Too old to be a parent?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  March 22, 2010 01:29 PM

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The Globe Magazine story last weekend, excerpted from the book Three Wishes by Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand, touched off a firestorm of negative discussion about assisted reproduction and single parenthood. But what I found myself thinking about was the fact that all three woman chose to have children relatively late in life.

There's a biological start and end to a woman's childbearing years, of course, though men have more leeway (example: Tony Randall, who became a first-time father at the age of 77). Even so, medical science has allowed us to push the envelope quite a bit.

In July 2008, 70-year-old Omkari Panwar, a mother of two and grandmother of five, gave birth to twins in Uttar Pradesh, India. According to a report at Allvoices, Panwar and her husband, Charam Singh, who was in his mid-70s at the time, had two adult daughters but spent their life savings and went into debt in order to try to conceive a male heir via in-vitro fertilization, or IVF.

"We already have two girls but we wanted a boy so that he could have taken care of our property. This boy and girl are God's greatest gift to us," Omkari told the BBC.

The trend toward having children very, very late in life is on the rise, which begs the question: Should there be a cut-off point for parenthood?

 

The reasons for trying to conceive once one's childbearing years are -- or should be -- over are varied, emotional, and deeply personal. Some people, like John and Elizabeth Edwards, want to add to their families after a loss of a child; their youngest son was born when Mrs. Edwards was 50, four years after the death of their teenage son, Wade. Others, like the 61-year-old woman who gave birth in Japan last year, decide to act as a surrogate for a family member who can't carry a child to term.

But some -- like Elizabeth Adeney, who had a son last year at the age of 66 after IVF, more than two decades after doctors told her to discontinue fertility treatments -- are driven by a desire to experience pregnancy first hand.

Critics counter that it's a selfish and unnatural act, one that is not in the best interests of the child -- so much so that, in 1994, the French government introduced a bill to prohibit post-menopausal pregnancies, calling them "immoral as well as dangerous" and urging women not to be "egoistic" by pursuing that route. 

"What will happen when [the child] is 15 or 20 and his mother is 80 or 85?" Dr. Philippe Douste-Blazy, France's health minister at the time, asked in a radio interview. (No word on whether men who become fathers late in life were equally immoral, but the presumption is that older men were having babies with much-younger women who would, presumably, be around to care for the children).

When Maria del Carmen Bousada gave birth to twin boys in 2006 at the age of 67 via IVF, she said she was sure that she'd live long enough to raise them to adulthood and maybe even meet her grandchildren, since her own mother had lived until the age of 101. She told doctors at the Los Angeles clinic where she was treated that she was 55, the clinic's cutoff age for single women seeking fertility treatments.

"I have always wanted to be a mother all my life, but I have never had the opportunity or met the right man," she said in an interview after the birth, echoing the sentiments of single moms by choice around the world.

Bousada died last July of cancer, at the age of 69. The now-3-year-old orphans are thought to be with a guardian.

Allan Pacey, secretary of the British Fertility Society, told the Associated Press that the organization recommends that assisted conception generally not be offered to women after the natural age of menopause, which is about 50.

"The rationale ... is that nature didn't design women to have assisted conception beyond the age of the natural menopause, he said. "Once you get into the mid-50s, I think nature is trying to tell us something."

Readers, what do you think: Is a person, male or female, ever to old to be a first-time parent? What if you take pregnancy out of the picture... should the parent's age be an issue if they're raising a foster or adopted child?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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47 comments so far...
  1. Why do you say first time parent? Are you implying that it is OK to have your last baby say at 50 but not OK to have your first? It makes no difference to the issue raised i.e. the age difference between the parent and the child.

    And why even parent? Children are raised by people other than their parents all the time. Grandparents raising grandchildren is an age old occurrence. No-one says that this is detrimental to the child due to age difference or possibility of death before the child reaches adulthood.

    So why don't we call an egg and egg and admit that what irks people is these women who won't take nature's no for an answer?

    But in doing so why not point the finger at any woman who won't accept she cannot have a child and seeks medical intervention? Why only women "of a certain age"?

    Does it all not hark back to our view of women post menopause? That the game is over for them and they need to be benched?

    I am sure many wonder what motivates these women but you could ask that of any women, or man for that matter, who wants to have a child. Our motives can be mixed and murky. So there is no point in going there.

    The bottom line is that we cannot simply ignore the fact that these babies get born. These women are mothers. And so what they are much older than their children and might die before they even leave school? Mothers are dying every day and children survive. They're good at that.

    Should you set an arbitrary age limit in regard to access to fertility services, e.g. 50, despite a woman's menopausal status? Absolutely not.

    Should fertility services be offered to women post menopause to conceive? That question, like abortion rights, is never going to have a clear cut answer. But the precedent has been set and to close the door now would not really be fair. If they want to and have the funds to pay for it then what harm is really being done? From a medical perspective I have not read that any harm is done to anyone. Especially not the baby.

    As to fostering or adopting, there are already rules are there not?

    Posted by hotflash March 22, 10 04:43 PM
  1. Thanks for jump-starting the discussion! I asked about first-time parents because the Globe Magazine story had to do with three first-time parents, and the more controversial examples in my post (the women from Britain and Spain) sought to become first time parents. But the last line in your comment brings up an interesting point. Yes, there are rules in place for parental age limits in fostering and adoption. So should there be for biological parenthood as well? -LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 22, 10 05:18 PM
  1. If the only argument against allowing older folks to bear children is that the parents are likely to die before the children hit adulthood, that's rather foolish. There's no guarantee that a parent of any age will live to see his or her children mature.

    That said, it's far more likely that an older parent will not be around to raise their children, and it's also less likely that there will be grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. who are able to help out should the parents die.

    It feels wrong to me, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be allowed. As long as I'm not having to pay for the fertility treatments or raising the kid, it's fine with me.

    Posted by akmom March 22, 10 07:40 PM
  1. I think that what irritates me the most when I hear this discussion lately (and I've heard it more in other places than here in the Globe) is the overarching consensus from commenters (er, not in this column...yet, anyway) that, yes, there should be an age limit. Similarly, the outcry over the irresponsible reproductive choices of Octomom.

    While I would not choose to become a parent that late in life (the energy, the physical requirements that extend far beyond labor and childbirth and the very real prospect of not seeing my child graduate high school are prohibitive to me), I do believe that it's an individual choice. If we want to argue the sanctity of a woman's right to own her reproductive system without question when it comes to terminating pregnancies, then we have no choice but to apply that sanctity to a woman's right to choose to HAVE children, no matter the age of the parent or parents in question, or the number of children she chooses to bear.

    I don't let my personal beliefs interfere with anyone else's right to choose. In this case, I personally believe that after a certain age, men and women should probably enjoy their grandchildren and leave well enough alone. But it's not my choice to make for them, so why should any other proponent of the right to choose do so?

