Having a baby in your 40s or late 30s can be a fantastic experience. Learn which three things to start doing before making the big decision.
The Parenting Over 40 podcast is the place to hear various episodes about being a parent during 30s, 40s, 50s and tips on having babies later in life with Frank Sasso.
Are you considering having kids later in life? Do you wonder if you are too old to become parents? How do you prepare for making this big step? The truth is many couples are deciding to parents into their 30s, 40s and even 50s. This major life decision involves a lot more than just the ability to become pregnant.
Hello- and welcome to episode one of The Parenting Over 40 Podcast. I’m your host, Frank Sasso. I’m a licensed psychotherapist out of Chicago, IL. I’m also a dad, who made the decision with my wife to have a child after 40
In today’s podcast, I’m going to give you 3 tips when preparing to have a baby later in life.
Perhaps you are in your 30s, 40s or even 50s and thinking about having babies? You might be pretty settled in your own life but have always felt like something was missing. This podcast is for both couples and individuals who want to take the giant step into parenthood.
You know, making the decision to have a child a little later in life is needless to say – a huge decision. For millions of women, having a baby in their 20s and early 30s just wasn’t possible for a variety of reasons.
I want to share some interesting data from an article I came across over on the Atlantic. The article is titled: The Rise of Older Mothers, According to the article, more woman than ever before are having babies after 40. In fact, the piece goes on to explain that one of the main reasons’ women are having babies later on in life is due to delays in marriage.
Here’s a just a short expert: from the article: “Women in the United States are having children at record low rates, according to the latest statistical release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2017, births were down 2 percent from 2016 and were at their lowest in 30 years. In fact, the only group of women that were having babies more than anyone else were those over 40 over 40.
I’ll make sure to leave a link in the show notes at parentingover40.com
So there you have it! According to our own Centers for Disease Control, more woman than ever before are choosing to have children into their 40s.
You know-I’ve met so many couples over the years who think that age 30 is somehow the absolute latest they can wait to have kids. They self-impose all this pressure and stress on their relationship because they’ve convinced themselves there is a biological deadline.
Well, times are a changing and 30 can actually be considered young to start having kids these days.
Now maybe you were in a prior relationship years ago that wasn’t a good fit for having a baby. Is it possible that you have decided that you’re way more emotionally mature now than you were during your 20s I know I am. Perhaps having a child wasn’t even physically an option for you in the past.
For example, my wife biologically couldn’t become pregnant the natural way. We tried forever and pregnancy thru traditional means just wasn’t possible. As a couple, we waited years for technology to advance to a point where my wife Jenny, could become pregnant through invitro fertilization. Now, I realize that invitro is still a little controversial but that’s what happened. That discussion is for a whole other episode.
Anyhow, no matter what your past circumstances were- you may finally be in a place where you’re able to give serious thought about having your own kids later in life.
The truth is that there is no right or wrong age. Would it have been more ideal for me and my wife to have started a family earlier in life? Sure but every situation is different. Making that choice to have babies as an older adult is a deeply personal decision.
Just a quick disclaimer to everyone out there. This podcast is not a substitute for mental health counseling and I’m not your personal therapist.
Having said that, I’ve put together 3 tips before having a baby later on in life.
If you’re ready, we can jump right in.
Get Yourself Emotionally Ready
Let me start out with a little analogy for this one. If you were going on a camping trip, wouldn’t you want to learn some skills that will enhance your experience? At the very least you might want to learn how to start a fire or pitch a tent. In this the situation of having children later in life, you’re going to be embarking on a different kind of journey. One that can be both fun, exciting but one that can absolutely test your boundaries – especially if you are doing this a little later in life. Getting yourself emotionally ready can mean learning some tools that will help you manage stress, anxiety and even addressing some things that you might have buried down deep inside.
And before I go on, let me tell you why getting emotionally ready is so important.
There’s a very good chance that your baby will be able to pick up on your emotions. They can do this in a variety of ways. According to scientific research published on mentalhelp.net, infants can actually sense our mood level. They can do this through hearing our voice speed, our voice inflection, and the micro facial expressions on our face.
