When is the perfect time to start a family — if there is such a thing? We speak to couples about the challenges and rewards of starting a family, whether early (in their 20s), late (after 35) or somewhere in between.

By Huang Ruilin


It used to be that when boy meets girl, they get married and start a family. But these days, with couples pursuing higher education and career advancement, many individuals do not get hitched till they are in their late twenties or early thirties.After a few years of enjoying their married bliss, many couples find themselves on the wrong side of 35 when they start a family, and caught unawares by the ticking away of the woman’s biological clock.Actress Tan Kheng Hua was 35 when she gave birth to her daughter, Shi-An.


“At 35, I was in a stable place career-wise,and I was ready for motherhood. But it has been difficult for me to have another child since. I would have liked one more child, but have not been able to conceive another. That’s the biggest ‘regret’ I have.


“Had I started earlier, I would also have given my parents more grandparenting pleasures. Shi-An was my dad’s first granddaughter, and he was so happy when she was born. But he passed on three months after her birth. My
mum is a fantastic grandmother, and now she and my daughter are very close. When I see this, of course I wish for as much time for the two of them as possible,” muses Kheng Hua.


The age and ability of grandparents to be the child’s caregiver is indeed another factor to consider. Having a child earlier means that there is a higher chance that the grandparents would be physically fit to take care of them. Marketing executive Janice Boey, who had her first child at 29, says, “I would have liked to have my mother-in-law look after my child, but she hasn’t been able to do so because of her arthritis.”


Another factor to consider is how many children you would like to have eventually.Homemaker Bernice Teo, who had her first child at 33, says, “I want to have another child,but because of my age, I will have to conceive sooner rather than later. I can’t afford to have a larger gap between the two kids because my biological clock is ticking away.”


Homemaker Wendy Kwok was 28 when she had her first child. She waited for four years before trying for her second child, but the wait turned out to be six years. “The wait for our second child was trying. I was fearful I couldn’t conceive again. I didn’t want my daughter to be the only child. Age was also not on my side, and this added to the frustration. Thank God, I conceived again at 34, and our second daughter is now two years old.”


Wendy reflects, “Looking back, I wish we had kids younger. I wish I was done with kids before 30; I would have been younger and would have more energy for them! There is a big difference having kids before and after 30.If I had my kids before 30, I would definitely have more! So start early — don’t wait!”


Starting Early
One young mum who didn’t wait is Janica Chan, a corporate communications coordinator. She was 24 when she had her first child. With a gap of 18 months between each child, she had a brood of three by the time she was 28.


“It has worked out great!” she says. “I have the energy to chase after them. Although there have been financial and career sacrifices, seeing my kids grow up is the greatest reward.”


Early pregnancy has other advantages.Younger women recover more easily from childbirth, while risks increase considerably when a woman conceives after 35. The risks include higher risk of deformation of the foetus, genetic diseases, possible difficulties during labour, higher risk of miscarriage and increased chances of developing high blood pressure and diabetes.


Childcare teacher Amy Lai, who had her first child at 26, says, “I’m glad I gave birth when I was younger because I recovered fast, and I didn’t have to worry about the risks that come along with late pregnancy. Moreover, the age gap between my children and me is smaller, so hopefully we will be able to establish a closer peer relationship rather than a top-down approach.”


Manager Garvin Chow started his family at age 30. “My wife and I were planning for four kids and we wanted a good age gap between all of them. However, when we started counting backwards, we realised we didn’t have a lot of time!” he laughs.


“So if I could do it again, I would want to start two years earlier. To do so, we would have had to make some sacrifices, but nothing can compare to the unspeakable joy of having a child. It’s priceless!”


Cheryl Liew-Chng shares the same sent iment s . The CEO of LifeWorkz management consultancy and Vice-Chair of Working Mothers Forum, she had her first child at 30 and had initially planned to stop at one. “However as our son grew, we realized how ‘adult-like’ he was, and how he missed interacting with other children. We also didn’t want him to be all alone when we are no longer around. So we had another, and then another!”


Today, she has three children, with a fairly large age gap between each of them. “With three children aged 11, 6, and 2, our household hasn’t seen a day without diapers and milk powder for the last 11 years! But we have had such great fun as we watched them grow.”


Extracted from “Maybe Baby Guidebook - Body Talk”

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