    Posted by Phe March 23, 10 07:39 AM
  1. Hi, Lylah!! An interesting question, and I actually wrote a feature about it a few years ago; I found that most fertility clinics put the cut-off at around age fifty, but it was a pretty arbitrary cut-off that they seemed to reach by instinct more than anything else. One parallel question that I asked myself at the time: If a woman had had cancer, and therefore ran a higher risk of dying before her time, would you bar her from having children? The strong "no" I felt helped clarify the issue for me. I do think age bias plays a role here...Meanwhile, I was shielded from the "firestorm" of the excerpt, and would love to know: What were people saying???

    Carey, thanks for weighing in! I'll email you...

    Readers, I did a quick archive search and found the link to the 2005 feature Carey mentioned. Here it is:

    http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2005/04/05/parenthood_how_old_is_too_old/

    Great piece! As you can see, the debate has been going on for some time now... -- LMA

    Posted by Carey Goldberg March 23, 10 08:46 AM
  1. I think this topic about older mothers is all blown out of proportion. Obviously the reason that older mothers get so much attention is that they are so rare. Most people would not choose to have a baby so late in life. But I don't think it's any worse than a 13-year-old having one!

    As long as there are fertility clinics, there will be older mothers.

    I think that we need to realize that it's none of our business what a woman chooses to do. Just my opinion.

    Posted by just_cos March 23, 10 09:41 AM
  1. I notice that most people are considering the point of view of the mother and not of the child in these situations. Or, we glaze over the idea of the old parent not being able to physically keep up with a young child. While I don't have first hand experience with an older parent (my mother had me at 27, my father was 26), I do have second hand experience as my step-mother and my biological father recently adopted a baby (12 month old). They only adopted after reversing my father's vasectomy and trying (in vain) to get viable eggs out of my step-mother. A lot of money was spent (which, incidentally, was not spent on my or my siblings college educations at all). I should also note that between my father and my step-mother (and 1 previous marriage each), there were (no lie) already 12 children-2 of which were theirs together. I don't believe they are the typical people trying to have babies in these situations but nonetheless, they are old (both in their 50s). As for their adopted baby, their age was all I could think about when they told me. The baby is active and will only get more active as she grows. My father is OLD. He seems even older than he is because he has a few health problems but this was something my step-mother was all too happy to overlook. He is a grandfather to 10. She is a grandmother to 3. I try to imagine what life will be like for this baby as she ages with her aging parents and, knowing my parents, I think I have the right to do this. It doesn't look fun. Imagine being 15 and your dad is almost 70! It looks like many would imagine. Everyone will think her parents are her grandparents. She won't be allowed to have sleepovers because her parents will be (and already are) grumpy about teenagers. They will be stricter than other parents when it comes to curfews and dating because they won't be current with other parents on how those things work because those other parents won't be their peers or friends. I'm not saying every older parent will do this and I recognize anyone can die at any time but all of the things I've written aren't out of left field. For those who say this is none of our business, maybe you're right when it's a stranger but what about when it's your own family? What about if it's your parent who is old and who you only come to resent as you age.

    Posted by Linney March 23, 10 11:02 AM
  1. As someone who had children later in life (first one, just a few days shy of 41 and twins at 42... all natural BTW), I was inclined to say that, yes, perhaps women should think twice about parenthood at a much later age. It is physically more taxing and there are a host of other smaller annoyances that come with the age gap. But after reading the previous comments, I have changed my mind.

    Who can say what motivates someone to become a parent or when? And why should there be an arbitrary age limit on when that might occur. We were lucky - we needed no help even at my "advanced maternal age." But I knew many women who were at least 10 years younger going through extensive fertility treatments and still having problems.

    I can't imagine there's going to be a deluge of post-menopausal women rushing out to get pregnant, and certainly the treatments don't work for everyone. Perhaps we should just wish those brave few good luck and leave it at that.

    Posted by jozkid March 23, 10 11:32 AM
  1. My dad was 68 when I was born. He died when I was 20 but I felt like I never knew him, even as a kid. He was in a nursing home for most of my teens. My older siblings from his first marriage were the same age as my mom (his third marriage), and they did a lot of the "father-son" stuff with me when I was growing up.

    Posted by Late in life kid March 23, 10 11:32 AM
  1. Thanks for your comment, just_coz. It's interesting that you brought up the idea of choice; I think that there's not much difference between mandating that a woman must carry a child to term and mandating that she can't. I wrote about that idea here: http://bit.ly/dnpN4L -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 23, 10 11:50 AM
  1. Well said, Linney. I hope you will be not be vilified for raising the issue that even older children have needs, and it's interesting to wonder how parents balance their existing children (if any) with older parenthood. I feel the weight of my current responsibilities very strongly, and I'm not yet 40. Children are an unimaginable amount of work long past the infant stage. In fact, those moms who told me that it gets HARDER not easier as kids grow were absolutely correct. Each child deserves the fullest consideration and energy that a parent can give.

    Posted by local March 23, 10 11:50 AM
  1. I think it would depend on your reason for havnig children. I always thought people had children so they could raise them to be independent adults, but I'm finding out that there are a variety of reasons. Some people have children to assist them in their declining years. Others have children because they've always wanted to experience, pregnancy and childbirth. I think each child deserves the best that you can give them in your circumstances. It's really all any of us can do as parents. We don't know what life may bring us or them, but if we just try to do our best ,then no one could question our motives.

    Posted by rainyday March 23, 10 12:02 PM
  1. Isn't it a bit hypocritical of fertility clinics to deny services to women over 50 because "nature is trying to tell us something" when really, that could be said of a woman of any age who seeks fertility treatments.

    Posted by Lori March 23, 10 12:18 PM
  1. I can't believe it is even remotely OK to think that a government should be able to control what any person can do with their body.

    Posted by Jessica March 23, 10 01:03 PM
  1. It seems that one message is that ALL parents, regardless of age, should be careful in choosing a guardian and making a legal will to ensure their children are cared for. None of us can say how long we will be around for our kids. And plenty of parents have physical limitations - I don't think anyone has suggested a 30 year old in a wheelchair should not be allowed to have kids. We put a lot of thought into what would happen to our kids should something happen to us, and I would hope all parents would do so. It would also be great if the rules around fostering and adoption would change - so many kids need families and there are would-be parents out there who are stymied by rules and regulations.

    Posted by LHP March 23, 10 01:21 PM
  1. I can't believe it is even remotely OK to think that a government should be able to control what any person can do with their body.


    Interesting sentiment but now that they control healthcare they have everything to do with this....Remember the outrage over the panels recommendation of when women are allowed to first get mammograms. Those panels recommendations are now the law of the land. As soon as one of these panels recommends that women over XXX years old should not have babies, no "insurance" companies will be allowed to provide them.

    Posted by Jas March 23, 10 01:55 PM
  1. This reminds me of Aleta St. James who's journey to get her two year olds into preschool was documented on Nursery University. She gained fame a while back by being 57 when she gave birth to twins via some sort of IVF. And one of her kids is autistic/developmentaly delayed. My first conclusion was well, that's what happens when you go against nature, sad but true. The older you are when you conceive, the more likely your child will have developmental/genetic issues which has been indicated by the statistics.

