Your parents long ago gave up hinting that they want to become grandparents; ditto friends who insist "for your own good" that if you are going to have another child, you better "do it now." The alarm on your biological clock is about to explode and, considering the date on your birth certificate, even you can't explain why you have a sudden newfound urge to be a mommy.
No wonder friends and family are confused.
Perhaps your delay in growing a family hasn't been by choice; after all, you stopped using birth control a long time ago and thought you'd be pregnant by now. Or maybe you didn't find that perfect mate until you were in your thirties, and it's taken time to figure out whether you want to be parents or not.
Choosing motherhood later in life may appear to be a case of your heart overruling your head-while fantasies of the perfect family dance in your brain-but your head knows that time is of the essence.
The decision to become a mother should be thoughtful and personal. It requires soul-searching as well as peacemaking between your heart and head. No matter what you choose, it is a life-changing, lifelong decision; but don't let that scare you. Motherhood later in life is indeed life-changing-for the much, much better (excuse my prejudice for showing)!
If you've delayed motherhood thus far-or delayed restarting motherhood-beating yourself up with, "Why didn't I do this sooner?" will only create more regrets. Instead, take action. Delaying the decision any longer is fruitless.
In helping you think it through, you can-and most likely will-get all the advice you want, solicited or not. Choose wisely with whom you confer: Many well-intentioned friends will share their knowledge of later-in-life motherhood based on information twenty or more years old. Remember, too, when all is said and done, no one can guarantee motherhood at any age will run a smooth course.
The bottom line is this: You can explore the issues analytically all you want, but if the desire is deep within, it will propel you to follow it. "I know there are decisions where I have to act on my gut alone," one forty-year-old who is trying to conceive confessed. "Some things I just can't trust my head with." This chapter was written to help you in your decision-making process: to give you food for thought so you can feed your soul-whether you are considering motherhood for the first time or all over again.
Ready or Not: The Big Three to Consider
1. How old is too old?
While options for getting to motherhood are not as open-ended as we get older (i.e., take fertility: It borders on non-existent for a woman in her late forties), they are by no means over with. "Two hundred years ago childbearing women were dead by thirty," says author Erica Jong in her book, Fear of Fifty. "Today, many of my friends are becoming mothers in their forties. We have extended the limits of life."
What seems old to one woman may seem like the start of springtime to another. How you feel physically, mentally, financially and culturally has much to do with it. Then there are the practical issues that need to be considered: Will your child be taking care of you just as he or she is starting out on his or her own? Should you set a time limit on trying to get pregnant or working toward adoption?
Some things can be worked out with pencil and paper. Other concerns are less tangible and rational. Take the top most oft-stated reason for delaying childrearing:
2. Fear of parenting
Middle-life women who teeter on the fence about mothering admit they are afraid of motherhood even as they crave it. Like anything else untried, images of what might be required of them grow in their heads. Will they be able to live up to the requirements? What if they do it "wrong"? The only thing you can do "wrong" as a mother is to be abusive in language and deed.
That aside, in the whole history of motherhood, there has yet to be a mother who hasn't unintentionally screwed up on something; this includes your own mother, and look how well you turned out!
Need more reassurance? Learn as much about parenting as you can. Start with the chapter, "Reality Bites," in this book.
3. Need for privacy
The second top reason for delaying motherhood, a loss of privacy, is a real concern when you have kids (if only I had a quarter for every mother of little ones who told me, "Oh, how I wish I could have the bathroom to myself just once").
Admittedly, finding private time is much more of a challenge while the kids are still toddling around the house or small enough to want to include you in every new thought and adventure when they are home from school. Mothers since time immemorial have gotten through this period of mothering. You will, too, with a little help from your friends. Trade off an afternoon with another mother from playgroup or hire a teenager to play with your child while you catch up on some phone calls.
Also, your child will need down time as well. With all the stimuli surrounding him or her, your child needs privacy as much-and maybe more-than you do.
And count your blessings: Two women in their eighties told me that as mothers of young children they rarely were able to leave the house-no car, limited public transportation, no lightweight, portable strollers that can be opened with one hand, no disposable diapers and wipes to make leaving the house easier-and most unbelievable of all-no neighborhood malls to wander.
Tags: Pregnancy & Childbirth
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