Having a Baby: What’s The Right Time?

Another day, another brief trawl through the news; another headline flashing a great big red warning light decrying the trend for women (note I said “women” and not “people” here, as if women alone are responsible for furthering the next generation of humans) to have children later, and admonishing us all for being hard-headed careerists/wanting an education/desperate harridans unable to keep a man, lest we forget that our fertility starts dropping off the proverbial cliff when we hit our thirties and we miss our chance at motherhood forever, as surely will be our just deserts for failing to get hitched to the first man who crossed our paths and spend the rest of our reproductive lives barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

As, I hope, a fairly rational person, I am not going to dispute the science that clearly women’s fertility does not last forever.  And in a small way I owe my own chance at motherhood to such headlines.  Had I not been acutely aware of my own fading fertility, I would not have taken matters into my own hands and had a baby on my own, for what is that if not grabbing destiny by the horns and owning the situation?

I am not advocating that we all start waiting until our forties to start trying for a baby-as a single mother by choice, I know many women in a similar situation who did, who kept waiting until the window was closing, and although many were still eventually successful (albeit some with donor eggs), their road to parenthood was, in all cases, significantly more difficult than mine.  However I am suggesting that we calm down a little; that we allow women (and men), armed with the relevant knowledge, to make their own choices about what is right for them.  Because really, what age is the right age?

Kirstie Allsopp caused a bit of a palaver a while back when she suggested-annoyingly, in my opinion-that her advice to the hypothetical daughter she never had would be to find a nice man-by skipping university, if necessary-and settle down early, making sure to pop out a baby by 27.  I’m not sure why she felt that this advice was so crucial, given that she mentioned nothing of any corresponding advice she was intending to give her actual, non-hypothetical, real-life sons, but what it did raise was the question of what age is the “right” age to have a baby.

It seems that the accepted wisdom is that it cannot be before 25, or you run the risk of looking like a teenage parent (heaven forbid!), failing to reach your potential and getting bogged down with commitment all too young, but if you wait until 35 you are a geriatric primagravida crippling the NHS with your elderly pregnancy woes and running the risk of not having a baby at all.

So that leaves an acceptable window of ten years.

Ten years in which you have to find a man and settle down, having done precisely the right amount of travelling and partying beforehand-enough to get it all out of your system, but not enough to still be having an extended adolescence into your thirties.  Ten years in which you need to form a functional relationship with said man, staying together long enough that no one thinks it’s a shotgun wedding, but not so long that people start to call you “Waity Katie,” or other such derogatory terms intended to make you look like a desperate and eternally heartbroken serial monogamist in the style that the media likes to paint women such as the fabulous Jennifer Aniston, a.k.a “Poor Jen.”

If I could have done everything by the book, keeping to the timeline I had in my head, then I, like Kirstie Allsopp’s hypothetical daughter, would have met that love of my life by 27, married at 28 and then proceeded to pop out three kids in quick succession.

However, life does not always respect one’s own personal timeline.

I know many women who had babies in their teens, and are great mothers.  I also know plenty who waited until their forties, and are equally great, and everything in between.

I don’t know any bad mothers.

So is there a right age?  Well yes, there is.  The age that is right for you is the right one.  That is all.

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Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

24 Comments Add yours

  1. I am a ‘pramface’ mummy having had my first at 18 I always knew (well from the age of about 12/13) that I wanted to have my babies while I was young – I hadn’t planned on 18 but I definitely wanted a baby by 21, my mum was an older mum -37 when I was born 40 when my brother was born and I remember my mum being at least 10 years older than every other mum and I hated that. I have had people saying recently that I could technically be a nanny soon (my eldest is just coming up for 17now) but she has said that she hates that I was so young and that people – and especially some of her friends think we are sisters and she will not be having a baby before 30 !!! I would love to know how many women are influenced by when their mothers had babies

    1. Min says:

      That’s an interesting point. My mum was 27 when she had me and I always thought that was quite a nice age to start, so I would have been happy to have a child then, but fate didn’t have that in store for me. If I had met someone I definitely would have started earlier, but it’s not always something we can 100% control!

  2. I definitely that there isn’t a certain age that’s necessary. I think it’s something meant to be different for everyone as we are after all different people with different life experiences. I think it’s all about what is going to be best for you if it’s something your planning. For me personally I just went with flow and happened to get married at 26. Not really sure why people think it’s there place to decide or judge when the right time is for another person.

    1. Min says:

      No-I think sometimes people just naturally judge people who make different choices to them. It’s a way of trying to validate their own choices I guess, but what annoys me is that we are constantly being told not to “leave it too late” (as if we were unaware that we can’t just carry on getting pregnant naturally into our mid forties and beyond) but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of recognition that it isn’t always a choice.

