Am I too old to become a mum?

For years now I have been reading articles on fertility in your 30s.  How dangerous it can be for mother and baby, the potential risks and even how selfish it is to even consider becoming a parent post 40. It’s easy to get caught up in a myriad of statistics and fear based articles when considering having a child later on in life, so I wanted to write a positive blog and shine a light on a lot of benefits that becoming a parent at a slightly older age has.

I had my first child when I was 20, that was 16 years ago.  I always thought because I was such a young mum that my biological clock would be well worn out by my mid 30s.  I am now 36, my partner of two and a half years doesn’t have his own children, so now it looks like we will be having a child closer to 40 than I thought.  When I was younger I always thought being a parent at 40 was way too old.  I’d have flashing images of 40 being almost decrepit (sorry mums, this is just a fleeting image in my 20-something brain) not being able to run with my child or keep up with their boundless energy for life.  But no, as I’m approaching my late 30s I feel I will make a great, slightly older parent.

I do of course realise that we need to consider the health of ourselves and our babies when becoming parents post 35.  For years, women over this age have been told that we are at higher risk during pregnancy, that our reproduction health rapidly starts to decline and risks of carrying a child become much higher.

Having had a miscarriage in the past, even writing that word it is with a heavy heart, I know how fragile the early stages of pregnancy are.  So moving forward, if we are lucky enough to have a child, I want to focus on how to optimise my health, and that of my womb.  What are the right foods and vitamins/supplements, and maybe how fitness during pregnancy can help.  But also being in the right frame of mind is key too.

I know that I am in the so called ‘geriatric’ years for thinking of having another baby.  But lets try to make this a positive experience for us future mums, something we can enjoy and be proud of, instead of turning corners during our pregnancy journey only to be faced with another depressing statistic driven article.

What has age got to do with being a parent?

Let’s be honest, whatever age we are, we will always be striving to become a better parent.

I know for a fact that now at 36, I parent way better than I did when I had my first child at 20.  I have life experience behind me which I find way more important than being able to say I had a child at the ‘perfect age’.  I have more confidence, I have hind-sight, I have more knowledge of myself, and I’ve spent the past 16 years trying to become a better person all round.  I have struggled, I have lost, I have loved but above all I have lived.  If we are lucky to extend our family in the future, my child will be getting a better version of me than the ones before.

Just recently there was a news article about the actor Richard Gere, at 68 he is set to become a dad again. It stated, “This will be his first child with his wife who is 35, 33 years his junior.”  Straight away it is comparing the ages of these two people.  Subtly they are steering us to judge the age gap.

When I read articles about older women, like Bridget Nielsen who was pregnant at 54 and Janet Jackson who had her first child at 50 and who is now going back on tour, I think us ladies really are wonderful.  How we can give birth, be full time parents whilst juggling our families and work too.

Unfortunately, there does seem to be a consensus out there about the age of people having babies compared to how well a child can be looked after.  Older parent = selfish parent. Well, not on my blog!  As long as you are ready mentally and emotionally then I think that is all that matters, whatever age you are.

The Pros

Remember statistics don't tell the whole story!

I read an interesting article saying “Many studies struggle to distinguish whether pregnancy odds go down due to fertility [changes], or due to couples having less frequent sex. “

And there is a rise in women becoming parents in their later 30 and 40s.  Many spent their 30s concentrating on their careers, and now find themselves with the stability to now start a family.

As older mums, we have more of a sense of who we really are, what we want from life, how we want to parent our children and are more emotionally stable.

I remember the uncertainty of being a young mum and not feeling like I was in control of what was going on around me.  I was living in fear, always second guessing myself and wasn’t mature enough to actually listen to my instincts and trust them.

Now, although I don’t profess to know everything about motherhood, I know that there is nothing to feel ashamed of in asking for help if needed.  I have an inner calm about life. I know who I am, I know my strengths and weaknesses.  I know that sleep and self care really is important.  If we aren’t running to the best of our ability then that will have a knock on effect to how we communicate with the people around us.  I know when to listen to my children and when to turn off when they are being really annoying, without even feeling remotely stressed out by them.

When I have those ‘gut’ feelings that something isn’t quite right then it probably isn’t.  There have been a few times when my babies have been poorly and at first it was shrugged off by the doctors as nothing more that a fever, but I knew it was worse and took my baby to the walk in and thank god I did.  Once my son Harry was so poorly, we ended up quarantined in hospital for a week.  He swelled up all over his body and struggled breathing for days.  Initially we were told it was just viral and sent home but I just knew it was more and listening to my ‘gut’ got him the best treatment sooner that what the docs thought he needed.

Financial security also tends to lead to a happier life when holding off having kids.  I have been through pregnancies where I have been very financial stable and others not so comfortable.  Being self-employed and pregnant has always been difficult.  The work really does dry up and forward planning is key.  Finances are so high on the stress’ometer and then adding in a child and everything that come with it will only make those early months of motherhood very stressful.

Staying Positive

No matter what age you decided to start a family, it will always be a massive deal.  Your pregnancy and child will impact on your life in so many ways.  Keeping a positive mental attitude for 40 weeks you will spend pregnant is vital.  Surrounding yourself with good supportive friends or family, and taking the right steps and precautions to keeping you and baby safe and healthy are your main priority.

Show yourself a lot of love.  If you’re tired, rest.  If you’re hungry, eat (although the ‘eating for 2’ myth isn’t actually real!).  Listen to your body.  Nurture it.  And don’t be too hard on yourself when things don’t go to plan.

We all strive for the perfect pregnancy but if you have any friends who have given birth, or if you’ve read all the birthing tales you can find online, you’ll find that hardly no one has the pregnancy and birth that they dreamed of.

I found after my miscarriage that I was living in a lot of fear during my 4th pregnancy.  I was so uptight, I couldn’t enjoy anything because in the back of my head there was a constant negative voice telling me something bad was going to happen again.

One day I was told about a book by a midwife called “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” by Ina May Gaskin.  This amazing woman, who has been a midwife in America for over 3 decades, wrote about so many stories of successful births and pregnancies.  It is tailored more towards giving birth, but the women I saw on those pages, and the stories and wisdom she passed on through it, strengthened my inner warrior.  I don’t know how many times I read it, but it was lots!  That book and all the wonderful stories in it gave me the confidence not only to enjoy my pregnancy, but to take it to other levels of enjoyment.

I practiced hypno-birth, I chose a water birth, I delivered a rather big 8lbs 12oz healthy baby boy with no pain relief whatsoever. Finding ways to keep your mind positive and on the right track is a must.

So your body really can do a lot and achieve so much. I wish all those upcoming older mum’s and first time older mum’s all the best on your upcoming births.  Feel free to drop a message to hello@gurglesandhurdles.com anytime with any inspiring stories that you have x

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