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McDiarmid-Watt and her sons

It took several years to get close to the ubiquitous driving force behind three of the most important blog sites for women over 40 hoping to conceive, but what—or rather whom—I discovered was, indeed, worth the wait.

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt, a 57-year-old Canadian, is the last person you’d expect to advocate for midlife motherhood. Far from being a 40+ mom herself, her story makes a strong case for running as far away from the subject as her legs can carry her.

Yet, her websites—known to many midlife women who journey the internet on a pilgrimage of hope—are essential destinations, never failing to ignite a flicker of faith in the hearts of the daunted.

Stories of Pregnancy & Birth Over 44 Years Old, (http://pregnancyover44y NULL.blogspot NULL.com/) a “news story blog”; Pregnancy Stories By Age: 43—56+ Years Old! (http://pregnancystories NULL.blogspot NULL.com/), a substantial collection of  pregnancy stories; and, You Can Get Pregnant In Your 40’s (http://youcangetpregnant NULL.blogspot NULL.com/), featuring a host of informative articles—are a known source of succor for those with a looming sense of maternal desperation.

But what’s the motivation behind them?

McDiarmid-Watt was born in Southern Ontario, during the early 1950’s, when the fruit of women’s liberation was still waxing green on the branch.

“It’s the old story”, she says, “I married out of high school at 18 to a boy who was not ready to be a man.”

“Back then, girls were not encouraged to get a better education or go out to work, so marriage babies were my only option”, she continues.

But the path to motherhood, it turned out, was not quite so simple.  Although she got pregnant easily within 6 months of marrying, she miscarried at 8 weeks.

It took a year, and “many late periods” before she was finally pregnant again.  But during the pregnancy McDiarmid-Watt says she was “terrified to breathe”—and perhaps rightly so, since she miscarried a second time at 14 weeks.

While the doctors insisted nothing was wrong, McDiarmid-Watt wasn’t so sure.

“I started to think it was like in the movies where the character has one miscarriage and can never get pregnant again”, she says.

After 2 years of trying, at last, she was able to achieve a successful pregnancy and gave birth to a son, followed by another several years later.

However, the marriage had grown rocky, culminating in her husband walking out when the boys were only 9 months and 3-and-a-half years old.

Although she dated over the years, strangely, it was during a short-lived re-union with her ex-husband a decade later that she conceived her 3rd son and gave birth for the last time at 34.

“I knew he wasn’t going to stick around, but I had lost too many babies, and my desire to have another child was intense.”

Then at 49, the life took a different path when she met the man she would marry for the second time.

“Within months”, says McDiarmid-Watt, “I was pregnant again!”

But the nightmare of serial miscarriages continued, as they had throughout her life, until she was 54.

“I had a total of 10 losses past 8 weeks and an uncountable number of chemical pregnancies.”

McDiarmid-Watt, whose “ambition had always been to be a mom”, was driven to find a way to channel her grief and disappointment.

“I grew frustrated of being told that it was impossible to get pregnant without donor eggs past the age of 43”, she explains.

She began to collect “older mom pregnancy stories” off the internet and post them on online fertility boards, only to find she was accused of “making them up”.

“My original goal was to find 100, just to prove my point—but my stories just created animosity on the websites, so I took them to a blog where people could read them if they wanted to.”

McDiarmid-Watt recalls that some members of the fertility sites followed her to her new blog and “attacked” her there.

But with the zeal of any missionary, she kept on dishing up hope to the thousands of women, each year, standing on the brink of grief before a world insisting they are too old to get pregnant.

McDiarmid-Watt remains unrepentant, believing that fertility in women over 40—or even 50 years of age—is not as rare as we are led to believe. And, she’s not afraid to back up her position (http://youcangetpregnant NULL.blogspot NULL.com/2010/04/time-to-update-our-over-40-birth NULL.html) with ‘just the facts ma’am!’:

“In 2008, there were 113,666 live births in the United States to women ages 40 through to 54”, says McDiarmid-Watt.

