21 thoughts on “Over 50 and Pregnant

  1. “Ann Maloney gave birth to Isabella in February 2001, a blissful event followed by severe postpartum depression followed by the hormonal rages that accompany the onset of menopause. A townhouse was purchased, two flourishing practices shuffled and reshuffled to accommodate newly complicated priorities. Lily was born when her mother was 52. This time, Maloney had to be brought out of menopause with hormones before she could get pregnant.
    “Today, Maloney and Ross, 60 and 66, inhabit their home with a rotating crew of housekeepers, a couple of fish tanks, a cockatiel, two bearded dragons, two dogs, two cats, and a dwarf hamster. Lily and Isabella are 7 and 10 and come with a docket of demands befitting their age—soccer games, birthday parties, sibling fights.”
    Someday one or both of the girls is going to want to meet her mother.

  2. I knew a girl in high school whose parents were both over 50 (her father was closer to 60, I think, mother maybe 55) when she was born, but she was also the last of 12 kids. My impression was that in her case, the parents were pretty disengaged with the younger kids. For people having a first child, I’d guess that narcissism is often a strong motivating factor, and that it might be unfair to the kid, but who knows. Mostly, though, I want to suggest that that woman is not just a bit over 50, but more likely over 60 or so.

  3. Honestly, I don’t see a problem. My great-great-grandmother gave birth to her final child at age 52–in 1900, well before fertility drugs. It’s on the outer limits of natural fertility, but it’s not completely beyond them. Also, I feel the usual reasons–you won’t have enough energy, you’ll die before they’re grown up–are a bit of a straw man. Plenty of people die young–so there’s no guarantee you’ll see your kids grow up if you have them at 22 instead of 52, plus there’s no way to predict your life span (you might live to 100). Secondly, I get that it would be much more exhausting to have kids later in life, but enough grandparents raise children around the world and do just a fine job that I don’t see why parents can’t be that old, and also, there are young people for whatever reason who don’t have lots of energy, should they be prevented from having kids too?
    I feel like there’s a bit of misogyny underlying a lot of this–women are supposed to be tied to and worried about their biological clock, so if women find a way to divorce childrearing from that, there’s a bit of outrage and claims of it being “unnatural.” Yet men, who generally die younger than women and have worse health in old age, are generally not socially castigated when they have kids even in their 60s and 70s (e.g. Michael Douglas, Donald Trump, or Rupert Murdoch). Honestly, from a strictly biological or health point of view, in terms of fitness for childrearing women are really the better sex to reproduce late in life.

  4. I’ve got mixed feelings. First off, there’s an increased risk of problems during pregnancy, birth defects, and so on. I’m not sure if that’s fair to a child. Second, while it’s possible for a young mom to die during their child’s “tender years” the risk is greater for older parents. Let’s face it. Humans have an expiration date, separate from any possibility of accidental death.
    And 60 may be the new 40, but it’s certainly not the new 20. Raising kids is HARD WORK, and no matter how healthy you are, you start to slow down.
    Then there’s the question: WHY? are these women so desperate to cling to their youth that they will do this, regardless of the outcomes? What’s WRONG with aging? With being grandma instead of mom?
    Our culture has defined beauty by fertility far too long, and we women have bought into it. We see younger and younger models, the sexualization of barely pubescent girls, and think we have to adhere to some archaic idea that women are most desirable when they are virgins capable of bearing children with no ambiguity over paternity. Men want young women they can have that fantasy with. Women try to meet that ideal because we are still slaves to our male dominated cultural expectations.

  5. I thought I typed “biological” mother. Oh well. That is a big issue here–the birth mother is not the genetic mother, so there’s built-in awkwardness if/when the girls decide to explore that side of their family. And the mom can’t hide that fact because 1) she did a cover story for New York and 2) even if she hadn’t, if the kids are at all bright, they’d be able to figure out that the odds are that a third party supplied genetic material for their creation.
    I guess we have to wait another 20 years for the inevitable first person story from one or both daughters to see how this turns out.

  6. Do we really believe the fetish with younger and younger women is related to fertility? It’s always been my impression that it has to do with the sexualization of very young women, but not with them actually bearing children.
    The argument that this is unfair to the kids is specious, IMO, if it’s not also levelled at teen moms. It’s well-documented that teenagers are typically just too young to be good parents. If you’re not arguing against pregnancy for any reason that makes the parent sub-optimal, then it smells to me like misogyny.

