Across the developed world, mothers are getting older. Many women choose to delay having children so they can first lay a foundation of financial or relational security, or to pursue a career or personal goals. Other women never intended to be “older mothers,” but end up in that situation due to infertility, delayed marriage, or unexpected pregnancy.
I certainly never planned to have a baby later in life—I was too afraid of the risks. I knew that conceiving at an older age would increase my chance of miscarrying or experiencing complications during pregnancy and birth; I knew it would increase my baby’s chance of a congenital abnormality. I took it to heart when my mother once commented, “A woman’s body is designed to have children in her 20s.”
The way it worked out, I only just scraped into the “ideal” window for having children—starting at 28 and finishing (or so I thought) at 34. But this year, at age 39, I’m pregnant again and have come face-to-face with my fears.
In the early stages of my pregnancy, I expected things to go wrong; I didn’t even tell some of my closest friends I was pregnant until the second trimester. Now that the baby appears to be healthy and growing, I’ve discovered new things to worry about. I’ve lain awake at night calculating what age my husband and I will be (ancient!) when our baby finishes high school, gets married, or turns 40. I’ve caught myself looking enviously at younger pregnant women who seem to have much more energy (and far less gray hair!) than I do.
In the midst of my fears, I’m trying to recover a godly, balanced perspective. Here are three truths from Scripture that can encourage women like me who, whatever our intentions or ideals, find our medical records stamped with the words “geriatric mother.”
1. We’re in Good Company
There’s a long line of women in the Bible—including most of the founding mothers of Israel—who were not able to have children until later in life.
In spite of God’s promise of descendants, Abraham and Sarah remained childless until the point where “[Abraham’s] body was as good as dead . . . and Sarah’s womb was also dead” (Rom. 4:19). When God finally declared that it was time for Sarah to become pregnant, the aging couple both laughed (Gen. 17:17; 18:12). Sarah wondered, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
We ‘geriatric mothers’ stand in very good company.
In the New Testament, we meet Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah, who would become the parents of John the Baptist. Luke describes them as righteous, childless, and “well advanced in years” (Luke 1:7). When an angel announced that Elizabeth would become pregnant, Zechariah could not fathom the news: “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years” (Luke 1:18).
We “geriatric mothers” stand in good company.
2. With Age Comes Wisdom
When I look back at the perfectionistic first-time mother I was at 28, I can see how much I’ve matured in the intervening decade. Weathering the peaks and valleys of life—in faith, family, marriage, and ministry—has steadied me. I’ve traded my lofty idealism for grounded wisdom.
I’m no longer surprised by trials and tragedies; I’ve learned to trust that God will somehow pull us through. I’m no longer surprised when my shameful sin is exposed; I’ve learned to run to Jesus, my sinless Savior. I’m no longer surprised when others fail and disappoint me; I’ve learned to offer with open hands the grace I have received.
These years have also taught me that doing God’s will isn’t always exciting and spectacular. Usually, it consists of quiet acts of daily faithfulness.
While I may have more gray hair than I did in my 20s, and my smile may be tempered by furrows and wrinkles, my life and faith are now anchored in the real world. Surely our baby will benefit from having a mother who’s more realistic, forgiving, and resilient than her younger self.
Surely our baby will benefit from having a mother who is more realistic, forgiving, and resilient than her younger self.
Older mothers, let’s take heart from the proverb, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness” (Prov. 16:31).
3. Greater Fear Needs Greater Faith
Having a baby at an older age has brought its fair share of fears. But I’m trying to take each fear back to God like the heroes of faith before me.
The truth is that all mothers and fathers, no matter our age, must accept our human limitations.
As an older mother, Sarah had to entrust her son to God, knowing her life on earth was limited. In the end, Sarah didn’t live long enough to see Isaac marry and have children. Abraham also had to hand Isaac’s life over to God in a real demonstration of faith:
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. (Heb. 11:17–19)
The truth is that all mothers and fathers, no matter our age, must accept human limitations. We can’t always keep our children safe and well. We can’t be there forever to guide and protect them. In this fallen world, all of us have to entrust our children into the care of our God, the only Father who is perfectly wise and strong.
I thank God for his precious gift: a baby for my husband and me in our older age. May I treasure this gift like the older mothers of the past and strive to keep maturing—not just in age, but also in wisdom and faith.