They have been dubbed the league of the Super Mothers – the glamourous 40 and 50-something women who, everything else achieved, decide to have a baby. And boy do they make it look easy.
Successful careers in tack, the likes of Dame Natalie Massenet are turning to surrogates to defy nature’s age restrictions of motherhood while international superstar, Janet Jackson, had her son, Eissa, who was born earlier this year, at 50.
American model, Caprice, shocked even herself when she gave birth at 43 just weeks after her other son was born via a surrogate and Halle Berry has spoken out about her ‘miracle baby’, who was conceived despite her feeling premenopausal.
But while adoption, surrogacy, advances in technology and the freezing of eggs makes midlife motherhood a growing possibility for many women, the inevitable arrival of the menopause could make it a traumatic experience.
And these women, while inspirational, are risking making the average 50-something feel inferior. They are in the privileged minority compared to 80 per cent of women of their generation for who experience menopause symptoms. With 14 million women in the UK going through menopause at any one time, that is a significant number. For some of these, the symptoms are so severe that their life feels irrevocably changed.
I have worked with thousands of women around the world who had never considered how the symptoms of menopause could have impacted their lives – until it happens at least.
Then, struck down by hot flushes, insomnia and weight gain, as well as psychological symptoms like mood changes, depression and anxiety, these women are mourning the loss of themselves in every way, and the last thing many would contemplate is throwing a new baby into the mix.
When you no longer have periods, your ovaries stop producing eggs, so your oestrogen levels fall. This often leads to memory lapses, an inability to multitask, a loss in libido, fatigue, depression and mood swings. For ‘normal’ women, the struggle with migraines bulges around the middle, and low self-esteem is not going to be easy to manage with a young child to nurture.
The truth is, menopause has long been a taboo subject, meaning many have sleepwalked into their symptoms, with no idea what to expect of how to manage it.
Having a child is a wonderful thing, but like menopause, pregnancy brings with it a huge hormonal, physical and psychological change. That is why for most women, nature has made pregnancy at time of menopause extremely unlikely.
And even if women decide to go down the surrogacy route, the constant battling between night sweats and night feeds is massively underestimated.
The super rich, successful and wealthy have always had a knack of making things look like a breeze and leaving us mere mortals gawping at their prowess. The truth is that both early motherhood and menopause are life stages to be nurtured, but which equally are often physical and emotional rollercoasters during which one holds tight and hopes for light at the end of the tunnel.
Ironically, some of the feelings of menopause mirror those of post pregnancy and new motherhood. Imagine having to deal with these in tandem!
For most women, being in your late 40s and 50s is just not the right time to be a mother and those that do it are the exception, not the rule. In my online communities, the women I’m supporting wish the super mothers the best – but have no yearning to be like them. These two important life phases are often better off left years apart.
About the author
Maryon Stewart is a broadcaster, best selling author and expert in women’s hormone health. She runs regular online events to help women manage the menopause. Sign up for the next event here.