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by Dana Young
Is 40 the new 30? According to some pregnancy experts, there no reason 40 can’t be the new 20 – at least when it comes to having or adopting your first baby.
No one will argue that there’s certainly a buzz about being a mommy at age 40. There is a growing list of celebrity moms who welcomed their first child well into their fourth decade. Halle Berry gave birth to her daughter at 41, and Sheryl Crow, now 47, adopted her son, Wyatt, in her 40s. Nicole Kidman welcomed Sunday Rose, and Salma Hayek gave birth to Valentina while both were in their early 40s. And, Marcia Cross and Nancy Grace each delivered twins in their 40s.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of women giving birth after 40 has almost quadrupled in the past 30 years. Some news coverage has even stated that 40 is the new 20 for motherhood.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, there are a large number of first-time moms in their 40s. While this number has diminished slightly due to ongoing economic challenges, the Bay Area is still above average in the number of women becoming mothers after 40, says Kurt Wharton, a Lafayette-based OB/GYN.
The reasons for that vary. In metropolitan regions like the Bay Area, there are more jobs, so there are more women choosing careers first and families later. Or it might be the high cost of living keeps people from starting families earlier. Whatever it is, the older moms we talked to don’t regret their decision to wait at all.
Stein, 43, is mom to 2-year-old Hunter. They live in San Francisco’s Noe Valley with her husband, Marc.
BAP: What challenges do you face being a mom in your 40s?
STEIN: Probably the biggest we face today is adjusting to a new agenda. The days of our independent routines and schedules are now overshadowed by Hunter’s daily demands and focus. That said, Hunter has changed our lives for the better.
What’s the funniest thing someone has said to you about having a child in your 40s?
“It gets easier…..”
“When is number two coming?”
Advice to moms having their first child in their 40s?
Stay active and healthy. These little guys have a lot of energy and you need to be able to keep up.
Jullien, the vice president of a human resource company in Concord, was 42 when she and her husband, Mike, welcomed their daughter, Katie. Amy and Mike met when Amy was 38, and they married when Amy was 40.
BAP: How do you think it is different for first-time moms in their 40s?
JULLIEN: I think, in general, older moms have already had a lot of time to focus on careers and enjoy success in that arena, so we can now shift gears and truly enjoy raising our kids without concern about work. I’ve already accomplished so much in my career that I’m not worried about my future at work. I also think, in general, that older moms have already had lots of time to do whatever we wanted to do, travel, etc., so we’re ready to focus on our kids. I don’t feel I need more “me” time. I had lots of it for lots of years.
What are some of the fears you had about becoming a mom in your 40s?
I was a little concerned that I would be so much older than other moms of kids Katie’s age; that I would be out of place. I found a considerable number of moms in their 40s, and the majority in their 30s, so I don’t feel odd at all. I feel that in my social circle I’m more active and engaged in things than many women younger than me.
Has anyone said anything annoying about you having a child in your 40s?
I have been asked three times if Katie is my grandchild. All of these strangers then share that they had their kids when they were teenagers or early 20s, so they have grandkids Katie’s age.
There are many misconceptions about having a baby in your 40s – any that you want to debunk?
I was concerned that I would have a difficult pregnancy because of my age. I’m thrilled to say I felt great, continued to go to the gym for my workouts until the day I delivered, and gained less than 20 pounds. Two of my coworkers were pregnant at the same time, one 27 and one 32, and, unfortunately, both had challenging pregnancies. I think there are so many factors regarding how each woman will handle pregnancy, and too much hype is given to how old you are.
Baker was 42 when she gave birth to her triplets, Christopher, Grace and Aiden. Susan, now 48, and her husband Mark, 47, live with their 6-year-old threesome in Livermore.
BAP: What are some fears you faced?
BAKER: My fears were not really related to my age, but rather to the type of pregnancy. This was our third time being pregnant and with triplets. I was always worried that they were no longer alive, so I must have had an ultrasound every week, sometimes every two weeks. I had a very indulgent OB.
What are the most surprising things you discovered about being a first-time mom your 40s?
Being in my 40s, I just don’t get embarrassed or care what others think when one of my kids has a tantrum in public – unfortunately, it happens a lot.
What is the funniest thing someone has said to you about you having a child in your 40s?
No one believes that I’m in my 40s; seriously! Maybe they are just being kind and think I look the way I do because I am tired running after triplets all day. Most people are surprised when I tell them how old I am, so I don’t get asked about having my kids at 40. The fact that I have multiples seems to trump my age.
What’s one thing you want people to know about having kids at 40-plus?
It’s just as easy to keep up with your kids at 40 as it is at 25.
How is it different for new moms who are in their 40s?
I think moms in their 40s really get to enjoy their kids more. I don’t think we feel a need to impress others, or maybe we just don’t care as much about impressing others. We get to sit back enjoy our kids and worry about the mess they make later.
Any misconceptions about having children in your 40s that you want to debunk?
No, we don’t all look like our kids’ grandma.
Yes, I have enough energy to keep up with my kids.
No, I’m not worried about my kids resenting me because I’m older. At least no more worried than any parent of any teenager!
Cheryl Sinco, 44, is still in the early stages of being a first-time mom. She was 43 when she and husband, Mike, 50, gave birth to Eva Nicole, who is just 3 months old.
BAP: What were some of your fears about being a mom in your 40s?
SINCO: It took us a long time to conceive, so I was very fearful throughout the pregnancy, given our history. But I don’t have any fears about being a mom in my 40s. I don’t feel that old, so it doesn’t really scare me.
Most surprising things?
Being a mom has been such an education. I had no idea it’s a 24/7 job. Gone are the days of weekend sleep-ins and reading the Sunday paper for hours. Parents I knew always joked about this, but it never registered until now.
Do you know other first-time moms in their 40?
I work with several women who became moms in their 40s and I think there is an increase in “mid-life moms.” Many women hold off on parenthood until their careers are well established, and by that time it isn’t quite as easy to conceive. I think if women were more aware of this, they would start trying sooner.
What’s the funniest thing someone has said to you in relation to having a child in your 40s?
I don’t advertise the fact that I’m in my 40s (nor do I mind telling people when they ask), but my husband was asked if he was the baby’s grandfather TWICE!
Any myths you want to debunk?
Most people think that it’s nearly impossible for women to have children after 40. It’s certainly not easy, but it is possible! It is not too late and it is totally worth the wait.
Dana Young is a 40-ish writer from Oakland with 7-year-old triplet daughters.
Some advantages for first-time moms at 40 or older:
Maturity; financial stability/resources; dedicated/mature husband/partner/significant other. In the Bay Area, pregnancy after 40 is commonplace and supported unlike other communities. Support groups are widely available and the medical community is supportive.
Some disadvantages for first-time moms at 40 or older:
Declining fertility/infertility; increased risk of genetic abnormalities (the eggs you have are the eggs you’re born with); increased risk of medical complications with pregnancy (high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, stroke, increased risk of need for Cesarean-section); it’s harder to recover from delivery than when you are in your 20s. And, it can be more challenging to deal with post-partum sleep deprivation, physical exertion required of caring for a newborn.
“The good news is that for those who are successful in getting pregnant, the odds are still in your favor that things will go well for you and your baby,” says Kurt Wharton, a Lafayette-based OB/GYN. “Contemporary prenatal care and delivery in a state-of-the-art hospital results in outcomes similar to younger moms.”
Source: Kurt Wharton, drwhartonmd.com.
– Dana Young
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