As told to Leslie Goldman
A recent People magazine cover bore a photo of broadcast journalist Tamron Hall and her newborn son, Moses, along with the headline, “My miracle baby at 48!” In the story, Hall spoke about trying various fertility treatments without success in her 30s; about being considered a high-risk pregnancy by doctors; and about feeling too nervous to publicly share her news until she was firmly in her third trimester.
Wendy Bazilian can relate.
For well over a decade, the San Diego-based author and nutritionist and her husband, Jason, tried to get pregnant. Though they both adored children (they met and started dating as summer camp counselors), the couple made the decision to “go full force” into education and career early on — and they thrived, earning their doctorates and even opening a private health practice together. They traveled the world. Life was good.
In their 30s, they began trying to have a baby, with no luck. As the years passed, Wendy says she grew content with the thought that “maybe our path was destined to be our wonderful, solid relationship, our friends and extended family, and that was more than enough.”
But at age 48, thanks to some fertility assistance, Wendy gave birth to a “calm, clever, curious” daughter — 32 years after meeting her husband. Now, just as many of their friends are preparing to send their kids to college, they're elbow-deep in diapers and tummy time. Below, Wendy spoke with Disrupt Aging about flipping the script when it comes to career and kids, the benefits of giving birth later in life, and having "the talk” with her OB/GYN. (P.S. It's not what you think!)
Courtesy Wendy Bazilian
Your social media feed has long depicted an enviable, boho, sunny Southern California lifestyle, full of international travel, walks on the beach … do you think people assumed you were childless by choice? And, if so, do you think they judged you for it?
This didn't happen every day, but there was sometimes some judgment, assumptions and sarcasm: “Must be nice, not having to worry about anyone but yourself,” or “Wow, you must get a lot of sleep."
There were also plenty of times I was taken aback when people would ask loaded questions like “When are you having kids?” or, “Why don't you have kids??” — even complete strangers. It's such an intrusive question, because embedded in that are questions about our sex life, my health, my biology and capacity to have a baby, the solidity of our relationship, my psychology, my intellectual thoughts, my desire have children. Or: “But you and Jason would make such great parents! You're so good with kids.” Thanks, and … ouch.
Pregnant at 48 — what was it like?
Going into it, I wasn't kidding myself — I knew I'd be high-risk, no matter how you slice it, and that I would have a lot more checkups. I also knew that our ability to go through something as dramatic as pregnancy is definitely more challenging at my age, and I had to do everything I could to be healthy and fit as possible going into it. I found, though, that my body took to it wonderfully. I've been remarkably lucky, and my body has bounced back, though I work hard. I'm not dieting, but I am doing physical therapy twice a week to regain strength and help my abdomen thread itself back together. There's a lot of bending the neck to look at the baby, lifting the baby, carrying her, so your neck and back need to be strong. I started PT in my fifth month, when I had some hip pain, and I love it. I feel stronger than I've ever been. It's been a game changer.
What do you consider some of the advantages to having a baby later in life?
We have the ability to really be in the moment — we are conscious of the preciousness of time. We pay close attention to moments in time and cherish them. The hard ones, the soft ones … all of them.
We know her basic needs will be taken care of, because we're financially stable, whereas in our 20s, we were on a shoestring budget.
Because of our age and the amount of time we've been together, we're very stable in our relationship; I really knew I could count on my husband in this next chapter (and vice versa).
One of my favorite things is that our friends have such wonderful and varied wisdom to share. My closest childhood friend has two kids in college and another just graduated; the friend who hosted my baby shower has a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old. We have friends in their 70s with grandkids … and many friends with no kids. For my shower, everyone was asked to jot down words of wisdom, and I cherish them. This wasn't just “Buy this brand of diaper” but sentiments like, “Your children will take you places you would never go on your own. Welcome to the adventure."
Some of my other favorites were: “Toddlers could give a Ted Talk on procrastination. Add 30 minutes to everything you plan"; “All the stress and craziness throughout her school years will be OK as long as your daughter knows her home is her sanctuary and her parents love her"; and “Play the Temptations for her.” Also, “This one is rather grim, but necessary: Do you have life insurance and an estate plan?"
Has your doctor had the perimenopause talk with you? If so, what was that like as a nursing mom?!
My doctor said there's no reason to think my breast milk will dry up sooner because of my age. In fact, she said she wants me to go on birth control, which made me chuckle because it was such a long journey to have Calli — that was a conversation I haven't had since I was 20! But she wants to reduce the health risks to me if I were to get pregnant within a year of giving birth, accidentally or otherwise; I need to heal and recover from this little angel's birth. She started mentioning all these birth control methods I was unfamiliar with — I was rusty!
You've got a little one in diapers while your friends are sending their kids to college. What's your take on this next phase in your life?
It's wonderful and meaningful and we're literally loving every minute of it. We laugh a lot! There's a Victor Hugo quote that I've always been fascinated with: “Forty is the old age of youth and 50 is the youth of old age.” I don't necessarily like the concept of “old age” — age is just a number — but I love the notion that youth is there for the taking. Our next chapter is with a baby in our 50s and we're going for it with gusto.
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