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It appears that social bias regarding a woman giving birth later in life is based on whether she’s the grandma or the mom.

When 61 year old Illinois resident, Kristine Casey, gave birth to her own grandson a few days ago, “there was not a dry eye in the crowded operating room,” doctors said. (Deborah Shelton, Chicago Tribune, below.)

Reportedly the oldest woman to give birth in Illinois, Casey was impregnated with an embryo from her 35 year old daughter and son-in-law, who had “been trying for years,” unsuccessfully, to have a baby.

Her sacrifice to aid her daughter in becoming a mother was widely supported. As it should be.

However, let it be known: public reception of women who choose to become mothers via ART—or even adoption—at similar age has a decidedly different undertone.

In January last year, when retired school teacher Susan Tollefsen became the oldest woman in the UK to be offered IVF at 59, there was at outpouring of moralizing consternation.

The decision was characterized in the mainstream press as “a defiance of nature,” “an abuse of medical skill,” and as a “deeply worrying development.”

Others have gone on record to openly criticize older mothers—the grown-up daughter of an over-40 mom said the experience “sucked” and “at school functions, I had to introduce the old people.”

Recently, on the open adoption message boards (http://chinaadopttalk NULL.com/2011/02/15/waiting-growing-older-and-decisions/), women at 50 seeking to adopt were openly judged by a younger mother.

“I see too many people on some sort of campaign to convince others that they aren’t too old,” she says.

“I do think that you can be too old to adopt,” she continues. “I don’t know what the age is, and I agree it can be different for different people.”

Although, it seems motherhood via any method at a later age stands to be vilified, wouldn’t logic suggest that the genetic risks have a stronger argument?

We can easily argue that older women seeking to get pregnant are more clearly on the wrong side of the moral ruler due to health risks to children.

But, what if it’s not even that simple?

While mothers over 40 seem uniquely singled out for such attention, men of the same age or older are known to pose similar serious health risks to children.

In Your Old Man (http://www NULL.nytimes NULL.com/2009/04/05/magazine/05wwln-lede-t NULL.html?_r=2), a 2009 piece by New York Times columnist Lisa Belkin, the panoply of research highlighting the health risks of older men’s sperm was documented.  They included schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, increased miscarriage, and lower I.Q. scores.

And, according to scientists, the prevalence of risks in men can begin to appear as early as their 40’s.

Yet, older women are constantly admonished as being the sole cause of health risks to children conceived with their own eggs.

“The message to women: you are the direct cause of your baby’s health”, writes Belkin, “The message to men: you, too, could be Tony Randall (http://topics NULL.nytimes NULL.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/tony_randall/index NULL.html?inline=nyt-per).”

Ergo, “Women: you’d better hurry up. Men: you have all the time in the world.”

So, as society proffers a cigar and a pat on the back to Belkin’s “silver-haired sex symbols, and balding sugar daddies,” women conceiving or adopting over 40 continue to be the red haired stepmoms of procreation.

They must sit back and watch while the old man and his sperm, and the old lady giving birth to her grandson, still get the thumbs up in the coliseum of public purview.

Notes for this blog:

Angel La Liberte is the founder of the website Flower Power Mom—The Truth About Motherhood After 40 (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/) (www.flowerpowermom.com (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/)), a regular blog featuring news, commentary, real mom stories and expert advice about motherhood after 40.

Deborah Shelton, Chicago Tribune: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-02-11/news/ct-met-pregnant-grandmother-20110211_1_sara-connell-oldest-woman-infertility-treatment (http://articles NULL.chicagotribune NULL.com/2011-02-11/news/ct-met-pregnant-grandmother-20110211_1_sara-connell-oldest-woman-infertility-treatment)

Lisa Belkin, New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/magazine/05wwln-lede-t.html?_r=2 (http://www NULL.nytimes NULL.com/2009/04/05/magazine/05wwln-lede-t NULL.html?_r=2)

