I was initially given the label four years ago when pregnant with my first son: Advanced Maternal Age.
It is a medical term describing a pregnant woman who is over the age of 35, coined by doctors to segregate her from women of “normal” maternal age who do not face the same risks of prenatal or fetal complications. In other words, a bit old to be having a baby.
Little did I know that the term would stick to me like baby meconium. But it did—through two subsequent pregnancies and even now as I raise my children.
At first it bothered me. This notion that I was a rickety old woman, almost too decrepit to conceive, birth, and keep up with a child. But then it started to grow on me. I began to see the silver lining in addition to my own silver hairs. And it wasn’t long before I began to appreciate the joys of being an old mom.
1. I had time to experience a lot before kids.
I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything by having children. During my entire 20s and much of my 30s, I had nobody to worry about outside of myself and—later—my husband. Countless boozy nights at hip hotspots? Check. Travel to exotic locations all over the world? Yep. Endless hours and nights available to build my career and professional network? Done. And all with the disposable income to spend on me, myself, and I. Now I’m at a place in my life where I am ready and wanting to focus fully on my family—no regrets or wondering what I could have done instead.
2. I’m more stable.
With so much time to be selfish before having kids, I was able to build a stronger foundation for parenting success. Many of the worries I had as a younger woman have dissolved over time. I’m more financially secure and able to provide the material necessities for children. I’ve gained some wisdom through various life experiences that helps me deal with difficult situations. And I’m more comfortable in my own skin, allowing me to worry less about myself and focus more on others. In short, my mental plate has been largely cleared of other burdens to better accommodate the all-encompassing anxieties associated with raising children.
3. I received white-glove treatment during pregnancy.
As a woman of advanced maternal age, every aspect of my pregnancies was monitored. Instead of a single doctor, I had a team of medical professionals tracking every step of my journey. My reward for so many appointments? Countless ultrasounds throughout my pregnancies—using sophisticated machines that capture incredibly minute details. My filing cabinet is overflowing with ultrasound pictures, DVDs, and medical reports from my three pregnancies. For someone like me, who craves every morsel of information possible, this was a match made in heaven.
4. I’ve learned that patience is a virtue.
The younger version of myself wanted everything now. I was an overconfident kid chomping at the bit of life and became unreasonably annoyed when arbitrary timelines weren’t met. With age, I’ve mellowed out. I’ve learned that the race has no end and that the roses along the way are what matter. This allows me to be a more mindful and present parent. I’m aware that the moments with my children will fly by too quickly and so I try harder to soak them in. I’m better able to see my children less as obstacles slowing me down and more as memories in the making.
5. My body has become more than an aesthetic.
As a younger woman, I spent far too much time thinking about calories, fat content, and numbers on a scale. Every nourishment and activity became part of an equation to be calculated. As I’ve matured, my perspective has shifted as I’ve realized that my body is an extraordinary resource, that exercise serves a much greater purpose than fitting into skinny jeans. This appreciation allows me to fully embrace the miracle my body has achieved (three times!) with my children. Stretch marks, wider hips, and nursing breasts are now badges of honor instead of imperfections.
6. I no longer sweat the small stuff.
I’ll admit that I used to have a perfectionism problem. This tendency often kept me from moving forward as I instead wasted time ruminating over meaningless details. Fortunately, age has slowly tamed this trait as I’ve realized that most of it simply doesn’t matter—that good enough is good enough. This bodes well for my parenting style, as I’m able to let go of the little things. Toddler’s pants are on inside out? Eh, no biggie. Diaper rash cream smeared all over the furniture and brand new carpet? Oh well, they’re just material possessions. It makes everyone’s life easier.
7. People have stopped giving me unsolicited advice.
I guess when you’re an older mom, people assume you know what you’re doing. That, or they figure it’s too hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Whatever the reason, I find myself far less subjected to unwanted parenting advice than my younger friends. Instead of older friends or relatives telling me what I should do, I often hear, “Oh, you know what you’re doing.” Whether I do or not, it’s nice to have the vote of confidence.
Having children close to midlife has given me the best of both worlds: the life of a single unencumbered adult and the life of a devoted mommy. I’ve embraced both, loved both, and become more well-rounded for it. I feel like I’ve experienced it all.
So despite my foreboding status as a mother of advanced maternal age, I’m happy. Yes, I have wrinkles and grays, but my children keep me young and engaged. And given the chance, I wouldn’t change the timing of anything.