Mothering yourself

These women bring a different perspective to parenthood. By the time they reach their mid-thirties, work and career have usually been paramount in their lives. Even when career goals are not a major concern, middle age is a very different time in the life cycle to give birth. Older women may feel greater loss of their unfettered lifestyle than do younger women. Financial arrangements in the marriage may shift dramatically if a woman who previously held a high-paying position is now staying home with her new baby. These changes may affect a woman's self-esteem and make for a more difficult adjustment to motherhood.

Finally, women having first babies later in life often waited because they had fearful expectations of motherhood. This was true for Cynthia, the woman who had cared for her seven younger siblings. Because of her own lost childhood, she was not ready to become a mother until she was thirty-six. Her reasons for waiting included unexpressed fears that she needed to understand before she became a mother. This is a different perspective from a twenty-four-year-old who enjoyed the freedom of childhood and is now ready to take on the adult responsibilities of parenthood. Not all women who wait until later in life to give birth are fearful, however it is possible that those who delay are in general more ambivalent. The threats of Down's syndrome and other genetic defects that increase with maternal age also contribute to their anxiety. Medical researchers have long overlooked the influence of life change factors on the outcome of labor. In the quest to understand the higher complication rates for women over thirty-five, researchers have ignored the emotional lives of the women they study.

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