Five Women's Stories: When to Have a Baby

Is becoming a mom in your 20s easier or harder than it is in your mid 40s? We asked five women to share the ups and downs of having babies early, late, or somewhere in between.

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First Baby at 21

Phillip Graybill

First Baby at 21

Carla Lehrer

Mom to Avi, 3; Aliza, 1; pregnant with third child

I met my husband, Amir, on the first day of college, and we got married in my sophomore year. By second semester, I was pregnant with Avi. I've always wanted lots of kids and saw no reason to wait -- I come from a family of five children and want at least five of my own.

I took a year off and went back to school when Avi was 10 months old. It was tough being a mom and a college student: I'd leave him with a babysitter during the day, rush home for dinner, then Amir would take over while I went back for my evening art classes. I'd do my homework in the middle of the night. By graduation I was pregnant with Aliza.

Being a young mom means that it's hard not to be selfish about my time. I used to sleep in, read, or watch TV whenever I wanted and go out with friends any night I pleased. All these freedoms go away when you're a parent.

Bouncing back after pregnancies is easier when you're younger. I've gotten down to my starting weight after each one. Two weeks after I had Aliza I was in a bridesmaid dress.

I'm happy that my kids have young grandparents -- they're all in their 50s -- and seven great-grandparents. I'm always calling my mom and mother-in-law for advice, and I also go to Facebook, where I started my own young moms group called Mommy and Me.

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First Baby at 25

Phillip Graybill

First Baby at 25

Samantha Depriest

Mom to Dylan, 3; Connor, 2; pregnant with third child

Not long after my husband, Chris, and I got married, my mom died of breast cancer. My husband's mother died of the same disease. My mom's oncologist suggested starting our family before I turned 30, because an early pregnancy may reduce my breast-cancer risk.

When my mom took her last breath something happened inside of me -- I felt a need to create a life to replace the bond I had just lost. The very next month I got pregnant with Dylan.

My career had been important to me -- I was just starting out and was very ambitious. But during my maternity leave, I realized that motherhood was what life was about for me right now: I wanted to be the most dedicated and hands-on mommy I could be. I called my boss and said I couldn't come back.

At first it was tough because I didn't have a mother or mother-in-law to help me and offer advice, and my friends hadn't had kids yet. Some of my closest mom friends are women in their 30s and 40s whom I met in the neighborhood or at playgroups. They were eager to take me under their wing and share their wisdom.

There are times when Chris and I hear about all the wild things our single friends are doing and we're envious. But then something magical happens at home with our boys and we're reminded that we have such a full life to be thankful for.

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First Baby at 30

Phillip Graybill

First Baby at 30

Carol Siu

Mom to Emily, 14 months

Most of my friends married and had children before I did. I always thought I'd have kids in my 20s, but I just didn't meet the right guy until later. When I was 24, my older sister had a baby girl, and I just loved playing with her and wished I could have one of my own. I guess waiting gave me an advantage: I now ask my friends for advice and get lots of hand-me-downs.

Once we were married I wanted to have kids right away. My family kept asking when we were going to have children, and I heard stories about people having fertility problems later in their 30s. Luckily it took me only two months to get pregnant.

Before we got married we said we wanted two kids. I still do, but my husband, Kin, isn't so sure -- he thinks one may be enough.

One big plus about waiting until your 30s is financial stability -- we own our own apartment now, and we've got some money saved for Emily's education. It also meant that Emily doesn't have to compete with my career. I put so much time and energy into my job in my 20s that I felt like I was able to step back a little once I had her. I found a new position within the company that allows me to work at home sometimes, so I can spend more time with her.

Because we waited to have kids, our parents are all retired or about to retire, which means I get a lot of help! My parents-in-law watch Emily every day while I'm at work.

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First Baby at 36

Phillip Graybill

First Baby at 36

Erica S. Turnipseed-Webb

Mom to Lena, 11 weeks

My journey to becoming a mom has been tough. Before I had Lena, I gave birth to a baby named Grace, who lived for only four days. Losing a child was extraordinarily difficult, but it definitely gave my husband, Kevin, and me strength.

I became pregnant again about two years later, but I had a miscarriage; six months later I got pregnant with Lena. My experiences helped me realize that birth really is a blessing, so I didn't take anything for granted. When Lena was born healthy and strong, we were just so thankful.

Most of my friends didn't get married and find permanent relationships until their 30s. I think that for a lot of black, college-educated women it gets complicated. There's a certain point when you decide either not to have kids because you don't have a partner or to go ahead and have kids on your own.

I'm glad that I had time to be spontaneous, go out with friends, and travel before having kids -- it's a lot harder to get out of the house and do things when you have a baby. And I feel like I'm a better person for having had the experiences I did before having Lena. I just hope that she'll feel the same way and that she'll keep me young.

We would like to have another child, but my husband and I say that we'll see what God has in store for us. We would consider adoption, which has always been something we've wanted to do.

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First Baby at 44

Phillip Graybill

First Baby at 44

Andrea Steele Cuozzo

Mom to Alexandra and Tea, 11 months

It took me a long time to find the right guy. I thought I was being true to myself, so I didn't rush it -- I had a lot of faith that I would have children when I was ready. I married my husband, Joe, when I was 42. We started trying to get pregnant about six months later.

When we realized that it wasn't working naturally, we decided to try in vitro. I took two weeks off from work and didn't move from the couch because I wanted it to happen so badly. It was successful on the first round, and we were just elated -- it can take couples much longer than that.

I loved being pregnant. It was the first time in 40 years that I wasn't holding my stomach in. And when I heard I was having twins, I was doubly happy.

My friends' children are now in college, so I'm completely out of sync! They went through all the sleepless nights and playdates and pediatrician appointments years ago -- and I'm just starting. My husband is much younger (he's 36) and I honestly don't feel my age at all, but I realize that as I get older it's going to become more challenging.

I thought being older would mean that I'd be more prepared for motherhood. I was centered, had traveled extensively, had eaten in all the best restaurants, and had bought all the clothes I wanted. But honestly, the experience of the two of them brings me to my knees. I wouldn't have been more prepared at 144.

Originally published in the May 2008 issue of Parents magazine.