crying an old lady on the bus said, “It’s because
you’re too young to control her.”
Financially it was a struggle
too. Tony had a series of jobs and worked hard but in those early days
his salary barely covered the essentials. Some nights we had to choose
between buying food for us or nappies for Siobhan. of course we bought
the nappies. Lack of money put a strain on our relationship, especially
as Tony and I were cooped up together every evening. There were a lot of
At times I felt isolated and I did miss my old social life. At least it was before social media so I wasn’t seeing photos of all the fun my friends were having without me.
What kept Tony and me together? Love, and a feeling we were in it together. And I adored being a mum.
came along two years after Siobhan and we moved to a bigger flat. Then
when I was 30, I had Alfie. By now we were more established financially,
I was working and Tony had a managerial job, but I felt more tired
during the pregnancy and there were complications with my placenta
during the birth. This time I read all the books and took on board
everything the midwife said. In many ways I was more responsible, but I
also felt more anxious about doing the right thing.
My life now…
After eight years as a full-time mum I
became a teaching assistant. People say I should train to be a teacher
but the fact I haven’t is perhaps a consequence of having a baby so
young, as I feel that’s something I should have done in my twenties. I’m
very close to Siobhan, who has a long-term partner Anthony, and last
year they had a little boy, Max. I think when Siobhan was a teenager
the fact that I was so young meant she sometimes found it hard to accept
my authority, but now we’re more like friends. And I love being a young
granny. I am very hands on with Max. Having a baby in your teens
probably isn’t the best time, but I don’t regret a thing.
Siobhan, also a teaching assistant, has a one-year-old son Max with he
r partner Anthony. She says:
“Mum and I are very close, probably because we have more in common than
many of my friends and their mums. Despite her having me so young I was
still terrified when I told her I was having a baby. I thought she’d
want me to be more established in my career before I started a family.
But she’s been totally supportive. She’s my role model.”
A mother in my 20’s…
Primary school teacher Michelle Bainbridge, 46, lives in Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk, with her husband David, 47, and their children Ellie, 18, Edward, 16, and Rose, 13.
At 27 I was the first of my friends to have a baby. Even then, I was considered a “young mum”. But with a history of early menopause in my family I always planned to have my babies by my early thirties. Once i was pregnant, David and I got married and left our rented flat in London to buy a small terraced house in an Oxfordshire village. Despite my age I found pregnancy hard, suffering pre-eclampsia. Being young is no guarantee of a smooth nine months.
When I was six months pregnant I quit my job as a veterinary nurse. Luckily we could afford to live off David’s income as a vet. After Ellie was born, despite having been convinced I was ready to wave goodbye to my child-free lifestyle, I admit there were times in the early months when I envied my friends. They were still in London, clubbing and booking exotic holidays, while I was in the countryside with a young baby, going to mummy coffee mornings. Thankfully those feelings didn’t last all that long.
I know full-time motherhood is not for everyone but I found it fulfilling. I had two more children and stayed at home for ten years. I didn’t find it hard to walk away from my career because I knew there’d be time to return once my children were older. I think it’s a much bigger decision the older you get, when you are more senior at work and your child-free lifestyle is more entrenched.
Now as my children have got older, my friends and colleagues have started having families but I don’t envy their pregnancies. I don’t think I’d have the physical energy for that stage at this age.
A few years ago I began to feel an urge to do something for me. The children needed me less so i went to university and qualified as a teacher, an ambition of mine since childhood.
My life now…
This September, Ellie went off to university, while I
started work as a qualified teacher and it was wonderful sharing those
“firsts” together. Becoming a mum in my twenties was perfect for me, as
it’s allowed me to have both full-time motherhood and not one, but two,
careers. I feel I’ve been able to have it all.
Ellie is studying English Literature at the University of Liverpool. She says:
“It’s only in the past few years it’s struck me that my Mum is around a decade younger than my friends’ mothers. But I’m enjoying the closeness we have, which is partly down to her age. Would I have children at the same age? I’d like to get my career established before I have children, and with going to university I might reach that point a bit later than Mum, but ideally I’ll have my babies no later than my early thirties so I can be a young mum too.”
