Motherhood

Having A Baby In Your Mid – Late 30s

I became a mom at thirty-five and again at thirty-seven. It didn’t feel late at the time, but science and doctors told me everything I needed (or didn’t need) to hear. On one hand, we look at data and on another, we consider our careers, relationships, and what we can handle both financially and emotionally. Should we have children before we feel ready? Yes, there is biology to consider, but what about entering motherhood too soon? 

The societal judgment and pressure from family, friends, complete strangers and our biological clocks ticking away can feel like too much. Becoming a parent is a life-altering decision and it’s one that doesn’t always line up the way we think it should. Sometimes, we make a conscious decision to wait and that’s ok. Other times, choices are made for us. Having the right partner, being financially secure, and being where you hoped to be career-wise. Some of us want to enjoy our marriage, travel, or grow our careers. Others feel ready but don’t have a partner. The expectation to do something before we’re ready or to be left feeling like we waited too long is not ok. 

Not only was I not ready in my twenties or early thirties, but – and not for lack of trying – I did not meet the person I wanted to start a family with until I was thirty-two. We were engaged less than two years later, and had a relatively short (seven month) engagement. I got married a few weeks after my thirty-fifth birthday and just like that, I was advanced maternal age. What if I had met Conor at thirty-eight? Forty-one? Was there something I could or should have done? There’s egg freezing, but successfully thawing an egg, fertilizing it, having a healthy embryo, and successful implantation leading to a baby is not guaranteed. There’s embryo freezing but some women might want a partner over a donor. It’s all so much to go through financially, mentally, and physically. 

I had been tracking my cycle for years because I like to know what’s going on with my health, and this data would serve me well when I saw my OB . I highly recommend the Glow app – get to know your cycle, it’s great for prevention and conception. I was thirty-five and everything told me it would take forever if I could even get pregnant, so I stopped trying to not get pregnant on our honeymoon.  This is going to sound so extreme and I can’t believe I’m sharing this but I brought an ovulation test on our honeymoon. I know how that sounds but I don’t think I even told Conor. I took a test in the morning before starting our day just so I could tell my doctor that yes, I was in fact, ovulating. Let’s be real – it was our honeymoon so the test didn’t really change anything. 

No part of me considered the possibility of a honeymoon baby at thirty-five, but I share this to give you hope. Three weeks after our wedding (to the day), I  decided to take a pregnancy test. It was positive and lead to Margot. We experience three weeks of marriage before finding out we were going to be parents. I know how lucky we are, but it’s important to remember that I didn’t start trying right away because we were ready to have a baby in nine months. I felt like I had to because I had just turned thirty-five.

Some would say I am an exception, but some of my close friends got pregnant on their own in their mid-late thirties. I realize that I got lucky and that I cannot speak to months or years of trying, fertility treatments, etc, but I also believe my story can give women hope, because I felt like my clock was really ticking at thirty-five and I was fine. If I wanted one more baby, I realize I’d be wise to try now vs. waiting until my forties, so if that were the case, I’d talk to my doctor, test my AMH, and make an informed decision. I am not the exception. I’ve heard from women in their twenties, thirties and forties who conceived both ways. 

You never know what you’re going to get, but you can make informed decisions. So what can we do? 

Well, first, we can stop putting so much pressure on ourselves and other women, and we can learn more about our fertility. Take good care of yourself. Become informed so you can make the best decision for you. I decided to test my AMH levels before trying to conceive, since this number is usually a good indicator of your ovarian reserve (which was very high given my age). It says nothing about egg quality, but is a good place to start. I also started taking a prenatal knowing that in the next year I’d hopefully be pregnant. If you have a partner and want to wait, consider freezing embryos – something that’s usually more successful than freezing eggs. You should also know yourself and what you want because the options are pretty endless, but come with a price, and things might look different than you imagined. There’s egg donation, sperm donation, surrogacy, IVF, adoption, etc. I didn’t want to go through freezing embryos, so my plan was to try naturally, and after a year, if I wasn’t pregnant, to move right to adoption. 

Yes, a decline in egg quality and the number of eggs you might have are very real things, but some women struggle to conceive in their twenties and others get pregnant without assistance in their thirties and even their forties. You can make informed decisions, but you can’t do something before you’re ready because you’re afraid it might not work out. But you can learn more with a simple blood test. You can find out what your options are. 

