June 9, 2009

How risky is it being an older parent?

By Bunmi Sofola
Dear Bunmi,
I am in my mid-thirties and got married recently to a man who was married before. My husband is ten years older and we agreed to have one or two children. He already has three from his previous marriage.
I was pregnant before I got married but miscarried in my fifth month.

I’ve read a lot about how difficult it could be to start a family when you are over thirty. I will really love to have children and am going through fertility treatment. Just how good are my chances?
By e-mail

Dear Eno,
According to a reputable obstetrician, gynaecologist, there is a small decline in women’s fertility from 30 to 35. Then the drop accelerates. If you take 100 women aged 25, having regular intercourse (two to three times a week), you’d expect 90 to 95 to become pregnant in a year. At 40, you’d expect this figure to fall to 50. The risk of miscarriage increases with age. At age 25 to 30, around 15 per cent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. By 40, 25 per cent. By 50, the risk are far higher.

The specialist went on to say that a third of miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities. The contents of a woman’s eggs deteriorate as she ages. For men, the sperm count remains reasonably the same as he ages if he stays sexually active.

If not, his testosterone levels drop significantly. Older women are more likely to be over-weight or have higher blood pressure, which can lead to problems in pregnancy. Ligaments in the pelvis are less elastic as they age, which could cause labour problems. Problems arise if a woman waits until 30 to fall pregnant, but doesn’t. By the time she’s had tests, she may already be 35 before considering avenues such as IVF.

I have taken pains to outline all the facts behind late parenthood because I receive a lot of inquiries from time to time. Keep on with your treatment and I’m sure with time, you’ll get pregnant again.

My new girl friend used to date my dad

Dear Bunmi,
I ran into one of the young women my father was always dating and we got really friendly. She heads the advertising department of a reputable firm and I have a business I run. At first we were just friends, but later we became lovers and now we’re really in love. She’s a good influence on my two children and I would really love to marry her.

My problem is that when dad used to go out with her years ago, my mum knew about the affair and really fought tooth and nail to break the affair.

When I mentioned running into her, she nearly had a fit and I don’t know how she would react to having this girl as a daughter-in-law. Please help!
By e-mail

Dear Festus,
Your mum is jealous and has reasons to be. But your dad’s affair with your girt happened years ago and she’s now free to see whoever she wishes. I can understand your mum’s unhappiness. This is a woman who threatened her marriage years ago by sleeping with her husband, fancy how she’d feet if she finds out she’s also sleeping with you, her son! Then the possibility of her being a daughter-in-law could be daunting.

This girl makes you happy and you don’t need to sacrifice your happiness for your mum’s. Have a talk with her after you’ve buttered her up! Show you understand what she’s going through but you couldn’t help how things have turned out. If she’s certain you love her, it will help her come to terms with the fact that your girl could be a member of the family.

I have scarry nightmares

Dear Bunmi,
I am almost 30 and a mother of two. I was the eldest child of my mum and the only one she had for my father who didn’t want any thing to do with us. She later re-married but turned me into a sort of maid to my three siblings. They had good clothes where I had hand-me-downs, they went to private schools and my mum said I could only go to a school children with irresponsible fathers like me go to. My mother’s treatment of me was nothing short of a bad case of child abuse.

I am married now but seldom see my parents and siblings. The hurt they caused me is too deep. As a result, I have nightmares almost every night. They can be gruesome and disturbing and often, they involved me abusing my own children. These dreams are making my life hell and now this feeling of fear is spilling over into my waking hours. My marriage is on the verge of breaking up as my husband thinks I’m neurotic. I feel so frustrated; it is as if I can’t carry on any more. Is there a way out for me?
By E-mail.

Dear Geraldine,
What you need to start telling yourself right now is that none of the abuse that happened to you in the past is your fault and learn to accept who you are. You’ve had a difficult past, but believe me, other people have experienced worse and got through it.

If you don’t sort out your resentment as quickly as possible, your children too could be affected. You need to sit your husband down and tell him how you feel and let him know you need help. You also need to speak out more to trusted friends and relatives so you can get proper counselling. This will help in lifting your depression so you can feel confident enough to control your panic attacks.

Once you feel happier, these nightmares will become less scarry and frequent and will eventually disappear. I’m not saying the past will disappear, but you’ll be able to accept it and move on. You’ve got a lot to live for and although it’s hard, please don’t let what your mother did to you ruin you life. Make peace with your siblings when you’re up to it. It’s not their fault they were cold to you – your mum encouraged it. I wish you all the best life has to offer.

I regret my decision to abandon my children

Dear Bunmi,
My husband and I divorced four years ago and I was so bitter that I left my three children behind. They had noticed the nasty way my husband spoke to me, and they were treating me the same way- like dirt. I tried to discipline them but their dad was always antagonizing me.

They were all teenagers when I left, which is probably the worst time for them to cope-but t was at an all-time low and bitter. Now I regret my decision not to take them with me and I miss them badly. I’ve just discovered that my husband has made them believe they were the reason I left and didn’t want to see them again. How do I go about making contact with them?
By e-mail

Dear Edughe,
Getting in touch with your children may not be as hard as you think. Although children do suffer if a parent leaves during the teenage years, younger children find it far harder to cope. Plus, as teens, your children are old enough to realize there are two sides to every story – you are not the devil, and your husband is not an angel.

Besides, your children may have matured into nicer kids than you remember and they will certainly have missed you. They could even appreciate you more.

I can’t promise you a happy ending – but you’ve no chance if you don’t even try to contact them. It’s best to do this when their dad is not around to give you time to get to know them better. Later, they could even tell their dad they would want regular visits by you.