“In 2006 there were 2,274 live births to women over 42, using donor eggs—that leaves somewhere around 111,392 live births over 40 years of age that were not conceived by donor eggs. Does that sound rare to you?”

Her final word to all women over 40, who are not ready to give up on being a mom, is simple, home-spun and—dare I say it—maternal.

“The percentage of women having children after the age of 45 was higher in 1960 than it is now because, unlike today’s women, they had no other choice before ‘the pill’. “

Believe that it is possible”, she insists.

“Women are designed to have children from the start of menstruation to a year or two before menopause.”

Notes for this blog:

Angel La Liberte is the founder of the website Flower Power Mom.com—The Truth About Motherhood After 40 (www.flowerpowermom.com), a regular blog featuring commentary, real mom stories and expert advice about motherhood after 40. She gave birth to her children at 41 and 44 after conceiving naturally.

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9 Responses to The Missionary of Midlife Motherhood

  1. Ellen Dechesne says:

    In the play “Mom’s the Word” one of the characters tells another: “When you get pregnant, no one ever says ‘You’re having a teenager’!”

    But that’s exactly what I want you to consider: having a baby at 41 and another at 46 — in Paris and in Austria, using midwives and natural childbirth, as I did — means that at the age of 60 I am raising an 18 and a 14 year old.

    Which meant that when their father left us I was 49, I had to learn to cope alone with very young children in my 50’s, and I am now a single mum of teenagers trying to meet eligible men and date in my 60’s.

    If you think getting pregnant after 40 is tricky and fraught with setbacks, try THAT!

    Contact me at ‌olderbabe@‍shaw.ca (olde‌rbabe null@null ‍shaw NULL.ca) if you would like me to write about my experience for your website,

    All the best,

  2. Michelle says:

    I knew Catherine (Sarah_Laughed) had perseverance, but had no idea just how much. I’ve always said, and really believe, that we don’t know what someone else has experienced or is going through. I’m so glad we have ACA40 and can support each other via this tremendously caring community. In founding ACA40, Angel has afforded us many opportunities to discover and share information and resources, support and encourage each other, as well as connect with other after 40 women who are experiencing the same things that we are. I’ve learned that we’re not alone, and that has made a huge difference for me, I hope it’s made this journey less isolating for others too.

  3. Elizabeth Gregory (http://www NULL.domesticproduct NULL.net) says:

    I agree with Catherine that information on infertility / fertility is skewed in the media, usually toward the drastic on one side or the other, because that’s what media live on — so it’s hard to get a full picture view of the wide range of fertility experience of humans, as one study of the fertility history of Hutterites indicated.
    For those interested, here are links to some posts of mine on related themes:
    http://www.domesticproduct.net/?p=356 (http://www NULL.domesticproduct NULL.net/?p=356)
    http://www.domesticproduct.net/?p=27 (http://www NULL.domesticproduct NULL.net/?p=27)

    Which is not to say that everybody or even most people are fertile that late, only that our discourse about fertility is very limited, and needs widening to give people full information (and resources) to base their life decisions on.

  4. InSeason Mom Cynthia (http://www NULL.inseasonmom NULL.org) says:

    Catherine is definitely a strong advocate for pregnancy over 40. I’ve suggested her encouraging websites many, many times!

  5. jonesy says:

    i appreciate her efforts and visit her website almost daily. thank you so much you give me such hope.

    however…i think women need to be told that it becomes much more difficult after 35 and to plan their families well before then. don’t play around like i did, thinking you have forever because for many many women it becomes impossible. yes, for many native peoples it’s a longer time because they don’t poison their bodies with processed food or breathe air pollution on a daily basis or smoke and drink.

    young women need to be educated about this. trust me i would rather not have to visit this website month after month.

  6. Jax says:

    As i sit here writing this i am about to turn 47, have been divorced for 5 years, in a relationship with another man for the past 4- now engaged, and have two wonderful kids from my first marriage.
    I also found out i am pregnant. Something an OB/GYN told me was unlikely to happen in my 40s given my past difficulties.

