Are You Too Old to Begin a Family at 40?
How old is too old to have or adopt a baby? 40? 45? 50? How do you make this decision? I received the following question last week.
I am currently struggling – in fact, agonizing – over this decision. I am turning 40 next month and my husband is 45. After unsuccessful IVF treatments, we are considering adoption. However, as much as I dream of having a family, I’m worried we are too old to begin one at our age. At what age would you personally decide to give up on motherhood if you were in a similar situation? I feel that your answer would be so well informed that it might help guide me through this painful decision-making process. Thank you!
I’m flattered that you value my opinion, but as you know, each person is different and will answer this question based on her own values and life dreams. I have, however, thought about this topic a lot and can share my thoughts. I should add that I’m assuming that you and your husband are in good health.
The Lure of the Accidental Pregnancy
It would be so much easier, wouldn’t it, if you could just accidentally (or accidentally on purpose) get pregnant. If only you could just forget to use birth control one night and end up pregnant. The decision would be made, and you wouldn’t have to be the one deciding. Chances are good that you’d worry a little, then settle into adapting.
Unfortunately, neither infertility treatment nor adoption work that way. They demand a conscious choice. They demand answering questions about your readiness. They demand money. Dammit!
What are Your Dreams?
What were your and your husband’s dreams for your life? Did they always include children or would you be almost as content to just be a family of two with the freedoms and joys of that life style?
What are your and your husband’s dreams for the next 20+ years? Can you imagine being the mom to a preschool and elementary school aged child in your 40s, teen in your 50s, and young adult in your 60s? (Our society has extended adolescence into the mid 20s and many many young adults are still living with their parents well into their 20s.)
Continuing is Easier than Starting
Likely it’s the answer to these questions of what you want your future life to look like that is causing you to agonize over this decision because chances are good that you don’t know the answers. How can you since this is unchartered territory for you.
I believe it is easier for people who are already in the midst of parenting to make the decision to have another child when they are in their 40s than for someone who is not a parent to decide to have their first child. They have a better idea of what they are getting into.
People your age who are already parenting also know that they won’t be alone in this “older” parenting journey. You don’t run in the “parents of young kids” circles, so you might have no idea how many people in their late 30s and early to mid-40s are having and adopting children. There are many.
If you decide to adopt or go through another round of IVF using donor eggs, you will not be the only parent over 40 sitting on kiddie chairs at parent-teacher conferences, coaching Little League, or worrying over how much homework is reasonable for an eight year old. You will not be the only parent over 50 teaching your kid to drive, worrying over setting a reasonable curfew, and visiting colleges. You will not be the only parent over 60 paying college tuition, cheering your child’s first job with real benefit, or celebrating a wedding. You will not be the only parent over 70 welcoming a first grandchild.
Is It Fair to the Child?
All decisions we make in regards to children are supposed to be made considering first and foremost what is in the best interest of the child. I absolutely believe that age is more than just a number, even though I wish that weren’t the case. Parenting is for life, and the active hands-on all consuming part will last 20+ years. You have to assess your health and energy to know whether this choice is fair for the child.
What Would You Regret More
You will never know for certain ahead of time the answers to the questions I’ve asked. Maybe the better question is which would you regret less: playing it safe with what you know or taking the risk to start a new life at 40?
Would you have your first child in your 40s? Share your words of wisdom for someone trying to decide.
P.S. My last child joined my family when I was 39 and my husband was 42. We would do it over again in a second.
Image credit: greekadman