The Age of Enlightenment?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

To explain why I’ve turned up late to meet a music/fashion/pop culture-y trend, I often say it’s because I’m old … as in, 62 years old. Once someone actually went half-way down the road to believing me.

They even wanted me to share my skincare secrets.

After I copped to really being in my late-30s, another person joked: “Oh, I was wondering how you were doing at 62 running around behind a 2-year-old kid.”

“Imagine,” I said, chuckling.

Then last night I came across this NY Magazine cover story: Parents of a Certain Age, that asks the question, “Is there anything wrong with being 53 and pregnant.”

This is definitely one of those times I wished I worked in non-home office. It’s such meaty water cooler stuff.  The magazine story is quite good, too. It delves into the various angles and opinions on this idea of  “deeply” middle-aged parents. Youth-obsessed culture. Donor eggs. Responsibility and boundaries regarding reproductive technology. Children of older parents and their ability to thrive. Benefits of having affluent, older parents. Health dangers of pregnancy/giving birth at advance maternal age. Taking on the That’s not natural! chorus. It’s all in this piece.

Now, I know the “live and let live” refrain will pop up here. I get it. We are all keenly aware of being judged for our parenting choices. And though part of this topic is about a woman’s right to freely choose what she wants to do with her body, there’s so much more on the table.

As the article spells it out, the age of first-time mothers is on the rise. The number of births to older parents in developed countries is not just inching up the charts; more like leaping.

“In Italy, Germany, and Great Britain, it’s 30,” the magazine reports. “In the U.S., it’s gone up to 25 from 21 since 1970, and in New York State, it’s even higher, at 27.”

According to NYMag, in 2008 about 8,000 babies were born to mamas 45 or older. That’s more than double the number born in 1997, says the Centers for Disease Control.

Wowzzah. And this isn’t even getting into the adoption statistics.

I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on this one, friends.

I must admit — without spoiling the article — there was a detail about one of the older mothers’ stories that bothered me. Ann Maloney had her first child, a daughter, when she was about 49. By one hospital’s standards (NYU), she was considered to be at the “outer limit” for conceiving, even though Maloney didn’t  think she was too old to have kids.

That’s fine. I was happy to read that she had a healthy baby.

However, for her second child (another daughter), Maloney “had to be brought out of menopause with hormones before she could get pregnant.” Brought out of menopause? <—That, is what stuck in my craw. It seemed like her body was sending the message that the reproductive party was coming to an end. But Maloney/her doctors just didn’t want to leave. Or am I missing something here? Really. Am I?

So … I’m kicking this over to you, my virtual water cooler buddies. Like the magazine story inquired, is there anything wrong with being 52 and pregnant?

Leave a comment below. Let’s talk it out.

  • 1
    Megan Tolbert says:

    Hm. I guess this is a “to each their own” scenario. I personally would rather be on a Mediterranean cruise in my mid-50’s, with my adult son (!) off doing whatever it is he’s doing, but that’s me. I had a child at 31. If I were 52, had not yet had a kid, and for whatever reason felt that I *needed* to do it, would I? If I were healthy enough, if I had a supportive network around me, if I had the funds, and if I REALLY NEEDED to do this–I just might. I’d never judge, outside of a general sense of incredulity. I wonder about the kind of experience the kid will have–when I was 15, my mother was 35. When my son is 15, I will be 46. When this woman’s child is 15, she will be 67. If she’s up to it, good for her, but I’m tired just thinking about it.

    There’s also the burden of caring for an elderly parent at a young age. She may be healthy now, but in 20 years her child may have some hard decisions to make about mom’s health care. Tough issues.

  • 2
    Tamara says:

    If a woman can get pregnant in her 50’s more power to her. However, its not something I would do. I do not want to be an old parent. She’s going to be 70 when her child is 18. I’m 34 and if I don’t have a child by the time I’m 40 its a done deal.

  • 3
    Nailah says:

    I think that once a woman enters menopause, it means that her time for having children has ended. It may seem harsh but the onset of menopause signals that a woman can no longer bear children and I don’t think that doctors should use science to reverse that. Having a 60 year old mother when you’re 7 is tough stuff and it will only get worse as time goes on.

  • 4
    Rema says:

    I think having a baby after 45 is selfish. I can understand that there are medical miracles that make pregnancy possible but what about the well being of that child? How will the child be affected by having aging parents? Or no grandparents at all because it’s just too late? Some women think they have all time in the world to have babies when they don’t. We have menopause for a reason, we may not know that reason right now but I’m sure there’s something or we wouldn’t have it. We don’t know the true effects of waiting so long to have children, there’s no studies yet saying that it’s a problem so we think its okay and the woman’s choice but I’d rather not wait for some scientist to confirm something that our bodies tell us naturally. Some women may want to focus on their career first and be established before being ready for children but when are you really ready? When do you have enough money? When are all the trials and tribulations over? It seems like that day doesn’t exist. Our moms, grandmas, great-grans etc all were able to do it without the perfect situation, so why can’t we? Every time I hear of some middle aged woman having a baby I freak out and wonder will this become the new norm? I hope not.

  • 5
    Ardean says:

    I guess I think that if it’s someone’s personal choice, then they have the personal right to do that.

    For me though, I think that the body knows what it’s doing and to mess with that, is un-wise.
    I’m 38 and I don’t have any kids. Just hasn’t happened for me yet {no current partner, not currently trying, wasn’t trying in the past, cause the relationship/timing wasn’t right} and I think I’m okay with it not happening, if by the time I DO find someone to settle with – my body just says, it’s too late.

    In a random conversation a few years back, speaking to an older woman {early 60’s}, she said that she regrets not having kids, because now in her elder years, she doesn’t have anyone to come visit her and take care of her {and her husband}. And if I really dwell on that, it almost makes me say, you better start now, before it really, really is too late {to happen naturally}. But then, I don’t want to have a kid just to have a kid, without being in a good relationship. And I definitely don’t feel the need to have a kid without a partner. To me I’d only have a kid as part of the joy of a union with someone.