In fact, having a child at 37 is increasingly common. New ONS figures suggest the number of women in England and Wales getting pregnant in their thirties has surpassed those getting pregnant in their twenties for the first time ever.
As the Duchess becomes a parent, six women who’ve been there and done that, reflect on why having a child at 37 was the right time for them.
“I am much more sure of who I am.”
Priya Joi, 42, grew up in Kent but now lives in France. She gave birth to her first child at the age of 37.
“When we were trying for a baby, I remember thinking that as I was older, it may not happen straight away, or at all. But I got pregnant immediately, and felt very healthy. I was doing tonnes of exercise so I didn’t feel that old – until I was described as a ‘geriatric’ mum on my medical forms. That was the point when I started to wonder about potential problems with the baby’s development. I had a very healthy pregnancy, but I did wonder whether I had just been really lucky.
“I’ve definitely thought about my age as I parent. For one thing, I often feel that the extreme sleep deprivation would be easier if I wasn’t nudging 40 when my daughter was a baby – I just couldn’t seem to go to the gym or do any of my normal things. I also found it much harder to get fit after pregnancy and while I don’t think women should expect to ‘spring back’, my body might have recovered quicker.
“Having said that, I am grateful I had my daughter when I did – 10 years earlier, I was a hungry young journalist, who worked seven days a week. I would never have built the career I love without that hard graft, which would have been impossible with a baby. I’ve also seen enough of life to be a relaxed parent. I didn’t fret about my baby having only home-cooked organic purees, nor do I fret about her watching the odd bit of baby TV. I’m 42 now and much more sure of who I am, and that definitely influences the kind of mother I am.”
“I don’t consider myself an ‘older’ mum. I’m just a mum.”
Sarah Burns, now 47, from London, became a mum for the first time at 37.
“Having children wasn’t a priority and I knew that having them did not fix fragile relationships, it just broke them. I’d been in a few long-term relationships but having a baby never crossed my mind. I met my (now) husband, when I was 34, and he was worth the wait. He already had a three-year old daughter who stayed with us at weekends. I loved this time together, and recognised that I’d treasure the chance to be more than a part-time mum, and that this was the man with whom I wanted a baby.
“At 37, you are considered a geriatric mum by the medical profession, and I worried a lot when I was pregnant about how my age might affect the a baby. However, I never considered myself too old to be a mum. For me, it was the right time, and I have never regretted not doing it sooner.
“Nothing prepares you for becoming a parent, regardless of your age, but I believe my decisions as an older parent are better informed than those my younger self could have made. Decision-making aside, however, the younger me would have found the physical challenges of being a parent easier – it’s definitely more exhausting at my age.
“My friendship group is made up almost entirely of women who had children late in life, so I don’t consider myself an ‘older’ mum. I’m just a mum.”
“Having kids later has kept me younger.”
Esther Bell, 45, is based in Surrey. At first she didn’t want children, but after miscarrying an unplanned pregnancy aged 33, she changed her mind. She gave birth to her daughter, Marguerite, aged 34 and her son, Hugo, aged 37.
“Being a mum at 37 was a breeze. I was over the moon. I felt very confident in myself. I felt like I had got lots of travelling and partying out of my system. The only tricky thing was Hugo wasn’t the easiest of kids. He was a rebel from day one. As soon as he could walk he ran away and he didn’t talk until he was three years old. I went from thinking I was the greatest mother to not having a clue! However, this time round, I was older, wiser and realised his behaviour was his personality, not my bad mothering. I sought help from professionals.
“If I had had Hugo when I was 27, I don’t know that I would have been as confident with him. By my mid thirties I had faced no end of challenging work scenarios, all which helped me find my inner strength.
“Having kids later has kept me younger for longer. I am 45 but goof around with my kids. I’m mostly in gym kit on the school run and can often be seen running and laughing after my kids. I’m also not as strict as some mums. Partly because I’m mature enough to pick my battles, I have the luxury of figuring out what really matters – and I don’t always need to be right. My kids get the discipline they need, of course, but they also need to know I’m on their side and that they can trust me.
“The icing on the cake for me is that after Hugo I decided to work freelance. Before him I never would have had the confidence. I get to take my children to school every day, I pick them up, I’m around for assemblies, school trips and homework. My kids see me loving my work and I think that’s a wonderful example to set.”
“I’ve stopped wasting emotional energy on what other people think.”
Jess Butcher, 41, is based in Hertfordshire. She had her three children when she was 36, 37 and 39.
“I was single for most of my late twenties and early thirties so didn’t meet my husband until I was 32. Ideally I would have started sooner (around 30 had felt about right to me when I was in my 20s), but at 36, I wasn’t too far behind the majority of my school and uni friends and was slap bang in the middle of the nine mums in my NCT group. Other friends have since had children, normalising it still further.
“I suspect I’m probably a better mother, being older, as I have found 40 to be a massive psychological milestone. I’ve simply stopped wasting so much emotional energy on what other people think – incredibly liberating when it comes to the minefield of different parenting styles and opinions. We do our own thing.
“On the flip side, I suspect my age made my pregnancies and deliveries more complicated and with more unpleasant side affects than a younger body would have borne (although it’s of course impossible to know), plus I’ve watched many of my peers struggle with fertility issues over recent years which is heartbreaking and an incredibly high price to pay for waiting longer.
“In my case, I didn’t get to choose the age at which I’d meet the wonderful father of my children. We are incredibly lucky and I wouldn’t change a single thing.”
“Having them later gave me enough space to do things for myself.”
Pam Renoata, 43, from Birmingham, has three children. Her youngest son, Rohan, was born on the same day as Prince George when she was 37.
“I am the youngest of five and all my siblings had their kids in their twenties so I was very aware that in comparison to them I was an ‘older’ mum. For a long time I thought children were not on the cards for us at all, then in my early 30s I got pregnant with my first two children, and I knew at some point I wanted a third. Rohan came along when I was 37. I can’t say I consciously decided to have him then, but the timing of it just felt right and he completed our unit.
“I fell pregnant with him really quickly so there wasn’t a lot of time to dwell on my age. I remember being conscious of the health concerns you hear around having a baby post-35, but I figured those same worries are there for any baby whatever your age, so didn’t think about it too much. And so many of my friends were having children at a similar age too so it didn’t feel high risk.
“There are loads of positives in having your kids a little later, including perhaps being more financially secure to provide for them. I was certainly more confident in myself and of my parenting skills. I was more worldly wise in my late thirties too and I’m able to pass that ‘wisdom’ on to them. Also, for me, if I’d had them any younger I don’t think I would have felt as prepared or fulfilled as a person. Having them a little later gave me enough space to do things for myself that I might have felt I was missing out on if I’d had them sooner.”
“I wanted to enjoy some time with my husband without kids.”
Lisa Forde, 44, from Shropshire, had one child at 33 and another at 37.
“I wanted to wait until I was at least 30 to enjoy some time with my husband before having children. I also wanted to travel and we took a 10 month honeymoon travelling around the world before settling and buying our first home. The setting up of my business was another factor, I needed to establish the business sufficiently so that I could take a step back whilst starting a family.
“Friends around me [having children] were of a slightly younger age but I didn’t feel this made a difference. Being slightly older I felt more confident that I was ready to have children, feeling settled and financially secure.
“I’m 44 now, with an almost seven-year-old but my motto is you’re as young as you feel! I’m a very active person and love chasing around the garden playing football with my sons and generally sharing time with them. Being a bit older has given me the mental strength when times have been tough. Ultimately I just want to be a good mum.”