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Psychologist Kirsty Budds

“Delayed” might just be the next dirty word when applied to our notion of later motherhood. In fact, experts are finally beginning to acknowledge the maternal pressure cooker in which modern women are routinely and forcibly wet-steamed.

It’s about time.

According to an article in Science Daily, published yesterday, women who have children later should not be accused of selfishness or putting themselves before the well being of their children.

In a paper, presented to the British Psychology Society at St. Andrew’s University, UK, psychologist, Kirsty Budds (http://www NULL.hud NULL.ac NULL.uk/research/researchnews/latemotherhood-amatterofchoice NULL.php), has expressed concern regarding how older mothers are portrayed in the media and perceived publicly. (See article.) (http://www NULL.sciencedaily NULL.com/releases/2012/09/120903143056 NULL.htm)

The reasons, she argues, for later motherhood run far deeper than the simple option of “choice”.

“It implies that women who have babies later on are putting something off or waiting for something. I question whether it is actually a choice, but if it is, then it is a choice that is constrained and shaped by the values in our society and the pressures upon women,” she’s quoted as saying.

The UK psychologist is hoping that further research will lead to a more balanced perception of later motherhood and offset some of the “scare” press about medical risks.

According to Science Daily, Budds argues: “These women are effectively responsibly trying to produce the best situation in which to have children, which is encouraged societally, but then they are chastised because they are giving birth when older, when it is more risky.”

Having waged internet-war on inaccurate, inflammatory and pre-conceived notions of later motherhood since 2009, I’m tempted to sarcasm with a: “Who knew?”

However, greater is my relief that, at last, another researcher is leading the charge in defense of later mothers.

Notes for this blog:

Science Daily article:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120903143056.htm (http://www NULL.sciencedaily NULL.com/releases/2012/09/120903143056 NULL.htm)

14 Responses to What’s “Choice” Got To Do With It?

  1. Patrice "Infertility Warrior" (http://www NULL.fertilityhope NULL.net) says:

    THANK YOU! I thought I would be a mother in my early 20’s and kept looking for Mr Right even when in my mid 20’s I realized I needed to start making money in the meantime. Meeting Mr. Wrongs and an unplanned cancer battle in my early 30s, a failed engagement in my late 30s got me to 40 still wanting to be a Mom. The wait was worth it at 42. I would love to have another child but since Mr Right (or even Mr. OK) hasn’t shown up, my little miracle (thanks to donor egg/donor sperm) may be it for me. This will always make me a little sad as I always wanted 3 or more children. I never delayed motherhood, it was denied to me in a variety of ways. I am grateful everyday that the science exists to fulfill the dream I have had since childhood!

  2. Cynthia Wilson James (http://www NULL.inseasonmom NULL.org) says:

    Angel, thank you for sharing this with us and your post is right on point. At 17 I had my life all planned which included college graduation, marriage and a successful career by age 23 and having children by age 27. Unfortunately, I didn’t find a COMPATIBLE mate who shared my spiritual beliefs until I was 40. Is this a reason I shouldn’t have given birth at age 42 and 44? I chose to follow my beliefs and let society be ever-changing with theirs!

  3. Lisa says:

    Thank you.

    I had no idea that by waiting to start trying to conceive until I was 35 I was making it a lot harder for myself and my husband. MORE EDUCATION ON THE LIMITS OF A WOMAN’S FERTILITY NEED TO BE DONE. I work in an industry where if you want to get ahead as a woman you usually have to delay or avoid childbearing entirely. I had no role models for working mothers in my field and I was frequently asked (in job interviews) if I had children and/or what my plans were in that årea (illegal, but employers DO ask.)

    So as I tried to conceive I also tried to move up the creative, professional ladder. Not easy to do that while suffering repeat pregnancy losses and then embarking on years of stressful fertility treatments, but THAT IS WHAT I DID DO. Looking back on that ten year period I’m amazed that my marriage and my sanity survived. I was able to finally attain the profession I wanted (and was good at and loved) only to finally get pregnant (with a lot of help) and then nearly die of a rare pregnancy complication that has forever altered my life and taken a huge toll on my family.

