Part 1 Of A 4 Part Series On Midlife Motherhood!
Ready for a baby | Picture-perfect pregnancies
Feedback & finances | Midlife mothering
When I was 40, I became pregnant with my second child. Like most pregnant mothers, I was filled with joy as I felt this new life growing inside me.
It had been 10 years since I'd had my first child, yet everything felt the same. I had the same hopes and dreams about my baby-to-be and my role as a mother. I had strange aches and pains while at the same time reveling in the fascinating changes that were taking place in my body. Hormonal mood swings caused alternating feelings of delight and worry: I veered between excitement at being a mother again and concern over all of the changes it would bring to my life. Like all expectant moms, I was overwhelmed by the wonder of it all -- by this endlessly fascinating thing called pregnancy -- and I wanted to share my experiences with the world.
Unfortunately, all anybody else wanted to talk about was my age -- never a woman's favorite subject. I heard all the dire warnings about Down Syndrome, miscarriages and my "high risk" pregnancy. I was told that I'd be too tired and too worn out to properly care for my baby. I heard that my child would be embarrassed by my advanced age, and that I would be unable to relate to his universe.
I was told, basically, that crying babies and crow's feet were incompatible.
A growing group
I'm not the only one who has had this experience. The number of women having children at the age of 40 and above is increasing each year. Older women have delayed childbearing to focus on careers; women want to start families with their second husbands, or some may not have met the right man until they were in their 30s.
According to Susan Coady, Human Development and Family Science faculty member at The Ohio State University, there are several reasons women today are waiting. "Women who wait usually have more financial security, more emotional maturity, and more time to commit to their marriages and their careers before focusing their energy on children," Coady notes.
"Most women over 40 enjoy having a clear sense of who they are," says Joshua Coleman, PhD, a psychologist in private practice specializing in infertility and marital issues. "They have been able to take advantage of what life has to offer as a non-parent, and thus are less likely to feel deprived by the sacrifices involved in mothering. They are also able to offer their children a healthier, more aware mother than they may have been at a younger age."
Susan Stern Calenda, a 40-year-old expectant mom from New York City, agrees and says, "As an older mom-to-be, I have been able to have a career and will be able to continue to do so. I also have had the opportunity to be more educated and organized about planning my pregnancy, birth, and find great resources, including my friends who have been moms. The owner of a Manhattan PR firm, Calenda feels anything but limited by her age. "I feel that I have complete a staged in my life as an independent career person and can continue to strive to build a business and be a good mom," she says. "Perhaps being an older mother with a flexible career will show my future daughter that moms can have a balanced work and family life."
Dr Coleman, who is also the author of Imperfect Harmony: How to Stay Married for the Sake of Your Children and Still Be Happy (St Martin's Press), mentions one additional benefit: Authoritative partners. "Because mothers over 40 have more life experience, they are better able to enlist a more equitable division of the labor of parenting and housework with their husbands than are younger, less-experienced moms."