A woman I worked with (and greatly admired) once told me that she didn’t try to have a third child because by the time her sons were out of the baby stage she was already over 35 and by then, to use her words, “It was over.”
I never forgot that conversation and have often wondered what she meant by her bold statement.
Did she think that getting pregnant at that age was no longer a possibility? Or did she believe she would no longer have the physical and mental stamina to raise another child? Maybe it was because she was moving her way up the ranks in her chosen profession and had more than enough on her plate.
I never asked what her specific reasons were but her words left me with a sort of sinking feeling, an unintentional kick in the gut. You see, I was already 34 at the time and despite some valiant efforts, I was not yet a mom.
Did I only have a year left before it was “over”? You gave it your best shot, but you’re done. Now go have a nice life….
Thankfully that wasn’t the case. I did go on to have two beautiful sons at the ages of 37 and 40 – but that exchange would be my initiation into some present-day views on women having children at what the medical community refers to as “advanced maternal age.”
I soon discovered that many people I knew shared her view. Friends and acquaintances who were successful in having children in their late twenties and early thirties were thankful that they had their kids “before they got too old.” A neighbour once told me that she and her husband had kids right after getting married because that’s what their parents had done and she loved having a younger mom.
In my immediate circle of friends, I knew no one who had children after the age of 35, let alone forty, like me.
My mother lived at both ends of the spectrum by having her first child at 21 and her last at 36. At 47 years-old, she had an 11 year-old as well as her first grandchild. In a sense, she followed in the footsteps of her own mother who had her at 46, when her older children were beginning to leave the nest.
My grandmother was both shocked and completely panicked when she discovered that at the age of 45 she was not going through menopause like she initially thought, but instead was going to be a mother for the 12th time. In the end, her fears were unfounded as she was around long enough to see my mother marry and have five of her six children. In addition, this late-in-life blessing grew up to be her closest companion since her older children were busy raising young families of their own.
It’s a well-documented scientific fact that a woman’s fertility is time-sensitive so it makes perfect sense to have children sooner than later. But life has a way of throwing us curve balls and altering our plans. Some women don’t meet the right partner until they are older, others are finishing school and establishing careers. Or maybe, like myself, infertility has delayed their initiation into parenthood.
Whatever the reason, I want to tell all those women who are staring 35 in the face and are not yet moms, that it’s certainly not “over.”
My two beautiful boys came to me when my body was ready to receive them. The patience, maturity, wisdom and experience I can offer them at this age is endless. I won’t sugarcoat it, middle-of-the night feedings and chasing around a toddler when you’re in your late thirties and early forties requires a lot of energy, but they’re worth every bead of sweat. Having kids after thirty-five is not for everyone, but if that’s where life takes you, embrace it. Liberate yourself from all the timelines.
As long as your kids are happy and healthy, that’s the only frame of reference you’ll need.
Lori is currently on a break from teaching to stay at home with her two sons, 3 and 1. She has a passion for reading and writing, enjoys a good documentary, and loves all things pop culture. She lives in Stoney Creek, Ontario with her husband and young family. You can follow her on Twitter @sebastianl74.
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