    While it’s easy to see my delaying trying to conceive as the culprit, it’s possible that HELLP Syndrome would have struck me earlier. My husband was told that it probably would have done so and if it had, I probably would not have survived since the tools to operate in deep in my brain where the bleed that HELLP caused happened did not exist earlier.

    We make plans and then life has a way of throwing curveballs…

  4. Mrs. C. says:

    How lucky is a person to have life go just as planned on a schedule? I’d say very lucky. I chose to go to college and get an education. Then I chose to go to work to earn money and pay taxes. Somehow the part of meeting the right guy just after the first two goals were met did not quite happen. I was not picky but let’s face it, you want to meet someone you plan to stay married to for the REST of your life. Children should not have to deal with divorce. I would rather wait to meet someone right for me than settle and have my kids be miserable. I met Mr. Right at 31. Life took us on a roller coaster ride and we did finally have our first at 38. Then number 2 at 42. They are perfectly healthy children and have tow happy parents! I find it so irritating that people think having children over a certain age is wrong.
    My great grandmother had my grandmother when she was 48. I have researched my family tree as far back as 400 years. The women started having families in their late teens to early twenties all the way through their 40s until menopause. Many of these older children went on the do the same. This has been going on for thousands of years, since the beginning of the human race.
    I’d rather see older parents raising children they want and can provide a stable home for than a bunch of unwed teens bringing children into the world. Those children are the going to be the ones with the biggest issues, not having a stable home life. Delaying parenthood until one can meet a suitable life partner, be mature enough and provide a good home is not a bad thing at all.

  5. Lylas says:

    This PHD thesis is worth additional research that answers the questions: 1) Why is the age of the mother ‘shaped by the values in our society’ and 2) why is it that society values younger mothers more than older ones? I’d love to know why so we can work on changing that.

  6. Karen says:

    For me, having a child at almost 45 WAS a choice. I went the typical route of marrying in my early 20s and having 2 children by age 26. (Prior to my marriage I was in the military where I met the man I married, who turned out be Mr. Wrong… divorced 18 years later after settling for far too long). I was a good mother. He was a good father. We were young, inexperienced, and not very prepared for the expenses that come with having children. I went to college when the youngest was 3. 7 years later I was ready for a career in teaching. Did what I could to be successful at my career, but which often meant putting my family SECOND to my career and not having the work-life balance that was really needed. Not good. Met second husband and we got married when we were both in our 40s and DECIDED (choice) that we wanted to have another child (he had 2 by his first marriage and all 4 of our kids were heading out of high school). We discussed this with our kids, our doctors, and all agreed that it was something we could try for as both of us were healthy. We were lucky in that we got pregnant quickly…. twice. The first was lost between 6-8 weeks. At the okay to go again, baby two existed. I know many women (including my sister) struggle a great deal to have children. She struggled even when she was in her twenties. She had her daughter in her 30s. I realize how blessed we are that becoming pregnant was not difficult for my husband and I. We are better parents that I was in my 20s and 30s. We are better off financially too. We can provide for our son things I wasn’t ready or able to provide to my older children. Our son is very healthy, very involved in positive things (involved in a lot of dance and drama and is played soccer), and has started kindergarten this year and is already quite the reader. All of that is due to our ability to provide more books and pay for activities he is involved in that I didn’t have the ability to do for the older kids. It was a very good choice that we made in having our child in our mid 40s. I would like to say that I know a woman who made the same choice that we did. Same type of situation. She had older kids in high school. She was my age. BUT.. she was not healthy. She smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish, was physically abusive to her older kids, and was unable to work because of all her health problems. Her new husband also could not work because of health problems. I know I shouldn’t judge…. but in my opinion, their choice to have a child was (probably) not a good choice. Who was going to care for that child and provide financially for it? Who was going to protect it? I would have felt the same way had she been in her mid-20s and living as she was. My personal belief is that if a couple is healthy at time of conception, and able to actually decently take care of a child AND themselves, then there should be absolutely no judgement from anyone else regarding whether or not the couple decides to have a child, regardless of age. If the couple can provide for the child what the child needs, then enough said. And yes, I know that there was another post by someone who had the unfortunate issue of a health concern during delivery. But that happens to anyone….. any age. It was not something that could have been predicted. If you smoke intensely and drink heavily, one can predict you will end up having all sorts of health issues and may end up not being physically able to care for your child. That needs to be taken into consideration by anyone considering having a child…..

