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Do you have updates on books, publications, or research on older mothers? Email me. (editor null@null flowerpowermom NULL.com)
From the mid-1980s, the world of publishing recognized the dawn of a growing trend: women having babies later in life.
Initially, they focused on pregnancy over 35, and by the turn of the millennium, they entertained giving birth after 40. But they were slow to catch up—by the 2005, women were having babies in their 60’s and 70’s.
Now, there’s a plethora—no, an avalanche—of books out there ready to guide you through every aspect of getting and being pregnant when you enter into the time-honored realm of Old-Bagdom.
However, precious few even attempt to deal with the long term carnage of what happens to you after a successful delivery, when midlife transformation collides with the demands of raising babies and small children.
In fact, this unfulfilled need played a key role in the creation of Flower Power Mom—a drive to hit the raw nerve squarely on its head and give the world a wake-up call on how dramatically the rising trend in midlife motherhood is transforming the modern American family.
Older mothers are getting even older, from 35 to 70, and they are here to stay. It’s time to embrace them as an exceptional ‘nation’ of mothers in their own right, with unique needs, experiences and insights into the world of parenthood.
In 1985 when midlife motherhood was in its so-called ‘infancy’, Dr. Kathryn Schrotenboer’s Guide To Pregnancy Over 35 (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/0738210048?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=0738210048) appeared on the market (Dr Kathryn Schrotenboer-Cox OB/GYN , Random House). Back then, it was “the exception that proved the rule” stating women tend to give birth earlier than later.
However, it sowed the seed of something rather unique….a prototype, an origination—proof that a new maternal population was being ‘born’.
Then, 1998 saw the launch of The Essential Over 35 Pregnancy Guide (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/0380788195?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0380788195), by Ellen Lavin (Avon Books)—a child counselor who gave birth to a son at 41—which actually included the subtopic “The biology of conceiving after 40”.
Again, however, this book begins at preparing to get pregnant and ends at birth.
Lavin’s book was followed by its seeming ‘sisters’, a more varied and multifaceted range of books for over-35ers, demonstrating that the midlife moms market is really beginning to open up by the year 2000:
Your Over 35 Week-by-Week Pregnancy Guide (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/0761526986?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0761526986), by M. Kelly Shanahan, MD (Prima Publishing, 2000); Your Pregnancy After 35 (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/0738210048?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0738210048), by Glade Curtis, MD, and Judith Schuler, MS (Perseus Publishing, 2001).
What is notable is that each of these books focuses chiefly on getting pregnant and getting through the pregnancy—the story ends abruptly at postpartum.
This was probably largely because the big bang was all about getting pregnant and giving birth in the first place. The aftermath was relatively uncharted territory.
As we began the turn of the millennium, publishing saw an influx of books for women over 35 who wanted to get pregnant and the beginnings of a recognition of the next generation of even older women getting pregnant—the over-40’s.
The true mid-lifers.
Even these, however, had a decidedly medical stance and dealt with pregnancy issues only. What happened to midlife women after they gave birth became the “pick-up game” of the whole event, a cursory afterthought for the last chapter.
That was until the breakthrough book Hot Flashes, Warm Bottles—First Time Mothers Over Forty (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/0890879710?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0890879710), by Nancy London, M.S.W. published in 2001 (Celestial Arts). It was the first guide-book to coping with “the unique concerns of the growing multitudes of older first-time moms.”
However, this book deals, from a clinical perspective, with women facing menopause and trying to raise young children and often care for older parents. It is driven by case histories and has a ‘support group’ orientation; the author is a social worker, and she writes from this perspective.
Yes, it served my need to know I was not alone out here on Planet Momhood in the galaxy of Old-Bagdom. Her effort symbolized a turning point in understanding and addressing the unique, and stressful, experience of midlife mothers after birth.
It was an acknowledgement of the challenges that lie ahead.
London should be lauded for the breakthrough. Send in the balloons.
But the book stopped short of the “scream”. Meaning, in the day-to-day trenches of menopausal mothering of two small children, I felt the need also for raw and truthful expression.
In that sense, I found it as useful as a applying a Band Aid to a surgical patient.
Hot Flashes only scratches the surface of the real nitty-gritty behind midlife mothering after giving birth (or adopting). It takes a ‘counseling’ stance, rather than a front line position in the trenches of midlife parenthood.
Perhaps that was all it was meant to do, for now.
Shortly on the heels of this publication came two more related books in 2002: Midlife Motherhood—A Woman-to-Woman Guide To Pregnancy and Parenting (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/0312281315?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0312281315), By Jann Blackstone-Ford, M.A. (St. Martin’s Press) and But I don’t Feel Too Old To Be A Mommy—The Complete Sourcebook for Starting (And Restarting) Motherhood Beyond 35 And After Forty (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/1558748288?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1558748288), by Doreen Nagle (Health Communications, Inc.).
