“Tick tock, tick tock: you can’t have a career and babies,” scolded my uncle, whom I cannot bear, for obvious reasons. Yep, I actually had this Bridget Jones’s Diary-esque situation happen to me at a family function – a man, then in his 60s, felt compelled to tell me, then aged in my late 20s, that I had no business putting a career before marriage and babies.
Doesn’t it make your blood boil? It did mine then and still does now.
Ah, the great fertility debate: every couple of months or so in the media, without fail, a fertility expert (usually male) will also admonish women for being so utterly, almost criminally selfish as to have babies later in life. How dare you put your career, travel or all-round self-development first, or even just wait until you meet the right guy? Why, if you’re of age, you should be out there breeding, girlfriend!
I’ve interviewed some of these so-called experts myself, back in the day, and I recall feeling so anxious about being in my early 30s then at the time and – gasp – still not procreating, as I hadn’t yet met my life partner – that I momentarily considered the largely unsuccessful practice of egg freezing.
Now, I know at least some of what these fertility experts say is largely true in regards to women ideally conceiving in their 20s – although, note well: they usually also have vested financial interests in you using their IVF or egg freezing services. For a start, you’re often at your physical prime then, conception is usually quick and easy, and there are the fewest medical complications during pregnancy.
But is younger necessarily better when it comes to having a baby? I don’t think there’s ever an ideal time; I believe much of what we are told about potential risks, especially for expectant mothers older than 35, is unnecessarily alarmist. And if you, like myself, married and had babies later in life (you heathen, you!) – we’re in very good company, and many celebrities are also onboard with this trend. Just look at TV’s Sonia Kruger, who recently announced she’s 16 weeks pregnant with her first baby at 48. Others who’ve had babies late in life include Madonna, J-Lo, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman and more.
The Bureau of Statistics says the older birth rate reflects today’s modern woman’s changing priorities of wanting to spend more time getting better educated and become financially stable before breeding an army of mini-mes (quelle horreur!). And since 2000, women aged 30-34 have continued to record the highest fertility rate of all age groups. What’s more, since 2005 the fertility rate for women aged 35-39 years has exceeded that of women aged 20-24 years.
So, why all the undue societal guilt and disapproval for us women delaying childbirth? Short of punching arrogant and rude uncles in the face, and never reading an article about fertility again, how do you deal?
Well, aside from knowing you’re in good company, it’s handy to remember you’re very likely to have a healthy baby as long as you are in good health, seek early prenatal care and have good lifestyle habits. Sure, your fertility does decline after 35, and your risk of pregnancy complications, miscarriage and Down syndrome all increase – and I am in no way making light of this, for I have personally experienced it – there are also many, many advantages to having babies later in life.
Sure, your body might not snap-back straight away post-baby, ala supermodel Miranda Kerr, for example, and it may take you longer to conceive – but you will most likely enjoy greater financial security, personal confidence and inner-happiness.
Was I ready, prior to having my first baby in my mid 30s, to bring a child into the world? Hell no, I had too much living to do first!
And while everyone is different, and there are pregnancy risks at any age – I say it’s high time we women aged 35+ started being out and proud about what worked for us, so-called fertility experts be damned! And motherhood can be isolating and lonely at the start – far, far better to have kids when you’re really emotionally ready then feel like you’re missing out on an important chapter in your life of getting to know yourself first.
What do you think: is there a perfect age at which to have a baby?
Main image via www.stratfordacupuncture.com and secondary image via www.pixabay.com.