I'm nearly 47 and desperate to be a mother by 50... (2024)

Most women, whether they want to become a mother or not, are aware of the ticking of their biological clock.

For some it is faint and easily ignored, but for many it starts to sound louder at 35 and deafening by 40.

By 46, my age, most assume their time is up. But not me. My clock is still going strong. Indeed, the limit I have set myself, the age at which I have promised to finally stop pursuing my dream of motherhood, is 50. The big 5-0.

Until then, I will continue to read pregnancy guides, swallow prenatal vitamins and make regular visits to the IVF clinic I've come to know so well.

I know that friends and family don't necessarily share this optimism. The unspoken assumption is that I've surely relinquished my dream by now, like the sensible middle-aged woman I almost am. When I'm out with girlfriends, none of them ask me 'how's the IVF going?' any more, but instead discuss perimenopause symptoms and HRT gels.

Alice Dogruyol, 46, says the age at which she has promised to finally stop pursuing her dream of motherhood is 50. She has been trying to have a baby for eight years now

The thought of broaching the topic with my family is even more daunting. I live in fear of hearing their well-intended words: 'Alice, surely you're too old for this now?'

Because that's what most people think, of course — that as I approach my 47th birthday I am either too old to get pregnant, or, in the unlikely event that I do, too old to be a mother to a newborn.

But modern medicine disagrees with the former objection and I disagree with the latter. There are ways to keep that clock ticking for years yet and I intend to use them.

Two months ago, the 51-year-old actress Cameron Diaz announced the addition of a baby boy, Cardinal, to her family, reportedly after years of fertility treatment. And if she can do it, then so can I.

Throughout my life, motherhood has remained my North Star. Every time I found myself at a wishing well it was always a healthy family and baby that I closed my eyes and prayed for as I cast my coin into the water.

Why then hasn't it happened yet for me? Like everyone, when I look back at my life so far, I can see the forks in the road, choices I could have made that might have led me into motherhood earlier.

I have had several long-term relationships and teetered on the brink of marriage a few times, yet something within me always hesitated to take that leap.

Memories often drift back to my first serious relationship, and the possibilities I let go then. I heard recently that he has just become a grandfather and felt a pang of regret, even envy, imagining the rich family life he has had.

But I chose something different.

Girls of my generation were told we could do anything and go anywhere which, of course, is true. We were also told we had all the time in the world to 'settle down', which isn't. So keen were the adults around us to make sure we did 'better' in life than our mothers, they positively drummed into us the messages of equality, independence and ambition.

But what happens when the one ambition you really have is thwarted by that message?

In my 20s, the fear of accidental pregnancy, choosing the wrong partner, or diving into parenthood before achieving financial stability, loomed far larger than my fear of missing my window of fertility.

Nineties TV Shows such as Sex And The City evoked a world of sexual possibilities, and rom-coms suggested when looking for a partner we shouldn't settle for anything less than a 'soulmate'.

With hindsight, I realise I could have found happiness with any of the men I loved and imagined a future with, but I was never 100 per cent certain they were The One.

More importantly, fuelled by wanderlust and a desire to prove myself, there was a world I yearned to explore before parenthood engulfed me.

Most women, whether they want to become a mother or not, are aware of the ticking of their biological clock

I had huge fun in theatre and celebrity PR, and fully embraced an exhilarating London lifestyle. I switched gears and spent a stint living in Granada and Seville to learn Spanish. I took a job in my favourite city on earth, Istanbul. I became a newspaper and magazine columnist, founded my own PR company, started a fashion brand and travelled from one end of the world to the other.

Which is how I got to 38 before I started trying for a baby.

That was the point at which life felt secure enough: I had a rewarding career, a beautiful home, a loving partner — a professional musician whom I met in London and started a relationship with when I was 35 — and a close-knit family. I was ready.

Alas, I have been trying for eight years now — and my childlessness in that time has been a constant source of stress, sadness, and regret. All my life, I have been able to do anything I turned my mind to, except this.

But I have no intention of stopping. With four years to go until my self-imposed deadline, I am more determined than ever to make it happen.

What they don't tell you is how gruelling it all is. At first, I was thwarted by multiple unexplained miscarriages, which, after three years, led my partner and I to the fertility clinic.

At 41, I underwent intrauterine insemination (IUI) followed by six rounds of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), a physically demanding and intensely emotional journey, which cost more than £40,000.

Ultimately, we created six embryos via intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and though one attempt at an embryo transfer in 2019 ended in miscarriage, five were cryopreserved (frozen) in a clinic near my London home.

There they remain — the glimmer of hope I still have.

There is no age limit for IVF treatment in the UK, but in my clinic the cut-off age at which doctors will stop treating women is 52.

It is a different kind of ticking clock, perhaps, more bureaucratic than biological, but for me it is still very much running.

Since that first failed attempt at embryo transfer, I have spent many months trying to make my body as receptive to a pregnancy as possible.

A test revealed I had a blood clotting issue — which might be why I miscarried — and daily blood-thinning injections were recommended.

Then I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and my focus shifted to reversing it by losing weight before another embryo transfer.

At 5ft 9in and weighing 19st, I was too heavy. I began the strictest of diets and lost 4 st in 18 months.

Another unforeseen challenge stopped me briefly in my tracks. Even as my body was apparently getting healthier and stronger, my relationship was crumbling.

The irony is not lost on me. I had found the father of my baby but now my struggle to get pregnant was so overwhelming, it so dominated my life and thoughts that I withdrew from him and focused all my attention on myself.

