When I first published my lighthearted and inspirational account of pregnancy and birth at the age of 40, I received tremendous feedback from older women (and men) from all over the world. Even now, I frequently receive many wonderful emails from women over the age of 35 who are either planning a family, are already pregnant, or who themselves have had a baby over the age of 40. The article had offered hope, encouragement, and reassurance in a world that seems otherwise to be filled with negative statistics and horror stories about being an older mother. There is also the assumption that you will have fertility problems as you age, but this is not a general rule. I was lucky and managed to conceive at the age of 39 after the first time of trying. Far from being unusual, tens of thousands of women across the globe are becoming, what is affectionately known as, "older parents."
The Older Parent Trend
Currently, one out of every five women worldwide is delaying having her first baby until the age of 35, a number that is rising steadily, together with the growing trend for middle-aged women to add to their existing family. There are many reasons why a woman chooses to have a baby in her 40s; the establishment of a career before embarking on parenthood, for example, or a woman who has remarried and wishes to have a child with her new partner. Despite this, there still seems to be very little optimistic information available that is specific to midlife mothers. The focus definitely needs to shift towards the positive aspects of midlife parenting, particularly since medical studies have established that there is little added risk for a healthy woman in her forties embarking on motherhood.
In my communications with other older mothers, several questions were raised, one of the most common being, "Will my child object to having older parents?" I think that this question highlighted the assumption of many that old age goes hand-in-hand with ill health and incapacity and yet this is not necessarily so. You can be an unhealthy 25-year-old parent and a vital, energetic 75-year-old grandparent. You can also become sick at any age, so it's not a given that waiting until your 40s to have a child means you won't be around to see your son or daughter when he or she grows up. Besides, it is quality of time and not quantity that is the most important and a child who is brought into a secure and loving environment by a middle-aged couple is more likely to thrive than a child brought into an unstable home by young parents.
Age is not the sole factor in someone's ability to be a good parent. You can be a competent 16-year-old parent and a capable 50-year-old parent. However, since there appear to be a lot more negative issues associated with having a baby in later life, I would like to focus on the positive aspects of being an older parent.
I interviewed several people who were raised by older parents, one of whom is an older parent herself and all of whom kindly allowed me to share their stories with you.
Jacqueline's mother was 43 and her father was 48 when Jacqueline was born. Jacqueline, now 42, says, "I never once regretted having older parents. While they were really strict, they were also very fair and because they were older and wiser and they had a greater sense of the important values in life. Younger people are often still too self-obsessed and unsure of their path in life, so it can be difficult for them to offer a true sense of security or to give their all to a child because they are still like so vulnerable themselves.