I am old enough to be my son’s grandmother. I was 39 when he was born, and the truth is I love being an older mom. But it wasn’t my choice — it was my destiny.
My husband and I decided to start a family when I was 30 and he was 31. I was nervous about babies, scared that motherhood would consume me. But we’d run out of excuses to wait. We both had good jobs making decent money. We’d managed to buy a charming bungalow in a great neighborhood with a good school. And we were officially in our thirties! So on Thanksgiving Day we launched Operation JR, full of hope and fear and giggling at the audacity of what we were doing. Us! With kids! It was a real crack-up. But soon the laughter gave way to earnest effort. And as month after month and year after year went by with no pregnancy, we became grimly determined, then angry, frustrated, and sad.
Fast forward eight years. Speed through four doctors, a frightening array of drugs, self injections, failed inseminations and in vitro fertilizations. Speed through the pain of attending friends’ baby showers, watching mothers slap their children at the grocery store, seeing teenage mothers in the park, and the endless advice to “just relax.” Fast forward to …
Ben arrived on his own timetable, conceived the old-fashioned way after all those fertility treatments had failed us. I floated through my pregnancy, thrilled with our miracle. But surprisingly, not all our friends and family were that happy for us. Despite their support during our fertility treatments, once we were pregnant their support turned to concern. Some reminded me how old I would be when my son graduated from high school. My friends with young kids raised their eyebrows and shook their heads, smiling without comment. People warned me that it would take enormous energy to keep up with a young child, that the exhaustion would surpass anything I’d ever known. And they were right. But although these last few years have been the most physically and emotionally grueling of my life, they have also been the best. For the first time in my life I am immersed in joy, swimming in it, drinking it up like water. I’m healthier and happier than I have ever been. And I have a child.
My son might prefer a younger, more energetic mother. But instead he has a mom who is more patient, less controlling, and more fun than I was ten years ago. I am much more likely to join in the fun of blowing bubbles than to worry about soap on my kitchen floor. Pizza for breakfast? Sure! Read The Very Hungry Caterpillar over and over, night after night? With pleasure.
Those long years of infertility forced me to work through my fear and ambivalence about having a child. It made me realize what I really wanted, and helped me treasure the child who resulted. I would never in a million years say that I love my child more than fertile people love theirs. But sometimes I think I appreciate him more.
There are downsides to being an older parent. Ben will lose us when he is still fairly young. I probably won’t know my grandchildren when they are adults. And the reality of aging is that without a serious commitment to health and fitness, I will be less and less able to keep up with Ben through his childhood. But I have no regrets. Yes, I would have preferred to have a child when I was younger. But the benefits of maturity, combined with the lessons of infertility, have made me a better mom — even if I am old enough to be a grandmother.
21 replies on “Grand-Ma”
As someone who is struggling with infertility and will likely be a older mother as well, THANK YOU for representing us!
When I was a little girl, I always assumed that I’d have 3 kids by 30 like my mom. Instead, I’m turning 40 this summer with 2 little kids, and I’m grateful that I got to spend my 20s figuring out to be an adult rather than figuring out how to be a parent! My family’s the better for it. Your reflections on parenting resonate with me.
Congratulations on your motherhood. I was 36 when we adopted our first baby, and 44 when we adopted our fourth. My infertility was an immutable given when my husband and I married, so I had no experience with treatment, nor pregnancy, but we brought all four of our children home from the hospital within a day of their birth. I think sleep deprivation may have been harder for me than for younger mothers, but I have honestly never felt any regrets about having become an older mother. I just turned 60, am very fit and active, and have no trouble keeping up with my 16-year-old. And my 25-year-old still comes to me for advise. Enjy every minute of your son’s life. It is a gift.
You put this very well. Thanks, Marjorie!
You speak my experience… I never realized I would be an ‘older mom’. Thank goodness I am. It took me nearly 6 years of marriage to even be ready in my marriage for parenthood. By then I was 40. When I asked myself the question, What is the experience of being a woman? Motherhood jumped to the top of the list. 6 months later – pregnant the old fashioned way. Uneventful healthy pregnancy. I was 1 month shy of my 42nd birthday when my daughter was born almost 9 1/2 lbs. I have oodles of patience and life experience never available in the 20s & 30s. I don’t feel old. I feel wise and blessed. The joy is sweeter. The tears more precious. Being an ‘adult’ parent is good for her and for me. She is getting the best me, now.
You never know. My mom was 37 when she had me 39 years ago. She is still alive and kicking. AND my son is 6 years old. The two of them are close as can be. I think she’ll make it to his high school graduation. That’s what I think about when I think of how old I’ll be when my kid hits 18.
I have a beautiful healthy 3 month old son and turned 39 (!) last week. He is my only child. I didn’t think I wanted to have a child … until I got pregnant! In an instant, I very much did.
I’m so lucky and thankful and grateful I got the chance. Better late than never would be my motto if it didn’t feel so “right” now.
Thank you for your story. My story is similar yet different. No bio children; two wonderful grown “steps”. Now it is our turn through adopton. I just turned 49. Yes, our new daughter will lose us while she is a young adult so we are grateful for our caring, loving family members around us who have embraced their responsibility to be her family as she has her family. Sad, but she will benefit from our age (wisdom??) as well.
I, too, am an older mother by circumstance, not by choice. My daughters were born when I was 34 and 38. I am blessed to never have gone through fertility although I did suffer a miscarriage between the girls. I do think it makes you appreciate the children you have.