    It is a pregnancy i will be terminating for many reasons-ranging from health, high risk previous pregnancy, to finances.
    It was an unintended pregnancy after years of believing that i couldn’t get pregnant. My last pregnancy was 12 years ago and ended in a pretty horrific miscarriage.

    My first, and only biological child, i had at 26 years of age and my second was adopted when he was two (i was 38).
    For years i tried to get pregnant with my second child to no avail.
    Then at 35 i got pregnant as i was ready to face adoption.
    I miscarried almost 12 weeks into my pregnancy. Actually the fetus died roughly 10 weeks in and my body wouldn’t naturally miscarry.

    I was rushed to the ER for uncontrolled bleeding and had to be given general anesthesia so that they could perform a D&C to remove the dead fetus.

    Two years after my miscarriage we brought home our beautiful son (2 years old) which we adopted from an orphanage. An adoption which most likely not had happened if i had given birth to my second child due to finances and the fact that we only wanted two kids. So, basically, i am glad things turned out the way they did.

    Now that being said i made a choice a long time ago to not have kids beyond a certain age, namely 45.

    Morally, emotionally, physically, financially etc i don’t believe having kids beyond 45 is a good idea. I never have.
    I have seen mothers who had kids in their late 40’s and 50’s struggle and its difficult to watch.

    1st–Some of the kids had differing disabilities. While this could happen at any age the chances are far greater in mothers who have given birth beyond the age of 45.

    2nd–In many cases the moms were either “too tired”, too sick, too burned out etc to keep up with the baby, toddler, pre-schooler, young child.

    3rd–The age in which MOST men and women begin to experience various age-related illnesses, conditions, disabilities is in late 40s and beyond.
    So the likelyhood of developing a condition which will prevent you from successfully parenting a baby or young child is far greater in late 40s and beyond than it is in your 20’s and 30s.

    4th–The financial stresses can be enormous. Good luck retiring at 65 if your child is barely 12 years old.
    Children need financial support, and alot of it, even entering into their college years.
    In todays economy–at least 40% of young adults between 18-27 are still living with their parents due to the inability to find work with decent enough wages to support themselves.

    5th–I couldn’t imagine being 65-70 years old and too ill and too broke to be able to help out my young adult child (18-25 year old)-could you?
    Most employers won’t hire a 70 year old no matter how *vibrant* they are. Health insurance costs for this age group is just too great.

    6th–You will most likely never see your child get married and have children of their own or even be able to be a source of emotional, physical and economic support for them during this period in their lives.
    Nowadays most young adults, for economic reasons, won’t marry until they are almost 30 or beyond.

    My parents are in their late 60s with a slew of ailments as early as early 60s.
    Ironically, they took good care of themselves and were physically active and it wasn’t until late 50s that diagnosis of heart disease, diabetes, anxiety disorder etc came into play.

    If my mother had had a child in her late 40s or 50s I would be taking care of that child today (since my sister and brother are not in a position to do it) and my parents would deeply regret not being able to parent that child. Not to mention that child would most likely be saddened by not having had parents, in the typical sense, like other kids.
    If that child had been an only–he/she would most likely be in foster care since my parents siblings are either dead or too old and sick to take care of a child.

    The mentality that you are “very healthy and active” does not negate the fact that most disabling chronic conditions happen after the age of 45.

    My brother had his last child at 40. Now he’s a 49 year old mess. He has had numerous heart scans and diagnosed with a heart condition. After 18 years of a successful career he has been laid off for two years and unable to find work with a wage that will allow him to support his three kids (this despite two masters degrees).
    Before this my brother was a “vibrant” and “physically active” individual having served two tours in the military in his 20’s-30’s.
    His wife decided that parenting isn’t for her since at the age of 48, and with back issues, she finds it too difficult taking care of 3 little ones so she enrolled in school as an excuse to not have to parent. Since my brother lives pretty far from any of us, and since his wife doesn’t want to move closer to family, he has
    no help from family, he’s own his own when it comes to raising his kids.

