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This week, one of Canada’s leading newspapers published a series of articles on the ongoing controversy over later motherhood.

In “Motherhood after 40: Ethical debate rages over how old is too old to become a mother,” Wendy Gillis from the Toronto Star interviewed Canadian fertility specialists, academics from Women’s Studies and bioethics, some real “mid-life mamas,” along with a chime-in from yours truly. (For both Star features, click these links: 1 (http://www NULL.thestar NULL.com/mobile/living/article/1110159 ) and 2 (http://www NULL.thestar NULL.com/living/article/1108972--motherhood-after-40-meet-the-mid-life-mama).)

It’s clear that Gillis takes her ethics seriously and is in tune with the current media maelstrom—or should I say “mutterings”—over whether it is nobler in the uterus to suffer the slings and arrows of age and infertility, or take up motherhood in our season of youth (apologies to Mr. Shakespeare (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Hamlet)).

But is “to be, or not to be” a mother in later life really the question any longer?

Treated just like unwanted political refugees, mature new mothers are coming on in droves and yet, those who can help are mesmerized by their ethical navels.

They seem impervious to the overwhelming cultural changes that led to over fifty percent of today’s workforce being driven by women.

Are we supposed to stuff them back into the kitchen and the bedroom? Methinks not.

Instead, let’s ask the refugee question: These moms are here; now, how do we support them? Ask that, and you’ll hear the echo of an empty TV studio.

We are not, it seems, ready for reality.

In the USA, we are on the cusp of a series of television broadcasts—from Anderson Cooper and Dr. Oz to PBS, not to mention a number of upcoming documentaries—where we’ll be invited to join the maternal age debate ad nauseum in the comfort of our living rooms: “How Old is Too Old?”

Ultimately, it may end with the whimper of a moot point.

With recent refinements in oocyte cryopreservation, the scientific argument against later motherhood may soon be made redundant. If women can successfully freeze their unfertilized eggs during peak fertility years for later use, where’s—not to put too fine a point on it— the beef?

Take away the legitimacy of science and we can effectively lift up the rock to see what’s really fuelling this fracas:  that we have very definite cultural and social taboos about age and motherhood.

Our society is uncomfortable with wrinkled, older women holding bouncing babies unless they happen to be the grandma. You know what? Big deal.

From the perspective of a mother who is “livin’ the dream,” I can tell you that our concerns are inherently more practical—dealing with grade-schoolers amidst howling perimenopause, struggling for financial security at a time of economic disaster and, pondering the real question of what’s left of a raped and tainted planet for our offspring to inherit– ay, there’s the rub.

Notes on this blog:

Angel La Liberte is the founder of the website Flower Power Mom.com—The Truth About Motherhood After 40 (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/)(www.flowerpowermom.com (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/)), featuring commentary, real mom stories and expert advice about motherhood after 40. She actively advocates for more supportive attitudes towards women having children in midlife and to raise awareness of the real issues related to later life motherhood.

Angel also hosts “A Child After 40”, an online community to empower all women on the journey of motherhood after 40. To join, go to: http://www.achildafter40.com/a-child-after-40-online/ (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/a-child-after-40-online/)

Angel gave birth to her children at 41 and 44 after conceiving naturally. For her full story, go to:http://www.achildafter40.com/my-story/ (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/my-story/)

Toronto Star article: http://www.thestar.com/mobile/living/article/1110159 (http://www NULL.thestar NULL.com/mobile/living/article/1110159)

22 Responses to Is The Age Debate Getting Old?

  1. Laura Favin (http://themothersroom NULL.com) says:

    I am a mother over 40, completely in love with my child and she seems to be doing very well. I am at a very healthy place in my life, very attentive to the needs of my child in a way that I believe comes with age. I am healthy and energetic. Work hard, play hard and take care of my girl well.

    I would highly recommend that any person who wants to be a parent as intensely as I wanted to have my child should go ahead. My child will grow up knowing that she is loved and was wanted more than the stars in the sky and the land below.

  2. sarah weissman (http://wwww NULL.goodnighties NULL.com) says:

    It’s an individual’s decision… period. what will happen though, you will be more exhausted- no getting around that! I had my last lttle blessing at 41 and now my ‘baby’ is 14… SLEEP is key to my survival–

    Sweet dreams… get a pair of Goodnighties as a start!!
    :)

  3. Lisa says:

    I think that society will always have a comment or opinion about later-in-life parenting. But perhaps they should consider the number of children who are actually being raised by people over 40 (or even 50, 60) anyway?

    The grandparent-parenting situation in the US is a reality. I would rather see a woman pregnant at 45 and mature enough to handle parenting than a sixteen year old who will wind up on social support to raise her child or–better yet–her parents will raise her child. So, being a mature parent should be the norm, not the exception.

