Sunday, April 1, 2012

Having a Baby over 40?

Fellow 40-something Moms, we're in good company! More women are having children in their late 30s, 40s (and even 50s sometimes) than ever. The trend is a sign of the times. Many women are making the conscious decision to wait. There are several valid reasons to do so. A lot of women are focused on their career and postpone childbirth until later in life to establish themselves financially first. Let's face it, kids are expensive! Other women may not have found their ideal relationship and find themselves unmarried or divorced into their 40s. If a woman wants to have a child before it's too late and isn't in a long-term relationship, she may decide to do it on her own -- going to a sperm bank. It puts her in control without having to rely on a man. A good man is hard to find. Sometimes a sperm donor is the better option! Some women get married later, may be divorced and remarried, beginning a new relationship in their 40s and decide that they want to have children together. And really, considering how the average life expectancy has increased, why rush your life away? Why not wait until you're older to settle down and have a family? Spend your youth as a carefree single, having fun, travelling, enjoying all that you can do without the responsibility of a child? Then of course, there are also women like me, who become pregnant unexpectedly in their 40s. It happens. No matter what the reasons, the bottom line is that the number of women giving birth in their 40s has quadrupled. 40 is the new 20.

My mother, a baby boomer, was 18 years old when she got married. In her day, that's what everyone did. You married as a teen and had babies in your 20s. She was a stay-at-home Mom. Times have changed. A lot. People are marrying later.  Frankly 18 is too young. You don't even know who you are yet. Some may not even know themselves at 20 or 30. That's why so many marriages end in divorce. If you're not sure of who you are and what you really want then you may find your partner is wrong for you. You grow apart. You discover that you are different people who want different things. My Mom and Dad are still married (over 50 years!) but her advice on staying together is "tolerance" rather than love. Not exactly the stuff of fairytales! Being a hopeless romantic, I just avoided marriage altogether. It had to be Mr. Right or nothing. Mr. Right never showed up. I just spent a lot of time dating his cousins -- Mr. Wrong, Wronger and Wrongest! I wasn't planning to have kids. In a million years I'd never have imagined being a Mom. Though now that it's happened I am grateful for this unexpected gift!

Today most people are marrying later, more people are getting divorced. Even committed couples who stay together may choose to postpone having children until they are ready, emotionally and financially. In a dual income household, both need to work and taking time off for children isn't always an option. Getting established and having a nest egg with which to raise a child is being a responsible parent. Older mothers tend to be intelligent, educated women who made the conscious decision to wait until the right time, using birth control to prevent pregnancy until they were ready. A mature parent, older and wiser, more emotionally and financially secure may arguably have more to offer a child than their younger counterparts. Older parents who have carefully planned the timing of their families are probably much more prepared. They have read up on prenatal care and childrearing. They know what they're doing and are up to the task. My Mom admits she did a lot of things wrong as a young mother. In her defense she says kids didn't come with a manual back then (of course they do now with all the books on the market!) She dropped us on our heads. Forgot one of us at the bank. She kept losing me at the mall. (Sometimes I swore it was on purpose!) Of course she loved us and we turned out OK for the most part. The drawback to waiting to have children later in life is that you are less fertile and may have a more difficult time conceiving. And if you do become pregnant, the medical risks (for mother and baby) are higher for older mothers. In addition, you may have less energy than when you were younger, so keeping up with the kids may be a challenge.

Having a baby, for anyone, is a miracle. If it is meant to be, it will be. After 40 however, the odds are stacked against it. Natural fertility rates decline as you get older. You start with many eggs in your basket, so to speak, and your supply diminishes as time goes on. Under 25 years old, you have a 20-25% chance of conception. At 30, it drops to 15%. A woman over 40 only has a 5% chance of conceiving. With in vitro fertilization the odds rise to 10% . And yet we are seeing more and more women in their 40's having babies. Including a lot of celebrities. When I found myself pregnant at 42, I became obsessed with finding out who else had had a baby over 40. I found a lot of famous people had.

A list of celebrities who had babies when they were over 40 years old:   

