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What's the Best Age to Have a Baby?

Whether your clock started ticking early or you're feeling a time crunch at 40, deciding when to have a baby is never simple.

WebMD Feature from "Marie Claire" Magazine

By Elise Nersesian-Solé

Marie Claire magazine logo

Kilee Nickels, 24, stay-at-home mom
Children: 21 month and 4 month old boys
Best time to have a baby? Early 20s

I got married at the age of 20. At the time, I was studying for a degree in nutrition. School is important, but I wanted to be a mom first.

I was pregnant at age 21. I knew I was ready to be a mom because I had an inexplicable feeling that it was the right decision. My first delivery was five hours, and my second was 20 minutes, and I didn't use an epidural for either baby. I think I'm built for childbirth. It was the most painful yet rewarding experience.

My typical day starts with making breakfast for everyone. When my husband goes to work, I tackle laundry, then dishes. Then it's playtime. When the baby naps at noon, I play with trains and read to the other one. I'm always trying to catch up with housework, often with a crying baby strapped to my chest. Sometimes it's hard - I can't wear nice clothes because I'm always getting peed and spit up on. I have no personal space or time to exercise. I'm not as toned anymore, and although it's hard to accept the fact that, at 24, I already want a breast-lift, I'm not as focused on being skinny as I used to be, which is a good thing.

It's smart to have kids when you're in your early 20s so you have the energy to keep up with them. More importantly, consider whether or not you're in a stable relationship. I hear about women becoming single moms, and I don't know how they do it. You really do need a partner. If you don't have a husband by the time you're ready to have kids, then you should wait until you find him. And the guy has to really want kids, because romance is tricky with babies.

I'm so happy that I had my kids young. But sometimes I envy my friends who are socializing and advancing in their careers - I'm still figuring out who I am, while also juggling the roles of wife and mother. But when my kids smile, I feel so proud. I want six kids, so I'll get pregnant again soon. Hopefully I'll be all finished having babies by the time I'm 35.

Shannon Sweeney, 40, lawyer
Children: 6½ Months pregnant with a girl
Best time to have a baby? early 30s

I was married for only four months when my husband suddenly left me. About a year after the split, I was 38 and childless and felt like I was racing against the clock, so I started considering IVF. I was open to the idea of dating, but I was also ready to have kids right away - not ideal. I decided to see a fertility expert, who said I was a good candidate for the procedure.

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