  7. “Then there’s the question: WHY? are these women so desperate to cling to their youth that they will do this, regardless of the outcomes? What’s WRONG with aging? With being grandma instead of mom?”
    How come we don’t ask this of men who have kids in their 50s? Also, it’s hard to be “grandma” if you’re not “mom” first. Why is the desire to have kids “narcissistic” and about “youthfulness” and not, you know, about actually wanting kids? Why is being childless and wanting kids “selfish” at 45 but not 25? To me, there’s also something deeply creepy out believing that only people who society deems should procreate should be allowed to procreate: if we rule out people who have the means (natural, financial, etc.) to procreate based on age, what about disability? mental illness? genetic disorders? family history? education level? race? I understand people might make decisions not to have kids based on their perceived faults, but I believe that the right to procreate is a fundamental human right, even if your offspring or parenting situation would be considered “sub-optimal” by others. Basically, I also second everything Jen is saying.
    Also, I think of Philip Larkin’s poem:
    “They fuck you up, your mum and dad/They do not mean to but they do./They fill you with the faults they had/And add some extra just for you./But they were fucked up in their turn/By fools in old-style hats and coats/Who half the time were soppy-stern/And half at one another’s throats./Man hands on misery to man/It deepens like a coastal shelf./Get out as early as you can/And don’t have any kids yourself.”

  8. I am fundamentally pro-choice, so I do believe that in the end this is a decision between patient and doctor (unless we were to find significant health risks, but, frankly, there aren’t, to either the child or the mother — there are risks, but those risks are not greater than those in other situations where we would not legislate treatment plans).
    I do think that anonymous gamete donation should simply be disallowed — I consider it a civil right of the child to know their genetic origins, and thus, they have a right to know who contributed the genetic material to their creation (this includes both eggs and sperm). I believe this is now the law in the UK.
    I also think that we need to think through the effect of reproductive technologies done in other countries, with different rules, and we have to figure out how we “regulate” those rules (for example, the recent data about the baby selling ring in the Ukraine, where women became pregnant, thinking they were being surrogates, but in fact, were becoming pregnant with the plan of later finding a placement for the baby).

  9. The argument that this is unfair to the kids is specious, IMO, if it’s not also levelled at teen moms. It’s well-documented that teenagers are typically just too young to be good parents.
    Is there anyone who thinks that teenagers should, in general, have kids? I mean, maybe it’s good for some teen, but doesn’t almost everyone think it would be better for a would-be teen mother to wait until she’s older? This seems like an extremely easy burden to bear.
    It should also be kept in mind that thinking that a choice some person makes might well reflect less than admirable states of mind or motivation is compatible with thinking people should not be legally prevented from making those choices. I’d think that’s obvious, but some comments seem to suggest that it’s not.

  10. I’m 41 and my husband is 35 (a first marriage, and married just two years) and we are trying to conceive.
    I find the above comments both interesting and disturbing. Interesting, because many of the comments “assume” folks assume a “typical life trajectory” and disturbing because when folks vary from “the norm” judgements abound.
    Whose to say what’s fair or unfair? Whose to say a parent of 50 can’t be energetic and engaged? The assumption that this has anything to do with “staying young” is simply bizarre. Folks don’t procreate to “prove” they are young. While older parents *may* die sooner than younger parents, they may provide a qualitatively “better” life experience for their children than younger parents.
    I would encourage readers to keep an openmind. I would have loved to have been a young(er) mom, but it wasn’t in the cards.

  11. I’m almost 50, have 2 teens and I’m EXHAUSTED! My husband and I are both kind of counting down, looking forward to a time when we won’t be up at 7 AM to drive people places on weekends, when we won’t have to pick kids up from play practice at 10 PM on a weeknight. I CAN”T even imagine doing that when one is 65! Also, I was at the gym this morning listening to the older ladies chatting as they get dressed after ‘water arthritis exercise’ and the conversation was all about falling and breaking hips and being worried about going up and down stairs. Can’t quite imagine helping carry props up and downstairs for the school play, travelling to visit distant colleges and fighting about whose turn it is to walk the dog — all while being sure not to fall on the stairs or break my hip! Some things don’t mix.

  12. “Is there anyone who thinks that teenagers should, in general, have kids? ”
    Well, there seem to be plenty of people who don’t think it’s a big deal, and there’s certainly no one who would legislate against it. I’m virulently pro-choice, but I’d never suggest a law that forces (or even coerces) a teen into either an abortion or giving her child to someone else.
    If what people are asking for is censure — i.e. I should recommend against my mother choosing to have a bay right now, just like I’d make that recommendation for my daughter. In fact, for both of them, my recommendation would be a quite a bit stronger than that and would probably involve a lot of yelling (let’s imagine for a second that my daughter was 18 and my mother 50, to make the comparison more balanced).
    But, when we talk about 50+ pregnancies the main difference is that we’re talking about the use of medical technologies, which are largely unregulated, and whether we want to regulate them because of our disapproval. I’m going to largely discuss the health concerns, since they’re not particularly more dramatic, and because they are not individual specific — some 35 year olds have higher risks than some 50 year olds, and we’re not talking about restricting access to, say, donor eggs because of the health risks, but because of age. That health decision should be made between a doctor and an individual patient.