  4. Sherry Grant says:

    I am 43 and have an 11 year old and a 6 year old. I became unexpectedly pregnant this summer and lost the baby to miscarriage due to excessive uterine polyps. Otherwise after surgery, the “docs” say the pregnancy would have gone very well at my “advanced” age. I have received both encouragement from those who did not see “age” when they found out about my loss and I have also received the disapproving “looks” and comments about my being “past that” anyway. There is definitely a divide between those who “define” the proper age to stop procreating and those who do not put parameters on people’s hearts and lives. At 43, it hurt as much as it would have at 31 when I was pregnant with my first to lose the hope of another child. No one can judge another woman’s situation. What is right for one is not for another. My sister is 40 and has decided to have her first child. She has suffered one miscarriage and is now seeing a specialist. I feel hopeful and excited for her. Unfortunately, I know we will meet some of the naysayers along the way! I say,Go MOMS, whatever the age!!!

  5. Ellen says:

    I gave birth to my son last year at the age of 44 and we are both thriving! A baby doesn’t know the difference if the love, nurturing and caring they are receiving is coming from someone with a few laugh lines.

  6. LaRae says:

    Sherry the same thing happened to me and my new husband, we found ourselves SURPRISINGLY pregnant 18 months ago, I was 42 (with 10 and 13 yr old daughters), he was 46, but despite our age we were THRILLED and so excited to be having a baby together. I also lost our baby to a large fibroid in my uterus, it was taking up 70% of the inside wall and my baby could not remain attached to that. We were devastated and quickly chose to have surgery to remove the fibroid and try again, sadly after 18 months and IUI’s with clomid we never did conceive again. I stopped going to the specialist but I still pray every night for another miracle and even at 44 I will PROUDLY hold my head high and show my baby belly if I am so blessed again. It is crazy that people even care about this, it has nothing to do with anyone else. We are healthy and financially stable, it will affect NO ONE else but us.

    • Ann says:

      I became pregnanct at 44 (and even had a very high FSH over 100!) There’s lots of hope! You might consider doing some research on the use of DHEA to enhance your “egg health”. They are doing some really interesting research at the Centre for Reproductive Medicine in NYC. (25 mg 3X day protocal) is increasing spontaneous pregnancy rates and decreasing miscarriage rates substantially in “older” moms. This worked for me! Good luck!
      Ann

  7. Christina says:

    That was a great post Angel. Well I can tell you there are people who totally disapprove of an over-40 mommy of a little child and I found out my cousin (female and 60 years of age) is one of them. We received a Christmas “greeting” from her where she said and I quote “Are you really going to do what you are going to do?” (meaning adopt a 2-year-old from China) Then the bomb and I quote “Children are for the young.” She was sure right to the point. I just turned 52 and my husband is 60 – we already have a 4-year-old from Vietnam. Believe me we get just as much discrimination in the adoption community where younger women think we older moms should step aside so they can move up in the China line. I was devastated with what my cousin said but it kinda pushed me over the edge into a kind of “I don’t give a rip what anyone thinks” kind of mode. Also (I hope Angel you don’t mind religion brought in or anyone else) I realized we are not of this world, we are spiritual beings and it is only God who I aim to please. I feel our having these 2 girls is meant to be. Thanks for all you do Angel – will you give us more information when the shows are actually going to air? Thanks. Even though I think it might be kinda rough to watch them…hmmm…maybe I won’t. 😀

  8. Karen Blehm says:

    I had my 50th birthday in December. My son turned 5 in October. My husband just turned 49. Both my husband and I have 2 children each from previous marriages. Our older kids are grown/on their own. The next youngest is 20. When my husband first asked me if I had ever thought about having another child my quick response was “yes… a grandchild one day”. I hadn’t thought about having more children because I had not been in a good relationship in my first marriage. Why would I bring another child into that? My (now) husband seemed to really want to have another child. So we discussed with our 4 older children and, with their blessing and that of a few doctors we spoke with to ensure I was healthy enough, we let mother nature decide. She quickly decided. As soon as we said “let’s try” I was pregnant. I lost that child in an early miscarriage. As soon as we were cleared to try again we did and were pregnant almost immediately yet again. So now our son is a wonderful, healthy, inquisitive, fabulous preschooler. We made a difficult decision to transfer with my husband’s company away from our older children when our youngest was just a year old. I regret that decision (though I LOVE the weather where we now live). Our older children are more like aunts and uncles who our youngest sees when we can arrange it. He has no real concept of the difference between his real aunts/uncles and his siblings. He thinks it is interesting that some children his age actually live with their siblings and share (or fight over) toys. His siblings have always been adults to him. He is more like an only child. Our son has brought us great joy and we seem to do the same for him. Though he has attended “school” since he was 8 weeks old (both my husband and I have careers), he loves school and looks forward to it each school day and misses it when he is on break from school. He is very social. He is also fairly different from his siblings (they are all so different). Our son is very into the performing arts(dancing/singing/acting). We know little about all that as none of our older kids went in that direction. But our youngest seems to have an unusual talent in that area (yah… I know… all parents think their kids are talented). We are supporting him in this area for as long as he wants to do it. If he switches to sports or anything else that is positive, we will equally support and encourage that. Ultimately, to think that some would consider mid-40s too late to successfully parent and love a child is incredible. What we give to our son, what he gives to us, and what he ultimately can give to society is enough for me to say “If you are able to decently parent, age does not matter…. go for it if your heart and soul is into it.”

