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

Your Pregnancy - - Contents -

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

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