I’m not an expert so again, talk to your doctor. Read, research, and learn as much as you can. I found this article to be very, very helpful. 

So let’s talk about some of the positives when it comes to having children “later” in life. 

 

I’m more confident

I was always seeking the approval of others, even in my early thirties. I second-guessed everything, from what top or dress to buy (apparently those decisions required approval from friends?) to big decisions at work. Eventually, something clicked, and I learned to trust and believe in myself.

I truly can’t imagine having trying to find approval for my parenting choices. That’s not to say that I won’t ask friends for advice, because I do. And I’ve definitely questioned big decisions, like what we’ll do for preschool come fall, but in the end, I was able to say ok, I know myself, this feels right, and this is what needs to happen. I definitely couldn’t have been as unapologetic about our rules to keep the girls safe during a pandemic in my twenties for fear of offending someone. I can directly tell someone how we’re living, and the safe ways I can see them without worrying about what they might think. 

Then there’s the judgment moms face online. In my early thirties, I used to read all the nasty things that were being said online and it really impacted me. And now? I don’t look (haven’t in three and-a-half years), don’t care, and know it only says something about the person who is taking their time to talk about someone they don’t know on the internet. 

Here are the reasons I’m glad I had my girls in my mid to late thirties. It has to be said that these are not reasons it is “better” to have children in your thirties vs. your twenties. This is just my personal experience, and what I’ve found feels really good having waited until I was a little older. 

 

I’m more financially secure

If this year gave me anything, it’s gratitude for waiting to be exactly where I was before becoming a mom. Yes, our circumstances are unique, but I was able to take time off of work and fully care for my girls without worrying about finances without any sort of financial assistance. That is a privilege – one that wouldn’t have been possible until the last two years.

Being a small business owner, I wouldn’t have been able to take a paid maternity leave, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to afford to take time off of work to get my daughter through treatment. I know how fortunate I am to have my blog because it’s allowed me to continue to work when I am able and still make a living.

 

I’m better at taking care of myself

My twenties and early thirties were my burnout years. Working until 3AM, CrossFit five times a week, and never saying no to a possible project. I was exhausted but the thought of saying no and fear of failure were high. It took a long time to get here, but I know that I need down time. Self-care. Breaks from work and the girls. I make time to take care of myself and do things that help me feel grounded. I’m not afraid to ask for help. I know when I’m feeling anxious and instead of pushing through it, do things to work through it.

 

I’m a better mom

I’m so glad I did all the things I wanted to do because those allowed me to grow – to get where I needed to be before I was ready to fully embrace motherhood. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have been a good mom earlier on, but I know I’m a better mom now. I grew a company, traveled, lived alone, and experienced life in a new city on my own. Life circumstances (career success, a savings account, meeting the right person, traveling, living) made me a better version of myself. I’m glad I had a chance to figure out who I am. 

While I can only speak for myself, but I would not have been ready to slow down the way I needed to had I become a mom before thirty-five. I’m more patient, better at taking care of myself, know what I need, know what my girls need, and I’m not afraid to ask (or fight) for it. I never thought we’d face childhood cancer, but truly can’t imagine having faced that in my twenties. My life stopped, and of course I would have done everything in my power to get Margot through it, but I’m a stronger person now.

I appreciate my girls more now than I would have ten years ago, and was ready for life to slow down because I felt that I had done the things I wanted to do before having kids. 

 

If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, please share your story. Let’s normalize talking about fertility, about making the choice to wait (or not to wait), and how we came to those decisions. If there’s something you did that worked for you, let’s discuss and help others learn more. 