Although, when Blackstone-Ford blithely advises the uninitiated in her “Unscientific Study Results” that “With the cesarean, there is [was] no pain”, as if remembering having once had a wisdom tooth pulled, I am reminded of the anomalous tendency of this genre of writers to gloss over the realities with the sugared frosting of social nicety.
Probably because they felt they had to. There is almost a subconscious feminine, Masonic-type shroud the realities—the real truths—of midlife motherhood are cloistered behind, as if needing to be hidden away.
Later, I was to learn the reason for it.
I’ve had two c-sections and I can attest—not only were they about as pain-free as having an internal examination with a pitchfork—but my husband delights in reminding me (since he was there on both occasions) that the procedure includes having your intestines laid bare after they’ve carved through your abdominals.
And that’s before the epidural wears off.
However, Blackstone-Ford is amongst the first to begin to at least take some stock of parenting after midlife birth, however, she deals with the practical choices of whether to stay at home or work, child care “dilemmas” and getting in shape from an older mother’s perspective.
Although she hints at midlife moms feeling “robbed of their choices”, she stops there and seems to flee from the real day-to-day issues.
From this perspective, the book fails to tackle the almost apocalyptic ‘hangover’ from the Molotov cocktail of babies, menopause, and being marooned at a sea with a shipload of under thirty-five Stepford moms.
Because that’s what it’s really like out there.
Nagle’s book particularly takes a down to earth, “meat and potatoes” approach to the task. A midlife mom herself, she delivers what to expect with practical brevity, spooning up what you really need to know with the utility you’d appreciate and expect from a dowager aunt or grandmother of substance.
So far, so good.
With chapter headings like: Reality Bites (And Kicks and Screams and Says ‘No Mommy! No!’): What Life Is Really Like for the Midlife Mommy, you start hoping that maybe someone finally is going tell it like it really is. But what this chapter is really about is the tendency of midlife moms to “glamorize” motherhood until the rubber finally meets the road and they are on the ride that goes to “infinity and beyond”.
Yes, so we glamorized it. But, now that we’ve achieved the “real thing”, we need to bitch about it. We need to bitch it out with our midlife mommy peers until we feel better and have come up with the unique solutions to some newly invented challenges.
Menopause, new motherhood and the meaning of life after all.
Nagle’s book leads you to the beginning of life after midlife birth. But, once more, Nagle only hints at what is to come; she stops short of the blood and guts of the real daily battleground of midlife motherhood.
It’s almost as if they (authors) are all waiting for someone to make the first move.
What’s everybody afraid of? And what’s this fat-assed White Elephant that nobody’s talking about doing in the middle of the room?
And when are they going to stop nuzzling it and go up and take a bite?
If the turn of the 21st century can be seen as the watershed in public and commercial recognition for the market in midlife motherhood books, then its first decade is evidence that the publishing market for older moms is alive and kicking with a steady annual rise in guide book publications.
At the near-fatal flaw of constant repetition in subject matter, however, authors continue to focus on the hurdles of getting pregnant, staying pregnant and giving birth, as if that was all there is to it.
It suggests uncertainty about where to go next, as if stuck and creaking on an endless publishing merry-go-round, unable to see or take the next logical step.
Further evidence of this chronic, repetitive cycle, lies in more recently published works:
In 2005, Healthy Pregnancy Over Thirty-Five (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/0756609542?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0756609542), by Laura Goetzl (Dorling Kindersley); in 2006,Pregnancy and Parenting After 35—Midlife, New Life (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/0801883210?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0801883210), (Johns Hopkins Press) by Michele Moore and Caroline Costa, the first an MD and the other a practicing obstetrician, offering medical and practical advice with case histories.
These were followed in 2007 by the launch of: The Everything Guide to Pregnancy Over 35: From Conquering Your Fears To Assessing Health Risks—All You Need To Have A Happy, Healthy Nine Months (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/1598692453?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1598692453), by Brette McWhorter Sember (Adams Media Corporation). Her book actually endswith “how to assess financial and career considerations”.
They’re all dealing with getting to the delivery room, with a brief peek at life thereafter. Here we go again.
There’s the fat-assed White Elephant in the corner just counting his toes.
No one is dealing with the harsh and challenging realities of raising children while tackling menopause and the encroachment of inevitable old age, from a daily reality standpoint. You know—like two, three, four, five years, etc. after the fact.
The first author to actually lay hands on some of the ‘myths’ and key issues facing women over forty and looking menopause squarely in the eye is British author, Corrine Sweet, in her book,Birth Begins At Forty—Challenging The Myths Of Late Motherhood (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/Birth-Begins-Forty-Corinne-Sweet/dp/0340756969/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1242958781&sr=1-1) (Hodder & Stoughton, UK, 2002).
Sweet, who became a mother at 43, challenges ‘procreational ageism (http://www NULL.spiked-online NULL.com/index NULL.php?/site/article/4856/)’ with the quip: “Mr. Right is as elusive as Bridget Jones in a thong.” (http://www NULL.independent NULL.co NULL.uk/opinion/commentators/corinne-sweet-the-truth-about-older-mothers-452045 NULL.html) For the first time she reveals some home truths about why women delay pregnancy until later life—“in the baby stakes 50 is really the new 40.”
