Saturday, September 12th, 2009 • 4 Comments on Having a Baby… At Any Age? (27w2d)
There is an article in this month’s More Magazine called Having a Baby Over 50. Yes, you read that right: over 50. Of course, that’s what you can expect from a magazine whose tagline reads “Celebrating Women 40+.”
I love More because it doesn’t make me wish I were younger. I’ve been reading it since I was in my late 30’s and it’s nice to be reading about women my age and older doing all the thing that I want do—and, well, more. But I”m not sure about this having a baby over 50 thing. I mean… wow.
The article profiles six different women who, for varying reasons, took on motherhood at 50+. Some already have older children (children who are over 30, in one case!), while for some this is their first child (or children— at few women had twins). I should note that only one of the six women conceived naturally—the others were IVF using donor eggs and/or sperm and one used a surrogate. Though I don’t discount surrogacy or adoption as valid ways of starting or enlarging a family, in this instance I’m rather fascinated—and a bit horrified—at the thought of taking on pregnancy over the age of 50.
Honestly, pregnancy hasn’t been so hard for me. All thing considered, I’ve had it pretty easy. Hell, even getting pregnant wasn’t all that difficult. At the time, the process seemed a bit tedious and tragic, but in retrospect, I didn’t have any more difficult a time getting (and staying) pregnant than women 10 or 15 years younger than me. I was off the Pill for 14 months and got pregnant twice. Of course, Jay was gone for over 6 of those months, so two pregnancies in 8 months and the second one took. Really, those are pretty good odds at any age. The only medical intervention I used for this pregnancy was a progesterone supplement. No fertility drugs, no herbs, no accupuncture, no special diets or exercise or meditation. Prenatal vitamins and sex to get pregnant, then the progesterone supplement starting at 8 weeks to help me stay pregnant. That’s it.
But still. There is a difference between being 42 and pregnant and being 52 and pregnant. I have never felt so old as I do right now. When it comes to energy level, stamina and flexibility, my 42 year old body (non-pregnant) doesn’t feel that much different than my 32 year old body did—and maybe only a little older than my 22 year old body. I notice more of a difference emotionally—I feel more grounded, for lack of a better word, now than I did a decade or two ago. More like I’ve grown into the person I’m supposed to be. However, for me, being pregnant feels like I’ve physically aged at least a decade in just a few months. This, I think to myself as I eyeball the vast expanse of the Home Depot and contemplate hitching a ride on a passing forklift, is what old age must feel like.
There is also the mortality factor to consider. I don’t have any desire to be a grandmother, but I would like to see my child reach adulthood and achieve his goals. That’s doable at 42. At 52, I’d worry that I wouldn’t be around much past college. Of course, people die at every age and I recognize the need for a certain pragmatic attitude when taking on parenthood in later life. The good thing is I’m likely to take better care of myself because I’m having a child at this age. I’m also more likely to encourage him to be independent and self-sufficient (no mama’s boys here!) in the event that I’m not always around for him to fall back on. That appeals to me simply because I was an independent and self-sufficient teenager/young adult (for different reasons than death, but certainly just as valid).
I think I can make a very good case for having children at 42 as opposed to 22. Granted, I’m a bit biased. But having a baby at any age is fraught with worries and second-guessing. Far be it for me to say the cut-off for motherhood should be 42. (Though I do think there should be a minimum age requirement.) I just don’t think I could (or would want to, rather) do this again at 50. Then again, who knows how I’ll feel in 8 years? Maybe I’ll be happy the technology exists to assist me in having additional children at that age. Or maybe I’ll be the rare 50+ woman to get pregnant without medical intervention. I don’t see that as part of my future, but I learned a long time ago never to say never. It wasn’t that long ago that I didn’t see this experience as part of my future.
The part that annoys me most about women having babies over 50 is that here I am—thinking I’m being all progressive and cutting edge—and it turns out I’m not even close to pushing the boundaries of motherhood. In some circles, I’d practically be considered a young mom. Then again, that’s not such a bad thing, either.