As she gazes at her seven-year-old daughter Anouk, sitting quietly in the corner playing on her iPad, Amanda Eason can’t quite believe she is hers.
After going through the majority of her life determined not to have a baby, the Auckland poet (53) defied fertility experts, and her own biological clock, having her first child at 46.
While Anouk has brought an astonishing amount of joy into Amanda and husband Steven’s lives, raising a child in her fifties has not been easy, as she explains frankly to the Weekly.
“I want my story to bring hope to other women – to know that it’s not too late to have a baby if you want one, but it’s also a warning,” she says, carefully.
“To those young women with their careers – if you want children, plan it. Fertility doesn’t last forever.”
A child of the 1960s, Amanda and her friends were enthralled with the feminist movement, and as teenagers in the 70s, were “disgusted with the servitude” their mothers displayed in the home.
They vowed never to be like that, and instead embarked on what they thought was the perfect life – carefree, with careers and sleep-ins on weekends, instead of dealing with nappies and school runs.
“But then we became this group of women in our forties, who suddenly realised we’d got it wrong,” Amanda remembers.
Having completely given up on the idea of having a child, Amanda, who had never found her Mr Right, went with a friend on a horseback-riding adventure holiday in Tibet in 2006 – and that’s where she met Steven (43).
“Our little group was assembling at Heathrow Airport, and I saw this handsome man – much younger – and we got talking,” she recalls with a smile.
“She was gorgeous,” Steven chips in.
“Well, we had this amazing holiday romance, but I said to him, ‘I can’t be your life partner. I’m too old; I can’t give you a child.’ He said he didn’t care.”
After living together in London for a year, the couple decided “not to not try” for a baby, but were both stunned when Amanda fell pregnant, aged 45.
“I was ecstatic, but terrified too,” she says.
“I knew the statistics for things like Down’s syndrome, but Anouk was perfect.”
It was a textbook pregnancy, something Amanda puts down to “being a New Zealander and fit and healthy”, but the actual birth was dramatic.
“Because I was so much older, the cascade of chemical events your brain has to process for labour, didn’t start.”
Fourteen days overdue, Amanda was finally induced, but an emergency Caesarean was still required. After a horrendous labour, Anouk was finally born on July 6, 2006, in London.
“I remember thinking through the birth, I would never get her,” Amanda says.
“It was a miracle she was conceived – and a miracle she was born.
“I had photographs taken with Steven when I was pregnant, and in retrospect, I think it was to prove that I was once pregnant.”
Although Amanda and Steven were overjoyed with the completion of their little family, Amanda wasn’t quite prepared for the aftermath – actually raising a child.
“I suffered. I only had enough energy to look after one person, and that was the baby,” she says.
“And it wasn’t because I was slightly older – it was because I much older.”
“It affected my health, and was almost like I forgot who I was. Only in the last few months have I managed to find myself and be happy again.”
“But all of my friends were gutted. They couldn’t get their heads around me becoming a mum. Although some have decided to be ‘aunties’, others were too distressed to have anything to do with me.”
“Since I’ve allowed myself to go grey, I suppose I’ve accepted that’s what people are going to think. But Anouk gets embarrassed for me when people assume, because she knows it upsets me.”
“Sometimes people think she’s my mum,” adds Steven with a chuckle. “We were having dinner in a restaurant in Singapore a few years ago, and the waiter said to me, ‘I hope you had a good time taking your mother out tonight.’ I said, ‘No, it’s my wife!’”
But with the negatives come the positives, and Amanda, who is now running free writing workshops with the Department of Writing in Auckland, insists there are plenty.
“I haven’t resented putting my child first,” she explains.
“I’ve had an incredible life, done a lot of travelling and had four collections published. I was grateful to stay at home with the baby.”
As far as Anouk is concerned, she’s perfectly prepared for when people question her about her older mum.
“I’ll say, ‘Mum’s clever ‘coz she’s a teacher and she knows a lot,’” Anouk says with a grin.
“She wanted a brother or sister for a while there,” Amanda adds.
“I had to explain that Mummy’s too old to have another one now. And she
says, ‘That’s okay. I’ll have my own baby one day.’
“So, I guess you could say we have come full circle!”
Photos: Michelle Hyslop • hair & make-up: Kate Smith • styling: Tamzyn Elliot • Amanda wears Just Jeans shirt, JeansWest Jeans. Steven wears Trenery shirt. Anouk wears Just Jeans top,
Country Road jeans, Pumpkin Patch shoes. Amanda wears Portmans shirt, Jeanswest jeans, Diva necklace, Mi Piaci shoes. Anouk wears Country Road top and jeans, Pumpkin Patch shoes.
About Kelly Bertrand
“I started at the Weekly after a two-week internship in 2011, which was part of my journalism studies. Basically, I hung around and annoyed people long enough to land a job as a staff writer, and I’ve been here ever since. I’m lucky enough to get to write stories ranging from the Kardashians through to the Queen, but my real passion is telling the stories of New Zealand’s sporting stars. Sometimes I can’t quite believe it’s my job to hang out with All Blacks and Silver Ferns! I absolutely love working at the Weekly, and feel really privileged to be part of this 83-year-old Kiwi institution. I’m also fond of Instagram, coffee and animals dressed as humans!”more of this author