Tick tock goes the biological clock.
If you’re a woman in your thirties (or even approaching it), there’s a good chance that you are reminded of this ticking time bomb from time to time. By ‘well wishers’, significant others, parents and relatives, sometimes even by random strangers. Afshan Anjum recounts some of the strangest advice and questions she faced when she decided to have a baby in her late 30s.
What’s your biggest fear in life? Losing your job? Getting divorced? Loneliness? Mine was being deprived of motherhood. And sometimes the more you long for something, the longer it takes to come to you.
I had my child in my late thirties, at an age I believed I had already lived more than half my life. By then, everyone including my mother, neighborhood aunties, gynaecologists and even my maids had reminded me that it was high time I had a baby. I wasn’t just constantly reminded of the biological clock but also given hints of how it may just never happen. I did truly want it too, from the bottom of my heart. But how could I have a child before 35 when I only got married at 35? I wonder how many societies around the world actually advise having a child post 35 years of age. This number seems has become an unofficial cut-off age for being a mother.
Pandora’s box of fears:
While I always dreamed of motherhood, the more I delayed, the more it opened a world of apprehensions and fears I never previously had. The moment you start planning, you’re bombarded with advice, often dire pronouncements that you’re not really ready to hear. A few very scary, like an acquaintance telling me that Downs syndrome and many other genetic disorders could be related to a mother’s old age. If you ask a doctor though, it’s purely genetic and connected to family history and not to how many birthdays the mother has celebrated. A few people also believe that as you grow older, you should start planning for a child way before you actually want one as your ageing body will take much longer to conceive. And if everything else goes well, there’s a whole bunch of people waiting to tell you how difficult the process of childbirth is and there’s no chance you can deliver naturally at this age.
For me, fortunately motherhood happened just when I wished for it. I’d already crossed the “cut-off age” by two years though, and so even the questions I was being asked had changed by now. Every time I went for a scan or test, the practitioner conducting it would have a few queries. Was it an IVF? Why was I having a child so late? Had I been trying for many years? Had I miscarried in the past? My answer to everything was an emphatic ‘No.’ A big yes had already been answered by nature.
I clearly understood that motherhood did not really have any deadlines or cut-off age. My doctor also told me about success stories of women in their late thirties and even forties, giving birth naturally. Gradually all the doubts cleared up. I could actually understand, read and discuss pregnancy and motherhood better at this age as compared to what I would have done in my twenties.
However I realized that just like everything else in life, nothing is black and white here as well.
Age isn’t just a number. It definitely isn’t. With age comes fatigue and lack of energy. Not just to give birth, but in order to run after a toddler, be up all night and manage work and home together. But age is also about the experience. It has already taught you patience and given you the wisdom to deal with the emotional and physical pain. Age gives you mental strength if not physical. And I felt that an older mother may be slightly wiser and a bit more patient.
A colleague’s advice in this regard stayed with me forever and I still pass it on to all would be mothers who are full of apprehensions. She told me that childbirth and motherhood was neither about your age nor physical power. It’s all about will power and the courage we can muster up for a new beginning. Once you become a mother, worry not, as nature will get the best out of you.
How I look at it today
If I’d become a mother ten years ago, at forty I would have had a friend in my child, reading articles like this one instead of a little one going to nursery. But I may not have been who I am today. I wouldn’t have been able to tell the world that it’s okay to be a mommy approaching forty. The world needs a few of us on this side of the fence too.
If you’re destined to be a mother, you can manage it at any age and time of life. It’s still the most beautiful feeling in the world and is definitely worth the wait.
Mother of a one year old called Zizou. Makes good mutton curry. Afshan is also the News editor & Anchor at NDTV sports.