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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I realise now that having a baby at 57 was a mistake, says Britain's oldest new mother

By Eleanor Harding

Britain's oldest new mother has told of her regret at having a baby aged 57 – admitting for the first time it was a ‘mistake’ not to have had her first child sooner.

Speaking four years after giving birth, Sue Tollefsen revealed she was recently left unable to care for her daughter Freya for weeks after contracting a life-threatening blood infection that left her incapacitated over Christmas.

The retired teacher, now 61, said the experience of her illness has made her realise she may not be alive to see her daughter grow up.

She also now believes that 50 should be the ‘cut-off’ age for becoming a parent.

Miss Tollefsen said: ‘It’s so true that you learn from your mistakes, and my mistake was not having her sooner.

‘I was so ill, I literally thought I was dying. I kept thinking about Freya – and for the first time, I realised I might not be there for her any more.’

She added: ‘If I’m completely honest, my experience has taught me that 50 should probably be the cut-off limit for having children.

‘But, until you have them, it’s almost impossible to appreciate that.’

Miss Tollefsen, who lives off her pension in a two-bedroom house in Harold’s Wood, Essex, also told how her decision to become a mother in her late 50s has seen her facing a backlash from other parents.

She caused controversy in 2008 when she had Freya, now four, via IVF, using sperm from her partner and a donor egg.

Exhausted: Miss Tollefsen, pictured with her partner Nick Mayer and Freya, said she was feeling the strain of childcare since the couple separated last year

Critics blasted Miss Tollefsen, saying she was too old to become a parent – but at the time she claimed she had no regrets, and even said she would love to have another baby.

Now she is feeling the strain of looking after her daughter, especially after splitting from her partner Nick Mayer, 49, a warehouse manager, last year.

In an interview with Closer magazine, she also revealed how she has been openly criticised by other parents, with one mother at Freya’s crèche telling her that she was ‘selfish’ because Freya would be bullied.

Miss Tollefsen said: ‘I was in tears, it made me feel very vulnerable.

Once, I took Freya to see a health visitor and she thought Freya was my granddaughter. I was so embarrassed.’ Miss Tollefsen also revealed the strain of her day-to-day routine as a single mother.

She said: ‘At my age, I get exhausted easily – especially since I’ve been ill. I was 57 when I had Freya, but I felt very energetic and able to cope. I thought I would feel fit and healthy for ever.

‘I hope I live to see Freya go to university and get married and have a family of her own. That’s my only wish now.’

Miss Tollefsen became pregnant in June 2007 after three rounds of IVF.

She and her partner had spent £15,000 on fertility treatment in Russia after they were turned away from British fertility clinics because of her age. Russian doctors decided she was fit to bear a child using sperm from Mr Mayer, but that she would need to use a donor egg.

Freya was born in March 2008 by Caesarean section.

The little girl stays with Mr Mayer every other weekend, and he looked after her when her mother was ill.

The infection which made Miss Tollefsen ill last year is still in her blood and could damage her heart if it returns.

It was at first misdiagnosed, and doctors said she would have died if she had left it longer to be treated.

If Miss Tollefsen should die, she has arranged for Freya to be looked after by her niece in Norway as her ex-partner works full-time.



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