BY SYLVIA WAKHISI
Many women locally and internationally are postponing having a child to their late 30s or early 40s because of various reasons.
Unlike the traditional approach of ‘get married young and have children’, today’s modern woman is delaying childbirth as she seeks to improve her education and establish a thriving career in today’s competitive world.
Whether a woman delays childbearing for work or relationship concerns or because they simply weren’t ready, this choice has consequences.
Unlike younger women who have their children earlier, older mothers may face a myriad challenges. In many occasions, they have to use fertility treatments in order to conceive. There are also risks of complications for the mother and baby, caesarean births, giving birth to a child with birth defects and more.
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On the positive side, older mothers are more likely to be more confident and emotionally developed to cope. They also have more knowledge and experience about raising a child that translates to better parenting skills to educate their child to adjust well into society.
Some people, however, feel that older mothers do not have the energy to cope with sleepless nights or to run after their toddlers or punish them whenever they go wrong.
Despite common fears of the ‘older parent stigma’, or having less of their total lifetime to spend with their children, surprisingly, many older mothers have a positive outlook on their choice.
Old mom stigma
HIV and Aids activist Asunta Wagura, who recently gave birth to identical twin boys, Gabriel and Baraka, at the age of 48, is a good example.
Asunta, a mother of five, shatters the fear that many women harbour in regard to getting children at an advanced age.
“It is interesting to bring up a child at this age. Despite the African culture that depicts that one has to think of giving birth before she hits her 40th year, I had to make people understand that I am different. I am an example that getting a child at an advanced age is something not to be too worried about. I wanted to be my own role model of a mother and I know at this age, I am more reasonable and will bring up my children in the right manner,” says Asunta.
However, she is also quick to attest to the fact that the pregnancy was not without challenges.
She continues: “There were challenges right from conception to delivery. From zero to four months, I had fears that I would miscarry, especially now that I was carrying twins and had to go for frequent check-ups with my doctor just to ensure everything was fine. When they started kicking, it felt like they were playing rugby in my tummy. I could neither sit nor sleep in one position,” says Asunta.
To lessen her worries, she had to carry out research on twins on the Internet due to the many sad stories she had heard of conjoined twins.
Her gynaecologist adviced her not to travel, and she could not work for long hours. She had to take extra supplements such as calcium, phosphorus, omega-3, pregnacare and her antiretrovirals to ensure she gave birth to healthy babies. Given her age and condition, she is lucky she did not experience high blood pressure commonly known as preeclampsia.
“At some point, the pregnancy proved to be quite stressful. I would eat and vomit immediately. The gestation period seemed to be long, but I strived to ensure I carried it to term,” she adds.
Although she delivered her third child through caesarean section, for the twins, it was more complex.
“I lost a lot of blood and had to get an urgent transfusion. I was weaker and took longer to recover and to be discharged from the hospital.”
Angela Achieng’, a high flyer in her mid-40s shares her experience: “Compared to the first pregnancy, which I had when I was 32, this time round (at 42) I had a problematic one. My pressure could not go down, I was bleeding at some point, and I was sick all the time. My doctor even recommended total bed rest in my last trimester. But the good side is that now that I am older, wiser and more patient as a parent. You see, in your 20s and 30s, you tend to put too much pressure on yourself as a parent. Many minor things bother you. But as an older parent, things don’t bother me as much.”
Now a common trend locally especially with urban women busy with building careers, late motherhood is the ‘in thing’ internationally.
Grammy award-winning songbird Mariah Carey gave birth to her twins at 42.
Then, Mariah in her blog admitted that pregnancy and giving birth at her age is no small matter and takes a toll on a woman’s body. In a past online post she shared: “I don’t think I understood the enormity and the magnitude of what it really does to your body. Carrying two babies, unless somebody has been through it, it’s difficult to understand what I went through because my pregnancy was very unique in terms of what happened to me.”
She continued, “I had serious back problems. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to walk properly again. It was a huge strain.”
Canadian singer Celine Dion also gave birth to her twins when she was 42 years. According to her, the babies had made her life ‘extraordinary’ and she ‘doesn’t know how women do it.’ And the pressures of motherhood were taking a toll on her.
“Every day, my little boy René asks, “Did you sleep well?’” she said. ‘I’m like, ‘You must be kidding! There is no sleep!” I have no sleep at all. “It’s amazing how we can survive with no sleep.”
Halle Berry, an actress and former fashion model got pregnant with her second child at 46. Berry, who has type 1 diabetes, revealed that her second pregnancy was a complete shock.
“I feel fantastic. This has been the biggest surprise of my life, to tell you the truth. Thought I was kind of past the point where this could be a reality for me,” she said.
While there are financial advantages to waiting to have children, there may be liabilities as well. If you wait, you’ll still have financial responsibilities at a time when many of your peers are beginning to retire.
And if you have trouble getting pregnant, the cost of fertility treatments will dent your finances even more.