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  • I’ve been struggling with the decision to have children for awhile now and at 32 I feel increasing pressure to figure it out already. I don’t have the answers, but thank you so much for this post, Danielle. It really really really gives me good food for thought. xo

  • Great post it is so wonderful to hear you found your time and stage in life and it all worked out. I was lucky to get a lot done before we started our family at 30 for my career and travel but I had always wished we had travelled Europe together (I had lived there but my husband had never been) first at the time I felt a bit of pressure probably more personal than anything I strongly felt our timing was right and we had been together for seven years and married for three. Our little boy is two now and everything lined up beautifully so I figure Europe will wait. I believe everyone should feel comfortable with their timing whenever that is. I wouldn’t have been ready in my 20s. I love your honesty and openness in your blog and your lovely family! 💕

  • Thank you for sharing your story! I’d like to offer a slightly different perspective that isn’t talked about as much. My husband and I started trying 2 1/2 years ago – when I was newly 27. I felt increasing pressure to figure out my family planning – not pressure due to my age or from society – but rather from my doctors. I have arthritis (yes, I know I’m young to have it but that’s life, right?). My arthritis was (and is) very stable and well controlled due to medications, however there is always the possibility that things could change. As pregnancy is a contraindication to most arthritis medications, I felt pressure to start trying. I wasn’t quite ready (but my husband was) so I figured we’d give it a go and see what happens. Its worth noting that although I wasn’t quite ready emotionally, we were “ready” and capable financially and owned a home, etc. First off, I knew nothing about my cycle or even when most women ovulate (embarrassing, but true). Cycle education and figuring out when I was fertile took several months, and then came the realization something was wrong with my cycle. I have a short luteal phase, which is the second half of the cycle (ovulation to start of next period). This prompted a referral to a fertility specialist and many, many tests later, medications and procedures (HSG test, AMH tests, IUIs, etc.), here we are. I’m 30 in 6 months, and I’ve yet to conceive. All this to say: some women feel increasing pressure due to their health or other factors and you never really know what your fertility situation will be. On paper, everything is fine for me. All tests have come back normal. There is no explanation as to why I can’t conceive at this point. I’m so glad we started trying when we did. Although I wasn’t quite ready, I’m 100% ready now, and I’m glad I’m not at square one with all of the fertility testing. You just never know what will happen, so my perspective is to also factor in that women shouldn’t feel pressure to have children early but should also be mindful that many people face infertility (about 1 in 8). This isn’t to scare anyone, but just remember that even the healthiest of people can face infertility.

    I think its so amazing you were able to conceive each time you tried, on the first try, but its important to remember that you’re likely an anomaly (and I mean that in the nicest way). Thanks again for this blog post!

    1. I’m so glad you shared your story and perspective. Thank you. And of course I wish you the very best. You are so right – conceiving on the first try is not normal and it’s sort of crazy it happened more than once. I always hesitate to share because I never want to be insensitive to others, but also want to give women in their 30s hope because we tend to (mostly) hear the other stories.

  • Thank you for this blog post. I do want to share my own experience. I got married at 28, started trying before I turned 31 years old. I got pregnant around 6 months later and gave birth at 31 years old to a healthy girl. I have always wanted at least 3 kids and so on my 33rd birthday last year I suddenly felt self-inflicted pressure to try again if I wanted more children. Within 2 months of (not even actively) trying I got pregnant. However, 7 weeks later I had a miscarriage which was the most heartbreaking thing ever. But I moved on, and in fact I found so much comfort reading your blog post about your own experience with loss/miscarriage. In April, around 3 months after my miscarriage, I got a positive pregnancy test again. I was so happy but also so scared about having a miscarriage again. unfortunately I did miscarry again within a week of finding out I was pregnant. Two miscarriages within 4 months.

    Now due to financial reasons bought about by current circumstances in life, we have to stop trying because we cannot afford another baby. The pressure is so hard on me not just because of societal and medical pressure that as we get older it will be harder, but also because in my experience getting pregnant does not always mean having a baby. You are truly blessed to have conceived quickly every time you tried. I am so genuinely happy for you. But at the same time, some people have to go through a lot of difficulty before growing their family, sometimes multiple losses even.

    I don’t really know what I’m trying to point at, I guess I’m also still just questioning the timeline of having children because it is truly not easy to have children exactly when you want it. So sometimes it isn’t just the timing/age but also there’s just many different circumstances that affect and make it harder to have a baby.

  • I was waiting for a good partner and it wasn’t happening. At 34 I began discussing doing this on my own with my family. I had their full support and I became a single mother by choice. I delivered at 35. Best decision of my life as I knew I wanted to be a mother – I just needed to do what was right for me and when. Now I’m 38, in a relationship, and planning a second.