Pregnancy at 42 is different. In many ways, it is harder than it was when I was younger. I don’t have the strength I used to. I begin to show earlier, and I grow huge; no gorgeous, skinny mama, belly pics for me! Morning sickness is worse at this age. Fatigue is worse too. Diastasis recti and pelvic floor prolapse are new vocabulary words to define old symptoms. Genetic risks are higher. Risks of pregnancy complications are higher. Risk of miscarriage is higher. As an older mother, there is an increased chance I could die before this baby is grown.
All of that is true. I can see why some might look at our family and wonder if we are crazy.
But I look at it differently.
What is “too old”?
First, who decides what the magic number is, the number which officially makes a woman too old for babies? General consensus? Doctors? Our neighbors?
How do we define “too old”? Is it a matter of how many gray hairs or wrinkles we have? Does it mean “outside cultural norms”?
Is the number variable by woman or is it universal across the board? Are healthy women allowed a higher number before “too old” is reached, whereas women in delicate health are marked earlier?
Does it have anything to do with whether or not we already have children? Do women who marry later in life get an extension on what age is acceptable to have a baby?
Is it a matter of health? Does it refer to an age that carries pregnancy risks? If that’s the case, wouldn’t the label apply to every woman?
What are the risks, really?
Actually, I don’t view the “increased risks” in older mother pregnancies as being dire at all. According to Merck, the risk of giving birth to a Down Syndrome baby at 42 years old is 1 in 64. If you have a calculator handy, you’ll find that is equal to 1.5%. This means that I have a 98.5% chance of giving birth to a child without Down Syndrome.
The risk of having a child with any chromosomal abnormality is 1 in 42 for me, or 2.3%, which means I have a 97.7% chance of having a child with no chromosomal abnormalities.
And life expectancy? The average white woman in the United States lives to be 81, while the average white man lives to be 76 (Source: Medical News Today). My likelihood – and my husband’s – of living to raise this child to adulthood are still pretty high.
Miscarriage rates are sobering, to be sure. Women who are 35-45 yrs old have a 20-35% chance of miscarriage. But I’ve experienced that, and while it was painful, I have never regretted the fact that my sweet baby girl was conceived. She has an eternal soul, and that fact is so much bigger than the fact that I mourn her loss while here on earth.
Some stats look promising, others less so. Either way, my hope is not in statistics.
Who really decides?
I would answer that first question this way: God decides.
For me, this answer brings clarity to all the other answers as well.
Life is uncertain, no matter how old we are. Having a baby at any age carries risks. We can not know what the future holds, whether that future appears bright or dire. We can be wrong.
But God is all-knowing. He does know what the future holds. And he is good!
And, he is the creator of life. We may try to make our choices in the life-giving department, but God is still sovereign over the womb, and he can override our choices. If he chooses, he can open the womb while a couple is using birth control, and he may sometimes close the womb even when a couple deeply desires a child. It’s a painful thing to accept.
I believe that if God, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, chooses to give me a baby at 42, then he believes I am young enough, and he knows best. God will decide when I am too old to bear children, and when that time comes, he will stop sending babies.
Until then, I receive each blessing with joy and gratitude.
Trusting in the goodness of God is enough to drown out any fears of the “what-ifs.” What-ifs are paralyzing. If we let the what-ifs dictate our decisions, we would never do anything worth doing.
I would rather trust God.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV