When's the Best Time to Start a Family?

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When's the Best Time to Start a Family?
Figuring out when to have kids. Inside are the biological myths and realities about conception.

Beverly and Bill Nobles of Houston, Texas, reached the decision to have their two kids despite some initial reservations and a significant age difference to consider: She was 28; he was 48 and already had a teenage son. "I was a little hesitant about starting a second family," recalls Bill, "but it wasn't hard to convince me. I didn't get to experience everything the first time around." (He and his first wife separated when his son was four.) As far as timing, Beverly says they didn't worry about his fertility—an area where men have the clear advantage—only about Bill's age as a father. "Once we were married, I felt like it was time, for both of us; all my friends had already started having kids," she says.

Heitler advises "older" newlyweds to take the plunge, the way the Nobles did: "Conventional wisdom said that being married for a year before conceiving a child was a good idea. That has its merit, in that a significant number of couples who are genuinely ill-suited for each other, or for marriage, do divorce in the first year. However, people marry so late now that this window of experimental time is no longer an option. Better to just go for it, and to fix whatever marital problems emerge, than to forego being able to have children at all."

Fine, if you both know unequivocally that you want them, but what about couples who find themselves see-sawing on the decision, and even wondering whether to have kids at all? "Kim brought up the subject of having children about six months into our dating," says Michael Civisca, a 41-year-old singer who lives with his new wife in Buffalo, New York. "Because of my career and exposure to every misbehaved child that ever existed in restaurants and candy aisles, I wasn't in favor of it."

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