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Published May 20, 2013, 11:30 PM

Older parents share their experiences raising kids later in life

FARGO -- In 1987, Tom and Carol Moore weren’t the typical parents of a newborn.

By: Anna G. Larson, INFORUM

FARGO -- In 1987, Tom and Carol Moore weren’t the typical parents of a newborn.

They both had children from previous marriages, but this baby girl, Natalie, was different because Tom and Carol were 45 when she was born.

In the ’80s, Carol says, it wasn’t that common to see “older parents.” She recalls going to church with Natalie and seeing how surprised people were to learn that she’d given birth. They thought she was just gaining weight the last nine months.

Tom, 70, remembers being referred to as Natalie’s “grandpa,” but the couple says their age didn’t negatively affect raising a child later in life.

Carol, 70, says she’s encouraged other women contemplating having a child in their late 30s or 40s to “go for it.”

The birth rate for women 35 and older has generally increased during the last 20 years, according the Centers for Disease Control.

Carol’s pregnancy was typical until her last six weeks, during which she had to spend in bed because of high blood pressure. Still, Tom and Carol, of Perham, Minn., say they’d do it all over again. Having Natalie in their 40s was a “whole different ball game” than raising a child as a 20- or 30-something, Tom says.

“You’re able to take all your energy and focus it on the kid,” he says.

As older parents, the couple says they were wiser while raising Natalie, more financially comfortable and more able to relish their time with her. Tom and Carol also had an equal partnership while raising Natalie – something they say lacked in their previous marriages.

“When Natalie came to ask a question, it was uncanny how many times we would come back with the same answer at the same time,” Carol says. “We had the same theory of raising children.”

The couple also says they were more relaxed raising Natalie.

“The biggest difference was that we knew which battles to fight. Oftentimes with children, you end up fighting battles that you don’t feel you need to be fighting,” Tom says. “We also knew which things that the other children didn’t get to do. We made sure this child got to do everything.”

Natalie attended camps as a child, traveled abroad and attended a college of her choice. Tom says it was a big difference from the first two children he raised. As a 20- or 30-something parent, he often had tough choices to make, like choosing to buy food for the kids or going to the doctor.

The Moores say they’re also closer to Natalie because of their age, outlook and advances in technology, like texting and cell phones.

“The biggest difference between the two families was our attitudes, our outlook,” Tom says. “Time was just racing by, and we were always trying to make the best use of it.”

Natalie, 25, says she knew growing up that her parents were older, but it was only because they made her aware of it. Tom and Carol allowed her freedom and “didn’t coddle her.”

“I vividly remember my mom telling me that if I didn’t just pick up the phone things would never happen – play dates, doctor appointments, etc.,” Natalie says. “Oddly enough, this has really shaped my life – I am not shy, and I know that no one else has my best interest in mind except maybe my parents or my husband.”

Growing up, Natalie was closer in age to her nieces and nephews than her brothers and sisters. She says that, coupled with distance, made it difficult to have typical sibling relationships. Today, she’s close with her half-sister, Melissa, Tom’s daughter from his first marriage.

While she doesn’t like to talk about it, Natalie says that while having older parents has positively influenced her life, she worries about them because of their age.

“I think that I probably feel like I need to look out for them more than I let them know,” says Natalie, who lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband. “I call them every day because I really like to talk to them and need to check in.”

Tom and Carol say they’ve been preparing Natalie to live without them by reinforcing her independence. Natalie and her four siblings have copies of Tom and Carol’s will already.

“I will say that because my parents have seen so many of their friends and family members die, they have really done an amazing job getting ready for anything,” Natalie says.

Living long enough to see her child grow into an adult is a concern for soon-to-be mom, Lindsy Larson.

Lindsy, 36, has a heart condition and is expecting her first child in August. While age 36 might not sound “old,” Lindsy says she’s heard the term “advanced maternal age” a lot since she found out she was pregnant. Women older than 35 are considered to be of advanced maternal age, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Lindsy’s mom died of cancer at age 37 when Lindsy was 7 years old. Since Lindsy turns 37 a few months after her baby girl is due, she says she’s extra nervous about giving birth.

“I’m going through that ‘I don’t want to have a kid and then orphan her in a year’ thing,” she says. “That’s really scary. I try to put it all away and focus on the good.”

Lindsy says she hears age-related comments about her pregnancy from time to time, but it’s mostly her 51-year-old boyfriend who receives more age-specific jokes since he has four adult children, she says.

“The first thing he said was, ‘Holy crap, I’m going to be 70 when this kid graduates (from high school),’ ” Lindsy says, laughing.

The couple didn’t plan the pregnancy, but Lindsy says that once she found out she was pregnant, she felt it might be her only chance to have a child.

Lindsy plans to talk to her daughter about death at an early age since her heart condition could shorten her life. She says she wants to make sure her daughter is loved and taken care of.

“There are times that I think it hasn’t happened until now because I’ve always had that fear of being the same age as my mom was when she passed away,” Lindsy says. “I think my mom’s always been there. I think this is her way of saying, ‘You’re going to be fine, and you’ve got a long way to go.’”

The Moores say they’re lucky that they haven’t had any significant health problems yet, and they’re able to still be involved with Natalie’s life.

“Our age seemed to work pretty much for us,” Tom says. “We gained great fulfillment by having this last child. We sometimes wonder if it’s because we’re experienced or because, by then, we had enough money, or if we just got an exceptional child. I’m sure it’s the exceptional child.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525