Having a child at the age of 45 is a conscious and deliberate choice. At 45, the whole world seems to be telling you that the time for choice is over, that you’ve already made all the choices you’re going to be able to make and that now is the time to reap what you’ve sown. You read that many believe that the ideal time to have a baby is in your twenties and, shocked, you think of who you were at 29 and know that you could never have made that choice then. Perhaps other women, but not you.
You need to be conscious and deliberate in your choice because there will be many who ask, “Why?” Why are you only trying to have a baby now? Why did you leave it so late? As if pregnancy is like catching a flight and you’ve carelessly left home five minutes later than you should so now you have to race to get to the check-in counter in time … At 45, choosing to buck the trend of biology and society means that people get to ask you questions you suspect they would consider too intrusive to ask a 25-year-old drug addict. And you feel obliged to have a compelling answer because, somehow, “I want to” doesn’t seem quite enough.
When you’re pregnant at the age of 45, you suddenly find yourself concerned about how you’re ageing and an entire lifetime of defining yourself by means of your intellectual, spiritual and emotional growth and, yes, worldly success, recedes until you’re as resistant to ageing as Barbie.
I’m a 49-year-old mother who has agonised over dying and leaving behind a child too young to care for herself. For the first time in my life, I find myself rooting for someone – my daughter – to make different decisions to mine; to marry at 25 and have children at 30 so that she’ll have a family of her own when it’s time for me to leave her. And I ask myself whether this is not rank selfishness on my part.
In the long years waiting for my daughter to come to me, I thought about all the things I had chosen over motherhood in the decades gone before. I weighed up a successful career, financial independence, the exultation of using my mind to its fullest capability. I considered all those things I’d been the first in my family to experience – the awe of standing at the foot of the pyramids at Giza, flying through the Grand Canyon in a helicopter – and the truth is that, when I thought about it, I didn’t find my choices wanting. I was not sorry for the path I’d taken, the life I’d made. I loved my life – detours, bumps and all. I did feel, deep within me, though, a fear that I was expected to be sorry, to acknowledge my errors and live with the consequences of my choices in much the same way I had judged the choices of others in the past. I feared that the choices I’d made carelessly all my life, my cavalier attitude to doing what was expected of me, were all coming home to roost in the form of consequences designed to chastise and humble me.
It took me a long while to see the truth: that this was not retribution. The choices I’d made were simply the choices I’d made, no more, no less, and having a baby at 45 was just another of those choices. My life was not a tale of morality for myself or others. It was – is – just my life as I’ve chosen to live it.
In the months before I fell pregnant, somehow knowing it was near, I thought about this choice: of interrupted nights and a disorganised and disorderly home life for years to come. I wondered whether I’d have the energy to run around after a toddler and if I would be able to balance motherhood and a career. I honestly didn’t know. You can make a deliberate choice without knowing exactly how it will turn out.
A long time ago, before Google made the world a smaller and more knowable place and, therefore, all wishes equal-opportunity, I chose not to live the life to which a teenaged Indian girl should aspire. At 40, I was so overwhelmed by the statistics that suggested that I was too old to have a baby and the weight of everyone else’s choices and experiences that it took me years to rediscover that blissfully ignorant and supremely powerful deliberate creator inside me. There was a quiet but perfectly clear voice that said, “Stop looking at what others are doing. Choose what you desire. Call it forth.”
And so I did.