Hav­ing a fourth baby at 50? It’s a dod­dle!

Well it is, if like Aye­sha, you are a high-pow­ered lawyer with TWO house­keep­ers, a nanny, a PA, and your mother can do the school run…

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT - by Katie Dodds

THEY say 50 is the new 40, so per­haps it’s no won­der that grow­ing num­bers of women are giv­ing birth at an age when once they were car­ing for grand­chil­dren. Only last month Tracey Brit­ten made head­lines by be­com­ing the old­est woman in Bri­tain to give birth to quadru­plets at the age of 50.

Some would ask why women such as Tracey – al­ready a mother to three grown-up chil­dren and grand­mother to eight – would choose to re­turn to nap­pies and night feeds at a time when those of a sim­i­lar age will be en­joy­ing the free­dom that an empty nest and loom­ing re­tire­ment brings. One per­son who can an­swer that ques­tion is high-pow­ered di­vorce lawyer Aye­sha Vardag, who gave birth to her fourth child just six weeks ago – aged 50 – and, con­tro­ver­sially, says it’s the best time of life to have a baby.

On the sur­face, Aye­sha al­ready ap­peared to have it all be­fore the birth of her youngest son. For the past 15 years she has run her own suc­cess­ful law firm, Vardags, spe­cial­is­ing in high-pro­file lit­i­ga­tion. Ev­ery year she over­sees about 500 di­vorce cases, with roy­alty, celebri­ties and bil­lion­aires among her clients.

She jug­gles her ca­reer with an equally busy fam­ily life, which in­cludes homes in Lon­don, Hamp­shire, Italy and Dubai. Four years ago, she mar­ried her sec­ond hus­band, 46-year-old Stephen, an as­tro­physi­cist turned en­tre­pre­neur.

Be­tween them, they al­ready had five chil­dren from pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ships, yet they didn’t feel their brood was com­plete. Hence the ar­rival of their baby son, Or­feo.

Aye­sha and Tracey aren’t alone. In fact the num­ber of women giv­ing birth aged 50-plus in the UK has more than quadru­pled over the past two decades.

There’s a sim­i­lar pat­tern in Ire­land. Cen­tral Statis­tics Of­fice fig­ures show that in 2007, just four women over the age of 50 gave birth. That num­ber had jumped to 17 by 2015.

The num­ber of births to Ir­ish women af­ter the age of 45 has more than dou­bled, from 118 in 2007 to 295 in 2016.

There are con­sid­er­able health risks at­tached to preg­nancy in later life, in­clud­ing mis­car­riages and birth de­fects, and even the most op­ti­mistic young mother knows she is in for a truly ex­haust­ing time.

So why on earth did Aye­sha de­cide to turn her life up­side down once again, when most of us would pre­fer to re­lax? Her an­swer will shock moth­ers ev­ery­where. Here, in a de­fi­ant man­i­festo for the (very much) older mum, Aye­sha de­fends her de­ci­sion to have an­other child and re­veals why she be­lieves moth­er­hood at her age is eas­ier than ever.

Her se­cret? An army of helpers that in­cludes her mother, a full-time as­sis­tant, a nanny in Dubai and two house­keep­ers in the UK. And her multi-mil­lion-pound for­tune also helps, of course.

Role model or plain potty? De­cide for your­self...

Aye­sha’s story...

SO, WHY an­other baby at my age? Why not? If I were a man, no­body would ques­tion my de­ci­sion. Cer­tainly, my hus­band Stephen never gets asked about it and I can­not un­der­stand why this sex­ist prej­u­dice still ex­ists. Of course, bi­o­log­i­cally it’s eas­ier for men to re­pro­duce well into mid­dle and later life – my grand­fa­ther had his last child at 70. But, given that I was able to get preg­nant, my body was clearly will­ing and able to carry an­other baby.

Be­fore this preg­nancy, I’d ar­rived at the point in life that so many moth­ers will recog­nise – my chil­dren were all pre­par­ing to leave the nest.

My eldest Jasper, 23, re­cently grad­u­ated and is now be­gin­ning his own ca­reer, and my sec­ond son Fe­lix, 21, is in his fi­nal year at univer­sity. Mean­while, my 14-year-old daugh­ter He­lena is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly in­de­pen­dent and Stephen’s two chil­dren di­vide their time be­tween us and their mother.

Hav­ing Or­feo is the most ex­tra­or­di­nary bless­ing for all of us.

To the naysay­ers I say this: be­ing a mother at 50 is sig­nif­i­cantly eas­ier than it was when I was younger.

When I had my first son, I was 27 and in the midst of com­plet­ing my le­gal train­ing with a City law firm.

Run by men, with rules set by men, there was huge pres­sure on me to per­form. Within weeks of giv­ing birth, I was back at my desk work­ing 12-hour days while my baby son was with a nanny or at nurs­ery.

Come the evenings and week­ends, my first hus­band and I were ex­hausted and longed for a mo­ment to­gether, but couldn’t af­ford yet more child­care.

When my sec­ond son was born two years later, there was still no respite and I’m cer­tain that was a fac­tor in our sub­se­quent di­vorce when the boys were small.

By the time I had He­lena, I was 36 and, al­though I was set­ting up my own law firm by then and call­ing the shots, it was in­cred­i­bly fraught.

When she was a baby, I worked up to 20 hours a day, in­clud­ing net­work­ing in the evenings to drum up clients. I smoked and drank way too much, never had time to ex­er­cise and put on lots of weight.

