Brigitte Nielsen made headlines around the world when she gave birth at age 54, and her baby girl Frida is already 7 months old.
Sooooo ... how’s life been going for this prominent pioneer of “advanced maternal age”? Is she dragging? Haggard? Exhausted? Wrung out?
“Life is amazing!” the statuesque Danish actress and model told TODAY. “My pregnancy was so easy for me. Still, I thought, ‘Wow, at 54 you can expect to never get back to normal.’ But after I gave birth, I was back to feeling completely myself again after two and a half weeks!”
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Nielsen’s pregnancy and postpartum bounce-back may have been easier than expected, but her journey toward pregnancy was anything but. She and her husband, Mattia Dessi, 40, spent 11 years trying to conceive through in vitro fertilization.
“Eleven years — it’s a long time. I don’t wish that upon anyone,” said Nielsen, now 55. “It’s an enormous journey and it’s not for everybody. It’s very expensive and it’s very difficult on your relationship because you have disappointment after disappointment.”
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l have a lot more as a mother to give to my daughter because I’ve been there before.
She said Frida’s arrival last June felt like such a miracle that she’s been riding a wave of gratitude and bliss ever since. Still, she’s had to endure critics of her decision to become a new mom in her mid-50s.
“On Instagram and elsewhere online, 95 percent of people are so happy for you, but you’re always going to have people saying, ‘How dare you! You could be the grandmother! You could be dead before she grows up!’” Nielsen said. “But really, no one should criticize. ... It’s all about what you can give that child. I know that as a woman, I’m in a better place than I’ve ever been.”
Frida is Nielsen’s fifth child and her very first daughter. Nielsen’s four sons from previous relationships are grown men now: Julian Winding, 34; Killian Gastineau, 29; Douglas Meyer, 25, and Raoul Meyer Jr., 23.
“My sons are absolutely in love with Frida,” Nielsen said. “Another very sweet thing is that because my sons are adult sons, they are so happy for me. They’re just so happy for their mom.”
The star of “Rocky IV,” “Creed II,” “Red Sonja” and other films said she sees a huge difference in her approach to parenting as an older mother — and it’s not just because Frida is such an easy, happy baby.
“What’s really better is I feel l have a lot more as a mother to give to my daughter because I’ve been there before,” Nielsen said. “I was 20 years old when I had my first baby, and I was so green, so concerned, so scared. Now, I’m just excited. Now, I can really enjoy myself. Every month of Frida growing is a very happy journey for me because nothing really worries me.”
Brooke Shields (mom of two girls Rowan and Grier): “Trust me when I tell you I’m on my girls. And every time I am, I know from the outside it looks like I’m an overbearing, controlling parent. But I don’t think we are responsible to anybody but our kids and ourselves.”
Nielsen said she froze her eggs shortly after she met Dessi because she sensed a need to plan for their future together.
“I was almost 40 when I met him, and he was 25,” recalled Nielsen, who had been married four other times before she wed Dessi. “I realized when I fell in love with him that I had never really loved before. ... After finally having that true-true deep love with my husband, I knew that my biggest dream for me would be to be able to have a baby with him.”
Doctors cautioned the couple that they only had a 3 percent to 4 percent chance of having a baby via IVF. Despite years of negative test results, they kept trying — right up until the one last attempt before doctors said they would stop the process.
“At the very end, that’s when I got pregnant,” Nielsen said. “She stuck. And she stayed!”
Brigitte Nielsen reveals she is pregnant at age 54
As exciting as that development was, it still provoked a tremendous amount of anxiety. Nielsen’s doctor told her she could lose the baby any day and advised her not to tell anyone about the pregnancy — not even her mother — until she had reached the 27-week mark.
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That’s one of the reasons Nielsen found herself concealing her pregnancy on the set of the movie “Creed II,” where she was asked to reprise her role as the ruthless Ludmilla Drago from the 1985 movie “Rocky IV.”
“The character Ludmilla has a grown son, so she cannot be pregnant — it wouldn’t work — so I had to hide it,” said Nielsen, who was married to “Rocky” and “Creed” star Sylvester Stallone from 1985 to 1987.
Nielsen was about seven months pregnant during her first shoot for “Creed II.” She said the cream-colored suit she wore managed to hide everything on her 6-foot-1 frame. At her second shoot, though, she was about eight months pregnant and showing much more.
“They had me wear a black evening gown and come in at just the right angles,” Nielsen said. “I can’t wait to tell Frida, ‘You were already on set, kicking away!’”
Nielsen said she’s hopeful about landing more acting roles in the months ahead — perhaps in a streaming TV series or a Marvel movie.
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“Just because I’m 55 and gave birth doesn’t mean I have any intention of shutting down my work,” she said. “Age shouldn’t define what we do. ... You’re given one life. Only one. Life is so exciting and so amazing, so don’t waste your time. Don’t strive to be someone else. Just be you.”
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Laura T. Coffey is a senior writer, editor and producer for TODAY and is the author of the best-selling non-fiction book "My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts." Connect with Laura at MyOldDogBook.com .