It has long been debated — is there ever a perfect time to have kids?
Often it isn’t as simple as “Should I have children now?” because so many factors come into play: having a partner to have children with (or not as the case may be – and the difficulties that ensues), where we are in our careers, whether we’re financially stable enough to support them, what age we are, etc.
Last month, singer Michael Bublé told Loose Women:
“The only regret in my life was it took this long to have kids. I had no idea the perspective it would give me. It’s all I care about. […] It’s made everything else so insignificant, moments that I was afraid of and moments that would overwhelm me have now become a joy because I’ve realized how not serious they are compared to what is really important, which is Noah and Eli and that’s it.”
As happy as I am for Bublé, it made me think how much easier it sounded for a man. Like he could just pick a time to have kids and boom — there they were. Yet us women are bombarded with articles telling us that our wombs are ticking time bombs set to go off when we hit 35 — leaving us infertile. Experts say women reach their peak fertility in their 20s, with a low percentage risk of miscarriage, which increases the older they get. The quality of our eggs also deteriorates dramatically after we reach 35 when we’re also at higher risk of health complications like diabetes and high blood pressure.
Factors like this played a huge part in when I decided to have kids. I met my partner when I was 28, was married at 31, and it was only then that I started thinking about kids. All around me I watched as my friends were starting to get pregnant, and I’d be lying if I said that this didn’t affect me. I started worrying about feeling “left behind.”
Hand on heart, if I could have done a test to check my fertility levels, I would have left it later than I did, but in case we had any problems conceiving, I decided to try shortly after turning 32. Delighted as I was when we got pregnant right away, I was also gripped by panic: our flat was tiny and how would I do my job as a TV presenter all over the world with a baby in tow?
By 36, I started to panic that I hadn’t had baby no. 2 and persuaded my husband to start trying for fear of “second child infertility,” which I had previously never heard of but now seemed to be in every newspaper I opened. Both times were really stressful for me financially: the channel I worked on shut down while I was pregnant with my son, leaving me with a newborn and no job and a mortgage to pay. When I had my daughter, my freelance contract ran out just as I had her, leaving me with two kids and no job. I was terrified.
It was then I remembered a phrase that a good friend told me, “There is no right time to have a baby — you just get on with it. Life works out.” Other friends had made “baby” plans: one sold a car for her “maternity fund,” another saved for a year for IVF treatment, another moved back home near her parents to be able to have family around for help. But in all these cases, life got in the way: The friend that sold her car? She split with her boyfriend and didn’t have a baby for another seven years; the one who saved for IVF got pregnant naturally; and the friend who moved home misses London and her career desperately — and is still trying for a baby.
Having a child isn’t something that I feel you can plan, because fertility is like a lottery — you never know what numbers you hold.
The good news is the number of women over 40 having babies has now overtaken those under 20 for the first time in almost 70 years, according to a survey by the Office of National Statistics. The fertility rate among older women in the U.K. has more than tripled since the early 1980s, which experts put down to the increasing number of women going to college, having careers, and then facing the spiraling cost of having kids/childcare.
Elizabeth McLaren, from the ONS said: “Over the last 40 years, the percentage of live births to women aged 35 and over has increased considerably. Women aged 40 and over now have a higher fertility rate than women aged under-20 — this was last recorded in the 1940s.” Spice Girl Geri Halliwell recently announced she’s pregnant at the age of 44, Kelly Preston had a son at 48, and singer Janet Jackson is having her first child at the age of 50!
But the question remains — what if you don’t feel ready? It’s only now I look back and see how I spent 2005 through 2014 — getting my career in sync with motherhood. Before I even had kids, I went to so many career events asking if work in TV would be possible with kids. The answer? Most women laughed — the majority having left my industry as it simply doesn’t gel with school runs and play dates … especially as there was always a queue of 20-somethings waiting to snap up my job if I had failed to show 100 percent commitment. This is why I’ve had to change careers since I had kids. Twice. I looked around for women in my field who had successful careers and kids and I could count them on one hand. To say that the biggest challenge of my life was finding a job that worked with motherhood would be an understatement.
At the end of the day, there will always be some reason or other NOT to have a child: a hankering to still travel, a possible promotion, a fear that your flat is too small … but one thing is for sure: you never regret having that baby. Life when he or she comes along is a completely different one that takes adjusting to, but is pretty darn remarkable. There is no perfect “one time fits all” as we (and our circumstances) are all unique. So while Bublé feels he should have had kids sooner, I wouldn’t change a thing about my own circumstance. Do what is right for you and listen to no one else!