In our communities, it is expected that as a girl develops into a woman, she must have children to confirm her fertility and embrace motherhood, which is assumed to be an experience that every female wants. However, some people delay having children until they are reminded that their biological clock is ticking ÔÇô fast. Apparently, the biological clock doesn’t care for a woman’s career, hot body or impromptu trips overseas to go shopping or partying.
Not everyone feels the pressure to hear the pitter patter of little feet. Mpho Odirile is a 32-year-old career lady who has felt no need to settle down or have a child. “I have always been a career girl. I’m at the peak of my career in the corporate sector. In my earlier years, I enjoyed travelling and partying and didn’t have space for a child. I do love children and sometimes spend time with my nieces. I felt that there was a misconception that every single person out there wanted children. I had no plans to have children and shied away from boyfriends who talked babies, but nowadays, i find myself staring at babies and walking around the baby clothes aisle in stores. It’s weird. My friend had a baby a few weeks ago, and I found myself holding a bit longer to him, which kind of surprised everyone. I found myself wondering if it wasn’t time to have a baby,” she says. Is her ‘biological clock’ ticking?
According to psychologist Jo Lukins, from Peak Performance Psychology, the term ‘biological clock’ is used to refer to “the increased maternal instincts of (particularly) women as they get older”. She says this occurs while the “perceived and actual ‘window’ of opportunity to become pregnant reduces”.
While men can ‘feel’ the clock ticking too, she says they generally don’t have the same urgency attached to this feeling, as there is no defined upper age at which a man can father a child.
According to Professor Bill Ledger, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The Royal Hospital for Women in Britain, we mustn’t confuse the medical guidelines about when it’s best to have a baby from a health and fertility point of view, with the social phenomenon referred to as the ‘biological clock’. He says the ‘biological clock’ is simply a term people use to describe a fall in fertility associated with increasing age. Meanwhile, he explains, medically, the best age to get pregnant is “between the ages of about 20 and 35”. This is because between these ages a woman is most fertile and least likely to have other complications.
Australia’s Mothers and Babies report 2008 – showed the age of first-time mothers rose from age 20 in 1999 to 29.9 years in 2008. The number of ‘older’ mothers is also rising, from 16.3 percent of mothers being aged over 35 in 1999, to 22.9 percent in this age group in 2008. And yet with increasing age comes reduced fertility. Professor Ledger insists that the time you’re fertile runs in the family. “So if mum had children at 45 and grandma had children at 45, that woman as an individual is likely to be blessed with a long fertile lifespan. So she’s under less pressure than someone where Mum and Grandma both had their menopause in their late 30s to early 40s,” he says.
Basadi Morekodi (36) had her first born when she was 34. “The years before were very challenging because I felt too much pressure to have a child. Almost everyone would ask me: when are you having a child? Although I found it rude and intrusive, I realised that it was from a good space. Before conceiving, I had to sit down and think about why I wanted a child. In the end, I realised that I was financially stable and happy with my partner of five years. Although I was a late bloomer, I’m enjoying motherhood because I was ready when I had my daughter,” she says. She advises that it’s important to talk to your partner and make a sensible choice. I encourage women who are trying for a child later to keep a level head and not panic about their biology because everything has a way of falling into place,” she adds.