  13. Oops, dismiss, not discuss. I don’t think the correlation with age on health risks are the relevant factor, and that each woman’s risk should be individually assessed in making the decision.

  14. We were about macaroni’s and her husband’s age when we had our (only) daughter, and I can’t say that lack of energy for child-rearing as been a problem. And if it were, it would be compensated by having more money. We couldn’t have another child for biological reasons, but I’m pretty sure a second or third wouldn’t have been a problem.
    But there’s a big difference between being 59 or even 64 when your kids head off to college, and being 78(!). There’s normally a lot of deterioration during those years. It’s perfectly normal for a 59 year old to go to the office every day, to go to the gym, etc.; when you see a 78 year old doing it, it’s a major accomplishment.

  15. I’m 40 and I consider it a major accomplishment that I get to the office every day. I don’t know about the gym, but I was enjoying my running before I fell very hard. It’s been six days and my knees still hurt a bit.

  16. The article does point out how money plays a significant role in the ability of 50 year old parents to reduce risks for their offspring, even if the parents are less healthy, more likely to die.
    But, part of the point, as well is that there’s almost no “we couldn’t have another child for biological reasons” any more. With gamete donation and surrogacy anyone (with the money) can have a baby now.
    It’s the introduction of commerce and the third parties that raise qualms for me, because once contracts and money are involved, the state is involved. I strongly believe that anonymous gamete “donation” shouldn’t be enforced by the state, and, even as strongly believe that the state should require that 3rd parties involved (i.e. clinics) keep records that are available to the offspring. I think children have a right to know their genetic origins.
    I also question the purchase of sperm and eggs and would be amenable to make it illegal to pay for gametes.
    And, I would like to see some regulation of Americans ability to use overseas facilities.
    I don’t think any of those things are going to happen, though, ’cause I don’t think there’s a political support for a centrist position. Most people either want all the technologies to be illegal, or all of them to be legal, or don’t care.

  17. “Also, I was at the gym this morning listening to the older ladies chatting as they get dressed after ‘water arthritis exercise’ and the conversation was all about falling and breaking hips and being worried about going up and down stairs.”
    Yeah, I was thinking osteoporosis and dental issues after I read this article. A 50-year-old lady needs to hold on to all the minerals she’s got. I had my two kids in my later 20s, and I paid for it with several years of dental work. I can only imagine that that gets worse with age.
    “But, part of the point, as well is that there’s almost no “we couldn’t have another child for biological reasons” any more. With gamete donation and surrogacy anyone (with the money) can have a baby now.”
    Yeah, the way things are today in the US, he who writes the checks is the parent. If the eggs are yours and you’re writing the checks, the babies are yours. If the sperm is yours and you’re writing the checks, the babies are yours. If the womb is yours and you’re writing the checks, the babies are yours. And if neither the sperm nor the eggs nor the womb are yours, but you’re writing the checks, the babies are still yours. I’m not sure how we got here, but it’s not a good place.
    “And, I would like to see some regulation of Americans ability to use overseas facilities.”
    As it stands now, we are the Wild West that people from other countries come to to do the stuff that is illegal back home. I’ve heard of a lot of cases of British citizens coming here for surrogacy.

  18. I realize that I’ve not commented here before, but I’ve read a lot, and I’m a little astonished at what comes across as a cavalier attitude to making gamete donation (at least anonymous donation) illegal. My wife and I would not have been able to have children without an anonymous sperm donor. The clinic we could go to for IUIs would only work with one sperm bank, and that bank only had anonymous donors available. Also, we are not legally allowed to marry (nor is my wife legally allowed to adopt our children) and going with anonymous sperm felt safer given the tenuous nature of our family in the eyes of the law, especially in comparison to a known donor.
    Are my kids not supposed to exist because you don’t like how I got the sperm? Should I have slept with a bunch of strangers that I picked up at bars instead? Plenty of kids don’t have good genetic information about their biological parents, due to abandonment, or disease, or adoption, or a variety of circumstances. Would I have liked to have my kids be able to contact the donor when of age? Yes. But, of course, they actually wouldn’t exist as who they are if we’d insisted on that.

  19. “A lawyer who donated sperm to pay his way through college has learned that he has fathered an astonishing 70 children.
    More than 15 of those have already attempted to contact 33-year-old Ben Seisler.
    “The donor confessed to his fiancée as part of a new reality show, Sperm Donor, that aired on the Style Network on Tuesday.”
    Oops.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2043412/Sperm-donor-confesses-fianc-e–discovering-fathered-70-children.html#ixzz1ZRSrvGDj

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