It seemed the whole world was telling me how much harder it would be. But in many ways, it’s been easier.
I never had any hang-ups about aging, nor was I even all that preoccupied with my age as anything more than the number of years I’d been in the world, until I started trying to get pregnant at age 38. All of a sudden, I was officially old. Or at least, my eggs were.
I was faced with a fact of biology I had no control over: As women get older, eggs naturally decline in number and in quality. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, fertility starts to drop most significantly around age 32, then takes a further plummet around age 37.
We tried for about 6 months, then started fertility tests and found out I had “low ovarian reserve for my age.” So not only did I have fewer eggs just because I was 40, I had even fewer eggs than would have been expected of me at 40. Over the next few months, we had more tests, we started seriously thinking about IVF, and I asked my doctor, “What else can I do?”
“Try not to stress,” he said. “Put away that notebook of questions, stop memorizing statistics, and take a break from Dr. Google.”
So I did. And we got pregnant — without IVF or anything else. It took 12 months of peeing on ovulation sticks and having a lot of well-timed sex, but it happened.
It just took, well, 12 months longer than it did when I was 29 and 31.
Aside from a significantly longer wait to see two blue lines on a pregnancy test, I can honestly say that my 40-plus pregnancy was no different than my earlier ones. I was officially a woman of AMA (advanced maternal age) — at least they don’t use the term “geriatric mother” anymore — but I certainly wasn’t treated any differently by the midwives who looked after me.
My only health issue was depression, which was an issue during my last pregnancy as well and certainly isn’t related to age. In fact, I think my mental health was better during my most recent pregnancy. I have many more years of experience (of both good and bad mental health), and I’m a lot more open about my illness than I was back then. I’m far less likely to put on a brave face or bury my head in the sand.
Aside from my mental health, I’m in better shape in other ways, too. When I got pregnant at 29, I was a party girl who drank too much and survived on takeout and ready meals. When I got pregnant at 31, I was only a part-time party girl and ate a lot more veggies, but I had an energetic toddler to look after.
On the other hand, when I got pregnant at 39, I was a teetotaler, ate all the right stuff, exercised regularly, and had school-age kids, meaning I could get those precious daytime pregnancy naps.
Age does matter when it comes to having a baby. Apart from taking longer, on average, to get pregnant in the first place, older moms are more likely to have a
Hearing and reading all those things can make what already has all the potential to be a pretty stressful experience even more nerve-wracking. But I’m proof that having a baby at 40 isn’t actually all that different than doing it at 30.
My first birth was a vaginal delivery, but my second and third were planned C-sections 8 years apart, so I can compare notes on them. I was lucky: Both recoveries were textbook. But also, nothing was harder or took longer the second time around, just because I’d aged several years in the interim.
My youngest daughter is now 11 months old. She’s hard work. But all babies are — whether you’re 25, 35, or 45. Will I feel older than the 25-year-old moms at the school gates when I’m dropping her off for her first day? Of course I will, because I will be. I’ll be 45. But I won’t see it as a negative thing.
If we ignore what the mass media tells us about aging — and women who age, in particular — it’s all just a numbers game. As a woman, and as a mom, I’m so much more than the date on my birth certificate.
For me, the big difference between giving birth at 30 and giving birth at 40 was a positive one. At 30, I still cared too much about what other people — and society at large — thought of me. At 40, I really couldn’t give a damn.
All three of my pregnancies were huge blessings, but my third one even more so because I knew time wasn’t on my side, purely in terms of biology. When I did finally get pregnant, I embraced every moment of it. And I fully intend to embrace all the moments still to come, without wasting a second of them worrying about my age.
Claire Gillespie is a freelance writer with bylines on Health, SELF, Refinery29, Glamour, The Washington Post, and many more. She lives in Scotland with her husband and six kids, where she uses every (rare) spare moment to work on her novel. Follow her here.