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What’s Your Age Cap for Having Kids?

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

When I was in high school I predicted I’d have five kids by the time I was 30. Ha! Then I went on to work for Playboy, become a nightlife columnist for a big city magazine, and then a dating blogger, and essentially the poster girl for 30-something single girls in Chicago.

My plans for a big family got derailed a bit, and it had nothing to do with infertility. I derailed the plans myself by starting a career that wasn't exactly conducive to settling down and having kids during my best child-bearing years, though I have no idea where “five kids” even came from—it’s one of those random things you think in high school before you know any better. In my late 20s, I remember telling my mom I wanted three kids (a little more realistic). I was 27; three kids seemed like the perfect number, since I grew up in such a small family with one older sibling and no cousins nearby (those are my brother's three kids in the pic).

“Sarah, three kids is probably not going to happen at this point… You’re 27.”

She doesn’t remember saying it, but I do. I think I even remember where I was—standing in the dry cleaners across the street from my condo in Old Town, where I lived (and dry cleaned my clothes) for 12 years. I had just gotten out of an almost two-year relationship, and I was shooting the breeze with my mom, making fake plans for my uncertain future.

I was so offended at the time. "Why is that not going to happen? I'm only 27!" I don’t think I'd been offered the column yet, so I had no idea the twists and turns my life would take in the following years that would lead to me putting off starting a family till much later. Maybe my mom knew something I didn’t though—maybe she knew I wasn’t ready to start thinking about kids yet, especially since I’d just come out of a serious relationship, and there was no man in sight at the time. Maybe my mom’s a soothsayer.

But here I am 38 now, with the same desires—and in many ways, even more possibilities. Coincidentally my husband and I told each other early on that we both always wanted three kids—family is the number one most important thing to both of us. He grew up with a big one, and I grew up with a small one, so we have the best of both worlds now. But we want our own medium-size family. At this point, I’d be very happy with two kids—that may even be what I’d prefer now, but I’m not going to make any definitive declarations about it.

See how well that worked out for me before?

I conceived my son at 34, and was 35 by the time he was born. I distinctly remember telling my husband, my mom and my girlfriends that I was going to be done having kids by the time I was 40. That was my age cap. I still wanted three kids, but I was going to pop them out quickly so I wouldn't be a pregnant 40-year-old, which by my estimation was entirely possible, if I had a kid every two years, and my life was filled with sunshine and rainbows.

Maybe I jinxed myself, but I’m certainly not saying that now… Whether we have one or two more, I don’t want to say 40 is my age limit, because who knows? And what's so wrong with a 40-year-old pregnant woman anyway? I know a good handful of women who’ve had kids into their 40s, if that’s what’s meant to happen, then so be it—40s it is.

I’m not going to put a limit on the amount of kids I have either. There are a lot of routes to take if things don’t work out for us the natural or IVF way that I might be willing to consider at some point. We’re not there yet, but I’ve learned to keep my options open. And to stop making ridiculous statements about things I can’t control.

Have you set an age cap for having kids?

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