Yes, it’s true that becoming a parent too soon can be harmful. Teenage pregnancy can lead to poverty and social barriers because most teens can’t offer the stability needed to raise a family on their own. But at the same time, waiting too long to have kids holds many physical, mental, and even spiritual consequences. We need to find balance in our lifestyle choices instead of promoting one extreme over the other.
Now, I want to clarify before I begin that I obviously understand that not all women have the option of having children in their twenties, whether they haven’t met the right man yet or have trouble conceiving, etc. What I am arguing against is the so-called societal wisdom that tells young women to treat their twenties as disposable and makes no distinction between fertility in your twenties versus your thirties. I am speaking to young women who still have the chance to prioritize finding a partner and having children young in the hopes that they may learn from my experience.
Our Body’s Physical Limitations Increase As We Age
According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “A woman’s peak reproductive years are between the late teens and late twenties.” As women age into their thirties and forties, their fertility rates decrease while risks of complications and birth defects increase.
My sister was 33 when she and her husband decided to have children. She suffered multiple miscarriages, and they struggled through, hoping to become parents. With the help of progesterone, she finally had a little girl at the age of 35, but the delivery was not smooth. My sister ruptured and bled out. She would have died if she weren’t at a birthing center connected to a hospital.
My journey was a bit different. I had my first baby when I was 26. After years of being told that the world is overpopulated and having children was a burden, I finally realized that my maternal rights were more important to me than newfound societal standards. Plenty of women warned me that “once your turn 25, the baby fever kicks in.” And it did.
With each baby, my body felt more pains.
I was active and fit, and my body handled the swelling and discomfort like a pro. Sometimes I wonder if women are made of elastic the way we can grow a baby and snap back. But with each baby, my body felt more pains. Braxton Hicks contractions began earlier with each pregnancy, and the afterpains that come post-delivery grew more intense each time as well.
There was definitely a difference between how my body responded to motherhood with my first two children ─ who were born before I turned 30 ─ and my last two. My fourth and last baby was born just after I turned 37, and with him came new joint pains and backaches. If it weren’t for yoga, I would be a hunchback.
Breastfeeding is also more challenging. Breast infections like mastitis are painful and take time to heal. I experienced one case of mastitis with each of my first three children, but with my youngest, I had five intense cases of mastitis – that tells me my body is done. Even if I wanted to have more kids, I don’t think I could physically handle it.
The Mental and Emotional Toll of Trying To Conceive
Having four kids is plenty for me, but my sister struggled through three painful IVF rounds and gave up on baby number two before she finally got pregnant again, and gave birth right before her 40th birthday. The mental toll of trying for a baby and struggling for years was so painful for her. It led to anxiety and depression.
But these issues are not just exclusive to fertility issues. Women who wait to have children later in life are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression. The Journal of the American Academy of Physicians Assistants reported that “Women over age 30 years have a statistically significant increased risk of postpartum depression.”
Women over 30 have a statistically significant increased risk of postpartum depression.
Not to mention that as women age, we lose muscle mass and it becomes more difficult for us to burn fat. Losing baby weight should never be a mother’s main focus, but many women look forward to getting back in shape, and when their goals are harder to achieve they grow self-conscious about their bodies, which can lead to mental illnesses like Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).
I struggled with this after my second baby was born. Her birth was a rough one. She got stuck coming out, and afterward she suffered from thrush and colic. She never wanted to eat, and I often felt like she was rejecting me when she rejected my milk.
It made me look at my body differently. And not in a pleasant way. I was 29, and I saw every imperfection as a blemish. I hated what I looked like because I wasn’t really seeing me. After a long year of pumping and crying, I felt like I had been to war with myself and it took a lot of internal healing to get past that.
Children Give Us Purpose
Despite the ups and downs, everyone finds their own way. My sister and I both came to the conclusion that if we had started our families sooner then our physical and mental health would have had a better chance of being more stable. There’s a lot of regret that comes with waiting to do something we’re biologically designed to do earlier.
There’s a lot of regret that comes with waiting to do something we’re biologically designed to do earlier.
There are a lot of people out there who seem spiritually stunted. Infantilized even. I attribute this to the fact that children drive a society forward. Not to break out classic Whitney Houston and start singing, “I believe the children are our future,” or anything, but adults are more responsible when they have someone to care for.
Children remind us of our greater purpose. For many parents, they change our entire perception of the world. In our children, we see hope. They remind us of the better aspects of humankind. Without that, we’re left with little more than bitter cynicism.
Waiting to have children may sound like a great plan when you’re young, but the older we get, the more we value our most fertile years – our twenties. This is the time when women are physically, mentally, and spiritually better at giving birth and caring for young children ─ whether we acknowledge it or not.
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