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“Nothing—not a sports car, not a genius dye job—says ‘I’m young’ like a baby on your hip,” wrote Lisa Miller, the journalist who interviewed me—along with a host of pundits—about motherhood after 50.

Since when do any of us view a baby as an accessory? Reading the first half of this piece, I began to fear the worst.

Judging by today’s cover, New York Magazine followed the usual stereotypical protocols for a first impression—step into the street, grab the first grey-haired granny you find, and juxtapose her octogenarian face with a fat, pregnant belly.

How old is this woman anyway? Does anyone at 50 look like this anymore? I sure don’t.

It harks back to a blog I wrote last year called Elephant Mom, which unearths some of the media’s unhealthy fascination with age and maternity together as comprising an aberration of nature—like the bearded lady at the carnival freak show.

They salt the wound of a deep taboo our culture appears to have about a woman’s age and giving birth—getting older is a harbinger of death, not life. And any woman who has the audacity to do this will most assuredly NOT win—but be stoned at the public pillory in the comments section of the host publication.

And, it brought me back to the usual caveat emptor: agreeing to an interview with a journalist on later life motherhood is too often like giving a dark stranger, who just rode into town, a loaded gun and a free pass to Oktoberfest at the local saloon.

It either ends with in vino veritas and the best of a budding, back-slapping truce, or you on the floor, dead as a doornail.

Having said this, Miller’s article—Parents of a Certain Age: Is there anything wrong with being 53 and pregnant? (http://nymag NULL.com/news/features/mothers-over-50-2011-10/)—is one story you MUST read to the bitter end, because there’s a Quentin Tarantino twist to the tale.

The editorial freak show jollies don’t end with the “50-year old” they kidnapped from the local rest home on the cover.

Isn’t the message obvious? Hasn’t the stage been set for an ageist stoning?

And Miller doesn’t disappoint the ravening crowd.

She characterizes a man’s suggestion of having a baby to a 47-year-old woman as likely to be “creepy to deeply middle aged other women.”

Miller also liberally uses terms like “freakish” and “bizarre” in reference to older mothers and refers to their offspring as “misbegotten children.” She alludes to obstetricians who “have to deal with the fallout of these procreative impulses” as being “harsh” about their patients in private.

Women seeking to be parents at 50+ are “in denial about their decrepitude” and face an implicit judgment: “They have no idea what they are in for. More than that: This is just not right.

“Choosing to have children at 50 disrupts life’s natural trajectory, causing needless suffering and disharmony for both parent and child.”

Then, Miller—like Benito Mussolini in WWII (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Benito_Mussolini)—suddenly changes sides in the midst of battle. She’s won her crowd, why change now?

It puts me in mind of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Friends,_Romans,_countrymen,_lend_me_your_ears), where Mark Antony feigns ignorance, and uses irony to turn the argument upside down, repeating that “Brutus is an honorable man.”

Miller understands the essence of how to turn the tables.

She suggests that the same people who liberally approve of same-sex marriages are the “same broad-minded people still feel comfortable using chronological age to sort the suitable potential parents from the unsuitable.”

She points out that the judgments are “the product of ageism” which is “the last form of prejudice acceptable in the liberal sphere.”

“Sitting so ostentatiously on the boundary between ‘youth’ and ‘age,’“writes Miller, “50-year-olds threaten an image we hold of good parents (i.e., the handsome, glossy-haired ones depicted in the house-paint ads).”

“What’s more, the available science says that for all the disdain directed at older mothers and fathers, their kids are likely to fare just fine… But being an old parent, in and of itself, does no harm.”

She goes on to cite research in which “They found that the IVF kids scored better overall and in every category of test—reading, math, and language skills. And they found that the older the mother, the better the kid performed.”

“Children of older mothers outperform their peers because the mothers, who’ve waited so long to have them, are more engaged. It’s a recipe for success.”

Another selling point is that older parents are likely to be more financially secure, giving their kids a better shot at life.

