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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 (www.flowerpowermom.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: https://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/)
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