I have a confession to make: Up until I was 34 years old and met the man who would later become my husband, I spent the entirety of my life not wanting children.
It’s not that I didn’t like kids or lacked maternal tendencies. They just didn’t factor into the grand plan for my life.
(Also, if I sat and thought about pregnancy and childbirth for any length of time, I tended to get lightheaded and feel like I might lose my lunch. I took that as a clear indicator that motherhood wasn’t my destiny.)
But then I met Husband and had to concede defeat to every friend and relative who had ever told me my feelings about having children would change when I met “The One”. It’s creepy how right they were about that.
Husband and I got married when I was 36. Shortly after our wedding, we learned that we were expecting. I was to become a first-time mama at 37.
There was a lot of excitement, joy, and ‘HOLY-SHIT-THERE-IS-A-HUMAN-GROWING-IN-ME-AND-I-STILL-THINK-THAT-IS-KIND-OF-GROSS-AND-CAN’T-I-JUST-LAY-AN-EGG-INSTEAD-OF-THE-OTHER-WAY’ panic.
At my first appointment with by obstetrician, there were some words used that were, frankly, mean and unnecessary: advanced maternal age, geriatric pregnancy, elderly primigravida.
ELDERLY, my friends.
This delightful term is used to describe any woman who gets pregnant for the first time at the age of 35 or older.
Cambridge dictionary defines elderly as ‘a polite word for old‘.
So there we were.
I already knew I was older to be starting a family, but the medical profession made it crystal clear that I was actually more like, just old.
So on top of wrapping my head around the truly mind-blowing shift in my thinking towards motherhood, I also had to get smacked in the face with that stinky-fish-of-a-reality.
Old at 37. Sheesh.
Me being me, I needed to know that my future child wouldn’t be the only one with a mother who would reach retirement age before he graduated high school.
As it turns out, I am part of a large and growing tribe of mamas who, for a variety of different reasons, became mamas after the age of 35. In 1971, the average age of first-time moms in Canada was just 23 years old. Now, the majority of women are waiting until they’re well into their 30s to have kids.
My people! Elderly primigravidas, unite!
While being an “older mom” may not be everyone’s preference, life doesn’t always go according to plan. If you find yourself nearing or in ‘elderly primigravida’ territory, let me assure you that there are plenty of benefits to coming later to the parenthood party.
Here are 5 of them, in no particular order:
You have life experience.
In your 35+ years on Earth, you have had thousands of interactions with people: family members, friends, colleagues, employers, random strangers on the subway. You have experienced your fair share of drama and know better how to avoid it. You have likely experienced illness in one form or another, anxiety, failure, regrets (hello, over-plucked eyebrows?), disconnectedness. You know what it feels like to set goals, work hard, change your mind, start over, achieve success. You know how to express yourself appropriately and ask for what you need. You have a stronger sense of who you are. All of this life experience bodes well for a new mama. You’re in for the craziest, most emotional ride of your life from the moment the + sign appears on your pee stick, no matter how old you are. The strength, humour, resilience, and communication skills you have developed – simply by existing for as long as you have – will help keep you steady and calm(er), making the whole first-time mama shtick that much more enjoyable.
Your career is established and secure.
Er, I mean, hopefully this is the case for you. I know it’s pretty common now for people to change jobs or careers several times over the course of their working lives. I certainly have; teacher, banker, and literacy coach are some of the titles I have held since graduating from university. At this point though, I have over 15 years invested in my career, and the seniority that comes with it is very comforting. Especially since I was just told that an engineering degree now costs in the ballpark of $25,000 PER YEAR in Canada. And my kids are still at least 14 years away from university, which means it will likely cost about $3 million per month by the time they get there (should they decide to go). Mama can’t be losing her job. More immediately, I don’t have to worry about whether I’ll be employed this time next year or if my role will be made redundant, thus freeing up headspace to enjoy my babies.
You are financially stable.
I came out of university with a whopper of a student debt. It took years and a move to South Korea to pay off. I can’t imagine contending with loan payments and the costs associated with babies. Do you know how much strollers cost? Have you seen the price tag on formula or carseats or daycare? Yowza. It’s definitely nice to start a family without the stressful burden of student debt, and many of us oldies have had enough time and life experience to get our financial houses in order.
Your Bucket List has gotten plenty of attention.
Watch the sun rise on a beach in Australia. Check. Train for and run a half marathon. Check. Live on a tropical island. Check. Write a
novel a chapter of a novel. Check. I’m by no means suggesting that folks who start their families young(er) miss out on cool experiences or travel. Not at all. (My best friend is proof of this, having taken her family of five to Costa Rica for 3 weeks, and on annual trips to sleep in tree-houses and other mega-cool excursions.) Younger parents might just have a different/more challenging/more expensive experience because the kids are coming/the kids need to be watched/the kids need to be older. Having kids later means it can be all about you – your goals, your experiences, your adventures – for a few extra years.
A lot of your friends already have kids.
While mama forums and blogs (ahem) abound, ready to inform on just about any topic you can think of (what your baby’s poop colour means, for instance), is there any substitute for the advice and guidance of a friend who has been where you are now? Your friends that joined the tribe of motherhood before you will be your most valuable source of information and support while you navigate the early weeks, months, and years of your child’s life. By becoming a mom later in life, you will reap the benefits of all the knowledge and experience, the mistakes and the triumphs, of all your friends who had children before you. Also they might give you a bunch of stuff their kids don’t use or fit into anymore, which will help you save for your child’s billion-dollar degree in Landscape Architecture.
It’s not all rainbows and roses being an older mama; there are plenty of challenges too. (A post for another day, friends.) I also want to be clear that I categorically recognize the many perks of being a younger mama, too. I’m not saying older mamas have it better or easier than younger moms, or that you should absolutely wait to start your family. Being a mama is a tough gig, no matter when you sign up. But if, like me, you find yourself shopping for a crib nearly a decade after some of your friends, don’t stress it. Just take extra good care of yourself and prepare to have the word elderly tossed at you about 50 years sooner than you expected.
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