  9. brionne says:

    Dear Team,
    I had both of my youngest over 40 naturally without ever visiting any doctor even to ask about fertility. For all the ladies who just conceived naturally at home I don’t see what all the fuss is about – is someone really going to break in to the bedroom and stop normal relations between men and women?!
    So I think it follows that women who conceive at the same age but just needed a bit of help shouldn’t really end up being treated any differently.
    Hmmmm……what about their husbands and partners? I bet no one’s been trying to make them feel like they did anything wrong….
    We women really need to stop feeling like we should apologize for everything:)
    All the best,
    Brionne, 46, children aged 9, 4 and 3 (all home births conceived naturally, it took only one month, four months and one month to conceive them, all the children are healthy and normal – if indeed any of us are actually normal:) )

  10. Susanne says:

    I am almost 41 now and and 6 weeks pregnant with my second child. Natural conception was easy and it only took three cycles of trying before I got pregnant. I am writing from Berlin (Germany) and over here first time pregnancy around 40 is a very common urban phenomenon and it isn’t considered weird or selfish. Doctors also don’t treat it as a worrysome condition. In fact many female gynaecologists have children late in life themselves and are thus always pretty laid back and understanding. They also have the experience that the majority of older women have normal pregnancies. The comment I often got from doctors was “hey you are healthy, not overweight, in a safe socio-economic situation, highly educated and a stable personality AND you really want that child. What are you worrying about?”. These are all risk reducing factors that most older women have on their side.
    Of couse I am not wild about the fact that I will be 60 by the time my (probably) last child goes off to university, that we probably won’t be fit enough to support and help our kids with their own kids. All we can do is look after our health and remain fit for as long as possible. Try to minimize the burden that migh fall upon them once we get too frail. It does worry me of course and we have to work together to create a society that feels resonsible for every child born to anyone. Older parents are special in the way that they are already aware of their own death and are thus often more appreciative, loving, caring and forsightful than younger parents. I am sure that little human beings born and brought up in such an environment will become special adults.

  11. Susanne says:

    Oh and I also had an interesting comment from a historian on the subject. He told me that late motherhood is far from being a postmodern phenomenon. In the 19th and early 20th century when life expectancy began to rise significantly, women in rural areas gave birth right up to their menopause and a tenth or 12the child past the 40th birthday was quite common. In fact my own Danish family is a good example. Both great grandmothers had healthy children at 43 and 44. It was a bit of a scandal, but only because the village was shocked that they were still having sex at that age ;-)) hilarious or what

  12. Susan says:

    This “debate” enfuriates me! Women have always had children until up to 50. Although fertility declines with age, there have always been women who still had children in their 40s, often by “accident”. So I think the debate is really over those of us who choose and try very hard to have them in their 40’s, and whose business is it to judge that? Because otherwise, are the people “against” older motherhood saying that any woman who gets pregnant by accident or without planning in her 40s should abort? I remember a woman in our church when I was a child who had 3 grown sons, and thinking she was already in menopause, found that she was pregnant at 46. She raised that 4th child, and lived to be a grandmother to his children. So are they telling us that she shouldn’t have had that baby?

    Like Angel says, finding ways to support and address the special situations and needs of older women should be the discussion, not whether or not we should have our babies.

  13. Christina says:

    Think about it – there are a LOT worse things that can happen to a child than to have a “mature” mommy and daddy. :(

    The problem is today we live in a youth-obsessed culture – all the plastic surgery, etc. etc. and basically women are supposed to be washed up after 50 – we are expected to go sit in a rocker and rock our grandbabies, not our babies.

    All us over 40/over 50 moms rock and we are here to stay!

    I love what Angel says about it “We combine a mother’s love with a grandmother’s wisdom” and I like that a lot. (paraphrased)

  14. Mills says:

    I had my one and only child at the age of 48. If you say I am selfish, I say mind your own business. We are very involved with our child and she is quite active and loved. We have a home and careers. It was our choice as we met later in life and have a strong solid marriage. I wish I had met my wonderful husband earlier and we had our child sooner and a second one…but you take what life hands you and I am gretful everytime I look into that little face!

