I was 35 when I found out I was pregnant for the first time. I had been married for 2 years and had no intentions of starting a family for most of those 2 years.
At my annual physical, my doctor asked me about when I planned to have children. I said, "oh you know, maybe at 40?" I mean, there were lots of celebrities who were having babies over 40, and I was not feeling ready yet. I sometimes wondered if I even wanted kids. I grew up surrounded by kids - being the youngest child of much older siblings, I became an aunt at the ripe old age of 6. (I have 9 nieces and nephews). So it's not like I had a lack of babies in my life.
Besides, our friends fell into one of three camps:
1) Married in their 20s, had kids, and kids were now older, thus parents were running around shuttling them to various activities. So no time to socialize with them.
2) Married with little babies or kids, which meant pretty much no more socializing with them because they could never go out
3) Blissfully single and/or married with no kids. Some by choice, some because they were struggling with infertility.
My doctor wrung his hands and told me about the risks of becoming a mom over age 35, and that many people struggled with infertility at my age, and if I wanted a child, I should try immediately and come see him in 6 months if I couldn't get pregnant so he could start me on IVF.
We stopped using birth control, hoped for the best, and got pregnant 2 weeks later.
My daughter was born a few days after I turned 36. Here's what I've observed about being an older mom:
- I had many misconceptions of motherhood (like many childless women!) Because of what I had achieved in my career, I figured a baby would be easy by comparison. And when things didn't go right and I couldn't find an easy fix, my confidence was shattered.
- I wasn't the only older mom in the neighbourhood, but I found most moms were younger than me (or those closer to my age were already on their 2nd or 3rd baby). I couldn't relate to the 20 something moms (or even the early 30 somethings). As my husband pointed out, "Would you be friends with this person if you didn't have a baby the same age?" For a lot of them, the answer was no.
- I was tired all the time. While this was normal, I couldn't recover from being tired as easily as I could recover in my 20s (all night parties followed by a full day of meetings at a sales conference was a snap compared to motherhood).
- Lack of family support. Because of my age, my parents and in-laws were also older and didn't have the strength to help me out with a new baby.
- I missed my pre-baby life. I had 36 years of being responsible only to myself, not having to care for anyone, and basically being able to do whatever I wanted (within the confines of a full-time job and money). Spontaneous dinners out and weekend trips were easy before baby. 36 years of independent living, filled with freedom and travel, is a lifetime. Adjusting from that was really hard.
- Worry. I worry when I'm too tired to keep up with her at the park. I worry when I think about how when she is a teenager, we will be qualifying for seniors discounts. I worry that she will likely watch us retire while she starts her post-secondary education. I worry that we will be too old to help her care for her own children like our parents were with us.
Despite everything, older motherhood is wonderful. For many, older motherhood is by choice, circumstance, or both. Whatever the reason, it is still motherhood. Being a parent is hard, no matter what.
My daughter is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me.