An important lesson of parenthood is that the desire to have your first baby is the same, whether you are 25 or 45. However, planning a midlife pregnancy, or suddenly discovering you are expecting when you are already well into your 40s, often elicits some degree of concern. You are apprehensive about what people will think.
Will people ask why you want another baby at your age? Will there be a lack understanding and attempt to instill personal values upon you? Will there be remarks about whether or not you and your spouse are the child’s grandparents?
One in five women currently delays having her first child until the age of 35 and the majority give birth to perfectly healthy babies. Although there are elevated risks associated with being an older mother, a fit woman in her 40s is more likely to have a successful pregnancy than an unhealthy woman in her 20s.
Funke was in her 20s when she gave birth to her first three children.
She admits to being far less emotionally, spiritually and financially stable than she was when she gave birth to her fourth child at the age of 40. In her 20s, Funke was still trying to decide what she was going to be when she “grew up” and was struggling with all manner of identity crises, not aided by the fact that she was in an unhappy marriage with an unsupportive husband.
When her life was crowded with unresolved personal issues, she admitted she was unable to devote herself totally to her children. By the time she gave birth to her youngest daughter at the age of 40, Funke was very clear about what she wanted in life, including another baby. She had, and still has, a supportive partner who nurtured her through the pregnancy and plays an active role as a father.
Shola was 43 when she gave birth to her third child. The pregnancy was really no more difficult than the other two had been. She only suffered from mild morning sickness for the first three months, but nothing incapacitating and after that she really bloomed.
The baby was born in under three hours, with minimal pain relief, weighing a healthy 3.7 kilos! Shola’s body has almost sprung back into shape and she has found the transition from independent career woman to stay-at-home mother a breeze.
Sarah is 45 and gave birth to her fourth child when she was 44. When she discovered she was expecting, Sarah tried to remain positive, but felt that there was a general lack of support for older mothers. Her baby arrived just four days early after a 16-hour labour and an epidural, which made the entire experience almost comfortable. It was a natural birth, without need for birthing aids and she required no stitches. The baby weighed 3.2 kilos and was the heaviest of all of Sarah’s children. Her recovery has been incredible and she doesn’t remember feeling so fit and energetic after the birth of her first three children. The belief is that there may be a lot in the old saying that “Life begins at 40.”
Irene was 44 when she gave birth to her first baby. She still remembers the midwife saying to her, “How can a tiny thing like you produce such a huge baby?” rather than saying, “How can such an old person as you give birth to such a huge baby?” Irene feels it would be nice for her baby to have a brother or a sister, so it wouldn’t be a disaster if she discovered that she is expecting again even at 46!
Ignoring negative comments is often easier said than done, even when most of such comments are based on ignorance and other people’s personal hang-ups. But assuming you are mistaken for your child’s grandmother, so what?
What’s the big deal? After all, is it not almost impossible to discern someone’s age these days when there are several much younger mothers around? Whatever the situation, does it really matter what other people think? After all we all make personal choices and have no obligation to explain our choices.
There are many more older mothers who were once younger mothers and so have a comparison through personal experience Age and appearance do not necessarily have a bearing upon the ability to be a great parent. Is it not better to look like your child’s grandmother, secure in the knowledge that your child is being raised in a loving, stable environment, than to look like your child’s sister and be ill-equipped to cope with the demands of being a young mother?
Midlife mothering may not be ideal, but it is often inevitable. There may even be benefits. There is the wealth of experience older mothers can bring with them on their journey into parenthood. Older parents can offer a deeper sense of security to a child, because they themselves are more sure of their path in life, they have probably already carved out a career, have learned to develop tolerance and understanding and are often more financially and emotionally stable.