However, the opposing sticking point for many, I believe, will be whether or not menopause can be culturally defined as an “evolutionary relic”. If it is, that changes the whole ball game.

But I think Miller knows that.

Notes for 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/)), a regular blog featuring commentary, real mom stories and expert advice about motherhood after 40. She regularly campaigns for more supportive attitudes towards women having children in midlife and more awareness on the realities (social and physical) of being a later life mother.

Angel also hosts “A Child After 40”, an online community to empower all women on the journey of motherhood after 40. She gave birth to her children at 41 and 44 after conceiving naturally.

19 Responses to Do You Look This Old At 50?

  1. Mom Stories Create The Bond | TheMomCafe.com (http://themomcafe NULL.com/mom-stories-create-the-bond/) says:

    [...] me!  Please post them and touch another sister through this journey! Mouse here for Related LinksDo You Look This Old At 50? – Flower Power Mom Posted in: Mom Talk   Tags: instantaneous natural process, mom, mom stories, mom stories [...]

  2. Michelle says:

    Both articles are excellent. But, yes it should be obvious to anyone with sense that the woman on the cover is well over the age of 50. If it were not for the direction change in Millers article, I would have stuck with my first impression that she was deliberately using an older woman to put people off. But, after reading I think she might be trying to reveal peoples bias.

    The other day, I overheard a woman comment that a particular older man was “sexy for having made a baby”. Hmm, but it’s “creepy” for an older woman to make one, or for her partner to want to make one with her.

  3. Elizabeth Gregory (http://www NULL.domesticproduct NULL.net) says:

    Hi Angel,
    You and I agree on this – see my take on it at http://www.domesticproduct.net/?p=958 (http://www NULL.domesticproduct NULL.net/?p=958)
    I do think the article’s set up risks a lot of folks getting only the “yuck” half of the story — only the very hardy will stick around for the reversal on p. 8 or so of 12. Part of the journalism dynamic that plays on either outrage or sexiness – rarely on reasonable discourse.
    But then maybe you remember when the Demi Moore cover this one imitates first came out there was a lot of shock and even a “yuck” dynamic (that was the beginning of the pregnancy fad we’ve now become so inured to). So maybe the cover model and her ilk are the Demi Moores of twenty years from now (complicated since Demi though a young mom then at 26 is now a renowned “older woman” in her marriage to Ashton Kutcher).
    It’s all interesting. Lisa Miller is a later mom too, as she explains in the piece, and the scene is changing so fast that I’ll bet that most of her NYC readers were arguing against the “yuck” take as they read through it, based on there being so many later moms on that island. Maybe that’s the logic of writing it that way — if you argue for X your readers dispute it, and they dispute it if you argue against it too. So best to argue against it first, and then they’ll be firmly on your side when you switch in the middle. Debating strategy.
    cheers, Elizabeth

  4. MomAgain@40 (http://momagain40 NULL.blogspot NULL.com) says:

    None of the people I know looks like this at 50. This woman looks more like 60! We are not going grey anymore… We don’t have to!
    Thanks for the enlightened post!

  5. Miriam says:

    My mom is seventy and she doesn’t look this old….

  6. Jennifer Bingham Hull (http://www NULL.midagemom NULL.com) says:

    Horrible picture.

    And there is a great irony here. The famous photographer who shot the original Vanity Fair cover of Demi Moore pregnant was Annie Leibovitz.

    Leibovitz has three children. The eldest was born when she was 51. Her twins arrived via a surrogate mother a few years later.

    So she is in her 60s and still has kids in elementary school.

    Go Annie!

  7. Jennifer Bingham Hull (http://www NULL.midagemom NULL.com) says:

    Well, your blog post really got me started thinking about this cover, Angel!

    Check out my new post, “The Real Mom Behind the New York Magazine Cover” on MidAgeMom: http://bit.ly/oeks8m (http://bit NULL.ly/oeks8m)

    And thanks for the inspiration!

