WHAT IT'S LIKE BEING A GRANDMOTHER AT 38*
(*and pregnant at the same time as your daughter!)
By Heidi Bray, Blogger at Tigermamma
My motherhood journey began in the early 90’s, at the ripe old age of 19. It was the era of the warehouse Rave generation, and I spent every weekend dancing till the sun came up without a care in the world.
Life was all about fun, raving, friends and being in the throes of young giddy love. I was a rebel child, unapologetic in my constant quest for fun and adventure and was most definitely always ruled by my heart not my head.
So, it wasn’t a huge surprise when I found myself pregnant for my childhood sweetheart, and round the way boy Kevin. The day I found out I was pregnant, I remember sitting in the toilet of his Mum’s house, with him and his older sister nervously waiting outside. I stared at the blue line in that little window feeling both scared and excited.
Once the dust had settled, all I could think about was what my baby would look like, how her hair would curl, would she have my light coloured eyes? I would daydream about all the cute clothes I would dress her up in (oh so young).
Pregnancy was a breeze, and I even managed to go raving in my third trimester. It all seemed so normal dancing the night away to drum and bass sipping on a bottle of water; I didn’t even give it a second thought. I was happy and loving life.
When my first daughter was born, I’ll never forget that feeling that came over me as I held her for the first time. Scrutinising every inch of her, leaving no stone unturned, checking her perfect little fingers and toes and feeling grateful that she was healthy. I was overwhelmed with love and a fierce protectiveness for this little human.
I was all up in my feelings. Everything changed from that moment - I was someone’s Mummy and I took to it like a duck to water, my maternal instincts coming into full force like a tsunami.
I remember my Mum’s neighbour coming over to see my baby and wanting to hold her; a feeling of panic came over me because she hadn’t washed her hands so I fled upstairs so she couldn’t touch her.
All of a sudden, I was no longer the rebel without a cause, but a Tiger who was protecting her cub. My real-life dolly had forced me to become an adult overnight.
I loved every minute of being a mummy and I took it all in my stride. Being a teenage mum, I just cracked on and got on with it. Growing up with my little mini me, we were on this journey together as a little family with no real care in the world, happy in our own bubble, it sometimes felt like we playing real life mums and dads.
Unfortunately, me and her dad split up after eight years together, and two years later I found myself in another relationship, pregnant with my second daughter at the grand old age of 26. But after several years in a mentally and physically abusive relationship, I was free and a single parent with two children.
This is where I really came into my own, although I was in the midst of anxiety and panic attacks I had two little girls relying on me each and every day. So, I conquered my fears and trained as a Nail Technician. I got a great job in London which I loved, I started going out again and having fun. I even moved to a completely new area and slowly but surely rebuilt myself and at the same time completely reinvented myself.
I was finally having fun again, with a buzzing social life and loving singledom. My girls were now a teenager and an 11-year-old, which gave me more freedom and time to be me again. Then life threw me another curve ball and my teeage daughter got pregnant with her childhood sweetheart (history repeating itself?) and later gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.
Now I’m a grandmother at the age of 38. My own mum didn’t hesitate to point out that this was my payback for making her a grandmother at 37. The love I had for this little bundle of cuteness was immense, I definitely know what they mean when they say how strong the love is for your grandchildren. I was totally smitten.
It was great having a baby around the house again, but it turned me into a neurotic mad woman and major germaphobe. I almost drove my daughter mad and turned everything into a hazard perception test.
How on earth did I go from being a laid-back teenager, to that weirdo over the top mother in the Catherine Tate show. Becoming a grandparent ignited that overprotective flame in me once again. How was I going to cope? Something that I’d learned to tone down with my own daughters, as they grew more independent, but was now hitting me harder than Mike Tyson in the first round.
I even used to try tricking myself into relaxing, by telling myself that this was not my baby (who was I trying to kid?) but this didn’t work and I found it difficult to distance myself and relax.
I remember one of my friends who’s absolutely obsessed with babies; so much so that she picks up the Mothercare book every time a new one comes out and coos over the latest prams. Bearing in mind that all of her five children are grown up, and she’s also had a voluntary hysterectomy so she couldn’t pro create anymore, she’d always try to get me on board with her fantasy baby window shopping.
And I wasn’t remotely interested, just happy with being nanny to my adorable grandson whom I could give back to Mummy whenever I wanted. I told myself: “I’ve had my babies and that’s it for me!”
Never say never they say! Fast forward to me at 40 and pregnant with my third daughter. I met a special person and fell head over heels in love and as he didn’t have any children, we agreed that we’d let nature take its course and if it was meant to be it’ll be.
The rest is history. My fertility was off the charts and within a week I was pregnant and freaking out at the thought of being a mum again in my 40’s. I used to say that I wanted all my children before the Big 40 now here I was a young mum that just became, in my eyes, a geriatric one.
And I definitely felt more tired this time around, but thankfully my partner became my personal chef, cleaner, the designated teenage Uber driver, and masseuse.
Labour and delivery went very fast, so fast there was no time for pain relief or a hospital bed for that matter. And within 15 minutes of arriving at the hospital, my third baby girl had come into this world.
I was in love all over again and despite a short period of postnatal depression, I felt happy. Two years later we decided to have another one so she’d have a little friend.
Imagine my shock when I discovered that my eldest daughter was pregnant at the same time as me! As strange as it felt, it was lovely to share the experience with her.
I gave birth to my fourth baby girl on my 43rd Birthday and had to pinch myself that this had happened. Here I was starting all over again with two children under the age of three with grandson number two the same age as my own child!
Being a mother in my 40s has definitely been different to my teens and 20s. Things that I didn’t even give thought to or worry about were now at the forefront of my mind. For example, I always had a strong maternal instinct and was into breastfeeding and co-sleeping but now I’m more conscious of things like giving them organic foods and chemical free bathing products. Nothing gets past me these days; parabens, sulfates, non-free-range eggs etc.
I'm a far cry from that party loving, young mummy trying to parent whilst still needing a bit of parenting herself, thinking it’s ok to give your baby a meal out of a box mixed with water. Instead I’m more of a baby wearing, flip flop wearing, yoga loving, healthy eating earth mother who would rather sit under a tree and meditate whilst listening to the birds.
My reality most of the time really is being subjected to endless episodes of Peppa Pig whilst sitting in a sea of toys and toddler paraphernalia, listening to two toddlers simultaneously screaming.
But despite the lack of me time, the endless wet nappies, the tugging of my boobs, the lack of romance and spontaneity that young children bring, I’m absolutely grateful that I have the blessings of being able to start again, and the love and joy that these little humans give me every day.
Some people tell me I’m crazy for doing it all again in my 40s while their own children are flying the nest. But my small children actually keep me young and on my toes, and nothing beats seeing them with their older sisters and the strong bond they share.
In fact, that they are more like cousins with their nephews (my grandsons) and watching them grow up is beautiful. The dynamics of our family are definitely not conventional, but they are definitely filled with so much love.
My life seems to have come full circle and I couldn’t feel more grateful for my ever-growing family. This has been one heck of a journey. There’s definitely no 'hood like Motherhood.