Another thing they don't tell you: how lonely and self-obsessed infertility can be. After eight years together — four marked by the heartache of unsuccessful attempts to conceive — we parted ways sadly but amicably.

He still supports me on the IVF journey and is ready to sign his name on the papers when the time comes for the next embryo to be unfrozen. He is poised to be a loving father to any baby I have.

I carried on, yet amid a flurry of compliments on my weight loss, a darker story was unfolding.

In January 2021, my health took a dramatic downturn and I was told the Type 2 diabetes I thought I had was in fact Type 1, a distinct and more severe autoimmune condition. Unlike Type 2, Type 1 isn't influenced by diet, lifestyle, or body weight and can't be reversed. It requires daily insulin injections and, to my horror, makes pregnancy much harder.

Girls of my generation were told we could do anything and go anywhere which, of course, is true. We were also told we had all the time in the world to 'settle down', which isn't, writes Alice

By the time of my real diagnosis, I had shed four dress sizes, experienced vision impairment, battled relentless thirst and struggled with persistent infections.

Now, at the age of 44, I had a different fight on my hands to get well enough to carry a baby.

For several months I was floored by it, and even explored the possibility of surrogacy, using my embryos. But the complexities, and cost, of the process is far removed from the seemingly straightforward experiences you see among celebrities and on reality TV shows. Eventually, I gave up the idea.

You can't predict what life will throw at you, of course, nor what will finally break you. I've always cherished my role as an auntie and never once felt jealous of my two younger sisters, who between them have four girls and one boy.

They are my anchors and their children — aged eight months to 12 years old — are the centre of my world. I often imagine my sisters cooing over my own baby and have a recurrent dream of a big huddle of happy cousins at Christmas and birthdays, with my child there, too.

The only time that my dream of motherhood came close to ending was when my fit, happy, and seemingly healthy younger sister, the middle of the three of us, was told she had advanced bowel cancer.

I could deal with the ending of my relationship and even with the Type 1 diabetes diagnosis, but this was different. It was May 2022 and my priorities underwent a seismic shift. Channelling all my energy and attention into supporting her, I let the prospect of having a child fade into the background.

Perhaps this is another consequence of leaving motherhood so late. You are old enough to understand the fragilities of life and to see how vulnerable we all are.

The sorrow of my childlessness seemed trivial in the face of my sister's battle with cancer.

To my great surprise, I began to contemplate the fact that I might not have a baby with something like acceptance. For the first time, it felt bearable.

Yet as the tumult surrounding our family's health issues subsided and my sister recovered, thoughts of my stored embryos began to resurface.

Last year, I made a visit to my IVF clinic, keen to find out whether my embryos, now four years old, were still viable, or whether time, age and my new health challenges had rendered them unusable.

The doctor was reassuring. Even if menopause were to set in before the clinic's cut-off age, interventions existed to potentially reverse it and still get pregnant.

I left the appointment full of hope and, once again, determined to give myself the best possible chance of becoming a mother, no matter my age.

Balancing blood sugar and shedding the pounds as a Type 1 diabetic is very difficult, but I have started a low dose of Wegovy (aka Ozempic) which is helping.

Earlier this year, I attended Dr Ian Lake's Type 1 Diabetes Insulin Optimisation Retreat at Combe Grove in Bath, which helped get me back into an ultra-low-carb and intermittent fasting lifestyle. I have a strict blood glucose target to meet before attempting to transfer the healthiest looking embryo of the five, but today my blood glucose readings have never been better.

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I am on the NHS waiting list for an insulin pump, or so-called 'artificial pancreas', which I know will help me get my blood sugar down to where it needs it to be.

I am not naive about the way people perceive me. For every person who wishes me only success and the fulfilment of my dream, there will be another who views my pursuit of motherhood at this late stage as self-indulgent and unfair to the child.

The prospect of becoming an older mother is undeniably intimidating and laden with potential challenges. Yes, I could be 60 when my child turns ten. Of course, many men find themselves in the same position at the same age and we don't call them selfish.

But far more disturbing to me is the idea of discarding my embryos. The thought that for ever after I might ponder the 'what-ifs' is an agonising one.

I recognise the stark reality that I am likely to be preparing my body for pregnancy complications or — and I have to acknowledge this — more miscarriages. The risks associated with pregnancy are magnified by age and by Type 1 diabetes.

Yet, anyone who's grappled with the profound ache of longing for a child understands that even the faintest hope can be a powerful motivator. I'm confident in my ability to be a nurturing mother.

Despite the slim odds, I've chosen to ignore the judgment of other people and focus on what I can do to modify the risks.

What will I do if I'm not successful? I tell myself that I will embrace the silver lining of newfound freedom away from all thoughts of children. I'll re-enter the dating scene and continue to relish my role as an aunt.

I'll likely enjoy a longer lifespan — each pregnancy a woman has is said to age her biologically by up to two years — bolstered finances, and spontaneous getaways to much-loved places.

I'll maintain a restorative eight hours of sleep, keep my home immaculate and cherish quality time with friends. The absence of baby-centric pressures may even pave the way for finding a life partner, potentially leading me to my elusive soulmate.

But I don't want any of that. Not yet. I want to defy the odds and welcome a child into my life. My miracle baby by the age of 50.

In every other sphere of life I've met my deadlines. If modern science can keep the clock ticking, I'll give this one my best shot, too.

I'm nearly 47 and desperate to be a mother by 50... (2024)
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