Studies show about 11 percent of babies born in the United States each year are born to mother’s over the age of 35. For some the biological clock starts ticking before 35, but for others they’re not ready to start a family until later in life. Not every woman who has a child over 35 is choosing her career over family.
One study found an increase of 10 percent in earnings for each year a woman waits to have a baby. Another reason women are waiting to have children until their mid-thirties, early forties, is because they haven’t met their partner until then. So we can’t just assume the woman is “career-driven." Each person’s reason is different.
Most women want a family – they just want to experience life first. Another reason could be they married young, had children young, divorced and remarried. I know because this was the reason for me having children after 40. I remarried when I was 40 and three years later had a child.
While nothing magical occurs when you reach the age of 35, there are some risks involved with waiting. Life expectancy rates continue to rise, but not enough to compensate for how late women are having babies. Whatever the reason for waiting, women should be aware of the risks so they can make informed decisions as to when to start a family.
Here are things to consider if you’re waiting to have a baby.
8 The Support Network
Grandparents are usually the ones who pass on their love of reading, art or music. They’re there to teach children how to bake or put a puzzle together. Children who spend time with their grandparents tend to have fewer behavior problems and are known to have better self-esteem.
Another benefit children gain from having their grandparents around is they’re able to teach grandchildren about family values and traditions. They provide stories of family history and often valuable advice. They can be great role models. Grandchildren gain a sense of safety and protection from grandparents.
Grandparents can also provide affordable childcare.
Researchers determined kids are shaped by grandparents and lack of these influences can do more harm than good. It’s also been determined kids do better in social circles if they have a good relationship with their grandparents. Do you remember spending time with your grandparents? I remember it was the best times of my life.
What happens if your children don’t have grandparents? Do you have a sibling who can offer a source of social support or give your child emotional support? Maybe you have a close friend who can spend quality time with your child and offer the love and encouragement they would normally get from a grandparent?
A program like Big Brother Big Sister is another great way to find a support network for you child.
7 The Grandmother Effect
On the flip side of this “grandparent” issue is something you might not expect – being mistaken for your child’s grandparent. Denise Mooney talks about her encounter as a mistaken identity incident. At one point my 15 year old and 2 year old were exiting a rest room at a truck stop. That is the only time I have experienced someone assuming I was the Grandmother.
My 15 year old was horrified that the woman had assumed she was the mother. I thought it was hysterically funny as I hadn't been expecting that to happen for another decade or so. After my initial offense, I ended up doing the math, taking into account the area of the country we were traveling and decided to take it as a compliment.
My train of thought, if she assumed my 15 year old was the mom, perhaps she assumed I had her at 15, so she thought I was 30...woot, woot! That was 12 years younger than my actual age at the time...that's my story and I'm sticking to it...also praying that the next time someone asks, my youngest will be in college and I'll actually be a Grandma.
The age gap can be annoying at times, depending on your point of view.
Imagine walking into your child’s daycare or classroom for your first parent/teacher conference and the teacher asks why the parents aren’t coming for the meeting? The best bet is to smile and explain nicely that you are his/her parent.
Another thing to consider is the parent/teenager dynamic. How will your relationship thrive in those teen years? Once you leave the teen years behind your relationship will likely grow stronger again, but during those teen years, they’re angry and hateful most times. They’re trying to find their way in the world and where they fit.
They’re faced with the pressures of sex, drugs and drinking. Peer pressure can be a difficult obstacle. A grandparent would be helpful to guide them in the right direction or even offer advice.
Your patience will be tested when your baby turns into a teenager.
Remember teens don’t want to be around their parents and almost everything you say and do is wrong. Grandparents on the other hand have some leeway here, because they offer unconditional love and support. And a safe refuge away from those nagging parents.
There will be good times with your teen too and some benefits. Just think they’ll keep you up to date with technology.
6 The Generation Gap
A study in 2009 showed the average age of the first-time mother in the US was 25. Imagine being at the playground with your little one. The other moms hanging out with their kids are ten or more years younger than you. Same goes for pre-school and all the school years after. How will you deal with these younger moms while volunteering at the PTA or in the classroom?
They’re coming from a different generation than you. You’re likely to feel left out or like a third wheel. You can overcome some of these barriers by being prepared. Keep up on the forms of communication the younger generation uses. Show a genuine interest in the other moms or dads lives. Give them the respect they deserve.
Try to find some middle ground where there's understanding on both sides.
While they may be younger than you, they’re still an adult. Share your problems with them. Maybe they have some insight that you weren’t aware of. There’s nothing better than being able to show someone you’re vulnerable side too.
Embrace a healthy lifestyle so you can keep up with the physical aspect of child rearing. See your doctor regularly. Eat right, practice yoga or do some light weight lifting. All these will aide in keeping your stamina for when your child wants to race you across the monkey bars.
5 The Energy Sap
Some low impact games to keep up with your little one are rolling the ball or follow the leader. Toddlers love playing ball. Another awesome idea a big cardboard box. We all know that kids enjoy the packaging more than the actual toy inside. Keep a large box hanging around; pull it out when you want to something that doesn’t require a lot of energy on your part.
Let him crawl in and out and play. Another handy game is make pretend. Do you have an old phone or remote control hanging around? Kids are notorious for wanting either item. Give them one and watch them have tons of fun, with little effort. Coloring and reading are also low impact ideas for a fun time.
Your energy levels will inevitably decline the older you get.
Let’s face it, as we get older our energy levels decline. Kids love to be chased and played with on their level. That means getting on the floor and doing what they’re doing; whether building blocks, dressing dolls or playing with a train set. Are you ready to crawl around the floor on your hands and knees? Or will you be able to play a good game of tag or hide and seek?
