I was 34 when I got pregnant with my first child. “That’s young for having a baby in New York,” my obstetrician assured me. Cut to me arguing with our insurance company when they wouldn’t fully cover my 20 week sonogram, since I was one year shy of qualifying. I was of two minds about this: on one hand, I was glad to be of an age where pregnancy didn’t come with as many health risks. On the other, knowing that in a manner of months I’d suddenly have a “geriatric pregnancy” at 35 made me want to break stuff. My daughter was going to be born after I turned 35, yet I’d still be 34 at 20 weeks into my pregnancy, and thus the full ultrasound would cost significantly more. Happy unbirthday to me.
My first pregnancy straddled the age of 35 and I became of “advanced maternal age” towards the end of my second trimester. However, at that point I had crossed the threshold into a riskier age group for successfully carrying a baby to term. The thing is, a lot of the concern around a “geriatric pregnancy” is the time at which conception occurred, since that is the age of the eggs in the ovaries. My eggs were 34 years young when my first child conceived. So it was just odd, and frankly irritating, that overnight — literally — my OB was talking about my age as a threat to my and my baby’s well-being.
When, in my ninth month of pregnancy, my doctor determined that my baby was measuring “small,” though not out of what is considered “normal” range, he prescribed sonograms every three days to track her growth. As I was technically experiencing a “geriatric pregnancy,” these extra measures were part of the deal.
My daughter was indeed on the small side when she was born, and born safely with three uneventful pushes.
So whether you call it “geriatric pregnancy” or expecting at an “advanced maternal age,” here’s why those phrases make me crazy:
My Reproductive System Is Fully Functional
Not that issues with your reproductive system are always tied to age, but all our organs start the slow decline as we get older. But not only did I get pregnant the first time trying at age 34, but I did it again three years later without incident. In years past, there were probably fewer women above a certain age getting pregnant successfully, because there were fewer women trying to. Now, I’m noticing that getting pregnant in your mid-30s is more common.
I Don’t Feel “Geriatric”
The first thing I think of when I hear that word is the “geriatric ward” of a hospital. Where elderly people are cared for. There is a specialized practice of medicine for people who are already collecting Social Security. I was only halfway there when I got pregnant, closer to 18 than I was to 65.
In Fact, I’m Pretty Immature
Pratfalls crack me up. I even get a kick out of some bathroom humor. I toggle easily between highbrow and lowbrow. I love expensive and cheap wine equally, since it all has pretty much the same effect on me. Every now and then I have to ask myself if I’m actually old enough to have kids, because I still feel like a kid myself. I even buy some of my clothes in the kids section since it’s hard to find Star Wars shirts in the grown-up ladies department.
Being Ready For Motherhood Is Not Just A Question Of My Physical State
Apparently, the age range for when to ideally have a baby (based purely on one’s physical state) is in your 20s, when fertility peaks for most women. OK, so maybe my body was at its prime when I was 27, but I was not at all fit to take care of a baby at that point in my life. I was on the verge of ending a serious relationship, I lived in a tiny one-bedroom walk-up, and I was about to change jobs for the third time in as many years. While other women in their 20s make terrific moms, I know I wouldn’t have.
It’s Yet Another Standard Women Are Held To That Men Aren’t
I really hated being “diagnosed” merely by my age. Despite being in great shape (thanks to my gym addiction), my pregnancy was riskier on the other side of 35. My OB had me getting ultrasounds twice a week in my last month of pregnancy. At that size, shlepping to the hospital at that frequency took a lot of effort, and a lot of juggling, as I was still at my job full time. And for what? My daughter was born healthy without any intervention during her birth. That whole process annoyed me, especially because my husband’s age was never a factor in any of it. (He’s two years older than me, by the way.) And nobody has ever had an issue with that in terms of his waning physical ability as it might pertain to fatherhood.
How Can I Be Geriatric After Only 17 Years Of Adulting?
This math just doesn’t add up. If I’m officially an adult, as defined by my right to vote, at age 18, and my life expectancy is in the eighties. how can I already be of some advanced age before hitting 40?
It Enforces The Idea Of A Biological Clock
The worst thing about getting married was the inquisition about when my husband and I would start reproducing. Though I have a very loving and supportive family, they couldn’t help themselves in wondering out loud when the grandkids would start populating the Earth. As a woman, I felt this tremendous pressure, not only to have a baby but to have one within a certain timeframe. I couldn’t argue with the statistics: it’s true that fertility declines with age. But I hate that the society’s perspective on family norms are still rooted in the idea that age determines your ability to be a mother.
There are other ways to be a parent, that don’t involve my reproductive organs. Though my husband and I are done having kids, I don’t dismiss the idea that a few years from now I may change my mind. I may be consumed with being a parent to a young person again, and it won’t be impossible if we consider being foster parents, or adopting, or other means to caring for kids who need love.
More Women Are Having Kids Later
There are more women over the age of 35 having kids than there were a generation ago. So clearly this “advanced maternal age” is not stopping us from forging ahead into motherhood. Most of us at this age have worked more years, and are financially better off, so the cost of raising children doesn’t feel as daunting. In my neighborhood moms group, I’m older than a few of the other women, but not by much, and there are a couple who are older than me. We may be at different stages in our lives, but the unity of motherhood in inclusive of all ages.
Our Society Is Ageist
I work in TV and it’s never made sense to me why advertisers covet the 25-49 age group, as opposed to the 50+ demographic. Who has more money? The young adults deep in tuition debt, and trying to scrape together enough dough to buy their starter home, and afford daycare? Or the established older class, with 65 their maturing 401K accounts and empty nests? My parents’ home is totally paid for, while we will be paying off our mortgage for the next 28 years. I am not an attractive consumer, and yet our society celebrates youth and naïveté over maturity and experience. Bodies get older, but I’d rather have wrinkles and the wisdom of age than smooth skin and amateur-level life skills.
The Older I Get, The More Confident I Am As A Mom
This is what irks me the most. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gained a sharper perspective on motherhood. I had such grand plans for my children when I was in my 20s, dreaming of the family I would one day have. But through my life experiences, at work, in relationships, and with my own mother as I’ve come to understand her through the shared journey of motherhood, I feel much better suited to raising children than I did when my ovaries were at their prime childbearing age a decade ago.