I am refreshing this article about the pros and cons of having a baby at 40 or in your 40s. I wrote it as a heartfelt but still light-hearted look at my own experiences. Since it first appeared over 5 years ago many people have added their own comments which are now as extensive as the article itself. Having a baby at 40 is now not uncommon but many of us still have plenty to say about it. Better get a cuppa as this is a long read…
When I flick open a magazine and read of celebrities having babies at an advanced age, I do wince.
I hope that younger women aren’t getting a message that it’s a good idea to wait before trying to have babies. It’s not.
Recently, I posted an infographic on the facts and figures about age and fertility. That got my old brain whirring and fingers click clacking… I tend to write factual information here and not much opinion…. but….
I do hate to upset people or be controversial really…. BUT….. I have got opinions and experience on this older mother malarkey… here goes….
The human body is still the human body it’s always been. It’s designed to reproduce early.
It works best that way.
And I mean works best in that generally fertility is higher when we’re younger, and babies are healthier.
Let’s keep it that simple
I know I’m the last person who should be writing about the pitfalls of trying to have babies as an older mother, since I am one.
But on the other hand, I may be the best person, because I live the negatives of it every day. And like most people who try to conceive later in life, I endured many bitter heartbreaks along the way.
Having a baby at 42 would have been hard enough, but I actually had twins at 42!
That’s why I wince… and also for the many people I know who tried to have children later in life, and who haven’t been fortunate enough to bring a baby home.
We rarely hear of the people who try and fail to have babies in their 40s.
We may know personally some people who try and try and try and try again… and whose hearts are broken… and who try again… and lose a pregnancy and try again… and try and try and try… and who don’t end up with a baby at all at the end of many years of heartbreak.
I certainly do.
But we don’t often read about those folks in the papers.
There are probably many more women who do not manage to have children when they start late than there are success stories, don’t you think?
But of course many people do manage to have babies in their 40s. I’m one of them.
I would like to write here about the downsides of when we do manage to have children late.
Because I’m here to tell you it’s no picnic. There’s a real shortage of both beer and skittles.
Yes, I could write a post about the joys of it too… actually heaps of my posts do show the fun we have with our young late-born twins.
But today I’d like to explain some of the lesser-talked about negatives.
And express some feelings of which I can truly say I’m ashamed… but which are present for sure.
Nine Reasons NOT To Have Babies in Your Forties
1. Back to being pregnant in your 40s is no fun… I knew that if we had a third child there would be a higher chance of having a baby with ASD as clearly we have the genes in the family. And I did know that having an older mother or father also raises the risk of ASD even higher.
When I realised I was having twins, believe me I was beside myself. I had just doubled the chances of having another child with a disability.
We did amnios with the twins and I can truly say that the procedure itself and the days after were excruciating. I did not want to have to deal with the choices that await a test that’s positive for an abnormality.
Thank god that I didn’t – and that was just sheer bloody luck.
2. By the late 40’s… or the very, very, very late 40’s in my case… our own parents need more help. I’m just not in a great position to support my mum as I am tied down with the wee ones. This feels terrible, I can tell you.
3. Also when kicking 50, I have a real sense of my own mortality, a great awareness that my time on the planet may be limited. I don’t mind for myself but I sure do mind because the little ones need me.
4. It’s one thing having babies at 42, it’s quite another having two years olds at 44 and five year olds at 47 and now 13 year olds at 55. I’m a pretty energetic person but honestly I can’t keep up with them and play actively less than I did with my older boys.
My husband does make a big effort to kick the footy around with Rusty Rocket – but it can feel an effort too.
5. When the twins leave school, I will be 60. That’s a thought that stops me in my tracks. I thought I’d be retired and lounging around by the time I was 60.
6. The vast majority of the mums at the twins school are around 10 years younger, some much more. It’s different… it just is….
7. Most of my own friends are leading a very different lifestyle to my hubby and I. Their kids are teens or even older and they have a freedom that, being honest, we crave.
8. It’s hard to deal with kids’ tantrums when you’re perimenopausal. I’d expected it’d be the teens who pressed all my hormonal buttons but they seem to be pretty fine (touch wood) and relish their independence. Not so the twin terrors.
9. That early retirement plan gets shelved… let’s just say we’re not going to be slightly grey nomads…. we’ll be totally grey, if we ever get there at all.
I count my blessings every day. Two twins born at term and healthy with so far just one case of ADHD between them. That’s so lucky.
(When you have a dx of ASD in the family ADHD is not so bad, although trust me I can still weep with frustration and exhaustion after a bad ADHD day.)
When I look back I think we were completely MAD to try to have a third child. I was 40 when we started for god sakes. Somebody should have stopped me! Sometimes I wonder: is it selfish to have a baby at 40 or in yours 40s… and sometimes I think it is.
The full force of the human evolutionary impulse was being channelled through my body. Surely it’s a husband’s job to put his foot down? I blame him!
My husband and I endured two miscarriages and a blighted ovum pregnancy before the twins were born. These experiences were painful, but I think less so for us as we had two boys at home.
I can’t imagine what it would have been like losing babies time and time again if I’d had no child at home to cuddle.
Seeing those tiny motionless foetuses on the screen was devastating: no heartbeat.
I hope my daughter and my sons are never in that position.
I hope they start having their babies earlier than we did.
And also I would like to confess that I have already started indoctrinating my kids about why, in my opinion and in my experience, it’s better to have children earlier than later.
My little daughter, aged a tender seven, is the only one of my four children who asks about babies and says she wants to be a mum.
Have your children young I tell my daughter because:
- You’re MUCH more likely to have no fertility issues and to bring healthy babies into the world. Harsh but true, it’s just true.
- You’ll have more energy.
- You need grandparents around, and dad and I would like to help. But we will be too old to be any help at all unless you get going young.
- You might take the whole thing a lot less seriously when you’re younger and that’ll be good for the kids.
- Having a baby after 40 is different to having one in your 20s and 30s… it just is.
I’m old enough to be my wee twins granny easily. I’m sure I’ll be a much better granny to their kids than I am a mum to them.
One day my little girl said to me:
‘Mum, when I’m the mum and you’re the granny, I’m not going to be a mean mother like you are.’
Let’s hope that’s the way it works out, darling!
Please my sons and little daughter, don’t wait to have children.
The human body is still in many ways just the way it has been for millennia. It’s made to have children younger not older. It works best that way.
A woman’s age is the biggest predictor of her fertility. It will be when you are all adults too.
A healthy baby, born safe and well and without disability is so much more likely if you start early not late.
The chance of your hearts being smashed into a billion pieces again and again is much less likely if you get started younger.
Plus I want to be an active granny. You can be the mums and dads for a change, and be as mean as you like!
For the facts and figures on age and fertility in Australia, see this post.
There’s a new government funded website all about these issues: http://yourfertility.org.au/
Do you talk to your children about the right age to have babies?
If you’re an older parent, do you admit to the downsides?
Was your heart broken too?