Not only that think about how your child will feel if you’re not capable of keeping up with him or her while other parents do. Another thought is will you be ready for the stress of the “I’m always right” teen? Most are argumentative during those transition years. Make sure you can handle the bigger issues.
4 The Other Kids
Let’s say you didn’t wait until you were 35 to have your first baby. Maybe you were like me and had your children in your early 20s. You divorce, meet a new man, fall in love and get married. Said man has no children and longs for one of his own. Sounds like a nice idea, right?
Have you spoken with your other children about how it would affect them? You have to remember that they are part of your family too and you don’t want to alienate them. My son was 24 when my youngest was born. He still lived at home and would probably still be here if she wasn’t born.
We needed room so he moved out and left the state. It was heartbreaking for me. He was my eldest and we had a special bond. My middle child couldn’t care less either way. She’d just married and was expecting her first child. The baby of the family was not too thrilled. She wasn’t going to the baby any longer. She had legitimate fears. Would we still love her? Would the baby replace her?
Your older children should be included in these major life decisions you're making.
She was in her early teens at the time and as we know, struggling to find her own identity as it was. We were able to put her fears to rest and show her how complete a new baby made our family, but it is something to consider.
On the plus side, you now have a built in babysitter for the new baby and if you’re lucky a form of birth control. Now that she has a little sister and a niece she has no desire to have children of her own.
3 Long-Term Concerns
Consider this – when you’re 75 your child will be 35. If being a mother later in life is what you want, you have to face the fact that you might not be around for your child the way they need you. Again the grandmother and/or the support network will come in effect only in the opposite direction this time.
You’ll need to prepare your child early on that the possibility exists that you won’t be around forever. The risk of death increases as you age. You should plan ahead by having a Will drawn up. You’ll want to make as many decisions early on so that your child isn’t stuck with the unknown.
It’s a good idea to include them in the decision making too, so they’re not surprised when they read the Will. They should also be included in your health care choices. Do you want to have a DNR: Do Not Resuscitate in the event of health crisis? How about if you become terminally ill? Make sure your child understands how you want to live or not live out your remaining days.
2 Independence Gone
As we grow older we become set in our ways. We have our routines or things we like to do and when the baby comes along you can basically throw that out the window. Suddenly you have responsibilities and that freedom you once enjoyed has left.
Make sure you’re ready to have a little bundle of joy count on you for everything he or she does. They will look to you for guidance, to be fed, bathed and cared for.
Now don’t get me wrong. This is a wonderful gift you’ve been blessed with. A rewarding blessing, but it does require a different commitment. You have to be prepared.
1 The Other Risks
The biological clock is a fact of life and various risks come into play as you age. You need to consider it may take longer to get pregnant. The fact of the matter is women are born with over a million eggs, but by the time we reach puberty we only have about 300,000 eggs. I’m sure you’re thinking that’s more than enough eggs, right?
Wrong – only 300 will become mature and released during ovulation. They decrease in quantity and quality as you age. They don’t fertilize as easily as they do when you’re in your 20’s.
Another risk you run is the possibility you could have multiples. As we age so does the chances of having twins. Consider if you’re ready for two babies instead of one. With twins comes double everything, including energy.
There’s the possibility of developing gestational diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes occurs only during pregnancy. You’ll be required to control your blood sugar through diet if you develop it. This was something I suffered with during my last pregnancy at forty-three.
Pregnancy later on in life has a different roller coaster to the one from your 20's.
I had to check my blood sugar level twice a day. Lucky for me I didn’t require any shots, but that’s because I was very careful with my food intake. I followed all the rules my doctor prescribed. If you don’t treat the diabetes, you run the risk of having a larger than average baby. This could increase the risk of injuries during your delivery.
You could have a low birth weight baby or premature. My husband and I had this happen when I was 40. Our son was born at 25 weeks, weighing only 14ozs. He lived for six days. It was one of the hardest things we’ve had to experience in our lives.
There's no good way to prepare yourself for the loss of a child whether expected or not. Make sure you surround yourself with loving and supporting people. A circle of friends and family will be important. Seek counseling, even if you feel you don’t need it. You’ll find it beneficial.
You may feel like life will never be good again, but it will. While you never forget, you learn to move on and it’s important for everyone involved, including yourself.
Make sure to take care of yourself during the pregnancy emotionally and physically. See your doctor regularly, take your prenatal vitamins, and avoid alcohol. Be careful with what you eat, you’d be surprised to learn you only need 300 additional calories now that you’re eating for two. You’ll grow more tired and you need to adhere to your body’s warnings. Rest as much as you can.
Hormones can be tricky. You’ll feel like you’re living on a roller coaster of emotions. If you’re sad more times than happy, see a doctor, you might be depressed. It’s common, but should be discussed with your doctor, because it could put your baby at risk.
The facts are later in life pregnancy can put you at a higher risk for various health complications, but there are positive aspects. As an older mother, you’re more mature and dedicated to the idea of being a mom. You’ve most likely given it great consideration and understand the changes a new baby will bring.
The more prepared you are the better you can face the challenges and adjustments ahead.
Be sure to see your doctor for a preconception visit to make sure you’re in the best physical shape for having a baby. If you have any chronic health conditions make sure it’s okay for you to get pregnant and that it won’t cause any risks to your unborn child.
Verify if you need to see a specialist during your pregnancy. Sometimes when you’re considered a high risk pregnancy, you’ll be advised to see a doctor who specializes in neo-natal care.
While you need to take all these risks under consideration my last piece of advice – enjoy! Pregnancy is a beautiful experience and you should try not worry about all the risks once you become pregnant.