Last Chance Moms

In recent years, Friday pau hanas for my group of 40-something friends have somehow morphed into Friday playdates for our toddlers. Discussions about careers and dream vacations have given way to talk about birthday parties, the best baby gear and childcare. Even the playful competitive one-upmanship among the dads no longer involves football or golf scores, but rather baby milestones.


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Finding Mr. Right

Michelle Doo Van Rafelghem, 43, did not plan to delay motherhood. In fact, she thought ideally she’d marry at 26 and start having children at 30. “What I didn’t count on,” she laughs, “was how long it was going to take me to find the right person to do this family thing with.”

After a series of not-so-promising relationships during her 30s, she remembers thinking she was never going to get married, let alone have children. She took to pursuing personal goals like traveling and competing in triathalons. A University of Southern California business school graduate, Van Rafelghem built her career and bought a home in Kahala.

At 39, Michelle finally found and married Mr. Right, real estate agent Francis Van Rafelghem. Their son, Luke, was born soon after, in 2006.

Van Rafelghem admits that she was concerned about the challenges of conceiving and the risks of being pregnant post-40. And as older parents, the couple does worry, she says, about “being in Luke’s life for as long as possible.” They know they may not get to see grandchildren. “And when he’s in college, we’ll be in our 60s. So if he wants to go past four years of school, we may not be able to offer him financial help because we’ll be retiring.”

Still, she says, “I have had no regrets about starting late because it took me this long to find the right person. I wouldn’t want a family sooner if it meant having it with someone I didn’t think was right for me.”

Reina Graves is a “last-chance mom” who lives in Hawaii Kai with her husband, Darren, and daughters Gavriella, 3, and Sabrina, 1.

 Hoping for a later-in-life baby?

- Be realistic and patient. “Fertility decreases considerably from the age of 35,” explains Dr. Christopher Huang, a Honolulu-based board-certified reproductive endocrinologist. “For example, a very healthy woman post-40 has a less than 5 percent chance of conceiving each month. A lot of my patients don’t know this and are shocked to learn this. Many couples come in expecting results in days, maybe weeks. It’s more realistic to expect results in terms of months.”

- Be supported. Resolve, a national nonprofit that provides help to people having a hard time conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term, has a local chapter. The group usually meets at Kapiolani Medical Center on the fourth Tuesday of the month, at 6:30 p.m.; visit for more information.

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Honolulu Magazine June 2018
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