There was a con­stant con­flict be­tween need­ing to work like a beast to build the busi­ness in or­der to sup­port my fam­ily, and miss­ing my chil­dren ter­ri­bly.

For­ward 14 years and moth­er­hood the fourth time around is in­fin­itely more re­laxed. There are many rea­sons why.

For starters, my law firm Vardags is firmly es­tab­lished. Our rep­u­ta­tion as lead­ing lit­i­ga­tors means clients come to us and I no longer have to go out hunt­ing for them.

I don’t smoke or drink any more

and, with more leisure time I run, swim or ride my horses ev­ery morn­ing. I’m health­ier than I ever was in my 30s or 40s and have much more en­ergy.

Plus, hav­ing slogged away at work for so many years, Stephen and I now have more cash and can af­ford to pay for ex­tra help.

I’m ex­tremely for­tu­nate to have a full-time as­sis­tant who trav­els with me when nec­es­sary, a house­keeper in Dubai who dou­bles as a nanny for Or­feo while I work or make calls, and a cou­ple who look af­ter our farm in Hamp­shire and help with child­care when we’re there. But be­cause I con­trol my own di­ary now, I can be with him when­ever I choose.

Hav­ing babysit­ters con­stantly on hand means that, if Stephen and I want to go out in the evenings or at week­ends, we can. Though it may sound self-in­dul­gent, mak­ing time to be a cou­ple is es­sen­tial for the hap­pi­ness of any mar­riage.

Through my work as a di­vorce lawyer, I con­stantly see cou­ples drift­ing apart af­ter hav­ing chil­dren. In fact, it was one of the rea­sons Stephen was re­luc­tant for us to have a baby for the first few years of our re­la­tion­ship, con­cerned that do­ing so would be detri­men­tal to the lovely life we’d cre­ated to­gether.

But by the time we mar­ried in 2014, four years af­ter meet­ing in our lo­cal pub, our re­spec­tive broods were ever more in­te­grated and he agreed that hav­ing a baby of our own would be won­der­ful.

Of course, na­ture dic­tates that a woman’s fer­til­ity in par­tic­u­lar de­clines with age, so it took far longer than we’d planned. But, af­ter years of try­ing, ear­lier this year I fi­nally got the pos­i­tive preg­nancy test re­sult we’d longed for. Hav­ing given up hope by then, I was so stunned that my first words were un­print­able!

Stephen and I were thrilled, though in­evitably there were mo­ments of worry, in­clud­ing his old fears that I might be­come ob­ses­sively mumsy and never want to go out with him alone again.

So a week af­ter my planned cae­sarean I re­turned to work, but this time happy in the knowl­edge that I have more power in the work­place and the lux­ury of flex­i­bil­ity and paid help. It all means that I can stay close to my baby boy and spend time with him reg­u­larly through­out the day while still lead­ing my com­pany.

To re­as­sure Stephen that he isn’t go­ing to lose me be­neath a pile of baby­gros and nap­pies, we went out for din­ner and drinks when Or­feo was 10 days old, which he ad­mit­ted made him feel re­lieved and happy.

Or­feo is the sweet­est lit­tle boy who’s al­ready brought im­mea­sur­able joy to our fam­ily. De­spite be­ing a ca­reer woman, I have al­ways loved moth­er­hood and feel that I have so much to give as a mother, now as much as ever.

I’m not fool­ish enough to dis­re­gard my age. But my con­cern is not that I’m too old to raise an­other child – what non­sense! – it’s that I must re­main as healthy and en­er­getic as pos­si­ble for Or­feo and all our chil­dren.

No one ap­pears to bat an eye­lid when Or­feo and I are out and about to­gether. Many strangers stop to ask if it’s my first baby and ap­pear stunned when I re­veal that he’s my fourth, which I would like to think means I look younger than my age.

My own mother is 74 and still rides horses and lugs hay bales around sta­bles. She of­ten does the school run with He­lena and could per­fectly well be manag­ing a child her­self, so I’m not wor­ried how I’ll cope when I reach my 60s and be­yond.

The hard­est thing for me is be­ing wo­ken up sev­eral times ev­ery night when Or­feo wants a feed. But that was the same in my 20s and 30s, it’s got noth­ing to do with my age. The lovely thing is that as chil­dren grow up they be­come more fun and in­ter­est­ing, they bring their friends over, and your home is full of laugh­ter, mess and chat­ter.

I’m look­ing for­ward to hav­ing all of that again with Or­feo.

Hav­ing grown up as an only child, raised by my mother and grand­mother, I’d had quite a soli­tary ex­is­tence un­til I was 18 and went to stay with some of my fa­ther’s rel­a­tives, who had seven chil­dren.

We played rounders to­gether, went camp­ing and wan­dered off to buy ice creams. I’d never ex­pe­ri­enced such com­pan­ion­ship and dreamed of hav­ing a big, bustling, noisy, lov­ing fam­ily one day. It was at that point that I de­ter­mined that I wanted at least six chil­dren.

Count­ing my stepchil­dren, I’ve achieved that num­ber now that Or­feo is here. Yet ba­bies are such a joy and make me so im­mensely happy that I’d have a dozen if I could. Al­though I think my chances of pro­duc­ing an­other baby in the fu­ture are small, let’s just say that the door is open.

If I were a man, no one would ques­tion my de­ci­sion... Ba­bies are such a joy that I would have a dozen if I could

HaPPY FaM­IlY: Aye­sha and hus­band Stephen with baby Or­feo, and, right, Aye­sha proudly cradling her new son

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