  7. Lilly (http://www NULL.lillyslife NULL.com) says:

    It annoys me that all these so called authorities assume it is a choice. Some people do not have such neat little lives that they find Mr Right in their early 20s and settle down and have a family. Life sometimes does not work out like that. Young women are now being encouraged to settle and forget Mr Right because of the fear of fertility issues.

  8. Carolyn says:

    I’m on the “not really an active choice” bandwagon here. We got married at 26 and 27, had our first easily at 33/34 and then had 5 miscarriages over the next 6.5 years (all random bad luck, despite endless testing). We are both only children and had always wanted more than one, so we tried until it worked or we were too old. :) The second one, conceived naturally, came in just under the wire of giving up and was born just after I turned 43, perfectly healthy and our amazing little miracle. Her big sister was thrilled and I have never regretted all our pain, sorrow and expense, though I am sometimes as worn out as any parent of a toddler. :)
    My parents were 42 and 45 when I was born, not by choice, but life circumstances and I sometimes felt weird having older parents but always figured it was better than not existing at all. My dad did die of cancer when I was 33 but mom is still going strong at 88. Hope I can do as well!

  9. Carolyn (http://www NULL.mommyinthmiddle NULL.com) says:

    I read her article too. How refreshing! My parents married at age 20 and 21 and their reasons weren’t the best. My mother just wanted to get away from home. My father was gay, but it was the 1950’s so he did what society expected.

    They stayed married for seventeen years and had two children. Theirs was the height of dysfunctional relationships.

    I was thirteen when they started their messy divorce and fifteen when they finished. But I was badly affected by all of it and it was many, many years before I was able to have a “normal” relationship and get married.

    Even then, I stayed on the fence about motherhood. I didn’t want to damage a child the way I felt I’d been damaged and lacked confidence in my ability to parent.

    Thank goodness I became pregnant at 45 or I might never have given motherhood a chance! He was probably my last good egg, and Adam has been such a blessing.

    Having done so much work on myself over the years has helped me be a much better parent than either of my “ideal age” parents ever were.

    My little boy is not here because of selfish choices but selfless ones. And he’s much better off for it!

  10. Lori says:

    I am grateful for this research. I am a professonal and became a mother at age 45; however, I did not spend my 20s & 30s eschewing love and relationships! It just didn’t happen for me until I was in my late 30s, and I married when I was 40. I bristle at the cliche that all older mothers have made the decision to put off having children for their career. If building a family dosen’t work out for you when you are younger are you just supposed to stop growing on all fronts? While it is true that some women will choose to put off motherhood until they are older, it is not a one-size-fits-all scenario, and I have long resented that it’s been applied to me. I hope this research makes a splash in the media, it’s relevant to the lives of a lot of older moms.

  11. Sharyl V says:

    Honestly, I am glad to have found this website. I, too, am an older mother. My baby is 9 months old, and I am 46. I never had any other children, and never imagined in all the world that I ever WOULD have any.
    I was very unlucky in love and just didn’t care about finding MR. RIGHT after a while. Plus, I had a huge weight problem, and at the age of 43, had gastric bypass, lost 130 pounds and found a guy who truly loved me. We got engaged………..and six months later, I found out I was pregnant. 45 and pregnant and unmarried. Isn’t that a blast??? LOL. I honestly laugh at myself sometimes, thinking about it. But what a wonderful gift I have. There is nothing in this world that compares to my baby :) I didn’t put off motherhood intentionally. I worked, I lived but I never found the right man. I like to think that things happen for a reason, or God has a plan, whatever way you want to think about it, there is something else involved, that is for sure.
    I have more patience now than I ever did in my life. I have a stable job, I am mature. I can’t honestly say that I was all of this, even 10 years ago. So to be able to move ahead now and have a child now, I feel like all of the pieces are falling in place. Doesn’t matter how old you are. If God sees fit that you are able to carry a child and raise it, so be it. After all, Abraham and Sarah were well into their 90’s when they had a child :)

  12. Lisa Williams says:

    Thank you!

