Emily Baker*, 40, is yet to embark on motherhood, but definitely sees it as part of her future
I recently celebrated my 40th birthday and while it was an amazing occasion, I’m certain that a good proportion of my guests were wondering if I might break down in tears and begin rocking in a corner. You see, despite hitting the big 4-0 I still haven’t experienced motherhood. The pitter-patter of tiny feet was always something I assumed I’d get to down the line after cementing my career, obtaining financial security and meeting the right man. But just over a year ago (while celebrating my last birthday), I had an epiphany when I realised that two out of those three boxes were already ticked (career and finance), so I was simply waiting for Mr Right to sweep me off my feet.
Well, I’m still waiting. I’m what’s known as ‘emotionally infertile’ – a phrase coined to describe women like me who are childless not by choice or because of biological reasons, but because of circumstance. Initially this realisation devastated me. I was kept awake agonising about my ageing ovaries and grieving for the child I feared I’d never have. A speedy stab at internet dating followed, which only served to reassure me that it’s not possible to meet the man of your dreams in a hurry.
Then I decided to get proactive. Technological progress now makes it possible for a woman to conceive long after eggs, hormones and womb have given up the ghost, so why should I let Mother Nature stand in my way? I decided to freeze my eggs late last year and I can honestly say it was the best decision I ever made. Taking away the pressure of parenthood has allowed me to enjoy life again without being driven to distraction by the sound of my ticking body clock. I’m no longer lamenting about missing motherhood or sizing every male suitor up as a potential daddy (and scaring the life out of him in the process), so the chances of me meeting the man of my dreams are that much stronger. In short, technology has allowed me to buy time.
Some people may think I’m selfish, because realistically I will probably be in my mid-40s before I become a mother. It’s difficult to refute scientific claims that complications such as high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, diabetes, foetal distress and Caesareans increase with maternal age, but studies also show that babies born to older mothers have advantages. I read about a recent survey from the University of Iowa of IVF children aged eight to 17, which found that the older the mother, the brighter the child. I also feel that when I become a mother I will be much better equipped to deal with it because I will be more emotionally and financially secure than I was a decade prior.
Of course, there have been times when I’ve fantasied about how if I could go back ten years, I might tell my younger self that she should hurry up and start a family sooner rather than later. The mental images that spring to mind when one considers late parenthood are enough to put anyone off – pregnant mums with thinning hair; toddlers whose mothers need a zimmer just to get round the park – but logic tells me that’s not a true representation. After all, the life expectancy of an average baby girl born in the West today is 100, so is it really so absurd that she might embark on motherhood at 50?
Ultimately the number of women giving birth in their 40s and 50s has risen dramatically in the past decade. With this in mind, I think it’s really about time we stopped looking at older mums as an oddity and accept that they are becoming the norm – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Do you disagree? Read the other side of the debate here:
“Why I wish I’d had children earlier”
*Emily’s name has been changed
This article was originally published in Aquarius magazine
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