  3. Ruth Jayne says:

    I could not agree with you more. Everyone is different and it doesn’t suit everyone to have a baby in their twenties. As long as you’re a good mum it doesn’t really matter what age you are when you have the child. #triballove

  4. MMT says:

    My Mum had my brother and I really young – well at 19 & 21 (shotgun wedding after the former), then had a second ‘set’ of two children with my step-dad at 37 & 39. She says she was totally out of sync with all her friends – who were partying when she was at home with babies late teens. Then she was ready to have some me time when they were all home with babies mid twenties. Alas, when they were ready to re-surface and live a little, she was yep, having babies again. What she will say, is that she wouldn’t change a thing – much to your point. Life doesn’t always follow the path you expect!
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub…have a great summer, lots to look forward to 🙂

    1. Min says:

      Thanks-you too. Life definitely doesn’t always follow the path you expect! But that is part of life’s rich tapestry, I guess!

  5. Coral says:

    Well said!! The ‘isn’t it time you had kids’ notion is so ridiculous. I was 25 and, as you say, definately borderline teenage mum! I found a lot of the Mums at the antenatal class, baby groups etc were quite a bit older than me and would sometimes be quite hard to chat to…like they thought I was a bit young. Truth is no matter what age you are you’re never ready for that feeling of ‘oh my god, what has happened to my life!?’ Ha! #coolmumclub

    1. Min says:

      Absolutely. How you react to having kids depends far more on your own family and life experiences and expectations than it does on your age, I think. But yes, even the people who think they are most “prepared” often end up being the ones in for the biggest shock!

  6. Pen says:

    Life doesn’t follow the path you expect and that is what makes it so great. A life that just goes to plan would be dreadfully boring. I did try to make my life follow a plan of sorts. I was going to get married and have two kids. I had one as you know and then realised that the man was totally wrong. Cue change of plan, stress and separation. Now my life is a whole lot better. There are dangers of having a strict life plan – you can over look the fundamentals – do I want to spend the rest of my life with this person? Oops not really. Life doesn’t follow a plan. Pen x

    1. Min says:

      Agreed. Life would be very boring if we all followed the same plan. x

  7. There most definitely isn’t a correct time or age. And I think if you waited for the perfect time you might not ever end up having children because life always has a way of throwing us a few curveballs. I had my daughter when I was 21, however I had been with my now fiancé for 6 years and we lived together etc – so for that was a perfect time (although she was a surprise). Really enjoyed reading this, really tackled a lot of points and made perfect sense #kcacols

    1. Min says:

      Thanks! I think it’s definitely true that if you waited for everything to be “perfect,” you’d be waiting for ever!

  8. Expectations – particularly your own, I have found – are amazingly unrealistic! If it is that hard to see into your own future and have realistic expectations for yourself, it is surely impossible to do that for other people. Best for judgementals to just sod off with all their opinions, I think!
    x Alice

    1. Min says:

      Completely agreed! Thanks for commenting.

  9. mumof3 says:

    It’s nobody’s business but your own, frankly, when you choose to have a child – if indeed you can choose. I had my first at 33 which felt right, but then had years of struggle with secondary infertility. Gave birth to my (IVF) twins a week after my fortieth birthday. Life so often doesn’t go to plan for all sorts of reasons and all families are different! #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Indeed they are. Thanks for commenting!

  10. We started trying when I was 30 to have a baby and it took us until I was 33 to get our baby girl. I had planned to have 2 by the time i was 35 but after a horrible birth we won’t be having anymore. My mum had 3 kids by the time I had my baby and 2 of us only had 18 months bewtween us, I don’t know how she did it! xx


    1. Min says:

      My mum was the same. She had three C-sections as well, and the thought of that makes me wince.

  11. Tammymum says:

    What an interesting read. I had no idea Kirstie Allsop said that, what a strange thing to say. I don’t know if there is a right age, we can always find a reason why something so life changing might not be right at any given moment but if it feels right to you then that’s pretty good I’d say. Thanks for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you can come back again next Sunday.

    1. Min says:

      Thanks. It was a strange comment, but I guess people say things based on their own experience. I think what really riled me was that she said this was advice she would give her daughter (she doesn’t have a daughter) but nothing about advice for sons, even though she does have sons. It seems to me that men are always excluded from the conversation as it is seen as a “women’s issue.”

  12. Life doesn’t follow the path you expect, I think a life that just goes to plan would be boring. The age to become mom that is right for you is the right one. I think the age is not important issue, that we can afford to take care of your kids.

    1. Min says:

      I agree-the age that’s right is the one that feels right to you.

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