My husband and I got married incredibly young. Age twenty-one, to be exact. We knew we weren’t ready for kids right away. PCOS made the situation kind of complicated, but our first baby was born two weeks before my twenty-eighth birthday. We knew we wanted two more kids, and I also knew I had no interest in having back-to-back babies. Since I was twenty-eight, I figured I had seven years to have two more kids, because “everyone knows” you should have all of your kids before thirty-five, right?
Who hasn’t heard some horror story about how fertility allegedly plummets after thirty-five?
Lots of us have that one old, meddling relative who swears we won’t have the energy to “chase babies” if we don’t get them all popped out in our twenties and early thirties.
When I was creating my own family, thirty-five loomed over me like some kind of deadline, and it made the entire process so stressful for me.
I had our second baby when I was thirty-one, but life happened after that. My PCOS went haywire. I had a devastating miscarriage and an ovarian cancer scare that turned out to be something else, thankfully. I lost one of my fallopian tubes. By the time I turned thirty-four, we were no closer to having our last baby, and had amassed a bucketload of extra strikes against us. I was approaching thirty-five, and that was the end of the road.
As fate would have it, I ended up pregnant that spring, and our last baby was born a month and a half after my thirty-fifth birthday. Several times, when I mentioned my age to medical staff, they’d make comments like, “Oh, right on time!” Upon hearing that I was pregnant, one of my aunts said, “This is the last one, right? I mean, you’re almost thirty-five!”
My last baby’s existence has taught me a big lesson.
Screw that age thirty-five deadline.
And screw anyone who makes you feel like you can’t have a healthy, happy pregnancy in your late thirties.
I wish I had never wasted a minute worrying how it would feel to be a mom over forty on my last baby’s first day of kindergarten. I can’t believe I ever let myself wonder if I would have the energy or stamina to chase a baby if I waited until my mid-thirties or beyond to have her. It was all so stupid. I honestly think I’m a way better mom to my third baby because I have the benefit of life experience, my husband and I are in a better place financially, and I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anyone.
If I wanted to (and if I hadn’t closed up shop during my last C-section) I could keep having babies for years, and I’d have the energy, stamina and ability to raise them well. My mid-thirties baby isn’t missing anything her late-twenties brother got, except the extreme worry and anxiety of new-motherhood. If we had wanted a baby number four, I am in perfectly fine condition to make that happen, even at almost thirty-seven.
As anyone who has hit the milestone will attest, thirty-five isn’t as old as it sounds when you’re twenty-five.
It’s still so young. A lot of us barely know what we want to be when we grow up by the time we are thirty-five. Many of us have to work hard from the end of high school well into our thirties to establish the career we dreamed about when we were younger. Others of us don’t have a partner we want to procreate with in our twenties, or don’t want to have a child on our own until we have built a stable life to support that baby.
There are seven zillion reasons to have kids after thirty-five, and not even one of them is anyone else’s business.
It’s cool if you wanted all your kids early. My very best friend had a baby at twenty and was pregnant with her second shortly after my wedding. She’s got a graduating senior and a freshman this year, and I have a third grader, a kindergartener and a toddler. We did everything on totally different schedules, and neither of us holds any judgment or regret.
And that’s the key. She doesn’t look at my baby and say rude shit like, “How do you do it? I could never chase a baby at this point in my life! I’m glad I got it over early!” She knows that she’s not too old, tired or shriveled up to have a baby right now. It’s just not the life she chose.
There is no moral superiority in completing your family before age thirty-five.
Anna Kendrick is thirty-five. Robert Pattinson and Chrissy Teigen are thirty-five. Ruby Rose is thirty-five. Lady fricking Gaga is thirty-five, and I don’t think we are checking her into the nursing home any time soon.
I will admit that my pregnancy at thirty-five was a little harder than the others, but I also had two other kids. Who knows if my age really played a role? I had seven years of sleep deprivation under my belt.
Of course, we are all beholden to biology. We know that fertility does begin to decline in our mid-thirties, but it’s not like your uterus spontaneously turns into a raisin. There’s no magical rose under a glass cloche losing its last baby-making petal the moment the clock strikes midnight on your thirty-fifth birthday.
Plenty of people have healthy, happy pregnancies well into their forties.
It’s important to understand how your age could play a role in the process and to work with your doctor to stay on top of your fertility goals, but there’s no reason to see thirty-five as some magic deadline. And no reason to tolerate anyone who treats you like you should.
Thirty-five is not “too old” to become an amazing parent.
Each individual person can work out the specifics of their own health and fertility with their doctor, and assess any risks based on their history. There might be a reason that one person should try to complete their family earlier in their life, but that doesn’t mean the same rules apply to everyone. And modern science has a lot of ways to help.
There’s a good chance that there are a lot of good baby-making years left in a lot of us after thirty-five, so let’s put this silly time limit to rest.