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Being currently pregnant and after a fifteen year gap since my last baby, I have been trying to read as many new pregnancy books as possible. A lot of things have changed since 1996 and I want to make sure I am up to date! I am also an older mum now. I was in my twenties when I had my first four children, but I will be 42 when this one is born - twice as old as I was, when I had my first!
I have already discovered that being pregnant in your forties, you are treated differently. Despite never having high blood pressure in my life, a hospital doctor prescribed a daily dose of aspirin for my non-existent hypertension. Why? Because I am over 40. (I didn't take it. Why 'cure' something you don't have?)
So although the other pregnancy books I have read have been generally informative and useful, I was particularly attracted to a paperback I saw in a shop - The Secret Diary of a New Mum aged 43 ¼ by Cari Rosen. It had a cover price of £11.99, which I felt was a bit steep, so I later bought it online from Amazon UK for a much more reasonable £8.39.
Cari is a British woman, which is a good start, as she also had a pregnancy based in this country and using the NHS. The pregnancy she writes about is her first, so we are different in that respect, but besides that, I managed to find quite a bit of common ground. I can relate to feeling incredibly old, sitting next to a group of pregnant females waiting for ultrasound scans who all look like they need to finish their homework before tomorrow's English lesson.
I was hoping to get a light-hearted book about the experiences of being an older mum - and Cari Rosen delivers on this. It is a fun, easy read which I finished in a couple of days. However, it comes across as a series of articles than I would have liked. (This is probably because Cari did originally begin this as a series of articles!) I hoped it would be a bit more informative, more detailed and more "meatier" than it managed. It is instead more anecdotal and in some ways unfulfilling.
It is split into nine chapters (some 250 pages) which cover the time from her pregnancy to her daughter turning two years old. The pregnancy itself is just the first chapter (40 pages), whereas it was the part I was most interested in. While I appreciated the humour - and yes indeed, there are moments which are genuinely 'laugh out loud' - I felt I learned very little about being pregnant at this stage in life.
It is written in a good, chatty style and an enjoyable book to read, but I felt it was almost trying too hard to be clever and witty. I would have liked more detail and some proper tips and advice amongst the anecdotes, tales and personal experiences. That's not to say the book is useless, but I found it more disposable than I had expected and in that way, it was disappointing.
Cari Rosen has a nice writing style, so it is not a hardship to read The Secret Diary of a New Mum aged 43 ¼ - nor is it a slog - but it seemed to me that it is a book which never quite fulfils its potential. I also found it strange that she never says what her daughter is called. Presumably this is to protect her privacy, but it seems weird writing 200+ pages about an unnamed baby girl. Cari writes in a way she is talking to her friends, so this lack of a name does stick out somewhat.
I think my favourite bit of the book was the first chapter - Fat and 40. As well as finding plenty to relate to and lots of humour, I liked the angle this took and its tone. I was fortunate to only take four months to conceive, even in my advanced years, but she talks about reading various scare stories about infertility in one's forties and various "bad press" about older mothers in the news.
Similarly, when I began a new relationship last year, we discussed trying for a baby and I researched the fertility issues online. I found it terrifying how fast fertility declines after even 35, never mind 40, plus all the higher risk of miscarriage, birth defects and the like. This research made us decide we really did not have the opportunity to sit around for five years to see how things go; we had to act NOW - or probably never have the chance again!
Cari discusses the extra tests she is offered being a pregnant woman in her forties. Many are recommended to have an amniocentesis, for example, to check for abnormalities - though this procedure has its own risks. This chapter of the book really illustrates well the amount of prejudice we older pregnant women have to endure, just because we happen to be born four decades ago. Surely there are many more factors associated with healthy pregnancies than just our birth year?
So this book can be a good talking point and I did enjoy this aspect of it. Once Cari's baby is born, I found it less interesting, though maybe I'm being unfair and as my own little baby reaches those ages, perhaps I'll re-read those relevant chapters and nod along empathetically? We'll see.
Overall, I recommend this book, but with reservations. If you want to read 250 pages of what sounds like an article in Practical Parenting magazine, you'll love it. But if you are hoping for more depth and more factual information, this really isn't the book for you. It seems there still is a gap in the market for a woman to write about the practicalities, pleasures and trials of being pregnant in your forties in this modern era. Maybe I should start writing it?