    It seems like there will never be a right answer. In this country (as opposed to China), having kids is a natural right. Limiting the age might seem to make sense but when any idiot is allowed to reproduce regardless of the type of parents they will be or their motives for having a child age doesn't really seem to matter anymore.

    Posted by Sara March 23, 10 02:38 PM
  1. When I was a teen, my mother was going through menopause. it was h..l for both of us. If people insist on IVF, THEY should be ones paying for it, not like the idiots in Mass. allowing this under medical insurance. I never had children and never wanted any after what I went through growing up. Nature shuts off the baby-making equipment after a certain age for a reason.

    Posted by Liz Pakula March 23, 10 04:11 PM
  1. On the one hand I do agree - your body, you get to decide what to do with it.

    On the other hand, I saw my high school boyfriend deal with the hardship of living with an older father. His father was 70 when he was a freshman, and in poor health. His siblings were 10 years older than him, and he always felt cheated that they had a dad who could play catch and all that, and he never did. His dad died his junior year and he was devastated. His mom was also older, and had some alcohol issues, and he just felt like he had no one. I know that accidents can happen and no one can guarantee to live forever. But to deliberately set it up so that your kids never have a parent with the energy to actively engage them seems sort of selfish.

    I wouldn't want there to be a hard cutoff - I know some 70 year olds who could run rings around me. But I really thing the parents themselves need to think - will my kids get everything they need?


    Posted by bms March 23, 10 06:22 PM
  1. I'm pregnant and 34 years old. I've have friends - around my age - who are desperately trying to conceive. Some have gone through IVF several times with no success. One of them finally conceived via IVF at the age of 32, and after 4 miscarriages. There are many people who desperately want to have children but cannot. They try for many years and it is a great struggle. Not everyone can have children the "normal" way.

    Who are we to say because someone is older they should not have a child? I don't age should be a factor. I think love and care for the child is the utmost importance. If a parent is too fragile to take care of her/himself and needs help from others then they should not have children, regardless of age.

    Posted by Bostonhime March 23, 10 11:25 PM
  1. bms: I have two friends whose fathers are into their 90's now (they're in their late 20's/early 30's) and feel somewhat the way that your boyfriend did...

    But your last statement, the one about parents needing to think about providing for their children, is really more appropriate at any age. While the phenomena of senior citizen parents to young children is still rare, the phenomena of parents in their prime child-rearing years who neglect, abuse or otherwise don't or can't provide for their children's needs is all too prevalent and proof, to me, that age has nothing to do with actual parenting ability whatsoever.

    Posted by Phe March 24, 10 07:11 AM
  1. Jas, you wrote:
    "Remember the outrage over the panels recommendation of when women are allowed to first get mammograms. Those panels recommendations are now the law of the land."

    This is not correct. The government did not change their guidelines based on this study (conducted by an independent task force, not a "panel"). Even if the government had changed their recommendations, that's all they are, recommendations. The woman, with her doctor's consultation, makes the final decision. Finally, the only part of the reform bills that could affect mammography would be to make them more accessible. I urge you to read this summary of the facts: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/20/opinion/20fri1.html

    Posted by redredrose March 24, 10 08:20 AM
  1. I knew many kids in high school who were being raised by their grandparents and, while most of them loved their grandparents deeply, they would have given anything to have been parented by younger people. I think that this is a question of whose needs are more important--the would be parent's or the child's?

    I don't believe that it is ethical to frame it in terms of whether or not the "government" should be able to control what we do with our bodies in the same way that abortion rights are, because denying fertility treatment to people after a certain age is very different from denying contraception.

    For instance, as a society we require seatbelts and car seats and prosecute drunk driving, all of which involve deciding that the "government" can be in control in a certain way of what we do with our bodies. But we do this for the common good. We don't suffer accidents most of the time that we get into a car, but the safety measures are there to protect us because the results of the relatively rare accident without seatbelts can be so horrible.

    I'm sure that some older people turn out to be great parents, but from my experience I don't think that that is the norm. As much as we can, I think that we as a society should protect children from circumstances that are more likely than not to be detrimental. Because they can't protect themselves.

    Posted by Eliblu March 24, 10 09:08 AM
  1. I just wanted to add: I totally get the infertility thing. My husband and I tried for 4 years before we had to decide to either try IVF or adopt. We opted to adopt - I was not interested in putting my body through IVF for a 50% chance of actually having a baby when I could put the same amount of money into adoption and have 100% chance of actually having a kid at the end of it. Part of the reason we decided to adopt is also that my husband was already 40. We didn't want to keep trying until he was 50 before we got an infant. My husband is in wicked good shape, and comes from long lived stock (his granddad is 98 and still going strong). But even he couldn't conceive of dealing with infants at 50 - 9 and 8 year olds at 50 is hard enough. Couple that with the increasing chances of Down syndrome, autism, and other porblems as parents get older, and it's just not worth the risk in my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

    Posted by bms March 24, 10 09:39 AM
  1. Liz--that IVF coverage you're knocking helped my very health, 33/35 year old married friends have their son because one of them was infertile. But yeah, how incredibly selfish of them to have their health insurance help them with a medical issue as the infertility! Next those asthmatics will expect us to pay for their inhalers--let 'em suffocate, right? After all, they're just being selfish, wanting insurance to help them out with their medical problems, right????

    Personally I flinch when I hear a story of a person in their 50/60/70's having a baby. That doesn't mean I support any political action on the topic-I am also gunshy on the idea of legislating women's fertility on any level. Sure, I'm all for ethics--an IVF company should implant a repsonsible number of embryos, and I wouldn't be against a law that required parents to name a guardian/write a will so that kids would be provided for. After all, one of those "elderly" moms could outlive me if I got in a car accident and died today.

    Posted by C March 24, 10 09:56 AM
  1. I just read the NY Times article referenced in this piece, "French Government Proposes Ban On Pregnancies After Menopause". It bothered me a great deal, especially since medical care is socialized in Europe. It doesn't sound like age will actually matter at all in determining whether you may receive fertility treatments - just whether or not you have hit menopause. Isn't it a problem that people reach this stage at very different points in their lives, depending on their individual biologies? Some women hit menopause very early, and some in their late 50s.

    My grandmother hit menopause when she was only 21 years old, directly after having her first child (my mother). In the 50s, there was little my grandparents could do about it, and so my mother was an only child. I like to think that if the same situation came about today, they WOULD have been able to conceive. If bans like the one proposed in France pass, someone in such a situation would be out of luck - unable to have children in her 20s and beyond!

    Posted by Cosette March 24, 10 10:09 AM
  1. So here's a couple of questions: what about parents who are overweight? What about parents who smoke? What about parents who have time-intensive jobs? What about parents with disabilties? Focusing on age as a predictor of "good parenting" seems incredibly short-sighted. As a somewhat older mom—I had my daughter at 39—I find that she energizes me, and my, now 43, husband agrees. We both look younger than most of our peers and have both been told we seem younger since the birth of our daughter. And yes, I can't run around with her as much as she would want, but I'm more than capable of sitting on the floor and playing dolls for hours, which she loves. As an older parent and someone who is established in her career and secure in her identity, I feel that I am a better parent because of my age.