A mother in my 30’s…
Company director Melanie Lawson, 43, lives in Brighton with her
husband Clive, 45, and their children Grace, ten, Oscar, eight, and
Like a lot of women of my generation I was hyper-aware of my fertility, so knew I’d have to have my children close together. Very sadly my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, but I became pregnant again soon after with Grace.
I had a senior job in advertising but went on maternity leave knowing I wouldn’t return – I wanted to be a full-time mum. Fortunately we could live on Clive’s salary.
I’d seen female bosses juggling work and family life, and all the accompanying guilt, and I didn’t want that. If I’d still been in my twenties I would have felt pressure to return and progress up the ladder, but at 33 I felt I could step back.
As smitten as we were with Grace, Clive and I were both in shock for the first few months. The sleep deprivation and anxiety about what’s “normal” was overwhelming.
I’d spent over 30 years just thinking about myself, now I had this little person completely reliant on me. It took time to adjust. And while I didn’t miss work or my old lifestyle, I did envy Clive having a life outside parenthood and that put a strain on our relationship at times.
He got to talk to other adults and not spend all day wiping up messes. We’d squabble about who was the most tired. I remember once at a dinner party a man asked what I did. When I said I was a full-time mother, he looked bored and turned away. It was hard feeling less valued after having a professional identity. As the first of my peer group to have children i didn’t really have any mum friends. A decade ago there weren’t so many classes for mums either, so I spent a lot of time alone with Grace. I regret not making more of an effort to make friends, especially as I drifted away from some of my older friends because our lives were so different.
When I was expecting Oscar we moved from London to Brighton. It was hard as I suffered from postnatal depression after his birth. But Brighton is so family friendly I started going to mums’ groups and developed an amazing support network, which I still have today.
My life now…
When Stella was one I decided I’d been a full-time mum long enough. I set up Bare Biology in 2013, which sells fish oil supplements. I’m in awe of friends who are starting families at my age. But I’m grateful I had Grace when I felt reasonably confident in my abilities. Had I been younger I don’t know if I’d have coped as well.
A mother in my 40’s…
Lisa Lennkh, 47, is an investment banker turned style blogger. She lives in London with her husband Matthias, 47, and their son Alexandre, three.
When Alexandre was laid on my chest, I wept tears of happiness. Until that moment I’d held back emotionally, a protective mechanism after my struggle to have him.
I never wanted children in my twenties and thirties. I’d seen what happened when women in the city became mothers. Either they dropped down the ladder because they disappeared at 5pm to do a nursery run, or they left their kids with nannies and never saw them.
I was happy to remain career focused and, although I had relationships, I never met the right person. But in 2008 I started dating Matthias, who desperately wanted children. I began to feel differently about becoming a mum. Naively, I didn’t give a second thought to my age even though I was 40. I’ve always been fit and healthy.
My first two pregnancies both ended in miscarriage before 12 weeks. Tests revealed that because of my age the quality of my eggs was declining. It had caused chromosomal abnormalities in the babies I’d lost. i was deeply shocked. It was the first time in my life I hadn’t been able to control a situation.
I realised that a healthy lifestyle can’t stop your body ageing. I wished I’d been in the right personal situation earlier in my life, so I didn’t have to go through this.
We decided to have IVF and to my joy I became pregnant on my first cycle. Having glimpsed a future without a child of my own, I felt so overwhelmed with gratefulness when Alexandre was born by c-section. Used to surviving on little sleep from my banking days, I coped well with life with a newborn and because of my age felt able to trust my maternal instincts.
My life now…
After 20 years in a challenging environment, I wanted a job that I could fit around Alexandre. In 2014 I launched a style blog called The Sequinist.
When Alexandre was two, I got pregnant naturally but again miscarried. Now I’m heading to 50 it feels too old to try again. I do feel sad he won’t have a sibling but he has cousins and friends, which I hope compensates.
I’m staying fit and healthy so I can be around for him for as long as possible. I savour every moment with Alexandre. I learned the hard way there are no guarantees when it comes to fertility, and feel incredibly lucky to have him.
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