Beware the Pregnancy Pause

My decision to wait to have children has cost me a child. It’s a decision I regret wholeheartedly.

However, I do have three beautiful children and I know I should shut up and be happy. Instead of being annoyed at the lies I’ve been fed growing up that motherhood can be just as easy in my thirties as my twenties. Bollocks.  I should have started in my twenties. Preferably in my early-to-mid twenties. I had my first child at 32 and if I’d been five years younger my partner and I would have probably had a fourth. But we’re tired. We need sleep.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the short time that I’ve been a mother (my eldest will be three in February) is that the joys of motherhood are worth more than all the material things in the world. I had myriad excuses for putting off kids – hadn’t travelled enough, not financially established, not high enough on the career ladder, not responsible enough, yadda yadda yadda. And I’m not alone.

I now know they’re pitiful excuses when compared with the feeling of your two-year-old wrapping his arms around your neck and uttering a tearful, “Thanks Mummy,” for fixing a skinned knee with a magical cure-all kiss. It’s cliched but I swear to Buddha it’s true.

When I thought I was ready for motherhood, at the ripe old age of 31, I felled a passing Mr Right with my Taser and we got busy. Three kids in three years and we’re done. He looks a little shell shocked these days and sleeps in the spare room so I’m pretty sure we’re done. He’s too old at 37 and I’m too old to get on that merry-go-round again. The pregnancy, the delivery, the breastfeeding, the sleeplessness, it’s too much for old folk. That’s why women invented menopause. Because at a certain age it’s just not right that we should be having more kids.  And that certain age, for me, is 35. I’ll be 35 next year and I’ll be too old for any more kids. If we pushed on for a fourth I’d be running after a toddler in my forties and my husband will be in his fifties when the kids want Dad to chuck a footy around the backyard.

Another thing I’ve learned is that the older you get the harder it is to shift those stubborn baby pounds. I took pregnancy as a license to let myself go (really, who doesn’t?). Now I realise that all the Cadbury family blocks in the world aren’t as enjoyable as being able to go for a walk without getting thigh burn that threatens to set my skirt on fire.

But the frustrating thing about ‘later-in-life motherhood’ is that I can see with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight that I waited too long. And it makes me want to dash madly into those hip, cool bars where the twenty-somethings are hanging out, grab those trendy girls by the shoulders and shake them until their Swarovskis fall into their West Coast Coolers (or whatever the kids are drinking these days) and tell them that they really don’t have all the time in the world. Science has made it possible for a 51-year-old woman to give birth to her own grandchildren but there’s a vast ocean of information they’re not telling you about motherhood in your thirties and forties.

For some, like me, the price is a child, which sounds high. For others it’s much higher. I have at least three friends who ran out of time and one of them was only in her late twenties! When they finally made the decision they were forced into years of painful, heartbreaking and expensive fertility treatments, IVF cycles and surgeries in order to have kids. There are risks to waiting to have children and the biggest risk is that you may leave it too late.

It’s time to stop pretending to the next generation that 30s and 40s are perfectly good childbearing years – they’re not!

This post was originally published on my first blog, The Courier-Mail’s “Mum Said” parenting blog.

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