    Posted by nna March 24, 10 10:11 AM
  1. Hi Lylah,
    Great discussion! I thought your readers might also enjoy this feature I did on older first-time moms and dads for the Globe Magazine: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/articles/2009/07/26/babies_and_boomers/?page=1

    Posted by Alison Lobron March 24, 10 11:26 AM
  1. My problem with the issue is that only females are being targeted as "too old" to parent. Not too many people have a problem with men who father children at late ages.

    I personally wouldn't have a baby at 50 but I wouldn't do a lot of things I think people have every right to do. There are lots of 20 year old people making a big mistake by bringing children into their disorganized lives.

    Posted by Alice March 24, 10 11:31 AM
  1. There's a big difference between being a first time mom at 40 and a first time mom at 60 or 70.

    Posted by bms March 24, 10 12:45 PM
  1. I don't have children (not my choice, btw) so my opinion might not count, but the whole fertility treatment idea seems pretty selfish to me. There are so many children in foster care & unwanted who would LOVE to be adopted. There are too many people in the world already. Too many children uncared for. Why is it really necessary to spend so much money just to make a little clone of yourself? It's incredibly egotistical. Of course that's human nature...

    Posted by just my opinion March 24, 10 01:12 PM
  1. "When I was a teen, my mother was going through menopause. it was h..l for both of us. If people insist on IVF, THEY should be ones paying for it, not like the idiots in Mass. allowing this under medical insurance. I never had children and never wanted any after what I went through growing up. Nature shuts off the baby-making equipment after a certain age for a reason."

    My mother also went through menopause when I was a teen - speficially 14. She was in her 40s and had breast cancer. My point is that sh*t happens even when you have children at a "typical" age. You never know what will happen.

    Posted by fram March 24, 10 01:17 PM
  1. I think the guidelines for adoption should be relaxed somewhat (all agencies should accept healthy couples of 50, for instance) because there are a lot of great kids out there who need loving homes. At the same time, the guidelines for IVF should be brought more into line with those of adoption. There is nothing we can do about crazy or criminal people having babies the "old-fashioned" way, but once outside agencies are involved in helping to put a child into the home, there should be careful assessment of the physical and social environment for the child. Age is probably not the most important of those factors.

    Posted by KS March 24, 10 01:32 PM
  1. A lot of people are pointing out risk factors that other parents have when they have children (demanding jobs, extra unhealthy weight, far too young to parent) which are very valid points but I think the difference here is that no one actively says, "I'm going to get a 100 hour per week job and then have a baby and parent it poorly." People actively choose to have children when they are older. They know the increased risks/limitations and the possible health scenarios they face and still choose to have those children. I have nothing against people using alternative means to get pregnant when they are younger but when a 55 year old woman or man goes through an incredible amount of medical treatment to have a child, I feel like rationality has gone out the window. While I would never promote a law limiting people's ability to reproduce, I am pleased adoption laws do set boundaries and wish more people would consider their limitations if they can.

    Posted by Linney March 24, 10 01:42 PM
  1. I don't understand why someone would want to give birth later in life. That's their choice, granted, but I never wanted children which was my choice. Good for anyone who wants to have a child later in life, it's better than teens having babies.

    Posted by sophie08 March 24, 10 02:01 PM
  1. Nature provides the age cut-off. We circumvent it. If you can conceive naturally at 99, then knock yourself out. Make sure you have a good life insurance policy, though.

    Just ask yourself before you do it...
    Do you want to leave your children alone in the world when they are young? Its a pretty safe bet you won't see their wedding, and maybe not high school graduation. Do you care, because if you don't maybe having kids isn't for you.

    PS- If conception requires IVF, then it may not only be up to the individual. The doctors will have a say, maybe the government Perhaps, even the egg donors will get to decide parameters.

    Posted by lala March 24, 10 02:05 PM
  1. I think we'd be far better off imposing a minimum age for conception than a maximum.

    My mother is as old as most of my friends' grandparents. She tried for years to conceive, long story short a doctor ignored her complains of pain following a miscarriage and a massive infection caused both fallopian tubes to basically explode. They eventually put themselves on an adoption list. They adopted my brother and three years and three days later I was born! She was 41 at the time. I was born and continue to be exceptionally healthy, almost 25 now.

    Granted, 41 isn't quite as old as most of the women who are being argued against however, when the pregnancy test came back the nurse on the phone asked my mother "what do you want to do about it?" She expected my mother to terminate the pregnancy as that was very common back then for such "elderly" mother's to be. It was once believed that having a child past age 35 would result in terrible birth defects, still borns and cognitive delays.

    Our perception is ever changing. How can we tell these women they cannot have a child because they are too old when we continually allow minors, children themselves really, to bare children. My brother was put up for adoption because his birth mother was 14. He was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and an APGAR score of 1. He has continual cognitive and emotional delays as a result and often cannot hold down a job.

    How can we even dream of imposing restrictions on one and not the other?

    Posted by Sara March 24, 10 02:15 PM
  1. If it is okay for an older man to have a child with a younger woman (I believe the second Mrs. Randall was in her late 20s or 30s when their child was born), does that make it okay for an older woman to have a child with a younger partner?

    Posted by HollyP March 24, 10 04:11 PM
  1. I also don't really get the IVF thing. Why go to such enormous lengths to get genetic offspring? Why is that so important?

    But then I'm biased. My adopted sons are way cooler than anything I could have made using tools found around the house...

    Posted by bms March 24, 10 05:46 PM
  1. What if it happens naturally? My friend became pregnant at 42 right in the middle of treatments for a brain tumer (radiation).She had to stop all treatments and meds(Mind you she was on so called birth control).She had a healthy baby boy which seems to have helped her tumer has gotten smaller and she is doing great.Is nature working here to? My aunt died in her 40's and left two teen girls and they are doing very well ,never once have I heard them say I wish mom never had us because she died .

    Posted by RHO March 25, 10 07:46 AM
  1. When I became pregnant for the third time at what was considered 25 years ago to be the "old" age of 37, one of my friends said, "Lucky kid....an experienced Mom". There is something to be said for mature parents (or grandparents). That said, I wouldn't want to be starting a family at 60, and certainly not the multiple babies that sometimes result from IVF. I'm content to be relegated to the status of "consultant" grandma!

    Posted by Nana March 25, 10 09:06 AM
  1. Being a 47 year old mother of an 18 year old, I think this topic is very interesting. I have raised this child on my own and my only worry is leaving her alone in this world. That scares me. I couldn't imagine me dying and her being so young without me. My friend (same age) has an 8 year old and I look at her in amazement and ask myself why????? When she is 60, this child is only 21. I just can't see it.
    God bless all those that have the energy for it though!

    Posted by PQuincy March 25, 10 12:46 PM
  1. I know from personal experience that having a baby at just 40 is incredibly hard. How could anyone possibly handle it at 50 or more? I can't even begin to explain how worn out I am. I think the take home message should be have your kids in your 20s or early 30s.

