Although I didn’t plan to put off having a baby until I was in my 40s, fate made sure that I was ready before I met my baby girl. I’d already lived in some of the greatest cities, devoted time to my career, eaten at all the restaurants, been to the parties, traveled around the world and gone to hundreds of movies in the middle of the day just because I could.
I finally grew tired of doing all of that strictly for myself.
Eight weeks ago, at age 42, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Throughout my pregnancy I was told by many how much my life was about to change. “Good,” was my response, “I’m finally ready for that.”
During pregnancy I enjoyed the process of letting go and thinking about someone else for a change. And now as a new mother, I am forced to surrender even more.
There’s a lot of fear associated with having a baby when you are over the age of 35. Terms like “high-risk” and “geriatric” put pressure on women to have babies by a certain age, even when they might be better off waiting. But I’m glad I didn’t become a first-time mom until my 40s.
In addition to it being a welcome change of pace, here are five reasons why:
1. I don’t obsess about losing the baby weight.
Ever since becoming aware of my body in the sixth grade, I’ve focused on working out and staying slim. I’ve spent thousands of hours in fluorescent-lit gyms.
But these days, while I’m still active and aim to eat healthy, I no longer obsess about it. As a breastfeeding mom, I enjoy eating knowing that the food I consume is helping my daughter grow. And the moderate exercise I get—the long walks and hikes with her in the baby carrier—is time we have to bond. I’m now more focused on how I feel rather than the end result I see in the mirror.
There’s something about my uterus stretching out to 1,000 times its normal size to grow a human being that makes me look at my postpartum belly and shrug, “Oh well.” Plus, at age 42, there’s less pressure to rock a “bikini body” anyway.
2. I feel younger and more alive.
The process of giving birth has awakened in me a renewed sense of wonder, joy, and creativity. The world feels fresh and full of possibilities because I see this potential every day residing within my daughter. It’s contagious.
It also doesn’t hurt that many people I meet assume I am in my 30s—because, after all, if I’m the mother of a newborn I can’t be that old, right?
3. I have more money to spend on the baby items I want to buy.
Let’s face it: Babies cost money—the diapers, wipes, copays, gear, etc. It all adds up. My finances were much tighter in my 20s and 30s and I was terrible when it came to budgeting. But with time and hard work, I’ve finally been able to turn that around.
Now, when I’m breastfeeding in the middle of the night I can actually afford an Amazon shopping spree for the Snuggabunny baby swings and Baby Bjorn bouncers in organic cotton that I want—and there’s zero guilt because I’m buying them for my baby.
4. There’s no time for a midlife crisis.
Being with my daughter requires that I be in the moment. In fact, she starts to cry if I stare at my phone for more than a few seconds. And as I juggle the day-to-day aspects of motherhood, there’s no time to be anywhere but where I am. How can there be when there is barely enough time to pick the poop-stained clothes off the floor?
As a new mom, I’m not thinking about past regrets or missed opportunities. Instead, I’m focused on right now. And my “right now” is pretty wonderful.
5. I have perspective on the world and my place in it.
A doula friend of mine once told me about a 25-year-old client she had who was extremely disappointed that her baby arrived early because it meant she was going to miss Coachella. On the contrary, I spent all of April in a milk-drunk cocoon cuddling with my little one. I left the house twice and that was to go to the pediatrician. The world carried on quite well without my being out and about, and not once did I think about what I was missing.
I have a healthy sense of self-assuredness in my 40s that I never had when I was younger. And, if there is one thing I hope to give to my daughter, it’s the ability to find this within herself.