I arrived at motherhood later in life at age 38. It had taken me longer than most to get there, both emotionally and logistically. My mother and father died 59 days apart from one another when I was 25, and my sister and I were left with a family business and more baggage and logistical details than I could ever capture in one sitting.
By 35, after a physically and emotionally exhausting decade, I had managed to finally break up with the family business and allow myself to be open to love again. I married my husband on a beautiful Maine summer day in 2016. Our son turned 6 months old today and I’m realizing that while I may have been ready for later-in-life motherhood, there is so much I didn’t know.
Pregnancy takes patience. The whole thing. Not just getting pregnant, but the before, during and after. I never worried about having kids a little older. My mom was 36 and 39 when she’d had my sister and me. Once my husband and I started trying a year and a half into marriage, we got pregnant very quickly. And then…I had a miscarriage. I anticipated the emotional toll it would take to recover, but the physical toll surprised me.
I had no idea how long it took the body to regulate itself after a miscarriage.
I felt like a human pin cushion waiting months for my hCG levels to drop and for my period to return so we could start trying again. I went from a due date in my final days as a 37-year-old, to delivering our beautiful baby halfway through 38. And now as I write this, a newly turned 39-year-old, still breastfeeding and therefore with no period yet returned, I realize how naive I was to think it would be easy to have a second one quickly if we wanted to.
The reality that a second baby may be at 40 or older is very present… I know 40 isn’t as ‘old’ as it seemed in years past, but I acknowledge there are physical limitations I hadn’t thought about.
Being an older mom can be incredibly freeing. I’ve gone through a wild adulthood. My 20s and 30s were full of stress and change, insecurities and uncertainties. I had more responsibility than most in their 20s and had been in hospitals with my parents for experiences that felt out of sequence in life—unnatural and too soon.
Childbirth was finally a natural part of life and for me, the most overwhelming and empowering symbol of health and growth. I embraced childbirth wholly. Motherhood has of course been terrifying and unknown, but I also feel like being older has given me a perspective of what’s important and what warrants stress or negativity.
There is a clear reason for the constant documentation of a baby! For 20 years I’d viewed baby photos with a healthy dose of skepticism—was it really so necessary to post monthly/weekly/daily updates about your baby? By 38, friends had been having babies for 20 years. I’d seen every post imaginable—marking 8 weeks old with fuzzy, color-coordinated blanket calendars, intricate Halloween costumes, first birthday parties detailed by professional-level videographers.
Well, six months in, I UNDERSTAND. Taking care of a tiny human warrants documentation. It’s not for the rest of the world that I share a photo of my child, but for me and for the accomplishment of their existence and growth
Physical changes are humbling and perhaps not as forgiving as they may be at a younger age. I was in good shape throughout pregnancy and childbirth, and overall my body has recovered in a way that I’m okay with. But, I’m not blind to the fact that there are physical changes that are different because of my age. I know the massive hair loss I’m experiencing is a typical postpartum effect at any age, but with the added 38-year old gray hairs (which I would have been fine losing!) and those lovely sleep-deprived dark under-eye circles, I feel like I’ve aged more in a short time than younger moms.
Your support system could look very different, but it will be there. I struggled picturing myself having a child without my parents here. The thought of being a motherless mom was too painful, and I knew the logistical challenges it could present. Friends’ comments of ‘I don’t know how I could do this without my parents’, or ‘I would be clueless without my mom here’ were the best birth control. I was very aware of those around me who had grandparents as 2, 3, or 4 day/week caretakers.
Our support system is different than what it might have been when we were younger, but it is still there; between my husband and me, we have one living parent and one sibling. And thank goodness, they are incredible and so loving and generous to our child.
Friends who have children that are a little older are very eager to assist with a sweet baby, nostalgic for those first months of motherhood. And certainly being more financially stable helps.
I would give anything to have my parents here, but I feel fortunate that my husband and I are more secure in our jobs allowing us to bring other loving caretakers into our lives.
As for many moms, motherhood has been exhilarating, humbling, and life-changing. I truly believe that being an older mom is a different experience. I have a perspective and appreciation today that I know I would not have had 10 years ago.
Above all, motherhood has been for me a gift I didn’t think I would receive as I got older, one that has taught me how enriching and beautiful age and experience can be.