Nicole Kidman

Gillian Anderson (40)
Jennifer Beals (41)
Monica Bellucci (45)
Annette Bening (41)
Halle Berry (41)
Christie Brinkley (44)
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (43)
Helena Bonham Carter (42)
Mariah Carey (41)
Jennifer Connelly (40)
Courtney Cox (41)
Marcia Cross (44)
Beverly D'Angelo (49)
Geena Davis (48)
Celine Dion (42)
Tina Fey (41)
Jerry Hall (41)
Marcia Gay Harden (44)
Mariska Hargitay (42)
Lisa Hartman-Black (44)
Halle Berry
Salma Hayek (40)
Helen Hunt (40)
Holly Hunter (47)
Iman (44)
Jane Kaczmarek (47)
Nicole Kidman (41)
Jane Krakowski (42)
Diana Krall (42)
Iman (44)
Joan Lunden (49)
Madonna (41)
Mary Stuart Masterson (43)
Julianne Moore (41)
Mary Louise Parker (40)
Lisa Marie Presley (40)
Kelly Preston (48)
Molly Ringwald (41)
Mimi Rogers (45)
Kelly Rutherford (40)
Susan Sarandon (46)
Jane Seymour (44)
Brooke Shields (41)
Mira Sorvino (41)
Meryl Streep (42)
Cheryl Tiegs (52)
Emma Thompson (40)

I also read early this year that Jennifer Aniston was pregnant at 42, possibly even with twins (it was plastered on the front page of a few magazines) but that has yet to be confirmed. She denies it. I guess we'll know for sure in 7-9 months! I didn't want to tell anyone in the first trimester either. If anyone had asked me in the first few months I would have replied "Why do you ask? I may have put on a few pounds" and nothing more. But no one asked. I guess I hid it well enough.

What is somewhat misleading about older celebrity Moms is that they didn't all get pregnant the old-fashioned way. Mother Nature sometimes had a bit of a boost. One has to bear in mind that being celebrities they have resources at their disposal that the average aspiring mom-to-be may not have. Though they wouldn't always announce it in the media (even celebrities like to have a little privacy) they often sought out state-of-the-art (and likely expensive) assisted reproductive technology, fertility clinics, IVF, taking pregnancy hormone, Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, using donor eggs or surrogates. They had babies, but it may not have been easy. They just made it look easy. That's Hollywood for you.

Then again you hear of cases where a woman in her 40s conceives naturally, quite unexpectedly. Their children were grown, they thought they were done and all of a sudden, she's pregnant again at 45. So you never know. Anything can happen. Some people win the lottery. Some get struck by lightning. The odds could be one in a billion and it could still happen. People beat the odds every day. In my case, I wasn't trying to conceive by any means! Having a baby was the furthest thing from my mind. I blundered into it. It was totally unplanned. I honestly didn't think I could get pregnant so easily at this stage of life. I'd been in a series of long-term relationships since my 20s and never even had a scare (late period) in my entire dating history, I wasn't sure I could get pregnant, period. (No pun intended.) You just never know.

A few reasons why I may have conceived without trying: I was with a younger man (31 years old. Male fertility declines with age so a younger man will definitely be more fertile. I had always been drawn to younger men, though not for that reason!) I never smoked, drank or tried drugs and was at my optimal weight. Drinking and smoking do affect your fertility. Most people drink at least moderately. Alcohol is a gonadotoxin (poison to sperm). Nicotine can also poison sperm. Smoking depletes eggs more quickly and hampers estrogen production. Being overweight or underweight can also affect your hormones and ovulation. If you're in good health to start with and not loading your body with toxins, you have a much better shot.  

In case you missed my earlier blogs and don't have time for the whole bizarre story (refer to my first post "Expecting Unexpectedly" if you're curious...) here is a Coles notes version of my path to conception. Warning -- this is not a "how to!" My methods were rather unorthodox. I can't recommend them to anyone else (except the being healthy part. That's all I did right.)
Don't try this at home! Your results may vary...  

Me, Summer 2011
Conception at 42 years old in Six (not so) Easy Steps:

1. Get down to your goal weight which you haven't been since you were a kid. (I recommend Jillian Michaels' "30 Day Shred" though I guarantee there will be moments you will WANT TO PUNCH JILLIAN MICHAELS in the face. Especially when she says "Don't phone it in!" What does that even mean?!) Eat right and exercise so you're in the best physical health of your life. I hate celery but I ate it. I tried telling myself it tasted like chips. (My goal at the time wasn't preparing for conception but getting ready to live in a bikini on a tropical island. I could still do that I suppose. But I would need to bring a diaper bag...) Avoid tobacco and alcohol too. As a general rule if you don't put poison into your body, you're better off. I never did. Unless you count Coca-Cola. Sweet elixir of the gods...(I was a caffeine fiend. My weakness. One of them anyway.)
2. Find the most messed-up (psychologically, emotionally, financially, you name it) younger man you can find and then proceed to fall madly in love with him. (It helps if he's a mesmerizing Scorpio and casts a spell on you.)
3. Let him move in with you after just two weeks (yes. My logic had gone on vacation! Passion was at the helm and it ran my ship straight into an iceberg. I don't have relationships. I have relationshipwrecks!)
4. Have the most mind-blowing sex of your life. Everyone is good at something. That was his specialty. (It was being a decent, honourable, trustworthy, responsible human being that he failed miserably at. Chivalry is dead. The coroner pronounced it on Feb 1st 2012. Read my post "Feb-RUE-ary" for more details on that.)
5. Throw two birthday parties for two Scorpios in November (your mother and your lover) and then have your boyfriend stick a balloon under your shirt as a joke. (I think the balloon was to blame! It was like putting a suggestion out there and having the genie of the Universe say -- "Hey! That pregnant belly suits her! I never thought of that before! Your wish is my command!")
6. Find yourself pregnant after only a MONTH with the guy. It still blows my mind. Most of my relationships were long term -- spanning SEVERAL YEARS and I never got pregnant! This guy was a babymaking machine! He just didn't have staying power. He promised me forever but after taxes apparently that only lasts four months. His golden rule must have been "Do unto others, then run!"

