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'I've been pregnant in my 20s, 30s and 40s and here's what differed each time around.'

Mamamia logo Mamamia 5 days ago Mandy Nolan
a group of people sitting in the snow: Knee-high socks were all the rage. Image: Supplied. © supplied Knee-high socks were all the rage. Image: Supplied.

I love being pregnant. Almost as much as I enjoy actually getting pregnant.

This was a surprise to me as I was never a very maternal young woman. In fact, for someone like me who has carried four pregnancies to term in my 20s, 30s and 40s my infatuation with this process that turned my body into the ultimate 3D printer was a surprise.

So what if scientists have worked out how to print a cup from plastic? I can print a human being, in flesh and blood.

Pregnancy in my 20s

I was 27 when I fell pregnant with my now 23-year-old daughter Zoe. I wasn’t married. I hadn’t really considered having a child right at that point in my life, but I had contemplated whether I was going to have children and I knew that the answer was yes. I just wasn’t sure who with? And when is the right time?

Pregnancy and motherhood always seem to come at imperfect and inopportune times in one’s career – I knew this and I was determined that I wanted my experience to be what I called ‘life inclusive’, meaning that I wanted to experience motherhood AND a career.

As a writer and comedian I knew I’d have to make some adjustments, but I felt I had the unique ability to craft my own path. I asked my partner if he wanted a baby. I was surprised when he said “yes”.

So that was it. I was having a baby. At the time we were living in a converted shed. Our mothers secretly colluded to change our circumstance and one week before I was to deliver, we moved into a beautiful three-bedroom wooden cottage on a hill. That very week there was a flash flood and the shed we had previously occupied filled with three feet of water! I guess you could say my waters broke early.

This was an easy pregnancy - my body knew what to do, my skin stretched to accommodate my tiny passenger, and I marvelled at the almost surreal shape of my new body. I loved the feeling of my rounded tummy and the sensation of what was rippling beneath. I had the usual morning sickness in the first trimester, but that magically disappeared when I hit 12 weeks. I rubbed oil into my body, I ate foliage, I swam, I walked, I avoided prawns and blue vein cheese - although I never ate prawns or blue vein cheese anyway.

I walked, did yoga, went to a home birth class but chose to deliver at the birth centre of a local hospital.  While I had full respect to my home-birthing sisters (one delivered in a tepee!) it seemed like a lot of effort in comparison to just rocking up somewhere else once I’d dilated a few centimetres. I didn’t even have to clean up!

I delivered my daughter on the 14th of August in just three hours.

I have never been more in love and more in awe of the magic of the very ordinary process of gestation and childbirth.

Pregnancy does incredible things to your body inside and out – I remember looking at my face in the mirror and marvelling that my skin had never looked so good! Pregnancy and birth changed me though - the girl who looked back now was different.

I really felt that first pregnancy was my passage to womanhood.

Pregnancy in my 30s

My second daughter Sophia and my son Charlie were conceived and delivered in my 30s.

I was amazed how different the second pregnancy was. I looked three months' pregnant at six weeks and full term at six months.

Someone once stopped me in the street and said ‘Wow you’re the biggest pregnant woman I have ever seen.’ Please don’t say that to pregnant women, it doesn’t make us feel very good.

a person holding a swing: New decade, more babies. Image: Supplied. © supplied New decade, more babies. Image: Supplied.

I had grown quite used to being touched by strangers in supermarkets. The pregnant belly has this mystical power – it's like a reflex for some to reach out and caress your tummy.

Some mothers don’t like this. Always ask permission before you do. I have to admit I loved it. I felt like a Buddha and people were always welcome to give me a rub for luck.

These later pregnancies were harder on my body – I put on more weight, I felt moments of sadness that I never had with the third. I later read that sometimes you can get prenatal depression of sorts. It’s very different being pregnant the first time because it’s all about you.

Subsequent pregnancies I was dealing with morning sickness and the usual pregnancy stuff and looking after another child, then children.

It’s funny, people make such a massive fuss of your first pregnancy, the others get a bit ignored in comparison. If you have a friend who is in her second or third pregnancy, make a little fuss over her, cook her a meal, rub her feet…it really makes a difference!

Pregnancy in my 40s

My last pregnancy with Ivy was when I was 40. People were shocked. "You’re going again?" Clearly I was.

My doctor referred to me as a "geriatric pregnancy". I was like 'How Dare You'! But apparently that's a medical term – because those earlier pregnancies have little risk factor for complications, but now I was in the statistical crunch.

I was in the red zone for complications with my pregnancy. My 12-week test came back with a result that my baby had a one in 11 chance of having down syndrome. I had an amniocentesis which revealed that she didn’t.

Looking back I wish I hadn’t had the amniocentesis because it wouldn’t have changed the outcome – I was having this baby regardless.

I did all the things I needed to. I avoided sugar because I knew that would impact on my gestational weight – my last baby was five kilos (I’d put on 30 kilos for my third child), I knew that my body wouldn’t take that punishment.

I only put on eight kilos for the whole pregnancy and my baby was still a healthy 3.5kilos at term. She was born in water, without drugs in just a few hours.

I may have been 41, but felt that if pregnancy and birth was an Olympic sport, I would have been a contender for Gold!

Now, I honour my remarkable body. It has grown four healthy babies to term.

Of course I don’t have a flat stomach, but then I never did so it doesn't bother me.

a person standing on a beach: Well, you may as well do a beach shoot right? Image: Supplied. © supplied Well, you may as well do a beach shoot right? Image: Supplied.

People often say to me "How do you do everything with all those kids?" The truth is, I do it because of them.

Having them made me more efficient, I stopped procrastinating and I developed the creative practise I needed to achieve the goals I had set myself.

Pregnancy was always a very creative time for me. I have painted an exhibition of artworks one time, and written a book the next.

I am one of those women now that sees a pregnant tummy and my hand reaches out. Of course I’m asking "Can I?" Just the feeling of that roundness under my hand gives me a tiny pang of sadness. I have pregnancy envy!

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