Deciding to have a child can be a big and daunting life decision. Deciding when to have one or more can often be just as intimidating.
there is a lot to weigh up here; Finances, career implications, fertility issues, and whether you’re (or ever will be) mentally prepared for a screaming Babóg.
“I’ve been a midwife for 30 years and I’ve seen tremendous changes,” says Mary Brosnan, Director of Obstetrics and Nursing at National Maternity Hospital. “And the age at which women have babies has increased.”
According to Mary, no matter what stage you start trying, there are pros and cons. Women in their 20s often find it easier to get pregnant and recover from lack of sleep.
“It’s exhausting having a baby,” she says. “It’s harder having a baby in your late 30s, early 40s — it’s because our metabolisms aren’t as flexible as they used to be.”
However, mothers in their 30s and 40s bring life experience with them. Here we speak to mothers in their 20s, 30s and 40s about the pros and cons of having children in each decade.
20s: “I always wanted a big family. My plan was to have 10 children
Contarf’s Alicia Wallace always knew she wanted kids in her 20s.
She and her partner Gary are children’s favorites and first got together when they were 13 years old.
“I guess I’ve always been very interested in having a baby,” she says. “I had previous experience with children and thought I had more energy [when in my 20s]. Me and my partner have been together since we were teenagers and we had our own house…I was dying to start.”
Alicia wants a big family, so she figured the sooner they started their fertility journey the better. “My plan was always to have 10 kids, but that’s now reduced to a modest 4-5,” she laughs.
Health concerns also influenced the couple’s decision; When she was in her early 20s, Alicia was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis. She was advised that this could affect her fertility journey.
“I was told that it was quite unlikely that I would conceive naturally and would probably need some help,” she says. “We wanted to start doing this as soon as possible. Luckily it happened of course.”
Alicia was 27 when she had her baby son, Elan Wallace Gunn, who is now 10 months old. The average age of primiparae in Ireland is 33 and Alicia is the first in her circle of friends to have children. That meant when she had to find her own dam line when Elan was born.
“I used an app called Peanut. It’s like mummy tinder and I’ve made a lot of friends with it.”
For Alicia, the benefits of having a child in her 20s are numerous; They have more energy and will be young when they reach young adulthood.
“[It’s] being there for all your kids’ milestones and having more time with them,” she says.
She says the close bond her children will have with their young grandparents was another big draw.
“I love that my parents and Gary’s parents can enjoy him. They have more energy and are younger. And they’re a big help and they can walk with them,” she said.
Still, does she ever feel a pang of jealousy when she watches her 20-something friends travel or spontaneously goes out when she’s in a routine of late-night feedings and diaper changes?
“Our social life is more active now than it was before he was born. We’re out and about in different baby courses all day long,” she says. “It would be nice to go out occasionally at night, but I know those days go by quickly, so I’m making the best of it.”
30s: “There are many reasons we waited; Career, find an apartment, let our relationship grow’
Lyndsay Martin and her fiancé, Garett, always knew they wanted children, but there were a few practical things they needed to figure out before they got started. The couple, who met in their twenties, wanted to move to Wicklow and establish themselves professionally.
“There are many reasons why we have waited. To get a decent run in the career I wanted to have,” says Lyndsay. “Growing the relationship, finding an apartment… We were together for five years when it made sense to try.
“And Garrett says we got tired of being hungover on Saturday,” she laughs.
The couple decided to give it a try in their early 30s as they wanted to be comparatively young when their children left home. Lyndsay had her son Jack when she was 34 and her daughter Eve when she was 36.
“I didn’t want to put off having kids too late because I was trying to envision at what age I would be able to start the post-parenting chapter of my life,” says Lyndsay. “It turned out I’d be 50 by the time my eldest Jack was 18, and that felt like a good age to start this next chapter of my life.”
They also didn’t want to wait until their late 30s or 40s, as it would move them away from their “highest fertility years.” “I also don’t know if I would be in the best condition to deal with small children at an older age than now,” she says.
Lyndsay believes she has an emotional maturity in her 30s that she didn’t have in her 20s. “I’d be concerned, but by the time I got into my 30s, I definitely started sweating the little things less,” she said. “It’s really important”.
40s: “I’ve traveled the world and put all these experiences behind me…now that I have my kids, I have no desire for it”
When Lisa Cassidy met her fiancé, Gerry, at 38, she “accepted that I might never be a mom.”
She’d traveled extensively around the world and had a “great life,” but deep down, “it was definitely something I’ve always wanted to be.”
Gerry and Lisa, who now live in Kildare, knew within eight months of their relationship that things were getting serious. She opened up to Gerry and told him about her desire to have children.
“I knew I wanted to be with him long-term. I said I’d like to try and have a baby,” she said.
It was an ambition they both shared. So they decided to put a wedding on the back burner and focus on babies instead.
“We decided to do that instead of getting married. I thought, what’s the point in putting it off for a few years? I said, ‘We’re going to try and not get bogged down’.”
Lisa was aware that having a child in her 40s can make conceiving more difficult, but luckily she and Gerry had no problems. And Lisa gave birth to their first daughter, Evie, at the age of 40.
Two years later, she welcomed her second daughter, Eliza.
Lisa feels fortunate that she had her children in her 40s as it allowed her to live a full life.
“I’ve been so independent over the years. I could do whatever I want and go anywhere. I’ve traveled a lot and experienced a lot of life… I went to Copacabana Beach on New Year’s Eve!… For me I have all those experiences behind me and all those memories. Now that I have my children, I have no desire for them.”
Having her children in her 40s also meant that she had established herself financially and professionally.
“I have a lot of security and that’s a huge advantage,” she says.
She only mentions one disadvantage of later entry. “I would have loved three… If I had started a few years earlier, I would have settled on a third. I think if you start late your options are limited,” she said.
“I’m 44 now and having the two of them and working full time and being pregnant would take a lot from you. But we have two healthy and happy children and as a family we are great.”
Lisa and Gerry will be getting married later this year and their two daughters will be a key part of the ceremony.
“It is our fourth wedding date as we had to postpone it due to Covid. It’s going to be very special… Eliza doesn’t know what’s happening, but Evie is informed and insists that she marry me.”
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/parenting/whens-the-best-age-to-have-a-baby-20s-30s-or-40s-three-irish-mums-share-their-route-to-motherhood-at-very-different-ages-41638056.html When is the best age to have a baby – 20’s, 30’s or 40’s? Three Irish mothers share their journey to motherhood at very different ages