A little advice from another older mother
`Note to Cherie: having a baby late is no problem; the system gets flooded with oestrogen which stands you in good stead'
Monday 22 November 1999
I think it's wonderful. Any baby's wonderful, and I speak as one who had her fourth baby when she was 47. (Not that I'm trying to compete here in the elderly mother stakes, at which I plainly win, just establishing my credentials to speak on the subject).
See how Cherie's fourth renews the nation? See how the "family", that old fashioned thing, is strengthened. The male/female/child unit might now get some tax benefits to keep it alive, and we heterosexualists can feel just a little encouraged because lately the gays have seemed to be the right-on people, not us, pleasing as they are to capitalism. (Do we call it that any more? Or is it globalisation or the Third Way?)
One up to Cherie and Tony. Gays have nothing to do but gratify the needs of the consumer society, work, earn, woo one another and spend, spend, spend, while couples with young babies tend to lie round in an exhausted state and just cannot get out to the shops.
Gays of either gender who do manage to acquire babies get into terrible trouble - "selfish", "unnatural", "unfair" to the children - but personally I think the uproar is because they're betraying the pink pound.
All those little labour-intensive, bulky, low-priced, loss-leading items like nappies yield a relatively low profit margin - not like those music systems, underfloor central heating, designer clothes, state of the art sports cars and cat litter for the childless and prosperous.
You do get the feeling these days that to have more than one or two children is being wilfully fertile and out of date. It's only the already married over-forties, like our prime ministerial unit, who want to have babies at all: the others have quite gone off the idea - to such an extent that the birth rate is now well below replacement level (only our ethnic minorities go on having lots of children).
Neither have Cherie and Tony been watching the new Ikea TV ads, the ones that urge couples to take offence, up sticks, leave home and start a new one. "Walk away!" sing the ads, while urging couples to make a fresh start. "Pack up, ship out, find a place of your own. "Now you've put your marriage to the sword," exhort their press ads, "go out and choose a cool sideboard."
They must have missed the Bisto ads in which the boy visits his father in his smart new flat, and Bisto does as well as family love. Trendy couple though they are, Cherie and Tony can't have noticed that Oxo axed its family ads because the close-knit middle class family was deemed irrelevant to today's consumer trends.
As our seer and priestess Germaine Greer insisted in her book Sex and Destiny (way back in 1986), the ideal consumer is a single person living on their own. By the year 2020 they say 50 per cent of us will be living in just such households, and the green belt swallowed up by profitable housing and none of this mingy sharing of kettles and washing-up bowls going on. Everyone will have their own. But now Cherie's putting the clock back. Four children and a husband too, all in one house. Of course we're grateful, we married family unitters. One up to us.
The mind leaps forward: now the bar on Catholic monarchy is about to go, and the Blair children are Catholics, how about wedding bells soon for Prince William and Kathryn? Not only would we win the World Cup but the European Song Contest too and Manchester will host the Olympic Games and there will be no end to the good times, no end to the soap opera. And The Blairs could move into the Buck House, and perhaps Elizabeth and Philip could move into 10 Downing Street, and Charles and Camilla could go off to Elba and be as GM free as they wanted and bake Duchy oatcakes to the end of their days. (The oatcakes are very good, and the proceeds could still go to the Princes Trust.) We could all be happy, so happy, and have hereditary prime ministers. The Japanese once did.
Note to Cherie, inundated though she will be with advice from all quarters, and every newspaper awash with "my experience of childbirth over forty" (it isn't so unusual these days): having a baby late is no problem. Apart from anything else the system gets flooded with natural oestrogen, which stands you in good stead for at least another 10 years. If nature says you can, and gets you pregnant, then you can. The "empty cradle" longing gets finally laid to rest: that strange restless feeling that you're only whole if you have a baby in your arms. It's nothing to do with having "more children" that's rational, this is instinctive, and truly powerful.
You may have more trouble than you expect from other women, who somehow feel that it isn't right, that there are only so many babies to go round, and you have nabbed another one out of turn. They can get envious and peculiar.
On first suspecting this untoward event I went to a doctor and said "other women tell me I shouldn't go through with this, my eggs are too old", as if I were some ageing hen, to which he briskly replied. "My mother was 47 when I was born and there isn't anything wrong with me", which put an end to that discussion.
And of course you worry in case the baby isn't "all right" - who doesn't, at any age - but I was in such constant conversation with mine I knew it was just fine and refused all tests and amniocenteses and so on, on the grounds they were an insult to a perfectly good baby. As so he was. True, I had a placenta praevia, for which you need to get to the hospital rather quickly once you go into labour and have to have a Caesarean to get it out. But that can happen at any age, and Caesarean babies are happy babies and tend not to be criers.
My own opinion is that the process of being born naturally gives babies post-traumatic stress disorder for the first couple of years which is why they keep waking in the night. What they're yelling is "Help, help, will it happen again?" But I don't think newspaper columns are proper places for this kind of baby talk: it should be kept for the maternity ward - where you will wonder why all these children are wandering about, and then realise that they too are actually mothers and fathers. How can anyone let them?
It's 11 years since you had your last. You will find the anxiety level risen among mothers, as the genetic testing designed to reassure them sets up endless fearful thoughts: waiting weeks for results, the brain ringing with false negative and no double positives, and yet then if anything's wrong, or might be wrong, no recommendation made to you. "All we can do is give you the odds: it's up to you to decide what to do about it." Please try and work out something to do about this new maternal predicament, once you're the other side of the process. There must be better ways.
Oh yes, and another thing. Out there they think you're superwoman already. Juggling the high-powered job and the official wifedom and the home and the children and everything. One more baby and still managing, and still smiling? Will all the women in the country be expected to do the same? Because you can, doesn't mean everyone can. Explain that to Gordon Brown, who seems to want everyone in the country out to work.
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