Real life: Meet the mom who’s been pregnant once a decade, for three decades
Three pregnancies, three decades apart, each in completely different life circumstances. Dori Smith from Cape Town lets us in on her remarkable family story, as told to Tracey Hawthorne
BABY NUMBER ONE
My first pregnancy was by far the easiest and most stress-free. I was 22, working long hours in a smoky pub in London. I lived on Ribena [cordial], mangos and Greek yoghurt. I don’t remember putting on much weight, and I was sick most days, but it didn’t really bother me. My then partner – whom I’d met in the UK and would go on to marry – and I had planned the baby (as soon as she arrived, we were going to go back to South Africa to live). At my 39-week appointment, the doctor said I was retaining water and suggested he induce me. It was before the days of the internet, and I was pretty clueless – I was happy to trust the doctor and do whatever he suggested. It was also before the days of cellphones – someone had to take a taxi to go and tell my partner we were going to have a baby. He brought my birth bag, which I’d pre-packed, to the hospital – I’d wanted the baby to be born to the sound of Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. I had a midwife, whom I trusted completely, and I had an epidural, which meant the labour was pain-free. The birth was a calm and wonderful experience. Jordan was born on 21 December 1991. Back in South Africa, we moved in with my mom, who lived in the Western Cape farming community of Philadelphia, and Jordan had the most wonderful childhood there. I didn’t sweat the small stuff, and we had so much fun. If she went to bed late, it was fine; and sometimes I’d wake her up and take her outside to see the stars. She was
surrounded by farm animals, and my best friend who lived across the road had three little boys, so if I was concerned about anything, I just asked her – she was my human Google.
BABY NUMBER TWO
Fast-forward 16 years, and I’d been amicably divorced for six years, and was working very long hours in human resources. I was 38 and dating someone, but when I got pregnant it became clear immediately the father wasn’t interested and that I was on my own. It was regarded as a high-risk pregnancy because of my age, and I think once the doctors labelled it like that, fear crept in – I was on high alert for my entire pregnancy. The testing and the screening were stressful, and the amniocentesis test was one of the most frightening things I’ve ever been through. By that stage – 2007 – caesarean sections had become quite “fashionable”, but I wanted to avoid that. I was worried about having to get back to work, and felt that the recovery time would be very limiting for me. I did eventually find a doctor who agreed to allow me to try for a natural birth, but I was often reminded of how that might change. Before the pregnancy I was a size 10 and exercised for two hours every day; I ended up putting on 30kg and not being able to exercise at all. Two things made the pregnancy bearable: my 16-year-old daughter Jordan, who was incredibly excited about having a baby sister; and the women – and some men – who gathered around me and offered help and support. I ended up having three baby showers! Two days before my due date, the doctor was again worried about some swelling, so I was admitted to be induced. A friend of a friend who was training to be a doula needed a practical delivery in order to pass her course, and I said it would be fine if she used me as her “guinea pig”. She was just incredible – I hadn’t been to any birth classes, and she taught me everything I needed to know as the labour progressed, from how to breathe to how to use a Pilates ball. The one little regret I have was that I had an epidural; with hindsight, I think I could have delivered without it. Leah was born on 15 September 2007. My mom, who had come from Zambia, was there, and so was Jordan. The bond between my two girls was immediate, and it still makes me get all teary today. Our caregiver, Nancy Beta, joined our family then – I went back to work when Leah was only four weeks old, and Nancy took over at home. She was incredible, and she made everything manageable. We were living in a complex at the time, so the girls had lots of friends. I’d been worried about being a single mom, but I had almost an overload of support, in the best possible way.
BABY NUMBER THREE
In 2013 I met the most incredible man, and in 2014 we got married. He had no children, and there are no children in his family, so we did speak about having a baby. I always have a house full of kids, I’m still very active, and I thought, you TOP LEFT: Dori was first pregnant in her twenties with Jordan. TOP RIGHT & BELOW: Dori with Jordan and her second child, Leah, whom she had in her thirties. know what, I love being a mom and having the kids around; I think we’ll be fine. We went to a fertility clinic, and the IV took at the very first attempt. We were all ecstatic. I’m 48 years old, and I’ll be 49 by the time our son is born in August 2018 – I’m going to try for a natural birth. We’re obviously concerned about how our son will cope with having older parents. It’s a big responsibility, and we need to keep fit and healthy. With this pregnancy, I’ve had opportunities I didn’t have before: I sold my business, so I’m now a stay-at-home incubator and taxi to a busy 10-yearold. I haven’t had to work and I have no financial worries. But I sometimes think that keeping busy is better because I’ve got too much time to think about it, and it’s made me feel pressured. As I’ve got older, I’m starting to sweat the small stuff; I’m losing my sense of fun a bit, and I think that started with this pregnancy. It’s all become a little serious. I just hope the girls keep me in check so that I don’t become a grouch. And I’ve been so sick. If this had been the first baby, it would also have been the last. I think it’s nature’s way of making sure I don’t have another baby at 57!
WE’RE OBVIOUSLY CONCERNED ABOUT HOW OUR SON WILL COPE WITH HAVING OLDER PARENTS. IT’S A BIG RESPONSIBILITY