Q: I am forty and just found out I’m having a baby. This is my second, but number one was born when I was just twenty – truly a lifetime ago! I am scared to death of everything: labor and delivery, taking care of a baby, raising a child when everyone is judging me for being too old. Do you have any words of wisdom for me or resources to check out?
A: Congratulations! For me there is nothing more life-affirming than the birth of a baby. I do understand your concerns and hear that your anxiety is real, so let’s see if I can help.
First of all, you are not alone in having a baby later in life. The trend over the last twenty years is toward older motherhood. In fact, one in every twenty-five babies is born to a woman in her forties. This is a four-fold increase. Many women are delaying motherhood as they build careers, look for the right partner, or ultimately choose single parenthood. The state of the science of obstetrics and women’s healthcare has made it safer to carry and deliver children well into one’s forties and even early fifties.
I do think it is important that you choose a doctor who you trust and feel very comfortable with and who will support you emotionally as well as physically during your pregnancy and delivery. You may find that the anxiety you are experiencing has to do with hormone flux, typical in most pregnancies, no matter a woman’s age. This would be a good topic to discuss with your OB/GYN. In addition, I am a big believer in yoga for anxiety. We have many yoga studios here in town that offer pre- and postnatal yoga classes. I highly suggest that you give it a try. I often see women coming or leaving these classes on my way to yoga and I see many women of your age so this might be a place to make some new friends with whom you can share this important life experience.
In addition, you might investigate this website: AChildAfter40.com. I think you will find it very helpful and reassuring.
As for what people think, I have found that one of the joys of aging is the liberation that comes with caring less about what people think of you or how they judge you. I would encourage you try to adopt this view of life. It really is freeing!
On the plus side, older parents tend to come to the task with more wisdom and life experience. We are more able to put things into perspective and not sweat the small stuff. Older parents typically have more financial resources and this makes the job much easier. Maybe you can afford to have some help that was not available to you the first time around, or hire someone to clean your house, or just get a sitter so that you get a break from your baby. Enjoy a massage or facial, whatever makes you feel good.
The negative to having babies later in life usually comes from feeling run-down, or having less physical energy. That said, it is important that you take very good care of yourself. Get as much sleep as possible, eat properly, and exercise as you are able. Do not be afraid to ask for help! All new moms can use it – not just those of us with a little more tread on our tires.
Finally, know that while times have changed, babies have not. Their needs are just the same now as they were twenty years ago. You have done this job with success in the past and you can do it again.
Best of luck to you!