5 Women on Why They Waited to Have Children Until After 35
Ask any woman who gets pregnant over the age of 35 and they’ll tell you: It’s pretty damn surprising when you walk into the OB/GYN feeling all glowing and youthful and then they assign you the worst medical term ever created. You’re a geriatric. That’s why we consulted five women about their prenatal experience and why exactly they waited until “advanced maternal age” to have kids. The main takeaway: Age—especially in pregnancy—really is just a number.
“I got married at 21 and we always knew we would start a family one day. We even had our kids' names picked out. But throughout our 20s, we traveled extensively and kept saying, ‘OK, just one more year and we’ll start a family.’ At 30, we moved to my hometown, bought a large house with lots of bedrooms and started trying for a family. Four months later, he told me he was having an affair. He left and I haven’t seen him since. I sold the house, packed my bags and moved to New York City for an escape, an adventure and a life reset. Once I was ready, I started dating again at 34. With all my strength, I tried to avoid announcing, ‘Hi, nice to meet you. My biological clock is ticking really loud.’ I met my husband when I was 35 and knew instantly he was the guy, the one, my soulmate and partner in crime. We started trying for a family with no success and sought infertility help. After four failed IUIs and one successful round of IVF, our daughter arrived when I was 39.
Every time I hear the phrase ‘geriatric pregnancy,’ my skin prickles with frustration and anger. Once pregnant, I was so thrilled to be part of the ‘gang,’ a secret society of women that were sharing a life-changing experience. To have a label attached to me that set me apart made me feel like an outsider. We wanted to be under the care of a midwife rather than an OB/GYN. When I called up a practice we were considering, I felt it necessary to announce that I was 39 and ask if that would be a problem because I’m ‘geriatric.’ They laughed and replied: ‘If we applied an age limit of 35, we’d have no patients! This is New York.’ Since then, I’ve never looked back. I had a fabulous pregnancy and an unmediated natural birth. I now spend my days staring at the most perfect, beautiful, smart baby that ever arrived on planet Earth. I’m biased, of course.” — Bethany, 40
“In my 20s, I was ambivalent, but I thought I’d like to be a mom before 30 if my partner and I decided we wanted kids. But I didn’t get married until I was 28 and my husband was a full-time touring musician at that time. That put our family plans on hold as we navigated how to make a partnership work under those circumstances. Kids were not the priority. At 35, we decided we were still not sure, but maybe ready to try. Then, a whole bunch of personal and extended family stressors came into play including several deaths, finding out my mother-in-law had dementia that resulted in me becoming her caretaker and some health problems of my own. Oh! And I was working full-time. The medication I was on for about a year was not OK to take if I was planning on conceiving. I came to terms with the fact that parenthood might not be in my future. A year later, I was able to get off the meds, my mother-in-law was in a new setting and I had a clean bill of health, so my husband and I decided to at least take inventory and see a fertility doctor. We discussed the possibility of using various interventions to accelerate the process since I was worried about my age, but I had a couple of doctors tell me that 37 was still young and not to worry.
I’d known about the ‘geriatric’ label, but also knew several women who’d had kids later in life and all was fine for them and their kids. So I tried to not take the label too personally. I was in decent shape and was healthy when we finally conceived at 38—and, coincidentally, after my husband’s band retired—and my doctor’s team told me all my levels looked like I was as healthy as a 20-year-old. I think my age made the pregnancy more physically difficult, though. I didn’t have a super easy time with it, but on the other hand, I feel mentally very solid now that my son is here. So, there were a lot of ups and downs on the way to his arrival, but I’m so grateful we’re here now. I also had no idea how much I’d love being a mom.” — Erica, 39
“I always wanted to be a mom, but it took me a while to find my ‘person,’ so I got started a little later on the whole process than I had envisioned. My husband is younger than I am, so we decided to have a baby a little earlier than he might have otherwise planned, primarily based on me feeling like my clock was ticking. He was 29 and I was 35 and we had been married just over a year when we started to try. I did finally get a positive pregnancy test, about a year after trying and charting and temp- and tincture-taking and all that rigamarole. Then, I had a miscarriage a week later. I had already told me mom, too, because I couldn’t contain my excitement. Then, it happened again—another miscarriage—almost the same exact way four months later, unfortunately. I was hesitant to be excited the second time around, but I still gave in to it. It was a harder letdown than I expected it to be, even though I had tried to prepare myself for the possibility. At the recommendation of my hairdresser—hey, what did I have to lose at this point?—I stopped taking the pills I was prescribed to help the getting pregnant process and I started doing acupuncture regularly, ate more red meat and butter and tried to let things happen as they’d happen. I got pregnant four months later!
I had the most wonderful midwives, who never ever called me a geriatric. They really didn’t focus on it and their opinions were the only ones that really mattered to me. I definitely had a lot of worries about being older. I wanted my baby to be as healthy as possible and I wanted to be a cool, young mom. I also might want more than one child and not necessarily want them to be Irish twins, so the ‘geriatric’ label applies a huge amount of pressure because it’s such a major decision. Bottom line: It’s definitely not something I worried about in my early 20s.” — Barbara, 37
“I actually didn’t wait to have children, I just always thought I could have them whenever I wanted to. I got married at 33 and was very busy with my career. When we married, we discussed children and decided we would be fine if it happened, but it was never a life-long dream. In fact, when we discussed the future, it was always career-related or about the details of our next trip. When I turned 36, my dad—who is soft-spoken and never interjects his opinion—asked me about kids. He politely said that I was getting older and that, while he knew I was busy with my job, I should not miss out on life’s biggest joy of having a child. At the same time, my husband started bringing it up. It was really the first time that I considered my age and making this happen. The biological clock was never a thought in my mind or a concern. We tried for a year, went to the fertility clinic and we both checked out, so we left it in God’s hands. If I didn’t have a child, I was satisfied with my life and happy. I got pregnant when I was 38.
My age came up frequently when I went to the doctor. Most mothers were having their second or third child at that age, so I was considered old to have my first child at 38. I was told that I was healthy and my tests read like that of a 33-year-old. That made me feel better and I chose not to have all of the tests given to older moms. I just wanted to let nature run its course. My son turns 13 this November. I am now 50 years old.” — Lauren, 50
“I didn’t ever think I was going to get married until I met my husband at 33. Not only is he seven years younger than me, he took his time popping the question. Then, we wanted to be married for a year before kids. When we finally started trying to conceive, it was a challenge to get pregnant, but after seeing a fertility specialist, it turned out the problem was his, not mine. Add to that the fact that I’m a career woman and really didn’t know if I wanted to have a kid until I met him. That’s when I pivoted to wanting a family, too. It took time, but I eventually gave birth to my daughter at the age of 41.
No one ever mentioned the term ‘geriatric pregnancy’ to me. I was never high risk either. I actually asked to go see a high-risk doctor and my OB/GYN told me it was completely unnecessary and that, even at my age, when I did all the genetic testing, she told me not to worry. I also exercised every single day and my diet was really good prior to conception. I was a very healthy woman. The term never existed in my life.” — Olivia, 45