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Fifty-year-old Jan Andersen, Founder of the UK website Mothers Over 40 (www.mothersover40.com), has had a lifetime of defying the status quo—and setting the gold standard for learning from life’s experiences.
Little did I know when I got pregnant at 41 in 2002, that I was already ‘sisters-in-arms’ (the embracing kind) with a woman I had never met—although we were strangers divided by 5,300 miles, a continent and an ocean, we were as close in spirit as if we had lived next door.
Today, Flower Power Mom and Mothers Over 40 have united as “sister sites” collaborating between the USA and the UK, and Jan is on FPM’s expert panel–The Over 40 Mom Squad (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/meet-the-over-40-mom-squad/). And there are many more good things to come from the association–so stay tuned!
In the meantime, however, back to our story.
In January 2002, after the first rush of joyful exuberance when my pregnancy test popped a positive, I was surprised by the mixed bag of emotional reactions from my female peers, along with the barely concealed, lemon-lipped dismay of some of the health professionals responsible for my prenatal care.
Before my first trimester was up, my same-age female peer group was completely divided. Those with families seemed to hint at the unseemliness of a midlife pregnancy. The still-single eagerly grasped at what they felt was a last flimsy straw; there was hope for them still.
I knew it before my first trimester was up: pregnancy in my forties was going to be a lonely, angst-laden roller-coaster ride through an unwelcoming medical community and an ambivalent public—there would be no relief until the ride was done.
Yet there’s the old saying: if life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
If there’s a recipe for overcoming a whole tree of them in your path, then Jan Andersen has invented it.
In the soon-to-be-born campaign for awareness of midlife motherhood, a groundswell was already building. While I was only 4 months into that pregnancy in April, 2002—Andersen was on the other side of the world launching the “skeleton website” for Mothers Over 40 (http://www NULL.mothersover40 NULL.com/home NULL.html), from the United Kingdom.
It was a bold, pioneering initiative that was three years in the making—one that took a lifetime of parenting to reach.
Andersen, was a Copywriter and Editor whose first marriage ended in 1992. This left her to raise three children single-handedly, yet she met her current partner three years later .Then, in 1999 as Andersen had turned 40, their daughter Lauren was born.
When she was pregnant, Andersen says she had “a rather pessimistic midwife who kept throwing grim statistics at me. I think she was expecting me to develop every pregnancy condition under the sun, but I developed none!”
Made uneasy with warnings about the risk factors of later life pregnancies and “grim” prognostications about the potential fate of her baby, Jan Andersen says she “scoured the internet for positive information – anything that would allay my fears, given all the scaremongering about having babies after the age of 40.”
It was not what she found, but what she didn’t find that became the seed of an idea. “I quickly realized that there was a huge gap in the market for a more positive and encouraging resource geared towards midlife parents and anyone planning a pregnancy after the age of 40” says Andersen.
It was while she was a pregnant that the idea for Mothers Over 40 (http://www NULL.mothersover40 NULL.com/home NULL.html) was born. It would take another three years before the website launched, initially offering her own personal experience and a host of positive articles and resources relating to fertility and midlife parenting.
After the launch, Mothers Over 40 (http://www NULL.mothersover40 NULL.com/home NULL.html) quickly grew into a complex resource, including a penpals’ service, enabling mothers over 40 from around the world to make the connection they most need with their own peers.
According to Andersen, the UK media and public response to Mothers Over 40 (http://www NULL.mothersover40 NULL.com/home NULL.html) “has been phenomenal”.
As the media scrambled to cope with the rising population of midlife moms, she became the “first port of call” for television and radio producers, along with newspaper and magazine editors, in search of a pundit who could speak on behalf of the rising new breed of older mothers.
“It is clear that hundreds of thousands of women worldwide are embarking on pregnancy after the age of 40 and beyond” she says.
In one of her more memorable moments, Andersen recalls receiving a personalized letter from form Prime Minister’s wife, Cherie Blair—herself a mother giving birth at 45 (http://news NULL.bbc NULL.co NULL.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1339813 NULL.stm)—congratulating her on the achievement of Mothers Over 40. (http://www NULL.mothersover40 NULL.com/home NULL.html)
But in the years since the launch of her website, Andersen has noticed a significant shift in the litmus through which “older” mothers are perceived. Motherhood in our forties is no longer newsworthy.
Like the recent fracas about 60-year-old Susan Tollefsen—the oldest woman in Britain to be offered IVF—media hounds are now on the trail of women giving birth in their sixties.
“The common question that is always asked is, ‘Is it right for a woman of that age to have a baby?” says Jan. “When a topic like this arises, I can receive upwards of 10 radio interview requests in a day.”
Jan Andersen believes that pioneering Mothers Over 40 (http://www NULL.mothersover40 NULL.com/home NULL.html) has been one of her greatest life achievements. Little does she realize, perhaps, that she has pioneered a movement—a campaign for awareness and acceptance of midlife motherhood.
“I think society places enormous pressure on women to have children by a certain age. Yet, as an older parent, you are entering motherhood with a lot more experience and better equipped to deal with the challenges you face.”
Right on, sister! Flower Power Mom couldn’t agree more!
Note to readers:
Mothers Over 40 (http://www NULL.mothersover40 NULL.com/home NULL.html) Over-40 mom, Jan Anderson, pioneered this encouraging and supportive site, first established in the UK, for anyone planning a baby past the age of 40. Informative articles, books, shopping, a penpals’ facility and links to invaluable fertility resources.
Jan has also written a book and website on losing a child to suicide called Chasing Death (http://www NULL.chasingdeath NULL.com/).
- (http://www NULL.ctvnews NULL.ca/health/health-headlines/women-increasingly-going-online-to-seek-free-sperm-donors-1 NULL.1590245)
Angel on CNN(http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=WySnP2nnwXU)
CNN Mother's Day: "Mature Moms" (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=WySnP2nnwXU)(http://youtu NULL.be/atScMih4_d0) (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=sGRro4rHGeA)
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