I did not plan to be pregnant at 40 years old. I had my first son when I was in my early 30s, once my career as an engineer was well established. However, my next two pregnancies did not go as planned, and here I am at 55 years old with two boys, including a 15-year-old.
Looking back, 15 years later, here is what I have learned about the advantages and disadvantages of getting pregnant at an older age.
Even though my family plan did not go as I originally thought it would, for me, the advantages of being an older mother far outweigh the disadvantages.
1. Fitness level
When I found out I was pregnant at 40, I knew I had to make my health a priority. Fifteen years later, I am still on that track. I work out six days a week, including lifting weights and biking 10 miles outside at least twice a week, along with walking, swimming, and rowing. I eat vegan for lunch and even designed my own smoothie line. I felt inspired to work on my health because I never wanted my youngest son to feel like he had a mother older than his friends. I may actually over-compensate sometimes.
Thanks to my youngest son, I am well ahead of most of my peers whose children have already left the nest when it comes to technology. I frequently watch YouTubers like Casey Neistat and Mr. Foamer Simpson. I post daily on Instagram and Twitter. I talk to Alexa when I am making dinner and can easily switch our television between HDM1 and HDM2. Being an older mother has actually kept me young.
In my 30s and 40s, I may have worried about things like getting selected as a PTA officer or my son’s high school class placement. Now, nothing seems overly important to me other than being as happy as possible every day and spending as much time as I can with my family and friends. The problems we face as a family usually seem small in what I now see as the grand scheme.
4. My son
And of course, the best part of being 40 and pregnant was having my son. If the other pregnancies would have worked out, I never would have known this guy. I cannot even go there.
When you are 40 and pregnant, you deal with a lot of extra worries about the pregnancy. It can be hard to stay calm when the doctors are using phrases like “advanced maternal age” at every appointment. For example, advanced maternal age comes with a higher risk of miscarriage. There is also concern that you will not recover as quickly from labor and delivery.
The one thing I was not prepared for with a later pregnancy was having elderly parents at the same time that I had children at home. Looking at colleges and assisted living facilities at the same time can be absolutely mind-boggling. Now that my son is 15 and my husband and I can finally sneak out on a date without a babysitter, we mostly take my parent with dementia out on the town — not exactly the freedom we envisioned when the boys were younger, but my husband seems perfectly happy to hang out at the pancake place with me and my mom.
No perfect path
Like all of life, there is no perfect path into parenthood. It happens when it happens and you make the best of it. For me, the timing was just right.
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Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. Learn more about Tracy and what healthy living services and products she can offer on her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.