So there you have it. Everyone's story is a little different. Life is messy but it can be beautiful. I have no regrets because taking it back (and they haven't perfected time travel yet so it's not really an option anyway!) would undo the best thing that ever happened to me -- this baby that I adore with my whole being.

Life isn't always fair. Sometimes it seems cruel. There are people who want a child so badly and are unable to have them. Of course they can find other avenues -- such as adoption, which is a beautiful way to bring loving parents and a parentless child together. And then there are women who don't want kids at all (teenaged girls etc) who get pregnant without trying. Some even get pregnant while on birth control. At some point we have to surrender to the fact that nature finds a way. We are not always in control. There are other forces at work. Ironically sometimes the best way to get pregnant is to try not to. Once the pressure is off and you relax about it, that's when it seems to happen. It's like chasing a butterfly. The more you pursue it, the more it eludes you, but if you get fed up, give up and fall asleep in the grass, you may awaken to find it sitting on your knee. Life is weird like that. Sometimes you just let go and see what happens.

Sometimes you can try too hard. I've known couples that struggled to conceive -- timing intercourse for the most fertile days and times, using fertility charts and ovulation calendars, going to fertility clinics, having IVF, seeing herbalists, acupuncurists, witch doctors, trying everything under the sun; couples who suffered the heartbreak of miscarriages and complications. Some finally gave up (some even went so far as to schedule a vasectomy or tubal ligation) only to find at the eleventh hour that they were finally pregnant when they least expected it, a week before their appointment.

Life happens. Hit and miss. Luck of the draw. You can't predict it. Someone could play the lottery every week for 20 years and never win. Someone else might buy a ticket once and hit the jackpot. A financial analyst can study the stock market for years and try meticulously to choose the best stocks. Or a chicken could peck at a newspaper and just happen to hit the ones that will pay off. (I think they actually did an experiment and the chicken was better at picking er-pecking stocks than the expert.) So what's the moral of the story? Ba-Kaw! Que sera sera. Roll with it. Just don't try so hard. Try. And have fun doing it. But try to relax about it. If it's meant to be, it will be. Enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Live in the Now.

Whether you're trying to get pregnant or you are pregnant unexpectedly, when it comes to having a baby, or anything in life for that matter, the best advice is to just BE HAPPY! You might as well! Go with the flow. Life is a journey. See where it carries you. Keep your sense of humour (trust me, after what I've been through, it's a survival mechanism!) Life is going to have its trials and heartbreaks. Focus on the good things. Know what you want and take steps to move toward it but don't STRESS about it. Worrying is counter-productive. When you focus on the negative, you draw it to you like a magnet. Worry that you can't get pregnant and you don't. Worry that you might get pregnant and you do. If you dwell on the worst case scenario, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just enjoy your life. Take precautions but know that no matter what there is always something left to chance. You can't plan your life to the letter. No one can. Life is unpredictable. That's part of its magic. It sure surprised the heck out of me!


  1. I followed your link on the what to expect forums. I felt so moved by your passion and love for your baby- I am so completely rooting for you, you are going to be an amazing mother. Little girls are so much fun! I look forward to reading the continuation of such a beautiful story.

    1. Thank you! That's so sweet of you! I am in love with this baby already! Lots more posts to come for the rest of my journey through pregnancy and beyond! :)

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    1. Thanks for sharing your unusual story. Congratulations on your pregnancy!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your amazing story! Congratulations! Never underestimate the power of the spirit! God bless!

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    1. That's amazing! Congratulations! We can never underestimate the power of faith -- it can truly work miracles.

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    1. Glad to hear you were able to find the help you needed! Take care!


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    1. I've heard several strange stories/testimonials like this one. I guess whatever works. Congratulations on your blessings. I want to assure readers that while I'm sharing these stories I do not endorse any of these names/methods. Be careful. A lot of scams out there. Some people will try anything. Do your research before attempting anything. Blessings to all.