Hidden Blessings of Advanced Maternal Age

There were many times as a young woman when I often wondered if I wanted children. I know now that that hesitation was a good thing. I have friends who married and had children much earlier than I did. It didn’t bother me that I was “behind.” While they were busy being married and raising children, I was very busy…being all about me. I was busy learning a new city, worrying about how to fill my weekends, discovering new people, and listening to the world. I also was very busy making some big mistakes in my life that, in hindsight, were some pretty nasty ways to learn some life lessons. But learned them I did.

When I did get married, my husband and I were in no rush to have children. We moved to a new state. It was fun exploring and enjoying our new surroundings and marriage. We slept in when we wanted, stayed out as late as we pleased, spent money on ourselves, and enjoyed our joint independence. We were learning about being married: the good, the bad, and the ugly. But we forged on anyway!

But after five years of marriage, I began to hear the loud ticking of my biological clock. Suddenly I realized that I wanted children in my life. I knew we needed to start a family. It took some convincing, but soon my husband agreed. We definitely had to change our mindset. We knew life was about to drastically change. And boy, did it!                                   

When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I heard the term “Advanced Maternal Age” (aka: AMA) for the first time—repeatedly. AMA is defined as any expectant mother who will have reached her 35th birthday by the time she delivers. I heard about extra risks, extra prenatal tests, and extra fears. I cringed. Isn’t having a baby scary enough? Genetic counseling was both an eye-opener and a tear-jerker. I was already pregnant and emotional. Tears were never too far. Thankfully, my son was born healthy and with no complications.

Like most first-time parents, we were overwhelmed and ill prepared. I never knew how little I knew. But we were in love with that little guy. We had no family nearby and leaned on each other for survival—except when we turned against each other in frustration, exhaustion, and parenting differences. My AMA kept me semi-sane and helped me believe that somehow that baby would survive despite me. My AMA kept me planted in my crazy new life even though my urge to run away was there. I’m glad that my AMA made me prepare financially. That preparation allowed me to stay home with my baby for at least awhile without ending up in debt or having to put my little one in daycare at a younger age than I would have wanted.

My second pregnancy raised more eyebrows, and several people asked, “Was this planned?!” My AMA tests, risks, and fears registered in the red zone on the pregnancy scale. My pregnancy was rougher than the first, and recovery took longer. I was a little wiser—and yes, a little older—as a new life in our family made the roller coaster twist, turn, dip, and curve. I’m thankful that I had the presence to brace myself for those crazy times. I arranged things financially so that I was in as good of a place as I could be. I had a home with space for a new little one and a place in my career where I could pause for a few months. My AMA provided me with more maturity and strength that I know I didn’t possess as a younger woman.

Now I am in the throes of maneuvering elementary school with a girl who is sure to give me a run for my money and a teenage boy who has suddenly turned into the teenager I never thought I’d have living with me. I’m trying to keep up and stay sane. Some days I fail at both, but the next day I try again. Sure, some days I wish for a little more energy and a little less confusion as to the latest lingo. But, I love my crazy life!

My gray hair is usually under cover, and caffeine helps hide some of the tiredness lacking in my younger mom friends. But my older self knows my younger self. I know that I would not be the mother I am now if I’d had my children as a much younger mom. My young, immature, weak, indulgent, self-centered self definitely would have been a more flawed mother. I still fall into moments of those negative traits, but now I can snap out of it and move on with the tasks at hand. I’m not sure my younger self would’ve been able to do that. I commend young mothers who are strong and fearless. I have grown into motherhood, and while I’m far from perfect, I know that being a little older and wiser has helped me navigate this role. To me, I am rocking AMA for all it’s worth!

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