    Posted by A rose is a ring March 25, 10 03:04 PM
  1. I adopted (twice) in my early 40's. My beloved daughters hate to hear me refer to myself as "old" and they worry about me dying. I'm sad that my age seems to be an additional burden for them. I'm really glad that I didn't wait any longer to adopt. That said, I have no doubt that I am a better parent for having waited to become one. I was an emotional train wreck in my 20s and 30s. I am far more patient and even-handed now.
    I cringe when I hear of anyone, male or female, becoming a parent at retirement age.

    Posted by 2busymom March 25, 10 03:40 PM
  1. I had my frst child at nearly 40 (naturally-no medical intervention) and had my second child at 43 (once again without medical intervention). I am 47 now. I do more with my children, have more energy and patience than women half my age. I even coach kids' soccer and swiming. I also look like I am in my early to mid-30s. It is an individual thing. My husband and have very youthful spirits. I have met many parents 20 years younger -who look and act like they are middle age.

    Posted by Bambinosmom March 25, 10 04:06 PM
  1. Being the 54 year old mother of a 5 year old, I can tell you that these are legitimate questions for any "older" parent to ask themselves: What can I do NOW to try to ensure that I will be healthy and able to actively parent her all the way to adulthood? How can I try to avoid becoming so "old fashioned" in my outlook that she and her friends cringe at the sight of her 65 year old mother when she is 16? What decisions can we make to try to ensure her financial stability after my husband and I are gone? What is NOT legitimate is a question of an outsider: How could you (of whatever age) responsibly choose to parent a child? IT IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS TO JUDGE THE VALUE OF THE LOVE BETWEEN A PARENT AND CHILD.

    \

    Posted by Carol April 10, 10 03:49 AM
  1. I went for IVF treatments 5 years ago. I was 47. The treatments did not take. My husband felt we were too old to continue and told me to stop.
    He refused me any more treatments.
    Truth is if he should pass away before I am 65 I will pursue this option on my own immediately. I will go public with the birth after I deliver.
    I'll set up a web-site for older women pursuing IVF and I will help them
    with their decision and treatment options. There should not be an age maximum for older ladies. There is none for older men and women don't always meet Mr. Right. Many older ladies become spinsters and often times give care to older parents.
    Why shouldn't they pursue this option in their elder years if they are healthy? I would rather have a child in my life in my senior years than a man. So why not?
    Parents can die at any age. So if a child is desperately wanted by an old gal this is her choice to make like a woman's right to choose.
    Only she can make this choice and it's no one's business.

    Posted by Mary April 18, 11 02:32 AM
 
47 comments so far...
  1. Why do you say first time parent? Are you implying that it is OK to have your last baby say at 50 but not OK to have your first? It makes no difference to the issue raised i.e. the age difference between the parent and the child.

    And why even parent? Children are raised by people other than their parents all the time. Grandparents raising grandchildren is an age old occurrence. No-one says that this is detrimental to the child due to age difference or possibility of death before the child reaches adulthood.

    So why don't we call an egg and egg and admit that what irks people is these women who won't take nature's no for an answer?

    But in doing so why not point the finger at any woman who won't accept she cannot have a child and seeks medical intervention? Why only women "of a certain age"?

    Does it all not hark back to our view of women post menopause? That the game is over for them and they need to be benched?

    I am sure many wonder what motivates these women but you could ask that of any women, or man for that matter, who wants to have a child. Our motives can be mixed and murky. So there is no point in going there.

    The bottom line is that we cannot simply ignore the fact that these babies get born. These women are mothers. And so what they are much older than their children and might die before they even leave school? Mothers are dying every day and children survive. They're good at that.

    Should you set an arbitrary age limit in regard to access to fertility services, e.g. 50, despite a woman's menopausal status? Absolutely not.

    Should fertility services be offered to women post menopause to conceive? That question, like abortion rights, is never going to have a clear cut answer. But the precedent has been set and to close the door now would not really be fair. If they want to and have the funds to pay for it then what harm is really being done? From a medical perspective I have not read that any harm is done to anyone. Especially not the baby.

    As to fostering or adopting, there are already rules are there not?

    Posted by hotflash March 22, 10 04:43 PM
  1. Thanks for jump-starting the discussion! I asked about first-time parents because the Globe Magazine story had to do with three first-time parents, and the more controversial examples in my post (the women from Britain and Spain) sought to become first time parents. But the last line in your comment brings up an interesting point. Yes, there are rules in place for parental age limits in fostering and adoption. So should there be for biological parenthood as well? -LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 22, 10 05:18 PM
  1. If the only argument against allowing older folks to bear children is that the parents are likely to die before the children hit adulthood, that's rather foolish. There's no guarantee that a parent of any age will live to see his or her children mature.

    That said, it's far more likely that an older parent will not be around to raise their children, and it's also less likely that there will be grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. who are able to help out should the parents die.

    It feels wrong to me, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be allowed. As long as I'm not having to pay for the fertility treatments or raising the kid, it's fine with me.

    Posted by akmom March 22, 10 07:40 PM
  1. I think that what irritates me the most when I hear this discussion lately (and I've heard it more in other places than here in the Globe) is the overarching consensus from commenters (er, not in this column...yet, anyway) that, yes, there should be an age limit. Similarly, the outcry over the irresponsible reproductive choices of Octomom.

    While I would not choose to become a parent that late in life (the energy, the physical requirements that extend far beyond labor and childbirth and the very real prospect of not seeing my child graduate high school are prohibitive to me), I do believe that it's an individual choice. If we want to argue the sanctity of a woman's right to own her reproductive system without question when it comes to terminating pregnancies, then we have no choice but to apply that sanctity to a woman's right to choose to HAVE children, no matter the age of the parent or parents in question, or the number of children she chooses to bear.

    I don't let my personal beliefs interfere with anyone else's right to choose. In this case, I personally believe that after a certain age, men and women should probably enjoy their grandchildren and leave well enough alone. But it's not my choice to make for them, so why should any other proponent of the right to choose do so?

    Posted by Phe March 23, 10 07:39 AM
  1. Hi, Lylah!! An interesting question, and I actually wrote a feature about it a few years ago; I found that most fertility clinics put the cut-off at around age fifty, but it was a pretty arbitrary cut-off that they seemed to reach by instinct more than anything else. One parallel question that I asked myself at the time: If a woman had had cancer, and therefore ran a higher risk of dying before her time, would you bar her from having children? The strong "no" I felt helped clarify the issue for me. I do think age bias plays a role here...Meanwhile, I was shielded from the "firestorm" of the excerpt, and would love to know: What were people saying???

    Carey, thanks for weighing in! I'll email you...

    Readers, I did a quick archive search and found the link to the 2005 feature Carey mentioned. Here it is:

    http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2005/04/05/parenthood_how_old_is_too_old/

    Great piece! As you can see, the debate has been going on for some time now... -- LMA

    Posted by Carey Goldberg March 23, 10 08:46 AM
  1. I think this topic about older mothers is all blown out of proportion. Obviously the reason that older mothers get so much attention is that they are so rare. Most people would not choose to have a baby so late in life. But I don't think it's any worse than a 13-year-old having one!