. We do I mean when I say emotionally ready? Look, we all have our own stuff- Stuff that is deep inside that it can be hard just to think about dealing with it. No one is immune from carrying that emotional weight that we hide from everyone else. Imagine taking constantly taking in long deep breaths without ever exhaling. That’s what emotional stuff can sometimes feel like. Sometimes, you just need to deal with that stuff, so that you can feel balanced before starting that family. Whether it’s pushing away difficult memories from your own childhood, to struggling with anxiety and stress. Maybe you struggle with feeling impatient and you worry that you won’t have the patience to parent a toddler. Lord knows I had to work on improving my own patience before our daughter was born. Wheew, I think I’m still working on that one.
Do you feel stressed out from work? Is the idea of making a big change in your life kind of scary? Are you already an anxious person and wonder how that will effect your relationship with the child?
Whether you’ve been trying to cope with trauma from your own childhood that still bothers you or you just want to feel more balanced – talking to someone before, during and yes after the pregnancy can help.
By the way, this goes for both men, especially men, and women. The idea here is that you want to be the very best version of yourself possible when you bring that precious life home. Of course everything won’t be immediately resolved by going to therapy. But it is a good way to start.
The reason I mentioned that this is especially true for guys is because as men, we tend to put a lot of stigma around mental health. In other words, a lot of guys out there still think that going to talk with someone about their own baggage or problems means weakness. You know, we are machismo and supposedly too strong to work on our own issues. As a counselor, I see this invisible barrier all the time with my own male clients. Ask yourself, if you had a broken ankle, wouldn’t you go get some help? Would you just walk around in pain everyday and let that ankle get worse? Of course you wouldn’t. What I’m getting at is there is absolutely nothing wrong with making an effort to improve your overall mental wellness. You know what’s really crazy? Knowing that something is wrong but not doing anything about it. I’ll tell you, going to a therapist isn’t the only way to reach out. Talk with someone that you feel comfortable with. For example, a priest, rabbi or minister are great alternatives to traditional psychotherapy.
With so many advancements in technology, you can even do this from with privacy from home thru virtual counseling. I just want to stress that dealing with your own stuff has the potential to pay big dividends for both yourself, and the relationship will have with your/ child.
This one may sound kind of cliché but communication it’s probably one of the most undervalued keys. That’s because in my experience, older parents tend to be just a tad more settled into daily routines.
I remember the day my wife got the call from the fertility clinic that she was finally pregnant. It was a typical icy cold day in Chicago, but surprisingly sunny for March. And there we were- she was just about to turn 40 and I was already a few years beyond that age.
For years, we had literally given up on the idea of her ever getting pregnant – But in that moment when the phone rang -Everything changed in an instant. And at that very second, we would begin our journey into a whole new word.
Looking back, we didn’t do much talking about how our lives would be so different once our daughter was born – we were probably too afraid to jinx the whole invitro process. I can still remember the doctor placing the fertilized egg into my wife’s body. He looked back at me and said, “Looks like a winner”.
Man, was he ever right, we were able to have a beautiful baby.
Now that our daughter is here, I really can’t imagine having a life without her. She’s has totally brought so much unbelievable joy and happiness into our lives that it’s hard for me to describe. What really surprised me was that I didn’t know I could have that much love inside of me for another person. It’s a much more primal connection I feel with her as her father.
But it wasn’t like she was just born and the rest was easy. Are you kidding, it’s still not easy. This wasn’t some fairy tale book that you read in a book. This was real and this was happening to us.
For me, change is something that I personally struggled with. Perhaps you do too? I had to get my head around the fact that after years of being in a relationship with my wife, it would be no longer about us anymore. I’d have to learn to be okay with waking up in the morning to change my daughters diapers instead of going straight to the gym. I could no longer just plan those weekend trip on a moments notice…at least not for a little while. The focus of life would now need to be about my daughter, and the kind of family life we wanted to create for her.