She painstakingly (and oh so tenderly, with a hushed “If-you-go-into-the-woods-tonight-you’re-in-for-a-big-surprise…” sort of tone) dispels popular public misconceptions about motherhood, one by one.
However, with mounting public pressure against later life pregnancies, what Sweet seems afraid to do is realistically tackle what happens to older women after giving birth. She excuses midlife mom’s complaining of tiredness with “what mother does not?”
It seems that we are all working so hard to find social acceptance and cultural significance as a so-called granny-mom, we’re afraid to upset the applecart within the world of our fragile beginnings.
The birth of a new motherhood order brings both blessings and challenges—with the latter bearing equal (if not greater) importance than the former.
Even with the risk of heightened criticism from those with an axe to grind, we can’t—mustn’t—pull up short. We do get more tired than 35 year olds. Midlife motherhood is tougher. But it’s also wiser, amongst a treasure trove of other benefits and riches.
I suspect that what writers in the midlife mothers market are concerned about is that if a book revealing the truth about midlife motherhood is published—one that dares to include a sort of bitched out menopausal scream, if you will—it will be used by the “procreational ageists” as evidence in support of banning IVF for older women, based on the accusation that we are too old to cut the proverbial mustard of motherhood.
In reality, the opposite is true. Historically, as Copernicus (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Nicolaus_Copernicus) dared to demonstrate, the truth is far more reassuring than the myth—from Renaissance Man to Renaissance Mom, we can lift the veils of ignorance to see lies beneath.
However, an analogy more crude can also be applied here: the time has really come for us to lift up the rock, look underneath, and expose the truth behind being a “granny mom”; the brilliantly exceptional and the blindingly obvious.
Ultimately, it will show that despite the often mind-blowing contradictions between new motherhood and middle age, older mothers have a unique, poignant—and even outstanding—wealth of experience to offer their children that younger mothers do not.
As Sweet herself has merely hinted at with the mention of a thong, it is perhaps time for a sort of “Bridget Jones’s Diary” chronicling the mayhem of midlife motherhood. Something that boldly goes where no book on later life mothering has gone—suckling babies while sucking up on menopause.
Life after midlife birth. The hair-raising experience of Raising Midlife Mamma.
And after the last book on midlife pregnancy and parenting has been replaced on the final shelf, with the truth still to be told, we welcome a new genre.
The chronicles of Flower Power Mom—The Secret Life of a Sixties Child Who Became a Millennium Mom. Watch this space.
Studies & Research
Dr. Julia C Berryman, Honorary Senior Lecturer, Psychology, University of Leicester, UK. (http://www NULL.le NULL.ac NULL.uk/pc/jcb/) Member of the Parenthood Research Group a group of like-minded psychologists whose research projects have included the effects of age and parity on women’s experience of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. Two major studies, conducted in the 1990s resulted in reports entitledMotherhood After 35 and Motherhood After 35: Mothers and Four-Year-Olds are available (see publications). Other publications examine relationships between e.g. age and parenting, see the book ‘Older Mothers‘. Check her site for publication info.
Study: Health and development of children of older first-time mothers (http://www NULL.statcan NULL.gc NULL.ca/daily-quotidien/080924/dq080924a-eng NULL.htm). The Daily, Stats Canada, 24 September, 2008.
Stats Canada study states rate of older mothers giving birth has tripled in the last 20 years. Study compares older and younger moms, showing older moms breastfeed longer, amongst other factors.
Familial Aggregation of Survival and Late Female Reproduction (http://biomedgerontology NULL.oxfordjournals NULL.org/cgi/content/full/glp055v1?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=ken+r+smith&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT), The Journal of Gerontology, May 4 2009; doi:10.1093/gerona/glp055.
Study carried out by the University of Utah suggests that women who give birth later in life are likely to live longer than those who don’t.
Motherhood After Age 50: an evaluation of parenting stress and physical functioning (http://www NULL.fertstert NULL.org/article/S0015-0282(06)04566-3/abstract). Fertility and Sterility, The Official Journal of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Vol. 87, Issue 6, Paes 1327-1332, 8 Feb 2007.
Dr. Ann Steiner’s and Dr. Richard J. Paulson’s widely publicised study, suggesting that women having children after the age of 50 can cope with the stress of parenting just as effectively as younger women.
Pregnancy in the Sixth Decade of Age—Obstetrics Outcomes in Women of Advance Reproductive Age, (http://jama NULL.ama-assn NULL.org/cgi/content/full/288/18/2320) The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA); 2002;288:2320-2323.
Despite an increase in likelihood of cesarean delivery and onset of gestational diabetes, this study found that healthy women in their fifties can expect successful pregnancy and birth outcomes. It concludes that “there does not appear to be any definitive medical reason for excluding these women from attempting pregnancy on the basis of age alone”.
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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)
AARP's "Inside E-Sreet" on PBS TV (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=sGRro4rHGeA)
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