A warm and sisterly welcome to the First-time Mums At 50 Club. We’re a small, but growing band who, believe me, need all the support we can get from others walking the same path — even though you may find you’re the only one doing so in a pair of 6 in-heeled Louboutins.
My eight-year-old, Sadie, an only child, was born on a final roll of the fertility dice — after two miscarriages and four attempts at IVF — when I was 51 and feared, as I’m sure you did, too, that I’d left it too late to realise my dream of being a mother.
My obstetrician had recommended a C-section not because I was too posh to push, but because my uterine muscles were likely too old to push. As a nurse laid Sadie on my chest, I was flooded with an all-consuming love and knew she was the most precious gift I’d ever receive.
Naomi Gryn who became a mother at age 51, offered brutally honest advice for first-time mum Naomi Campbell. Pictured: Naomi’s baby announcement
I also felt daunted by the huge weight of responsibility to protect and nurture my child. Unlike 20 and 30-somethings, we quinquagenarian mums have lived long enough to know how terrifying this war-torn, unequal world can be.
But, oh, what a fascinating and, for the most part, joyous journey it has been so far, with my partner, Pete. Thanks to my age and the stage I’ve reached in life — having, albeit on a smaller scale than you, fulfilled many of my ambitions as both a writer and documentary filmmaker — I’ve luxuriated in every glorious moment.
In fact, I feel sorry for some of the younger ‘Insta’ mums I see in playgrounds near our North London home, glued to their smartphones and living through the prism of social media, where everyone’s child is reaching milestones precociously early — and dressed in this season’s Boden.
You and I should count ourselves lucky to have grown up in an era when our only link to the outside world was the phone at the foot of the stairs. A time when our peers couldn’t torment us with glossy, and largely false, images of their perfect lives.
Our children benefit too, because we parent by instinct, not under pressure to recreate what we see on Instagram.
Going against official advice, I co-slept with my baby daughter, breastfed her for far longer than some thought I should and didn’t panic, or get cross, when she wasn’t yet fully potty-trained as her first day of preschool approached.
Naomi Gryn became a mother at 51 to her daughter Sadie on a final roll of the fertility dice – after two miscarriages and four attempts at IVF. Pictured: Naomi with baby Sadie
A younger mum might have felt pressure from disapproving contemporaries, but when, like me, you’ve worked in television and spent much of your 30s recovering from a near-fatal car crash (a large part of the reason I didn’t have children earlier), you tend to take these things in your stride.
However, I need to be honest about the hurdles, and prejudices, you may face as the world adjusts to women becoming mothers in their sixth decade. One day I was in a queue at the post office with Sadie in a pushchair, when the woman in front asked: ‘Is that your grandchild?’
When I said: ‘No, it’s my daughter,’ she wouldn’t let it drop, replying: ‘It must be your grandchild. Have you got lots of older children at home?’
No one else knew where to look. I told her that sometimes it’s better to keep your thoughts to yourself.
I’ve also had one of Sadie’s teachers, who is half my age, telling me off because Sadie had been naughty. No one’s talked to me like that since I was a schoolgirl myself, a long time ago. I am no shrinking violet and neither are you. Suffice to say, I didn’t stand for it.
Having not grown up with technology, we must be extra vigilant when it comes to our children accessing the internet and the horrors they can stumble across there. Sadie, as much as she begs, won’t be having a mobile phone until she’s in secondary school, but I was horrified to discover that on her little children’s tablet, before we upped the parental controls, she could navigate her way to news stories about brutal stabbings.
Also brace yourself for struggling with some of your daughter’s primary school homework. I studied maths at university, but it’s now taught so differently that I find it almost impossible to help Sadie with basic arithmetic.
It helps to be friends with mums of children the same age so you can share tips and support via WhatsApp groups. However, these friends are unlikely to be women you grew up, or started your career, with — lots of my contemporaries are now grandparents.
Naomi said people thought she was a grandmother when she brought her daughter out in a pushchair. Pictured: Naomi Campbell in January this year
In fact, I’m more likely these days to find myself walking in the woods with their children and grandchildren, sharing tales about phonics and dance classes.
Yet having children late certainly keeps you young. I turned 60 on New Year’s Eve and, like so many others, my party plans had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.
So, instead, I had a muddy London walk with Pete and our daughter, wearing a fabulous cream, fake fur coat Sadie had convinced me to buy. I don’t suppose you’ll need fashion advice, but you might find your daughter gives it to you anyway.
Of course, being a sexagenarian with an eight-year-old, I’m very conscious about staying healthy which, looking at your fabulous figure, must be high on your list of priorities, too. I want to be around to see Sadie grow up and maybe even have her own children. Given that my own mum is nearly 90, I think that’s a realistic hope.
I eat well and walk 10,000 steps a day, most of them doing the school run. And I decided against HRT, fearing even a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.
Not that having a baby while going through the menopause was easy, as I’m sure you’ll discover. I remember having hot flushes while breastfeeding Sadie and not knowing if it was the menopause or due to my milk letting down.
As Sadie’s got older and become more conscious of my age relative to that of her friends’ mums, it has undoubtedly caused her anxiety. She often says: ‘I wish you’d had me when you were younger.’
Perhaps that’s because she worries about me getting sick and dying, but I know it’s also because she’d have liked a sibling and we’ve explained that’s not possible because of my age.
Naomi Gryn said her own mother and grandmother have been great role models in how to accept ageing with grace and good humour. Pictured: Naomi Campbell
I’ll say: ‘I’ll do my darned best to be around, and in good shape, for as long as you need me.’
But still the subject of my advanced age comes up.
The other morning, as we were walking hand in hand, she said to me: ‘Do you know, Mummy, you’re the oldest mum in the school?’
I said: ‘Hey, I’ve got an “est” in my title, like if I was the fast-est runner or the b-est cook.’
We laughed about it — my own mother and grandmother have been great role models in how to accept ageing with grace and good humour.
I don’t know if the subject came up because someone had said something mean to Sadie about me. If anyone ever has, she’s been far too thoughtful to pass it on.
I do what I can to mitigate any fall-out from my decision to have a baby at a time of life when contemporaries are coping with an empty nest. But there are ways in which time takes its toll that none of us can guard against.
Yesterday I took possession of a pair of NHS hearing aids after struggling for some time to make out what was being said on TV.
I opted for a silver pair, rather than the flesh-coloured variety I associate with the hard-of-hearing elderly. Sadie is delighted as she was tired of having to repeat herself — and couldn’t wait to have a go.
However, I’ll be sure they’re covered by my long hair as I stand at the school gates, waiting to collect her, surrounded by much younger mums.