Have you ever heard anyone say, “ If I had to do things over, I wouldn’t change a thing”? When I hear that expression, I think to myself, Yea, not so much. There is a LOT I would have changed.
For example, I wish my wife would have told me that I’d have to make new sleeping arrangements in another room with our cat Neptune, because the baby called dibs on my side of the bed.
It would have been nice to know that I needed to brush up on my child suppository skills.
I would have really appreciated months earlier that the living room in our small condo would now become a makeshift nursery and I’d have to find a new place to watch football games.
It also would have been great to have discussed that our yearly trips to Vegas would shall we say : be a little different.
To make things a little more challenging, our household is of mixed racial origin. Although we were both born in The United States, my wife is Filipino and I’m of Italian heritage.
I never knew that in her culture, a child could have countless god parents or that my wife would suddenly start yelling at me in Filipino whenever the baby stressed her out. Somehow, I managed to learn a few of those words she was saying. Who knew that all of the sudden my mother in law would be showing up so often?
Uh huh, in hindsight, I really wish we would have taken a little more time to talk to each other about the very real changes that would happen once we brought our little bundle of joy home.
I’m here to tell you from being on the front lines that building strong communication with your partner is absolutely critical to making this work.
Let’s say you are listening to this right now and your somewhere between your mid 30s and 40s. You and your partner have been together a little while and your comfortable in your current routines.
Do you see the potential for any problems here?
Please whatever you do, start getting your relationship ready now by communicating with your partner now about setting some realistic expectations for life after the baby is born. I have to tell you straight, these can be some rocky discussions, and in a lot of situations – there’s going to be some negotiations. Seriously, the more you plan things out the better your relationship will be.
I’ll cut to the chase – try to plan out the expectations and responsibilities during the pregnancy. If you are adopting a child then you will even have more time to get everything situated.
Just don’t leave anything to chance.
Hey guys out there, you may want to ask your partner the following questions based on my own experiences:
Where am I sleeping the first few months when the baby gets home?
(Yes you need to ask this)
Where can we carve out time so that we can spend time together as a couple?
Who will be handling preparing meals for us? If it’s me, then I’ll need to do some food prep.
What days will you need me to set aside to watch the baby?
How many months will you be taking off work?
How long do will you need me to take off work?
There are countless questions you will want to review but I think you get the point. Whether it’s finances to work schedules, begin working through these situations as soon as possible.
Communicating and preparing is the best remedy for avoiding stress.
Speaking of communications, did you know there is a good chance you’re your new baby will be able to pick up on your mood level? Little infants are smart, and they can actually sense your emotions. There was some research published at mental health. net that shows babies can sense our emotions by hearing our voice inflections or even tunning into our voice speed. They can even read the micro facial expressions on our face.
This is another good reason to try and improve your communications with your partner, because you want to reduce as much tension as possible in the household. You don’t need that baby to take in bad energy.
If you have all these unexpected situations arise when the baby gets home, you’re inevitably going to be more stressed out than you normally would be.
You may be thinking I already have good communications with my partner. After all, we are a little older and we get along better now.
Well this may be true but I just want to teach you a skill that might improve the way you communicate.
In my private counseling practice, I sometimes work with couples. In a majority of the cases, I can’t help but to notice there is a fundamental breakdown in communication in the relationship. For the most part, the wife will start the session by saying something to the effect of “I just feel like he doesn’t understand me” And of course upon hearing this, the husband becomes defensive and feels like he is being attacked.
You may experience a similar situation as older parents. Are you already experiencing this breakdown in communication?
As a teaching tool for couples, I keep a pair of blingy of fake eyeglasses in my desk drawer. They are pretty over the top – completely huge and sparkly.
And before handing one of them the pair of glasses. I’ll introduce the concept of active listening to the couple. I usually encourage the husband to go first. I’ll tell him that these are magical glasses, and that when he wears them, it will be almost as if he has the power to see the world through her eyes.
The husband will look back at me and say, okay, that sounds easy enough.