    It is great to finally read an article that is sympathetic to those of us who end up having our first children when we are in our forties. I certainly did NOT wait until I was forty five to have my first child by DESIGN. My mother had drummed into my head when I was growing up, “Don’t be like me. Don’t JUST be a mom. Have a career.” (While I take issue with her belief that a woman who is a stay at home isn’t SOMEBODY IMPORTANT, I did see how her economic dependence on my father did NOT serve her well and I vowed to try to have both a career and to become a mom. So I waited until I was 35 to start trying to conceive (since it took me that long to achieve a stable career with decent income and health benefits) and when it took a year for me to conceive, I was not that surprised since I’d read that it could easily take that long. Thus when the doctor told me there was no heart beat at the first ultrasound exam I didn’t understand that she meant the pregnancy had ended until she explained, bluntly, “It’s over.” When I started to shake due to shock she explained tersely, “One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage and since you’re over 35 those odds go up.” She was only the first of several doctors who would speak to me harshly about my age and blame my pregnancy losses on my (selfishly) waiting too long.

    After the third loss (at age 41) I finally decided to move on to DE IVF and to do that I started my own support group for women considering it. What a relief to finally meet others in the same boat and how wonderful that they were attractive, smart, articulate, professionally successful people! Not only was I not alone, I realized I was not A LOSER. (It was so easy to feel like a complete failure for my infertility and recurrent miscarriages, especially easy given the harsh tone of the doctors I’d seen.)

    To help me move on to DE I also consulted a therapist who it turned out had suffered recurrent losses herself. (I did this after I consulted a therapist who had no direct experience of miscarriage herself and said the most idiotic things to me.) The new therapist referred me to the REPRODUCTIVE IMMUNOLOGIST who gave me the list of tests I needed to have run to discover the underlying immunological and placental function issues I needed to have treated before I could carry a child.

    I had tests run for APA (antiphospholipid antibodies), ANA (antinuclear antibodies) and NK Count (natural killer cell count.) And when I came up positive for APA with elevated NK count my RE put me on low dose prednisone, a steroid, and retested the NK Count. Based on the results he told me that if I were to conceive again I should inject lovenox, a blood thinner, to treat the APA and to treat the NK Count I should take low dose prednisone, a steroid, orally, once a day during the first trimester to suppress my immune system.

    So with my DE IVF achieved pg (at age 44 after two prior attempts to cycle had to be cancelled prior to retrieval due to problems with the donors’ health histories and/or response to stims) I did both. I had a relatively easy, blissful pregnancy during which I ate right, gained only the expected amount of weight, exercised with prenatal yoga and swim aerobics, decorated a nursery, BONDED with my BABY AHEAD OF TIME and then two weeks before the medically necessary scheduled C-Section (needed due to a fibroid blocking my cervix) my OB told me to cease lovenox. Two days later I came down with the most severe class of HELLP Syndrome (an extreme form of eclampsia) that ruptured my liver and gave me a stroke that put me in a month long coma. I needed an emergency C-section, tracheotomy, brain surgery, 6 weeks on life support (hooked up to a respirator, ventilator, and a feeding tube) $11,000 of blood transfusions, and when I emerged from the coma, months of respiratory, physical, cognitive and occupational therapies, all luckily paid for by my dual union provided health insurance that I’d earned in the ten plus years I’d worked in my highly competitive, creative field.

    I realize that my story is rare in that my illness was so extreme and that I have been very blessed. I have made an excellent recovery and my daughter is very healthy, unlike many other HELLP Syndrome patients. However, I grieve for the time I lost with my infant daughter as well as the stress and grief I put my husband and our extended families through by getting so sick. I have to live a long time and work very hard to make it up to all of them (assuming that I ever can.)

    It’s easy to blame older mothers for their health woes. Was age a factor in my illness? Probably. However, my husband was told that HELLP has a high incidence of repeat and that because the technology to save my life didn’t exist earlier had I carried to term earlier I probably would have died. New research hints at a possible MALE genetic cause of HELLP. We’ll probably never fully understand the exact causes of my medical disaster. Obviously, had I known I could not safely carry a pregnancy I would not have chosen to do so. I would have pushed harder on adoption. As much as I wanted to be a MOM, I am not CRAZY.

    But I DO understand the desire to become a mother and how that desire has NO age limit and I hope we can all try to show some tolerance and support for older moms and dads. (by support I mean emotional but also financial and political support of course.)

    Good luck to all.

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