    Keep in mind that neither myself or my siblings ever expected to have any kids of physical or financial issues in our 40’s.
    We are all responsible, physically active and healthy professionals people.

    My point is that STUFF HAPPENS. Even though you could argue that stuff happens at any age it is far likelier that it will happen in 40’s and beyond.

    Before you start considering having more children in your 40’s and 50s my advice is to please please reconsider.

    If this is your first child then i pray that you have the financial, mental and emotional resources to effectively parent that child. Otherwise you will most likely be bringing a world of hurt to yourselves and your children.

    One more thing–to compare yourself to women who had kids in their 40s back in the “good old days” of the 1940’s and 1950s etc is a big mistake.
    Back then these women had the resources of extended families and the divorce and unemployment rate of their husbands was alot lower than it is today.
    Back then a woman’s “career” was to raise children.
    Back then the cost of living was far lower in so far that only one spouse needed to work outside of the home.
    My grandmother had her last child at 46(unexpected pregnancy). She had a complicated childbirth and almost died. She was also bedridden for a while.
    But what she also had was a huge family support who pitched in to take care of the other kids. She had grown kids who pitched in to take care of the baby and a husband who was gainfully employed in his own business and financially successful.
    So even if his business had tanked they would have had enough money to take care of their kids. Not to mention there were plenty of jobs available for the grown kids and they were gainfully employed.

  7. Barbara says:

    Jax, let me answer you point for point

    1st– Just because a baby is disabled, doesn’t mean that you should kill it. So many of us older moms would love to adopt your baby, even if it has profound disabilities. There are even waiting lists.

    2nd– Just because you might not be up to the task of late motherhood, many are. They are waiting to adopt your baby. You might even suprise yourself and feel differently once your baby is born.

    3rd– Medical conditions in later pregancies have never been managed with more technical expertise. Many women don’t experience these hardships, and if they do, they are a small price to pay for creating new life.

    4th– A baby can be raised frugally, if you don’t demand every luxury and make some sacrifices. People can pay for their own college education by working… I did. The economy might even be pretty rosy by the time your baby is 12!

    5th– Sorry, but and 18-25 year old child is more than capable of getting a job and contributing to their own welfare. It will improve their character greatly and they’ll be self-reliant adults who are not a drain on society, but a benefit to it.

    6th– Why on earth are you owed being at your child’s wedding? This is probably the most ridiculous reason yet to abort a baby. Rather deprive your child of the wonderous appearance of YOU at their wedding, you would deprive them of their very life? Your chances, by the way, of dying before your child is 30 are very slim, given life expectancies these days.

    You can see how shallow the mentality of abortion is. It throws a thousand petty reasons on top of what is essentially the murder of an unborn child to compulsively justify what is essentially selfishness. It is a despairing mindset. It kills generosity. It kills love.

    So, you had unprotected sex. The health of your body determined that you could get pregnant. You brought a child into existence. Now you’ll kill your baby because suddenly you are wise and responsible? I can only imagine the sadness of women who can never achieve a pregnancy at all, mourning for this poor, destroyed life that never had a chance.

  8. Jenni wolff (http://Pregnantafter40) says:

    You are a selfish stupid women. In had more problems with pregnancies in my 20s then with my last when I was 42. You are going to kill an innocent baby because it doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle or views on older mums. I would love to be pregnant again but it will probably never happen!!

  9. Beateice says:

    I just want to say , i am 45 and i am in my second life as i call it Im divorced from my first marriage and met a wonderful man who hasnt been fortunate enough to have a baby .ive had 3 children ,youngest is 11 . Sometimes i feel guilty as he loves me and maybe i cant give him a family . He is 15 years younger than me . We say if its meant to be it will . Every month goes by and i cant even get a positive test another month of sadness ,so i say babies are a gift so just remember they choose you so just love them . Baby dust to all wanting this precious life !!

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