    As long as there are fertility clinics, there will be older mothers.

    I think that we need to realize that it's none of our business what a woman chooses to do. Just my opinion.

    Posted by just_cos March 23, 10 09:41 AM
  1. I notice that most people are considering the point of view of the mother and not of the child in these situations. Or, we glaze over the idea of the old parent not being able to physically keep up with a young child. While I don't have first hand experience with an older parent (my mother had me at 27, my father was 26), I do have second hand experience as my step-mother and my biological father recently adopted a baby (12 month old). They only adopted after reversing my father's vasectomy and trying (in vain) to get viable eggs out of my step-mother. A lot of money was spent (which, incidentally, was not spent on my or my siblings college educations at all). I should also note that between my father and my step-mother (and 1 previous marriage each), there were (no lie) already 12 children-2 of which were theirs together. I don't believe they are the typical people trying to have babies in these situations but nonetheless, they are old (both in their 50s). As for their adopted baby, their age was all I could think about when they told me. The baby is active and will only get more active as she grows. My father is OLD. He seems even older than he is because he has a few health problems but this was something my step-mother was all too happy to overlook. He is a grandfather to 10. She is a grandmother to 3. I try to imagine what life will be like for this baby as she ages with her aging parents and, knowing my parents, I think I have the right to do this. It doesn't look fun. Imagine being 15 and your dad is almost 70! It looks like many would imagine. Everyone will think her parents are her grandparents. She won't be allowed to have sleepovers because her parents will be (and already are) grumpy about teenagers. They will be stricter than other parents when it comes to curfews and dating because they won't be current with other parents on how those things work because those other parents won't be their peers or friends. I'm not saying every older parent will do this and I recognize anyone can die at any time but all of the things I've written aren't out of left field. For those who say this is none of our business, maybe you're right when it's a stranger but what about when it's your own family? What about if it's your parent who is old and who you only come to resent as you age.

    Posted by Linney March 23, 10 11:02 AM
  1. As someone who had children later in life (first one, just a few days shy of 41 and twins at 42... all natural BTW), I was inclined to say that, yes, perhaps women should think twice about parenthood at a much later age. It is physically more taxing and there are a host of other smaller annoyances that come with the age gap. But after reading the previous comments, I have changed my mind.

    Who can say what motivates someone to become a parent or when? And why should there be an arbitrary age limit on when that might occur. We were lucky - we needed no help even at my "advanced maternal age." But I knew many women who were at least 10 years younger going through extensive fertility treatments and still having problems.

    I can't imagine there's going to be a deluge of post-menopausal women rushing out to get pregnant, and certainly the treatments don't work for everyone. Perhaps we should just wish those brave few good luck and leave it at that.

    Posted by jozkid March 23, 10 11:32 AM
  1. My dad was 68 when I was born. He died when I was 20 but I felt like I never knew him, even as a kid. He was in a nursing home for most of my teens. My older siblings from his first marriage were the same age as my mom (his third marriage), and they did a lot of the "father-son" stuff with me when I was growing up.

    Posted by Late in life kid March 23, 10 11:32 AM
  1. Thanks for your comment, just_coz. It's interesting that you brought up the idea of choice; I think that there's not much difference between mandating that a woman must carry a child to term and mandating that she can't. I wrote about that idea here: http://bit.ly/dnpN4L -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page March 23, 10 11:50 AM
  1. Well said, Linney. I hope you will be not be vilified for raising the issue that even older children have needs, and it's interesting to wonder how parents balance their existing children (if any) with older parenthood. I feel the weight of my current responsibilities very strongly, and I'm not yet 40. Children are an unimaginable amount of work long past the infant stage. In fact, those moms who told me that it gets HARDER not easier as kids grow were absolutely correct. Each child deserves the fullest consideration and energy that a parent can give.

    Posted by local March 23, 10 11:50 AM
  1. I think it would depend on your reason for havnig children. I always thought people had children so they could raise them to be independent adults, but I'm finding out that there are a variety of reasons. Some people have children to assist them in their declining years. Others have children because they've always wanted to experience, pregnancy and childbirth. I think each child deserves the best that you can give them in your circumstances. It's really all any of us can do as parents. We don't know what life may bring us or them, but if we just try to do our best ,then no one could question our motives.

    Posted by rainyday March 23, 10 12:02 PM
  1. Isn't it a bit hypocritical of fertility clinics to deny services to women over 50 because "nature is trying to tell us something" when really, that could be said of a woman of any age who seeks fertility treatments.

    Posted by Lori March 23, 10 12:18 PM
  1. I can't believe it is even remotely OK to think that a government should be able to control what any person can do with their body.

    Posted by Jessica March 23, 10 01:03 PM
  1. It seems that one message is that ALL parents, regardless of age, should be careful in choosing a guardian and making a legal will to ensure their children are cared for. None of us can say how long we will be around for our kids. And plenty of parents have physical limitations - I don't think anyone has suggested a 30 year old in a wheelchair should not be allowed to have kids. We put a lot of thought into what would happen to our kids should something happen to us, and I would hope all parents would do so. It would also be great if the rules around fostering and adoption would change - so many kids need families and there are would-be parents out there who are stymied by rules and regulations.

    Posted by LHP March 23, 10 01:21 PM
  1. I can't believe it is even remotely OK to think that a government should be able to control what any person can do with their body.


    Interesting sentiment but now that they control healthcare they have everything to do with this....Remember the outrage over the panels recommendation of when women are allowed to first get mammograms. Those panels recommendations are now the law of the land. As soon as one of these panels recommends that women over XXX years old should not have babies, no "insurance" companies will be allowed to provide them.

    Posted by Jas March 23, 10 01:55 PM
  1. This reminds me of Aleta St. James who's journey to get her two year olds into preschool was documented on Nursery University. She gained fame a while back by being 57 when she gave birth to twins via some sort of IVF. And one of her kids is autistic/developmentaly delayed. My first conclusion was well, that's what happens when you go against nature, sad but true. The older you are when you conceive, the more likely your child will have developmental/genetic issues which has been indicated by the statistics.

    It seems like there will never be a right answer. In this country (as opposed to China), having kids is a natural right. Limiting the age might seem to make sense but when any idiot is allowed to reproduce regardless of the type of parents they will be or their motives for having a child age doesn't really seem to matter anymore.

    Posted by Sara March 23, 10 02:38 PM
  1. When I was a teen, my mother was going through menopause. it was h..l for both of us. If people insist on IVF, THEY should be ones paying for it, not like the idiots in Mass. allowing this under medical insurance. I never had children and never wanted any after what I went through growing up. Nature shuts off the baby-making equipment after a certain age for a reason.

    Posted by Liz Pakula March 23, 10 04:11 PM
  1. On the one hand I do agree - your body, you get to decide what to do with it.

