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Midlife Entrance to Motherhood

Eliana Cline

In the frum world, most women become mothers in their early to mid-20s. What’s it like for those women who first taste the sweet joy — and formidable challenges — of motherhood when they’re in their 40s?

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

When Chaya Sarah Shahar gave birth to a healthy baby boy last May, she made international headlines — at age 65, after 46 years of marriage, she became a mother for the first time. The Shahars, from Bnei Brak, are Nadvorna chassidim and they attributed the miracle to a brachah they received from their rebbe. Just a year prior, the newspapers reported another wonder birth — a woman from Jerusalem became a first-time mother at age 61. While stories of women giving birth in their 60s are few and far between, there is a growing, worldwide trend of women starting motherhood at a later age. In the United States alone, the demography of mothers has shifted strikingly in the past two decades. According to the Pew Report, birth rates have risen for all women ages 30 and older in the last 25 years. The rate increases have been sharpest for women in the oldest age groups — 47 percent for women ages 35 to 39 and 80 percent for women ages 40 to 44. This means that, compared to 25 years ago, almost double the number of first-time mothers are aged 40 and over. In secular society, the trend of delayed motherhood is linked to the fact that women are typically marrying later. The more educated a woman is, the more value she generally puts on her career and the later she tends to marry and have children. Furthermore, with the advancement of reproductive medicine, women like Chaya Sara Shahar are able to give birth when they previously wouldn’t have been able to do so. Starting motherhood at a late age isn’t unusual in the secular world — you’re simply one of the crowd. But in the frum world, where most women begin having babies in their early 20s, becoming a mother at age 40 definitely makes you the odd woman out.  

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