Morning Edition had a story today about the difficulty faced by women who are waiting until later in life to have their first children. It struck me on several levels.
First, some positives. One of the husbands profiled in the piece (this didn’t make it onto the print edition) was jolted into reality by his wife’s surprise pregnancy.
I’d been floating along in life, going to work, doing my job… I was fairly good at it, but wasn’t concentrating so much on moving up. When I found out we were pregnant, I went to my boss and said… life is coming, and I’m ready to step up to it.
He also seemed to be an involved dad, handling feeding & baths and splitting the housework. Good for him. The story also mentioned that more women, especially moms of infants, are choosing to stay home with their children, seeing that as their job, and they had a quote from a mom who said she enjoyed being with her children and wouldn’t want it any other way. This is always great to hear.
But the larger trend is not good. The average age of a first-time mother is still 25, which is a healthy age for childbearing. But fertility peaks at about 22, drops sharply after 35, and more and more women are putting children off until they’re 40 or older. An example:
At 38, [Amy] has a good job, a nice home and a husband who she thinks “will be a wonderful father,” she says. “I finally feel like I’m ready to give a child or children a good home.”
Another woman talked about the kinds of things she wanted to do before having a child:
And I wanted time with my husband, time to play, time to get certain things out of my system… I just wanted to be ready.
Of course, wanting to be good parents, and wanting time together without children, isn’t a bad thing. But the trend is to build a career, make plenty of money, get all the really fun stuff done… then settle down and have kids. There’s an assumption, too, that you have to have a good bit of money and a nice house before you’re “ready to give a child a good home.”
Sadly, sometimes this results in great difficulty in conceiving.
[Amy’s ] body isn’t as ready. [She] has endured fertility treatments for two years. “When I look at these people who get pregnant at a drop by accident … yeah, it makes me very angry,” she says, noting she’d wrongly believed she’d succeed as long as she began trying “by the time I was 38 or 40.”
I have nothing but sympathy for people who are dealing with the pain of infertility. We’ve dealt with it ourselves. But unfortunately, this is the price many couples are beginning to have to pay for those extra few years of freedom. The human body just isn’t designed to produce children forever.
All this is one fruit of our culture’s increasingly unbiblical view of children: they’re seen mostly as a burden to be taken up only once you’ve “gotten things out of your system,” not as a “blessing from the Lord” (Ps 127:3). Of course there are good reasons to avoid pregnancy in some seasons: perhaps financial hardship, health problems, or serious marital issues to be addressed first. But putting children off so that we can buy all the toys we want (or build them the house we want for them) can have sad consequences.