    On the other hand, I saw my high school boyfriend deal with the hardship of living with an older father. His father was 70 when he was a freshman, and in poor health. His siblings were 10 years older than him, and he always felt cheated that they had a dad who could play catch and all that, and he never did. His dad died his junior year and he was devastated. His mom was also older, and had some alcohol issues, and he just felt like he had no one. I know that accidents can happen and no one can guarantee to live forever. But to deliberately set it up so that your kids never have a parent with the energy to actively engage them seems sort of selfish.

    I wouldn't want there to be a hard cutoff - I know some 70 year olds who could run rings around me. But I really thing the parents themselves need to think - will my kids get everything they need?


    Posted by bms March 23, 10 06:22 PM
  1. I'm pregnant and 34 years old. I've have friends - around my age - who are desperately trying to conceive. Some have gone through IVF several times with no success. One of them finally conceived via IVF at the age of 32, and after 4 miscarriages. There are many people who desperately want to have children but cannot. They try for many years and it is a great struggle. Not everyone can have children the "normal" way.

    Who are we to say because someone is older they should not have a child? I don't age should be a factor. I think love and care for the child is the utmost importance. If a parent is too fragile to take care of her/himself and needs help from others then they should not have children, regardless of age.

    Posted by Bostonhime March 23, 10 11:25 PM
  1. bms: I have two friends whose fathers are into their 90's now (they're in their late 20's/early 30's) and feel somewhat the way that your boyfriend did...

    But your last statement, the one about parents needing to think about providing for their children, is really more appropriate at any age. While the phenomena of senior citizen parents to young children is still rare, the phenomena of parents in their prime child-rearing years who neglect, abuse or otherwise don't or can't provide for their children's needs is all too prevalent and proof, to me, that age has nothing to do with actual parenting ability whatsoever.

    Posted by Phe March 24, 10 07:11 AM
  1. Jas, you wrote:
    "Remember the outrage over the panels recommendation of when women are allowed to first get mammograms. Those panels recommendations are now the law of the land."

    This is not correct. The government did not change their guidelines based on this study (conducted by an independent task force, not a "panel"). Even if the government had changed their recommendations, that's all they are, recommendations. The woman, with her doctor's consultation, makes the final decision. Finally, the only part of the reform bills that could affect mammography would be to make them more accessible. I urge you to read this summary of the facts: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/20/opinion/20fri1.html

    Posted by redredrose March 24, 10 08:20 AM
  1. I knew many kids in high school who were being raised by their grandparents and, while most of them loved their grandparents deeply, they would have given anything to have been parented by younger people. I think that this is a question of whose needs are more important--the would be parent's or the child's?

    I don't believe that it is ethical to frame it in terms of whether or not the "government" should be able to control what we do with our bodies in the same way that abortion rights are, because denying fertility treatment to people after a certain age is very different from denying contraception.

    For instance, as a society we require seatbelts and car seats and prosecute drunk driving, all of which involve deciding that the "government" can be in control in a certain way of what we do with our bodies. But we do this for the common good. We don't suffer accidents most of the time that we get into a car, but the safety measures are there to protect us because the results of the relatively rare accident without seatbelts can be so horrible.

    I'm sure that some older people turn out to be great parents, but from my experience I don't think that that is the norm. As much as we can, I think that we as a society should protect children from circumstances that are more likely than not to be detrimental. Because they can't protect themselves.

    Posted by Eliblu March 24, 10 09:08 AM
  1. I just wanted to add: I totally get the infertility thing. My husband and I tried for 4 years before we had to decide to either try IVF or adopt. We opted to adopt - I was not interested in putting my body through IVF for a 50% chance of actually having a baby when I could put the same amount of money into adoption and have 100% chance of actually having a kid at the end of it. Part of the reason we decided to adopt is also that my husband was already 40. We didn't want to keep trying until he was 50 before we got an infant. My husband is in wicked good shape, and comes from long lived stock (his granddad is 98 and still going strong). But even he couldn't conceive of dealing with infants at 50 - 9 and 8 year olds at 50 is hard enough. Couple that with the increasing chances of Down syndrome, autism, and other porblems as parents get older, and it's just not worth the risk in my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

    Posted by bms March 24, 10 09:39 AM
  1. Liz--that IVF coverage you're knocking helped my very health, 33/35 year old married friends have their son because one of them was infertile. But yeah, how incredibly selfish of them to have their health insurance help them with a medical issue as the infertility! Next those asthmatics will expect us to pay for their inhalers--let 'em suffocate, right? After all, they're just being selfish, wanting insurance to help them out with their medical problems, right????

    Personally I flinch when I hear a story of a person in their 50/60/70's having a baby. That doesn't mean I support any political action on the topic-I am also gunshy on the idea of legislating women's fertility on any level. Sure, I'm all for ethics--an IVF company should implant a repsonsible number of embryos, and I wouldn't be against a law that required parents to name a guardian/write a will so that kids would be provided for. After all, one of those "elderly" moms could outlive me if I got in a car accident and died today.

    Posted by C March 24, 10 09:56 AM
  1. I just read the NY Times article referenced in this piece, "French Government Proposes Ban On Pregnancies After Menopause". It bothered me a great deal, especially since medical care is socialized in Europe. It doesn't sound like age will actually matter at all in determining whether you may receive fertility treatments - just whether or not you have hit menopause. Isn't it a problem that people reach this stage at very different points in their lives, depending on their individual biologies? Some women hit menopause very early, and some in their late 50s.

    My grandmother hit menopause when she was only 21 years old, directly after having her first child (my mother). In the 50s, there was little my grandparents could do about it, and so my mother was an only child. I like to think that if the same situation came about today, they WOULD have been able to conceive. If bans like the one proposed in France pass, someone in such a situation would be out of luck - unable to have children in her 20s and beyond!

    Posted by Cosette March 24, 10 10:09 AM
  1. So here's a couple of questions: what about parents who are overweight? What about parents who smoke? What about parents who have time-intensive jobs? What about parents with disabilties? Focusing on age as a predictor of "good parenting" seems incredibly short-sighted. As a somewhat older mom—I had my daughter at 39—I find that she energizes me, and my, now 43, husband agrees. We both look younger than most of our peers and have both been told we seem younger since the birth of our daughter. And yes, I can't run around with her as much as she would want, but I'm more than capable of sitting on the floor and playing dolls for hours, which she loves. As an older parent and someone who is established in her career and secure in her identity, I feel that I am a better parent because of my age.

    Posted by nna March 24, 10 10:11 AM
  1. Hi Lylah,
    Great discussion! I thought your readers might also enjoy this feature I did on older first-time moms and dads for the Globe Magazine: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/articles/2009/07/26/babies_and_boomers/?page=1

    Posted by Alison Lobron March 24, 10 11:26 AM
  1. My problem with the issue is that only females are being targeted as "too old" to parent. Not too many people have a problem with men who father children at late ages.

    I personally wouldn't have a baby at 50 but I wouldn't do a lot of things I think people have every right to do. There are lots of 20 year old people making a big mistake by bringing children into their disorganized lives.