I’ll then ask, are you sure you’re ready?
I then tell him you must follow two simple rules when you’re practicing active with your wife:
One. You are not allowed to judge what she says.
Two: You must try to genuinely reflect back to her what she is saying to you. In other words, you must try to see the world thru your wife’s eyes.
I warn them that this usually takes several tries. It’s not as easy as it may sound.
I’ll then set the digital timer for 5 min.
The wife will then begin to tell him what’s really been bothering her. She really tells him what’s on his mind.
The husband is then instructed to try as best as he can to feel the emotion in her words. He is then asked to use his own words to reflect back what she just said.
After a a few min, I’ll ask the couple to switch roles. After some practice, they learn the ability to hear what the other person is saying instead of just trying to push one point of view.
As parents who are starting a little later in life, you can start using this skill right away.
Males out there, trust me on this one. You want to try to use this skill. There are going to be days when you won’t even recognize your wife because she’s so burned out from mothering the kid.
She is not looking for someone to fix her problems. She doesn’t need to be fixed. She wants someone who will listen and empathize with how she’s feeling.
There is a great article on active listening from Psychology Today. I’ll leave the link in the show notes.
Start an Exercise Routine
There was a time before my wife’s pregnancy where just thinking about having a baby over 40 would send me down the rabbit hole of worry. I’d have racing thoughts like, “When my daughter turns 20, I’ll be 66”. I’ll be the oldest dad at her school. What will the other parents think? Before long I was catastrophizing the most terrible scenarios.
That’s when I decided that I needed to be proactive about the aging process instead of reactive. I never want to be a parent who is out of breath from picking up my child. At middle age, I owe it to my daughter to try and be as healthy as possible.
You probably know that exercise can help you look better. But did you know that exercising just 2.5 hours a week increases your chances of living 7 years longer?
There is a great article about this on Alina Health titled, “Exercise is Key to Living Longer”.
Researchers from Brigham Young University found that people who exercise seem to age at a rate that is about 9 years slower than those who don’t. This happens at a molecular level within the DNA.
The team also compared a group of active 40 year olds with active 70 year olds. The results were amazing. They found that the 70 year olds had hearts and lungs that were just as strong as their 40 year old counterparts.
Folks, this means that at age 70, you can be in just as good of shape as someone 30 years younger. I like to think of exercise as an investment into my baby’s future. The longer I can remain physically healthy, the better my chances of living well into the future. Plus, it has the added benefit of teaching her the benefits of exercising as she grows older.
It goes without saying that you should speak with your physician before starting any program. With that said, here are just a few reasons for older parents to start exercising:
Improved immune system.
The goal here is to get a leg up on the hands of time. When your baby turns into a toddler, you will want to be able to keep up. Once they learn how to walk, it’s not long before they run. Once they start running, look out! Come to think of it, I don’t think my kid ever really walked. It seems like she woke up one day and started sprinting. In any event, you want to be able to play with your kid without feeling completely exhausted.
Before you go an start doing the next booty blasting or ab challenge, take some time to thank about what kind of physical activities you already enjoy? If you like doing something already, then you’re probably more likely to be consistent about it.
This doesn’t have to workouts that are super intense. Moderate exercise is the name of the game. If you are brand new to fitness, perhaps a brisk walk a few times per week is a good place to start. Maybe biking is more your thing. Some people do just fine with kick boxing classes.
Whatever it is that helps you to be active, then by all means, find a way to start doing it.
I want to thank you for joining me on this first ever episode. I hope that I was able to share with you some helpful points of view. I know you could be anywhere else and I very much appreciate you took the time to stop by here.
Remember, you don’t have to be 20 something to have a baby anymore. With the right preparation, you can joins millions of couples who have made a choice to have children well into their 30s and 40s.
If you would like to read any of the information I’ve mentioned today, please visit the Parenting Over 40 website at www.anxietytherapistpodcast.
Planning on having a baby at 30, 40 or 50? This episode looks at parenting tips for older couples who want to have children.