Fitness Poll: When Should We Have A Baby?
image via pretty stuff
Okay– so this isn’t really a poll, per say. But the headlining topic is one that I’ve been pondering on ever since John and I took the plunge into marriage. It’s safe to say that I always knew I wanted to be married young; starting a family when I was young (young = mid-20s, to me) was always part of my ideal life plan as well. But my current choice of careers has forced me to put the breaks on the baby-maker– and I’m not sure how I feel about that.
My day job is professional runner. That means every day, I wake up and go to practice. Most days, I go to practice again at night. I travel, I train in different locations, I race. The only goal of my job is to make US teams– the Olympic team or the World Championship team. With the end of each Olympic Games comes a new “cycle:” you have the opportunity to make 2 World teams and an Olympic team during the next cycle with ONE YEAR “off” (no championship team to aim for).
image via Che and Fidel
So what does that really mean? It means that if you’re serious about running and want to give yourself the best possible chance to make the next Olympic team, you have to be serious all four years leading up to it. If you’re a woman in her twenties who wants to start a family, you have a very limited window (that one off year). If you can push out a baby in your “off” year, find the motivation and willpower to get back into AMAZING race shape the next year, and stick to it during the Olympic year, you have an okay shot at making the team. Some women come back from pregnancy quickly and with more strength than they had before; others… fall in love with motherhood, don’t have the discipline to train at the level they used to, and don’t ever run professionally again. I fear that I’m in that latter category, discipline-wise.
Should we rush and try to have a baby in my off year– that would be 2014– or should we wait until after the next Olympics in 2016?
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Here’s what I’m worried about: how young (or how old) I should be when we start having kids. I’m not going to lie– our ages (when it comes to childbearing) gives me constant anxiety. I’m 24; John is 30. Let me give you the run down:
-We are healthy (but not perfect) athletes and have been extremely active for the past few decades. I run and exercise every day all year, with a few days off a few times a month and one longer break once a year. John exercises every day, except when he’s (often) injured. Nevertheless, the man is the epitome of fit and I almost don’t think he can gain weight.
-We come from fairly healthy families. John’s father had six children; his mother, five. John was a twin, so he was born a bit premature, but he and his (professional triathlete) brother are golden boys: effortlessly fit and healthy. My parents had three children (although my mom had my youngest brother when she was 30-31; she knocked us all out fairly early). The only health problems in my extended family come from a few cousins, with fathers not in my direct bloodline. John’s entire extended family seems pretty healthy, although I don’t know everyone’s exact history.
-I distinctly remember hearing a report my first year of college on how fathers over the age of 35 have a higher chance of fathering autistic kids. This is what I fear the most. John is now 30; if we wait until he’s in his mid-30s, could our risks of having a sick child be higher? Similarly, I read everywhere different opinions on how old mothers should be; 35 seems to be the general date when you need to really get to work if you want a chance to have healthy kids.
Bottom line: if we wait until post-2016-Olympics, I will be 28. John will be 34. Are we too old to have a large family of healthy kids? (For the record, I want 5 kids). Will I have to pump them out for 5 years in a row to avoid that scary 35 age limit? John would be nearly 40 then– is that a danger zone?
image via Modern Hepburn
The only rational appeal to waiting to have babies (for me) is the fact that right now, our lifestyle is not very amenable to babies. We don’t have much money, travel a ton for work, and if I were to take a year off to be pregnant, I doubt I’d be getting my paycheck– running sponsors don’t really give out maternity leave. Most likely, my salary would stop completely and be drastically smaller when I would start training again. And then there’s our non-running goals: John wants to go back to school, and trying to balance work (to make money to provide), a baby, and school would probably be difficult for him.
Fitness and babies can totally mix– but without ever having experienced pregnancy, I don’t have any clue how. I’m stuck in that post-marriage, pre-family world, where every decision John and I make seems to have massive impact on when we can start trying to get pregnant.
I met with my doctor last week and let all this anxiety out to her. She assured me that while yes, 35 for women is generally a “get going” age (your chances of having a baby with Down Syndrome does increase, but only slightly), 28 is young for becoming a mother. For men, it’s very unlikely being in your late 30s has much affect on a baby’s health. Her final words to me? “Go for the Olympics.” But while my mind is a bit settled on the matter, my heart really isn’t. Is running worth putting off my dream of a young family? Could I find the discipline and desire to come back to fitness full-time after having a baby? Why are there so many health scares about age and pregnancy?
So what do you think? If you’re a mom now, how did you and your husband decide to start your family? If you’re pregnant now, how are you fitting fitness in? If you’re a newlywed (or not) and are considering this entire issue– what are your thoughts? How are you leaning? It’s a big, big topic and I have no clue really where to start…