People have a lot of opinions.
In our LV Moms Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to someone with a strong opinion about family and money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.
Today, Mimi Plevin-Foust discusses why she decided to wait until her 40s to have children--and how it allowed her to "have it all" without giving up either work success or family life.
I’ll never forget the day I saw those two thin red lines appear on the pregnancy test. A year of supplements, herbs, acupuncture, dietary changes, medical tests and wacky Chinese fertility exercises (along with the ovulatory stimulant Clomid), had actually worked: If all went well, I would become a mother at 44.
My husband, Bill, would be a first-time dad at 55.
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Were we crazy to start a family at the combined age of 99? My child would enter kindergarten when I was 49, the same age as my mother the day she and my dad walked me down the aisle at my wedding.
On top of that, both Bill and I were used to eating dinner when we felt like it, going to the movies any evening we chose and working till late at night when deadlines or inspiration struck (I was a documentary filmmaker, and Bill was an artist and art teacher).
So ... why now?
Why I'm Glad We Waited
People may think it's extreme that I didn't want to become a mother until I was 44, but I'm glad we waited. Having a child was a long-delayed dream of mine. Before I got pregnant, I had spent the last ten years producing and promoting two films about long-term AIDS survivors, as well as helping to produce other documentaries. My films were the main reason I put off parenting. Completing them took so much time and effort that I could not have been a good parent as well.
In my late 30s, we lost an unplanned but wanted pregnancy, which left a terrible pang in my heart whenever I saw a cute baby. Though we researched adoption, I decided that when the time was right, I would try to have a biological child before it was too late, and keep adoption as a back-up plan.
We didn't try again immediately. I was still working on finishing my film at that point, and having a miscarriage left me emotionally unprepared to start trying again right away.
And, financially, having a child later in life, I reasoned, would allow me to build my earning potential more than if I took time off when I was younger (of course, I also ran the risk of increased costs in the event I needed fertility treatments). As a self-employed video producer, maybe I should have worried about expenses after the baby was born, since I had no paid maternity leave. However, we had been saving money; my husband had several part-time teaching jobs both before and after we became parents, and we were renting a reasonably-priced first floor of a house outside New York City.
In terms of my career, by my early 40s I was more than ready to take a break from documentaries. It was time to experience the long-imagined rewards of parenting.
For my husband's part, Bill was content to not be a parent, but he supported my decision fully. And, of course, he fell in love with being a dad the moment he became one.
The Long Path to Pregnancy
As a healthy, lifelong vegetarian, I was sure I would get pregnant quickly. Boy, was I naïve. I didn’t even know that women’s eggs are formed when we are in utero, and that they age along with the rest of us.
I was 42 when I started trying to have kids again, and the year I spent trying to get pregnant was hectic. I began with prenatal vitamins, and researched all I could. Luckily, the health food, herbs and acupuncture were not expensive, and my insurance covered medical tests. We didn’t want to go into debt for IVF.
My understanding was that at that time, IVF alone would have cost us around $10,000 per try. However, because of my age, our doctors suggested that we go the donor egg route right off the bat, which would have been more around $21,000. Since my husband and I both work in the arts, we knew there was no way we could afford that.
The biggest investment was time and effort--getting pregnant was my major project outside of paid work. We tried for a period of a year before it worked. I tried a few things here and there through the first 11 months—seeing the gynecologist regularly, getting a Hysterosalpingogram (where dye is inserted into your fallopian tubes to make sure they're working properly)—but it wasn't until the final month, when I actually did get pregnant, that I started using Clomid and having regular ultrasounds. After those two thin red lines on the pregnancy test 12 months later, it was all worth it. Getting this far without IVF was beating the odds big time. I feel incredibly lucky and blessed.
Of course I knew that our child would have a higher risk of things like Down syndrome because of my age, but when you actually look at the statistics, the chances of that actually happening are so slim. Plus, we knew we'd be testing all along, and we'd make a decision if it came to that. Those "risks" weren't going to hold us back.
I’m happy to report I had a mostly perfect pregnancy. The only truly scary thing was that twice I had breakthrough bleeding (especially scary after our previous miscarriage). We did an ultrasound both times, and thankfully, the baby was fine. I worked with a wonderful team of midwives all the way through, and I avoided taking on any big projects and just did office temp work while I was pregnant so I could be free to go to ultrasounds, childbirth classes, etc.
Then, after five days of labor and a 42-week pregnancy, at last we met our daughter, Katy. She was the prettiest, most perfect, deeply pink baby we had ever seen, with slim lovely limbs and dark hair growing in whorls over her temples and forehead.
It was a miracle, and it didn’t matter that every other parent on earth had shared the same identical miracle as we had. After 20 years as a couple, our new lives as parents had finally begun.
What I've Learned
There are so many things I’ve learned, and been humbled by, in the action-packed ten years since Katy was born. Overall, we've never received any negative reactions from people to our being "later-in-life" parents (other than the few times we've been mistaken as Katy's grandparents ...).
On the financial side, we were not necessarily the greatest financial planners. We're more of a "go-with-the-flow"-type couple. We didn't save up a certain amount before we had our daughter, or overthink our financial situation. If I waited until we were totally financially prepared, I would have been 90!
(Getting ready to have a baby? Our Baby on Board bootcamp will tell you everything you need to be prepared.)
Having a baby at our ages probably did affect our finances, especially since I didn't work for a couple of years after, but as someone who's been in the arts, my way of earning money has always been to work for a few years, save up some money, then take time off to write, or make a film. This is something I was used to. We also have my parents to thank—they helped us out with a financial gift afterward, as well.
How Having a Baby Changed Our Lives
In terms of having a baby when we did, here are three practical insights that stand out:
- It forced us to grow up. Of course we thought about the fact that, as older parents, there was a higher likelihood of our daughter needing outside help if something were to happen to us. However, both Bill's and my parents were healthy, and long-lived. We were acutely aware, however, of the paperwork that was essential for us to set up. We now have life insurance policies, updated wills, a trust, living wills, health care power of attorneys, durable power of attorneys and a slowly growing 529 plan to help pay for college. (If you need help figuring out which life insurance policy is for you, read more about that here. For picking a guardian for your child, read this, and for all things 529-related, check this out.)
- After waiting so long to become a mom, it’s difficult to make myself do work I don’t completely love, even though I need to contribute income. With the help of Bill’s several jobs, our savings and a gift from my parents, I was lucky enough to stay home with Katy for two years and ease back into work. This past year, I co-developed a workshop that helps others figure out how to make money from what they love to do. Coaching people though the process of finding their passionate work has been exciting and inspiring.
- Thank goodness for grandparents! When Katy was 18 months old, Bill and I moved back to Cleveland and bought a house near my parents and my sister's family. Cleveland home values are remarkable; we live in a beautiful, diverse, family-friendly town with great schools, and it is terrific to bring up my daughter so close to extended family who not only help out, but also care about her well-being as much as I do.
Being a mother is so much more challenging than I ever expected, even with my husband and family’s active help. It's not a project for the faint-hearted.
Yet, I’m still glad I waited, giving myself the time to accomplish big goals. I haven’t had to give up or defer my dreams. I still get to go out to the movies, have a date night with Bill and write late into the night if I choose.
All the while, I can marvel at the brains and beauty and wit of the child I brought into this world and look forward to witnessing the unique life she creates in the decades ahead.
Mimi Plevin-Foust helps people learn how to create businesses and careers that grow from their passion and purpose. You can learn more about it at Take Charge Build Wealth. Read about her films at Wide Time Productions.
So, how old were you when you first started trying to have children? Share in the comments or in discussions!