Susan Tollefsen article: http://www.achildafter40.com/the-champ/

Adoption message boards: http://chinaadopttalk.com/2011/02/15/waiting-growing-older-and-decisions/ (http://chinaadopttalk NULL.com/2011/02/15/waiting-growing-older-and-decisions/)

7 Responses to Good For A Grandma To Give Birth at 61, But Not For A Mom

  1. Tweets that mention Good For A Grandma To Give Birth at 61, But Not For A Mom – Flower Power Mom -- Topsy.com (http://topsy NULL.com/flowerpowermom NULL.com/grandma-give-birth-61-mom/?utm_source=pingback&utm_campaign=L2) says:

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  2. Turtle says:

    I am a follower of the adoption site you linked to and was / am deeply hurt by the negative comments entered about older parents by the site owner. I’ve been a member since before we adopted our, now five year old daughter, 4+ years ago. Besides being hurt, I’m also surprised at how freely this negativity was expressed and defended by her. Thank you for this post.

  3. Christina says:

    Thanks for the post, Angel. I, too, am a follower of the adoption site you mentioned. I am still reeling from the accusations by the site curator and trying to come out of a blue funk because of what she (and others) said. In our youth-oriented society it is a constant struggle to be an optimistic 51-year-old mom of a beautiful little girl who gives me so much joy.

  4. Kelli says:

    My mother was 39 when I was born, and 42 when my sister was born. It was a blessing to be raised by older parents who could instill in me and my sister the patience, wisdom and life lessons that only come through experience and living. The age bias present in our culture, across all threads of society, is unfortunate, unfounded and ignorant. Thank you for spreading awareness through your blog!

  5. Kimberly (http://growinghopeandlight NULL.blogspot NULL.com/) says:

    While I am not in my 40s I am very open to having children then if I feel up to it. Goodness knows I know amazing women much older than I am in much better shape able to take on the world!
    My husbands mother had him at 43, and while she died when he was 18, she raised an amazing man and did so with grace and love.
    Why is it people bring out the “nature” card when it comes to age and fertility but not for other things? The medical advances and social ones as well have us living far longer than before and evolution has yet to catch up and give us a larger window.
    Lastly, anyone willing to attack a whole group of people without good cause needs to look at their own moral issues. There is always risks, we each take them everyday. We weigh them. I think a community leader in adoption should be more trusting and loving and open than the one who spoke so unkindly about adoption mothers of a certain age.

  6. Wendy R says:

    My own parents were on the older side for the time. I was my dad’s first but my mom’s 4th child. (they were 46 & 38 respectively), I have a younger brother born 4 years later. Growing up it was a little difficult for me (I am embarrassed to admit), having other kids ask if they were my grandparents. I vowed to have my own children when I was young! (18 and into my 20’s). Well, life has it’s own time table sometimes.
    I was 25 when I had my first baby, and 40 when I had my last child. Having experienced pregnancy and birth as a 25 yr old and as a 40 yr old I can say there was a huge difference! I didn’t bounce back physically as well at 40 as I did at 25. In many ways I feel exhausted all the time, still, nearly 5 yrs later. Waking up at night with him sometimes still, is so hard on me! Keeping up with a rambunctious active 4 1/2 yr old takes a lot out of me and my husband.
    On the other side of this, My own parents died, when they were young as far as age goes. I was 20 when my mom passed (my younger brother only 16), and my father passed away 2 1/2 yrs later. So when I became pregnant and gave birth at 40 I was somewhat concerned about leaving my own child at a young and vulnerable age.
    As for what others do, that is their own business, however, I do see a slight difference in the grandmother and the mother going through this at a later age. The grandmother will not be the one going through the physical issues of (not just birthing, but) raising a child as an older mother. I personally can’t imagine going through all of this in another 5-10+ years from now. And I sincerely hope that I don’t die young enough to leave my children motherless before they grow up, and not getting to see them marry and raise families of their own.

  7. […] it only as recently as 2010 that the world applauded 61-year-old Kristine Casey for giving birth to her own grandson when her daughter could not carry a pregnancy? But she was […]

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