  15. Elisa says:

    Hello!
    Well, there is much debate about this topic…. first off, My father is 16 years older than my mother and she had her first baby at 25, they had 6 years of infertility and then adopted my older brother. Dad was 41. Then Mom found out she was pregnant with me and she was 26 when she had me and dad was 42. My sister was born 6 years later, then my brother when dad was 54 and mom was 38. We were pretty much all surprises. I know my mom and dad were worried when my younger brother was born because she thought he would have many birth defects since she was over 35 and dad was very old and were thinking of my brother’s future. All I have to say is God Bless them, I know we keep my parents young and so do their grandkids.

    I ,myself, was a late bloomer with marriage and kids. My husband and I were told we were infertile and we would not be able to have kids without help. Decided against that and we became pregnant 5 times naturally. My last pregancy,unexpected at 45 years old and did have a miscarriage very early on. I was deeply saddened by this, but am so blessed to have 4 beautiuful boys ages 12, 11, 8 and 6. Yes, I did have my last prior two pregnancies after age 37 and no problems at all. I love my boys and they keep my husband and myself young also. I sometimes do feel older around some of my 6 year olds parents since they are in there 20s and 30’s, but I do see other older parents and I love it. Nothing wrong with trying to have children later in life. My husband and I still want to have one more and we are hoping for that. It is God’s will and not ours so we will see.

    I do want to say, what about those women who thought they were done with having anymore children and found out they were pregnant at 45+ have heard a few stories myself and I think it is great! Women and men who want kids – I say have them as long as you want…but do it for the right reasons !! Good luck!!!

  16. Patrice Behrend (http://www NULL.fertilityhope NULL.net) says:

    I was 42 when I had my son. It was without question the best decision I ever made. I am not only over 40 but also a single mom by choice and yes, the judgements can be harsh when you are over 40 and don’t have a partner. At 37 yrs I finally thought I had found ‘the one’ and it didn’t work out so I took matters in my own hands. I encourage any woman that yearns to be a mom to do the same – it can be done!

  17. Detached says:

    I don’t know if this is something that has been discussed, but my parent adopted me when they were over 50, and it was awful. If I could go back, I would never have agreed to let that happen to me. Generation gaps are terrible for the children, and with times changing much faster than they did back in the 70’s and 80’s, it is bound to be even more pronounced.

  18. Lillary says:

    I am very heartened to read this article. I have definitely noticed an increase in discussion on older mothers in the last few year.

    I had my son when I was 32, divorced when I was 35, and had a tubal ligation when I was 38. Three months before I met my partner (Murphy’s Law!). He is 9.5 years younger than me and said he never wanted kids. I knew he’d change his mind and I was right. Nine years later, his biological clock is ticking louder than Big Ben! Of course I’m 48 now and he’s 39 but he doesn’t want to leave me and look for someone else – he wants a baby with me. I don’t look my age (not that that matters) and I’m healthy and a good mum. However the only option available to us is donor egg and we’re about to start that in the next few weeks. I’ve fully got my head around that. We have an amazing 26-year-old donor and we’re all really excited about it. I am preparing myself for the shock and disbelief of our friends and family at my having a child at my age and having to defend our decision (why should we?) but I feel great and this child is SO wanted so what’s the problem? And as someone else commented, the debate (and why is there even one?) needs to take into account the amount of babies & children being raised by grandparents already which never raises an eyebrow – I know of one lady whose daughter was killed and found herself raising her granddaughter who was only 12 months old, at the age of 56. That child is 15 now and absolutely thriving with her ‘mum’. In the end, if a child is dearly loved and well cared for, what’s the problem? More than ever before we are living longer and healthier. There’s always going to be an ‘age gap’ perception from kids, just ask any self-conscious teenager – it doesn’t matter how old mum or dad is, they’re a massive embarrassment!

    I hope our donor egg cycle goes well and that I’m lucky enough to hold a new baby in my arms again later this year.

    How lucky we are to live in an age where we can do this. Good luck to everyone, no matter what your age is.

  19. Megan says:

    Lillary,
    Best of luck!

    I am so tired of the press – they harangue and make an issue out of older moms, yet, accolades and congratulations abound (as they should) for older Hollywood moms (and dads) – most recently, Grace Hightower (56) and Robert deNiro (66). There is no “age debate,” or criticism of their becoming parents again later in their life journey; why does the media feel compelled to make an issue out of me (48) or some other “commoner” having a baby “at our age!” Its a slippery slope argument, no matter how you approach it, and in the end none of us knows how much time parents & child(ren) have together.

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