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Saying I Am Selfish for Having a Baby Later in Life Is Ridiculous

Photo credit: Meredith Carroll

I was no spring chicken when I gave birth to my daughters

A recent article in the UK’s Daily Mail talked about one older mom’s experience being judged for the fact that she’s no spring chicken. As she said, if the goal of publicly casting aspersions on someone like her is to “encourage women in their 20s to be mindful of their fertility,” well, then, great. However, it seems more likely that those perched on their soapboxes are doing it more so to point out all that can go wrong in the health of a fetus, newborn and child when born to an older mom.

Of course these days most people (that I know, anyway) are having babies in their 30s and early 40s, as opposed to our parents’ generation, who mostly had their kids in their early 20s. While I would have liked to have been a younger mom, I also think I know so much more now than I did a decade ago and am more equipped emotionally and have more experience as I approach the philosophy and practice of being a parent. I still have energy; I’m not sure I ever had patience.

When I was in my teens and imagined my future, I pictured having children in my mid-20s. It would give me time to enjoy my youth, but then settle down and enter the next phase of life while I still had tons of energy. But even more so, it meant I had the potential to be around for my kids for as long as possible. As it turns out, I didn’t meet my husband until I was 30. We got married when I was 33 and our first daughter wasn’t born until I was 35 — although not for lack of trying (three miscarriages came first). My second daughter was born when I was 38, and my husband is five years older than me, so you do the math.

Sure, there are plenty of women who put off becoming moms because they’re too busy forging a career path. Women who wait too long to start trying are more apt to have a hard time conceiving or giving birth to healthy babies. But not everyone finds a partner (or has the means to go it alone) in an ideal time frame if motherhood is the goal. And for some women, it genuinely is a problem to get pregnant, which can mean years of trying, figuring out what’s wrong, and by the time they’re successful, they’re necessarily older.

While perhaps being an older mom truly is the goal for some, for others it’s a variety of circumstances. What I find irritating, however, are those who judge how, why and when anyone becomes a mom. If I had to guess what surveys show when asking women when they prefer to become parents, I’d say most would rather have babies sooner rather than later.

The ironic part is that the more educated a woman is, the more likely she is to give birth later. Which means those educated women really do know the risks involved in having babies at a later age. Do they really need someone uninvolved with their bodies preaching to them what they already know? And who’s bugging the men about the risks their offspring face as a result of their own advanced age?

Instead of chastising women for waiting too long — why not make it easier for women to take a break from their career track to have babies earlier but not lose pace with their male peers when they return?  Or how about figuring out how to lower the cost of infertility treatments such as IVF so that it’s not just older women with more money in the bank who can afford it?

But the bottom line is this: Assume and judge all you want. Just realize that what often seems selfish on the outside is an entirely different picture on the inside. When you denigrate another person for her “choices,” realize that perhaps she had no choice in the matter to begin with.

Photo credit: Meredith Carroll

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