An exploration of embracing motherhood in one’s forties

In my local antenatal class a decade ago, I found myself surrounded by expectant mothers, almost all of whom were at least ten years my junior, and some nearly half my age. At first, I was taken aback and filled with doubt. Would I make friends? Why did I wait so long to have kids? Was there something wrong with my choice? In retrospect, there was no need for concern; your forties are an ideal decade for starting a family.

Recent data published in The Daily Telegraph indicate a rising trend of women becoming first-time mothers in their forties. Today, one in 25 births in the UK is to a woman aged 40 or older.

It’s a significant number of women, including me, even though a pregnancy beyond 35 is often labeled as “advanced maternal age.” This term might sound harsh, but it’s a significant improvement compared to the outdated label of “geriatric pregnancy.”

I’ve never regretted waiting until my forties, even though I had been trying for children for years. My journey is unique; my partner Alex tragically took his life during our IVF journey, but that didn’t deter me from pursuing motherhood. The maternal call was undeniable, so I decided to proceed using Alex’s frozen sperm. Today, I’m a mother to two beautiful daughters, Lola and Liberty, aged seven and five, respectively.

I was more than ready to become a mother at 40; I was grounded and confident. Unlike my twenties and thirties, I knew myself well and what made me tick. Life experience had made me less susceptible to FOMO. Sobriety, which I’d achieved two decades prior, was firmly established, and my career was thriving. Therapy had helped me recognize and shed family dysfunction, and I wasn’t anxious about post-birth body changes. I simply longed to be a mom.

Having children in your twenties and thirties undoubtedly has its advantages, primarily being more fertile. Research suggests that 31 is the ideal age for having a baby – your fertility is still as high as in your twenties, but you have more financial stability. While motherhood in your fifties can be wonderful, it often involves the use of donor eggs, as using your eggs is improbable unless you freeze them before turning 35.

Reflecting on my younger years, I’m unsure how I would have managed motherhood. I don’t believe I was ready to prioritize the needs of my children over my own. The juggling act of work and childcare, especially with soaring childcare costs, would have been incredibly challenging.

There are indeed risks associated with delaying parenthood. Both the quantity and quality of eggs diminish, leading to higher rates of failed fertilization, miscarriage, and birth defects. The social pressure to have children early also adds to the burden, as women are frequently questioned about their “ticking timebomb” of fertility and their biological clock.

The British Fertility Society recommends that women start trying to conceive by the age of 32 at the latest, to have a 90 percent chance of having a child without resorting to IVF. However, this advice doesn’t always apply; I was determined to find the right partner for having children, which didn’t happen until I was 35. Only after our natural attempts failed and my partner Alex passed away did I realize I had the maturity to proceed independently.

I do have some regrets, like not freezing my eggs in my mid-twenties when I was at the peak of my fertility. This process is costly, ranging from £4,000 to £7,000 in the UK. However, having children in my forties was the right choice. While I did experience moments of doubt, including tearful moments after another negative pregnancy test, I had to remind myself that many women face fertility challenges in their twenties and thirties.

All those concerns vanished when I held my first child in my arms. Leaving the hospital with a new bag of diapers to begin single parenthood wasn’t a meltdown; it was a moment of profound gratitude. The sleepless nights, trying to soothe my child back to sleep, were precisely what I had yearned for. It was so fulfilling that I went on to have a second child in my forties, using a frozen embryo in St Petersburg. Today, I call her Liberty.

Each day as a mother, I embrace the mess and chaos, cherishing every moment. My younger self may have cringed at the thought of spending my evenings helping with homework, but I can proudly say I’m living my best life.