On our recent trip to the UK, we brought back a few copies of a new book by first-time author, Cari Rosen, called The Secret Diary of a New Mom Aged 43-1/4. Cari and I have quite a few things in common. While I have never met her personally, I know many people who have. My husband grew up with her. Our friend inspired her to write this book. My brother-in-law worked with her father. I am also a big fan of her Jewish Chronicle column,which inspired this book so I knew I liked her writing style before digging in. But even more important than our common friends and the fact that I know her work is what we have in common: 1. My maiden name is Rosen (and I’m also Jewish). 2. I used to work in television and moved into publishing, much like her own career path. I also didn’t want to miss a moment of my first child’s upbringing and left my stable full-time job, although I did go back to that job for a short time before making the ultimate decision. I don’t think she went back after maternity leave. 3. My daughter’s birthday also falls around the time of Passover, which has often caused problems in the cake-making area. 4. I, too, had no idea what I was doing when I had my first child and her fate was left to the gods who put her in my care. 5. I have also been dealing with a changing body, gray hair and stretch marks since my children’s birth, and know there is only so much time I can blame it on the kids. My daughter is nearly 8, she wasn’t born yesterday (how did that happen?).
The list of similarities could go on, but where I do differ and what this book banks on is Rosen’s age. She terms herself a “geriatric mother” early on in the book and keeps much of the books’ emphasis on this fact, serving as support and guidance to others moms who are giving birth later in life. She drops statistics throughout the book about this population like “One in five babies is born to a mum over 35, and the number of over 40s giving birth has doubled” (these are UK stats. Rosen had a very exciting life prior to having a baby, career-wise and everything else and her adjustment to being a mom was not easy at first. She breaks up the baby’s life stages into chapters and provides humorous commentary on each one. I remember all too well the pain of attempting to breastfeed a child with no prior information about how to take care of a child; being in the hospital with nurses who had no comprehension that I had no idea how much my life was going to change and who had no idea that I had no clue how to feed a baby, yet alone “swaddle,” a work I had never even heard before that day; the struggle of getting my daughter (my first-born) on a normal sleeping schedule; the desire to talk about anything non-child related after a long day of picking food off the floor and cleaning poop off the walls (that’s my experience, not Rosen’s) in the early years; how my husband and I have always enjoyed our couch-potato nights in front of the telly, armed with a curry, more than almost anything. But Rosen adds other scenarios to the mix that relate to having a child later in life: approaching menopause; dealing with the second child syndrome of younger friends when her maternal clock is ticking or stopped ticking; exhaustion; trying to have it all when everyone in her field is young and trendy. She is brutally honest about the challenges of motherhood. She doesn’t want to be taken for her daughter’s grandmother (much like one of my friends, who is a father of 1-1/2 year-old twins at age 50). But above everything, she adores her daughter and wants to make the most of her time with her and the second chapter of her life.
Here’s an excerpt from the book so you get a sense of Rosen’s writing style. This is from the section “0-3 Months” – you can read more here:
We are home and my morale is actually in need of a bit of TLC. I have had nine months to forget the fact that there were a lot of baggy and saggy bits even before I embarked upon my gestational journey – and now I am beginning to realise that it’s going to be an uphill battle to get rid of them.
It is not in the least bit helpful that the younger members of my antenatal group seem to have pinged back into their size 10 jeans within 30 seconds of giving birth. I have not pinged for at least a decade, and it feels as though it will take a major surgical intervention to get me into anything with a zip.
I seek solace from the other aged mums. ‘It’s your metabolism,’ says one. ‘It slows down dramatically when you reach the big 4–0.’
‘Yes, definitely an age thing,’ agrees another.
‘Middle-aged spread meets motherhood? Go elasticated. That’s my motto.’
But I am not yet ready to renounce my youth. I want to read Grazia, not Woman’s Weekly. I want to deny the fact that I think ‘Ooh, how practical’ when I see magazine advertisements for slip-on shoes.
I recommend this book for anyone who has had a baby late in life, or perhaps is thinking about it. For me, as an aging mom of a 6 and 7-year-old mom, there was plenty in this book to relate to, even though I started slightly earlier in life. But whether you’re a new mom or not, you’ll relate to Rosen’s story and relish in the positive and not so easy memories that we all have as moms. Rosen makes me realize that I am not so inadequate as a mother as I thought, and I appreciate that.