  8. maria says:

    I’m horrified by the picture. That woman looks older than my own mother, and I’m 47, trying to conceive. Shame on all irresponsible journalists out there. As a former CNN reporter and newswire reporter, I was trained to be objective, and to do my HOMEWORK.
    What a sensationalist portrayal of a very important topic!

  9. Debbie says:

    This woman looks like she is in her 70s and is an insult to the 50 year old woman. Get realistic and show someone who is actually in her fifties.

    • Young And Very Fit At 50. says:

      The media is so obsessed by age,and in an absurd manner…That women on the cover is not 50,and if so,should seek immediate medical attention! I am an incredibly fit 51. I am stronger,healthier,and yes more attractive than ever.. I have ZERO signs of aging,including my original hair color,teeth,and no creeks or pains… NO WRINKLES… How dare anyone stereotype me as OLD…. This agism should and must STOP… it is hurting all of us…

  10. bettie says:

    Adopt or use a surrogate!!! You are risking your life! Ignoring all the doctors advice and dismissing it as a agism plot is utterly ridiculous! Having 1 kid over 40 does not make you a medical expert people!

    • Tray says:

      Does society make the same fuss over men who produce children into their 60′s? Not a chance. Clearly, there is a difference in carrying a child to term…but there are no absolutes.

      I’d rather have a 50 year old mother than a 12 year or 16 year old.

  11. First Time Mom at 50 says:

    I saw my first fertility specialist 20 years ago and have continued to try off and on with them over the years. Last fall I was blessed with my first child and I gave birth to her naturally.

    Even at age 50, my pregnancy was not considered high risk and all went well. She was a healthy, full-term baby.

    I am now a stay at home mom and this past week my husband, daughter and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.

    With age comes experience, and I feel I will be a much better mother and provider now then I would have been 20 years ago.

    Don’t let the New York article discourage you from pursing your dream.

  12. February Is Guest Blog Month! – Flower Power Mom (http://flowerpowermom NULL.com/guest-blogs-mothers-over-4/) says:

    [...] would be safe to say that Lisa Miller’s controversial piece in New York Magazine in 2011 did much to fan the embers of existing media fascination into flames, [...]

  13. [...] NULL.html), citing Lisa Miller’s controversial New York Magazine article, “Parents of a Certain Age: Is there anything wrong with being 53 and pregnant?”, which sported a provocative cover photo of faux-pregnant senior, who was ripened well past the age [...]

  14. How Will More Babies After 40 Impact Our Future? | Why Can't I Get Pregnant Blog (http://www NULL.why-cant-i-get-pregnant-blog NULL.net/how-will-more-babies-after-40-impact-our-future/) says:

    [...] panic over age-related infertility, citing Lisa Miller’s controversial New York Magazine article, “Parents of a Certain Age: Is there anything wrong with being 53 and pregnant?”, which sported a provocative cover photo of faux-pregnant senior, who was ripened well past the age [...]

  15. Age Is A Number:Especially Today. says:

    The article attacking older mother with the photo of a very unhealthy looking women is an absurdity… The piece was written more like 1951,than today.. People who take care of themselves, are fitter than ever.! Nutrition.diet, working out… And yes, cosmetics have changed the age dynamic for more people than ever before…. I had an older mother,who was beautiful and very fit… She was cool,and sophisticated.. Her wisdom was superior to most young girls who could not teach me what she did..Funny the double standards and elitism too. Celebrities are never approached about their age… Cindy Crawford,George Clooney, Debbie Moore,and the ones from the past like Cary Grant…..etc… all remained,are/vibrant at 5 and past… Why can’t the general public’s aspirations be respected as well.

  16. MilaT says:

    My friend had healthy triplets at 49. She always wanted to have kids and never gave up her dream!
    I am almost 40. I have 4 kids and I want to have MORE. It is great to be a parent when you are older, accomplished, but still a very young woman!!

  17. MilaT says:

    It is better for a child to have a good mother at 40-50 than a bad mother at 20!

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