When I was younger, I swore I wouldn’t have kids past age 35. I’d heard all sorts of clucking about being 40 and pregnant — a fate worse than death, if you listened to the gossip — and, like everyone, I had read all the arguments against attempting to start a family after age 35, when your eggs took on that sulfurous smell.
And then life happened. The next thing I knew I was in my mid-30s, with no positive pee stick in sight.
When I finally had the chance to join the ranks of those trying to conceive (though not TTC or doing the BD or any of that alphabet soup; I never found the message boards terribly helpful, and who talks that way in real life?), I was 35. My doctor assured me that my eggs had not, in fact, expired on my 35th birthday; while he had to list me as a “geriatric mother” (don’t even get me started) on the prenatal paperwork, he at least graced me with a verbal “but just barely.” I gave birth for the first time at the age of 37, and again two months before my 41st birthday.
I was, literally, 40 and pregnant. I’m not sure what the big deal about it is, to be honest.
Was it 100% smooth sailing, having kids later? No. But I had far, far fewer pregnancy and delivery problems than many younger women experience. (Including my mother, who nearly died delivering me, and my grandmother, who had not one but two life-threatening pregnancies and deliveries.) I did experience fertility challenges, but as I have endometriosis, there’s no way to prove my age was the cause.
If I had it to do over again, would I choose to wait to have kids? You know, I might. There are some up sides to waiting for kids.
Endometriosis: My years with endometriosis prepared me for pregnancy and delivery by providing me with a deep understanding of how my body’s reproductive system functions, and by increasing my tolerance to pain and heavy bleeding. Granted, if I’d had kids earlier, I’d have gotten a reprieve from my endometriosis earlier. But odds are those benefits would have waned just as quickly, and I may have felt compelled to keep having kids to get relief. The alternative would have been to deal with debilitating symptoms (and the sedating medications that go along with them) while caring for small children, which is a horrifying thought. While I get serious pangs when I see a newborn, I feel content to stop at two kids. I no longer feel like the risks of pregnancy complications are negligible, and the relief I’d gain in my cycles is offset by the knowledge that I’m nearing the end of my menstruating years. I can put up with the crazy periods now that there’s an end in sight.
Perimenopause: Is there a good time to go through perimenopause? If there is, I’m sure it’s not while you’re dealing with the terrible twos (or the terrible threes, or the f’ing fours and fives). But when my mother was perimenopausal, I was in my late teens, and trying to find a birth control pill that would help me manage my emerging endometriosis symptoms. Epic PMS, squared. I’m surprised my dad didn’t leave us. Things might get rowdy around here, but at least nobody’s going through puberty compounded by artificial hormone fluctuations. Also, the physical changes brought on by having kids are less traumatic for me because they’re all mixed up with my capital-C Change. My body’s already a train wreck. Saggy c-section scar? Matches my saggy jowls. Insomnia? Yay — me time! And hot flashes just make Mommy snuggles that much more cozy for chilly babies.
Stability: Okay, so we’re not exactly financially stable. But I have a far greater earning capacity now than I did at 23, and the education and experience to land a decent-paying job from home. I’m far more emotionally steady than I was as an insecure 20-something. I worry less about what others think of me, my kids, and my parenting style than I would have when I was younger. I also realize how quickly things change; it’s easier to ride out the bad times when you know they will soon pass.
Appreciation: I wanted children desperately for a couple of decades before I had them. I worked long and hard to get to this point in my life, and while I’d be lying if I said I’ve enjoyed every second of motherhood, for the most part I love being a mom. I was ready for this. The sacrifices I’ve made pale in comparison to what I’ve gained. I see a lot of moms complain about things I simply don’t care about — not being able to go out, for instance, or having to do without so their kids can have things. I miss having a clean house, true. But I know that in a few short years, I’ll have a clean house again — and I’ll miss the mess, and the people who caused it.
The one big drawback I can think of to having kids this late is a lack of peer support. The mommy groups are full of people whose parents are my age. When I do encounter a mom my age with little kids, they almost always have older kids, too; our experiences overlap, but there are distinct differences. It’s kind of lonely, having absolutely no one to talk to about this experience. I keep thinking I should find a Facebook group. Or start one, if there isn’t already one. (Surely there is. Isn’t there a FB group for everything under the sun?) Overall, though, I feel like I had kids at precisely the right time.