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Surprise pregnancy at 41

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Wednesday, January 24, 2018 | 0 comments

Image: Claire Hegarty, 44 and her son, CiaránThere was a time when mom-blogger Claire Hegarty from Dublin, Ireland — who had a surprise pregnancy at 41 — thought motherhood meant being trapped while the father got off scot free.

I didn't feel I wanted children for a long time, says Hegarty, who is now 44 and mother to 2-year-old son, Ciarán.

It may sound selfish to some, but I was terrified — I equated having children with being trapped and felt the whole process was humiliating for a woman, she continues.

Hegarty recalls watching her own mother struggle raising children — as well as many of her peers who had children at a young age — and believes it made her phobic about motherhood.

While her friends were growing families, Hegarty was busy building a career in tourism as she partied her twenties and thirties away.

It was during one of her trips working away from home that Hegarty met her future husband. Together they also partied for a few years, and returned home to Ireland to marry when she was 34-years-old.

Children were still at the bottom of my list, insists Hegarty. In fact, they weren't on my list at all.

But it all changed when she turned 38, and the Big Ben of her biological clock made a gong show of her baby phobia at long last.

I started ogling babies, and taking more interest in my nieces and nephews, she admits.

We were overwhelmed with longing for a child and started trying.

Despite being driven by Mother Nature's deepest urges, however, Hegarty felt destined for disappointment when she miscarried.

She began to blame herself for being unable to conceive or carry a baby, believing that all of the years of shunning motherhood were now coming home to roost.

I had spent so many years telling myself that I didn't want kids that I felt I had willed my body not to do it, says Hegarty.

Despite the longing, however, she decided not to pursue IVF, having witnessed how the process took over people's lives, and affected them mentally and emotionally.

Instead, at the age of 40, Hegarty chose to accept that motherhood was just not her path and to concentrate on her career in tourism and a part-time pet-sitting business she had launched.

Then, at 41, Mother Nature chimed in and Claire Hegarty was in for a big surprise.

When I had totally put it out of my mind, I discovered I was pregnant, she says.

I was over three months on before I even realized — I had lost track of my cycle because I hadn't been thinking of pregnancy at all. We were overjoyed!

When she was just shy of 42, Hegarty's son was delivered by C-section, and she began the enlightening journey of over-40 motherhood.

I sometimes feel awkward around younger parents, she says. When they hear you are a first-time parent in your forties, many either think you are mad, brave or they are simply aghast!

She's also had the granny-mom experience — a sort of (less than charming) christening, or advanced maternal rite of passage — that many of us, who became mothers after 40, have journeyed through before her.

At a mother and toddler group, I was once asked if I was my son's grandmother.

It made me realize that even when I am not thinking about my age as a mother of a young child, others often are.

I wish other people would be more sensitive when dealing with older parents, she adds.

When I see someone who looks older, I always assume they are the parent and not the grandparent.

And when it comes to age, Hegarty is sanguine about growing old and the potential of being around for her children as they become adults.

Our family on both sides, old and young, are all in excellent health and have lived into their 80s and 90s, she explains.

I know plenty of younger parents who are not as healthy as we are, insists Hegarty, and as my mother always says, 'you don't have to be old to die!'

Since having Ciarán, she's elected to take a career break to spend time with her son and follow her dreams.

As part of that process, Hegarty launched her blog — Forty Something First Time Mum — because she often feels lonely being an older mother.

Many people of my age have older children or no children at all — I wanted to try to connect with others in similar circumstances.

As I am concerned now, says Claire Hegarty, motherhood is a blessing no matter what age you are.


Read more about Claire and her journey at FortySomethingFirstTimeMum

Image: Surprise Motherhood: A Guide to Unexpected Adult Pregnancy, by Ophelia Austin-Small. Publisher: Calla Lilly Press /; 2 edition (December 27, 2007)Surprise Motherhood: A Guide to Unexpected Adult Pregnancy
by Ophelia Austin-Small

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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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