I had four children in 40 months, and while I think that that is a great way to have a family (everyone is at the same stages and about the same time, all toys work for all kids, all kids have plenty of playmates living with them, it makes homeschooling easier), I also harbor a suspicion that God’s interesting sense of humor will find me as its mark in a few years!
More and more women are choosing to have babies after 40. Regardless of whether one actively chooses an after-40 pregnancy, there are some things one falling into this category should know.
• Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, meaning that deterioration of those eggs occurs, and worsens over time. As an egg deteriorates, the chances of a pregnancy resulting in a baby with chromosomal abnormalities increases.
• This classification of pregnancy is often considered high risk, meaning that one should be prepared for more frequent office visits and the suggestion of an increased number of tests (like genetic testing).
• A woman’s chances of naturally conceiving twins (or any multiples) begins to increase after the age of 35, and continues to increase as she ages. For women who lack the genetic predisposition of ovulating two eggs (a primary cause of fraternal twins experienced by my grandmother, my sister, and me), the gradual (and completely normal) breakdown in the reproductive system can result in more eggs being released each month.
• The body some of us have after 40 is not the same one we had at 25, meaning that pregnancy may just be harder. Backs may ache more, knees may hurt more, and weight may become more of an issue as metabolisms have slowed.
There are benefits to the after-40 baby, though!
• Some women are in the best shape of their lives, meaning both pregnancy and delivery are easier.
• With age often comes maturity and patience (something for which I am still waiting), meaning that crying, colic, and sleep problems which would have driven a 25 year-old mother crazy are nothing more than background noise to a 40 year-old mother.
• Wisdom is also something gained primarily through aging. Thus, the 25 year-old mother who worries that every little thing experienced by her baby or child will result in life-altering catastrophe is markedly different from the after-40 mother who has learned that, in general, life goes on!
Of course, ultimately the choice of having a baby after-40 lies with parents, it is best to enter into such a pregnancy with all of your facts in hand. I’m only 37, but I already know that I would be able to parent my ADHD son more effectively today than when he was born eight years ago. There is definitely something to be said for “older and wiser.” No matter when you have your children, though, do the best you can with what you have…and when you know better, do better.