We just celebrated my mothers 90th birthday. She had my sister and I when she was 40 and has seen me grow and have children of my own. I have three children myself, ages 24, 23, and 7. I had my last child, a boy, at 42 and fully agree with your insights on later years mothering. Keep up the pace; run with your child. You will likely be around when he marries and has children of his own. It happens more often than you might think. Thank you for the wonderful words.
I certainly can appreciate your sentiments and comments about older motherhood. However, what about the younger mothers, like me, who have no problem read The Very Hungry Caterpillar multiple times over and over, who don’t mind a slice of pizza for breakfast, and who treasure and appreciate their children? Obviously, those statements are very literal examples that you used in your piece. However, I can’t say I appreciate the slight insinuation that younger mothers aren’t wise enough to value the gifts they have in their children. I believe there is some benefit in understanding that maturity isn’t always gained in years of experience; perhaps just life experience, and that is something that any mother might have, regardless of age.
To the first commenter, Krista. For all the reasons you took “exception” to is exactly what the author was speaking about. Clearly age does play a role because apparently you do not have the maturity or foressight it takes to truly understand what was written.
I too could relate to your post. I had my first son at 31 after a year and a half of infertility. He was born at 24 weeks and spent 4 months in the NICU struggling for his life. Fortunately he survived and is thriving. Then I had four miscarriages before successfully carrying my second son, who was born when I was 38. I felt so blessed. Then a few months before the big vasectomy appointment, while I was still nursing a toddler and not menstruating regularly, we got the shock of our lives: I was pregnant. Our third son was born 1 month before I turned 42. He is almost 9 months old now. Yes, I’m exhausted! I work FT outside the home and nurse my baby through the night. But I am amazed on a daily basis that I have three beautiful boys after everything we have endured.
I was 24 when I delivered my one and only child. I was completely inexperienced and not as mature as I should have been. I know that now after looking back on those early years. I will say I wanted my child more than anything in the world. I have loved her more completely than I would have thought possible.
Your article was right on the dime for me. The patience and delight I have now for my grandchildren would have been a wonderful gift to my daughter. I love you, Ben.
My mother had all of us four kids by the time she was twenty-eight. She never stops talking about what she DIDN’T get to do in her twenties, since she was raising kids instead. Yes, she had a lot more energy than I have at 44, but no, she did not have very much patience. Thank you for writing this.
Marjorie, thank you for your article. Nona, I was encouraged by your comment. Thank you! I am fifty and I have a two year old. He was a total surprise. (My docor said I was old when I had his sister at age 36!) I’ll be 64 when he is 16! I’m glad you are in such good health, that gives me hope. I sometimes wonder if my youngest was given to me to keep me healthy, since he is by far my most energetic child! I had to quit thinking old and start thinking young. I try to take better care of myself because I have him to look out for. I do have five older children, so there is help if something were to happen to me, but I want to be around as long as I can. We all have more fun than we ever imagined with him around!
To poster V- learn to be nice (and how to spell). I was simply presenting the flip side and pointing out that maturity and appreciation may come more from life experience rather than quanity of year. I actually connected with the author, not that I have to explain it to you, and yes, I do “understand” what she was saying. I carry the same feelings about my own children. Is there something wrong with looking at all sides of something/other viewpoints? Are older people always right and better at what they do? I can tell you right now, that answer is no. I could give several examples of older moms who hate mothering and screw up their children, just as much as some younger mothers also do. Don’t you think mothers of any age should band together in support and not attack each other? That would be the mature thing to do. If you will re-read my original post, you will see that I was simply presenting the other side of the story and saying that it sounded as though younger mothers were discounted as being able to do and appreciate the things the author wrote of in her piece. Way to go!
Interesting–I had my one and only child at 39, and never thought of myself as “older” or out of energy…It seemed, and seems, the perfect time to have had a child.
I’d love to see this piece developed more, to get closer to the material. I’m curious what the author actually felt and what comes from outside influence, what a person is told. I know at least one of my doctors kept referring to me as though I were geriatric. Good luck moms, of all ages!
I agree with Monica on all counts — it would be great to see more about this topic from the author, the influences that formed her self-perception as being old. It might depend some on where you are from. As a New Yorker, there’s a wide age range in our community. At 50, I still play catch with my 10 yr old son (to learn his times tables and practice pitching), swim, go on hikes, bicycle, etc. He definitely keeps us young! The age thing is funny cause to a FAIRLY large extent, it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. Think young, be young — or young-ISH anyway. Cheers and thanks for inspiring such a spirited dialogue.
My experience exactly, when I had kids at 38 and 40, when their half-brother and half-sister were 9 / 14 and 11 /16. It renewed my youth! Now, at 54 with a 13-year old and a 15-year old, there’s a slightly different matter going on. I’m wrangling with all the stuff that people warned me about . . . best wishes to you when you muddle through it. So entirely different dealing with teenagers in your 50s than dealing with them in your 30s and 40s. Or is it this generation of kids, or is it me, longing to be more in the world during the “mission phase” of life, and less with the child-rearing mission most women have left behind? I’ll have much to write about when I’m 59 and my youngest has finally graduated from high school . . .
I had my children late too, but I firmly believe that there is no ‘right’ age to become a mother. I have to agree with Krista that older mothers can be just as impatient as younger ones. Personally, I would never have had the requisite patience, stamina or maturity for motherhood in my teens or twenties, but I have a friend who had her first baby at twenty and has done a fine job. Each to her own, and we ought to revel in our diversity and support each other instead of seeking to justify or defend our own actions.