The absent or tenuous population-level association between early life fertility and completed fertility was coined, broadly, “fertility recuperation”, and its most common demographic foot-print in literature is the comparison of fertility rates by age between two consecutive cohorts. However, this analysis does not provide a quantitative framework and does not distinguish whether recuperation is a focalized process, mainly because each age-based fertility rate is itself the outcome of postponing and recuperation at the same time. In this study I propose breaking down total fertility into the age at first birth and the total fertility rate thereafter; this break down works for aggregated and individual indicators of fertility in a straightforward manner. I apply this framework to characterize the recuperation among European countries as the interplay between changes in the age at first birth and changes in the fertility rate thereafter. Using survey data, I found that recuperation is present only in West European Countries, and that birth cohorts where recuperation is first found are characterized by higher total fertility rates of old mothers (meaning women that have a first birth at a late age). Old mothers, in fact, entirely explain the appearance of recuperation.