Janet Maslin-Bosher’s twins turned ten a fortnight ago and the celebrations were predictably lively. She bought them matching scooters, chased along beside them as they rode them, prepared a birthday tea and took them to the theatre. The festivities would have taxed the most youthful of parents — but at 68, Janet was exhausted.
As the oldest first-time mother of twins in Britain — she was drawing a pension when her children Sarah and James were just toddlers — you might imagine she would be a resolute defender of late-life parenthood. But, surprisingly, she now concedes that she was too old to become a mother. ‘The children are my life and of course I wouldn’t be without them. But 58 is old to become a mum. There should be a cut-off age for IVF treatment and 50 is sensible,’ she says.
Janet compares her own story to that of Spain’s Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara, a single mother who had twins by IVF at 66. ‘I felt she was selfish. She died of cancer within two years and her children were orphaned.’ When Janet became pregnant with her own twins following her first IVF attempt, with embryos donated by an anonymous couple, she was nine years younger than Miss Bousada de Lara.
Even so, critics of post-menopausal motherhood argued that she, too, could not bank on being around to guide her twins into adulthood. Indeed, Janet’s partner Martin Maslin died unexpectedly, aged 64, of a heart attack when James and Sarah were just five months old, leaving her to raise her children alone on a pension. Is she, too, not open to the charge of folly, if not selfishness? ‘I’d like to have had my twins earlier. Absolutely,’ she acknowledges when we meet.
‘But we’re in the here and now. I can’t change things. My world revolves round them. I’m very happy to be a mum and to have two such contented, well-mannered children. ‘I’m very fortunate, too, that I’m fit, but it’s true: you don’t realise what’s involved until you have them. It’s hard work. You don’t have a social life outside them; I’d like to join the church choir but I can’t.
‘But I think back. I’ve lived. I’ve done a lot. Many people who have children young feel they’ve missed out on their youth. Some young mums are not ready for parenthood; I’ve got vast experience of life, I have patience — and most importantly of all, I have time for them.’
Time, of course, is the commodity that is in short supply for older parents. When Janet gave birth to her twins at 58 after paying for IVF treatment at a private clinic, she was accused of being irresponsible.
This week, the Government introduced a new law allowing women over 40 to sue if they are refused fertility treatment, paving the way for more older mums to get IVF. Current rules restrict treatment to women aged between 23 and 39.