    Posted by Alice March 24, 10 11:31 AM
  1. There's a big difference between being a first time mom at 40 and a first time mom at 60 or 70.

    Posted by bms March 24, 10 12:45 PM
  1. I don't have children (not my choice, btw) so my opinion might not count, but the whole fertility treatment idea seems pretty selfish to me. There are so many children in foster care & unwanted who would LOVE to be adopted. There are too many people in the world already. Too many children uncared for. Why is it really necessary to spend so much money just to make a little clone of yourself? It's incredibly egotistical. Of course that's human nature...

    Posted by just my opinion March 24, 10 01:12 PM
  1. "When I was a teen, my mother was going through menopause. it was h..l for both of us. If people insist on IVF, THEY should be ones paying for it, not like the idiots in Mass. allowing this under medical insurance. I never had children and never wanted any after what I went through growing up. Nature shuts off the baby-making equipment after a certain age for a reason."

    My mother also went through menopause when I was a teen - speficially 14. She was in her 40s and had breast cancer. My point is that sh*t happens even when you have children at a "typical" age. You never know what will happen.

    Posted by fram March 24, 10 01:17 PM
  1. I think the guidelines for adoption should be relaxed somewhat (all agencies should accept healthy couples of 50, for instance) because there are a lot of great kids out there who need loving homes. At the same time, the guidelines for IVF should be brought more into line with those of adoption. There is nothing we can do about crazy or criminal people having babies the "old-fashioned" way, but once outside agencies are involved in helping to put a child into the home, there should be careful assessment of the physical and social environment for the child. Age is probably not the most important of those factors.

    Posted by KS March 24, 10 01:32 PM
  1. A lot of people are pointing out risk factors that other parents have when they have children (demanding jobs, extra unhealthy weight, far too young to parent) which are very valid points but I think the difference here is that no one actively says, "I'm going to get a 100 hour per week job and then have a baby and parent it poorly." People actively choose to have children when they are older. They know the increased risks/limitations and the possible health scenarios they face and still choose to have those children. I have nothing against people using alternative means to get pregnant when they are younger but when a 55 year old woman or man goes through an incredible amount of medical treatment to have a child, I feel like rationality has gone out the window. While I would never promote a law limiting people's ability to reproduce, I am pleased adoption laws do set boundaries and wish more people would consider their limitations if they can.

    Posted by Linney March 24, 10 01:42 PM
  1. I don't understand why someone would want to give birth later in life. That's their choice, granted, but I never wanted children which was my choice. Good for anyone who wants to have a child later in life, it's better than teens having babies.

    Posted by sophie08 March 24, 10 02:01 PM
  1. Nature provides the age cut-off. We circumvent it. If you can conceive naturally at 99, then knock yourself out. Make sure you have a good life insurance policy, though.

    Just ask yourself before you do it...
    Do you want to leave your children alone in the world when they are young? Its a pretty safe bet you won't see their wedding, and maybe not high school graduation. Do you care, because if you don't maybe having kids isn't for you.

    PS- If conception requires IVF, then it may not only be up to the individual. The doctors will have a say, maybe the government Perhaps, even the egg donors will get to decide parameters.

    Posted by lala March 24, 10 02:05 PM
  1. I think we'd be far better off imposing a minimum age for conception than a maximum.

    My mother is as old as most of my friends' grandparents. She tried for years to conceive, long story short a doctor ignored her complains of pain following a miscarriage and a massive infection caused both fallopian tubes to basically explode. They eventually put themselves on an adoption list. They adopted my brother and three years and three days later I was born! She was 41 at the time. I was born and continue to be exceptionally healthy, almost 25 now.

    Granted, 41 isn't quite as old as most of the women who are being argued against however, when the pregnancy test came back the nurse on the phone asked my mother "what do you want to do about it?" She expected my mother to terminate the pregnancy as that was very common back then for such "elderly" mother's to be. It was once believed that having a child past age 35 would result in terrible birth defects, still borns and cognitive delays.

    Our perception is ever changing. How can we tell these women they cannot have a child because they are too old when we continually allow minors, children themselves really, to bare children. My brother was put up for adoption because his birth mother was 14. He was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and an APGAR score of 1. He has continual cognitive and emotional delays as a result and often cannot hold down a job.

    How can we even dream of imposing restrictions on one and not the other?

    Posted by Sara March 24, 10 02:15 PM
  1. If it is okay for an older man to have a child with a younger woman (I believe the second Mrs. Randall was in her late 20s or 30s when their child was born), does that make it okay for an older woman to have a child with a younger partner?

    Posted by HollyP March 24, 10 04:11 PM
  1. I also don't really get the IVF thing. Why go to such enormous lengths to get genetic offspring? Why is that so important?

    But then I'm biased. My adopted sons are way cooler than anything I could have made using tools found around the house...

    Posted by bms March 24, 10 05:46 PM
  1. What if it happens naturally? My friend became pregnant at 42 right in the middle of treatments for a brain tumer (radiation).She had to stop all treatments and meds(Mind you she was on so called birth control).She had a healthy baby boy which seems to have helped her tumer has gotten smaller and she is doing great.Is nature working here to? My aunt died in her 40's and left two teen girls and they are doing very well ,never once have I heard them say I wish mom never had us because she died .

    Posted by RHO March 25, 10 07:46 AM
  1. When I became pregnant for the third time at what was considered 25 years ago to be the "old" age of 37, one of my friends said, "Lucky kid....an experienced Mom". There is something to be said for mature parents (or grandparents). That said, I wouldn't want to be starting a family at 60, and certainly not the multiple babies that sometimes result from IVF. I'm content to be relegated to the status of "consultant" grandma!

    Posted by Nana March 25, 10 09:06 AM
  1. Being a 47 year old mother of an 18 year old, I think this topic is very interesting. I have raised this child on my own and my only worry is leaving her alone in this world. That scares me. I couldn't imagine me dying and her being so young without me. My friend (same age) has an 8 year old and I look at her in amazement and ask myself why????? When she is 60, this child is only 21. I just can't see it.
    God bless all those that have the energy for it though!

    Posted by PQuincy March 25, 10 12:46 PM
  1. I know from personal experience that having a baby at just 40 is incredibly hard. How could anyone possibly handle it at 50 or more? I can't even begin to explain how worn out I am. I think the take home message should be have your kids in your 20s or early 30s.

    Posted by A rose is a ring March 25, 10 03:04 PM
  1. I adopted (twice) in my early 40's. My beloved daughters hate to hear me refer to myself as "old" and they worry about me dying. I'm sad that my age seems to be an additional burden for them. I'm really glad that I didn't wait any longer to adopt. That said, I have no doubt that I am a better parent for having waited to become one. I was an emotional train wreck in my 20s and 30s. I am far more patient and even-handed now.
    I cringe when I hear of anyone, male or female, becoming a parent at retirement age.

    Posted by 2busymom March 25, 10 03:40 PM
  1. I had my frst child at nearly 40 (naturally-no medical intervention) and had my second child at 43 (once again without medical intervention). I am 47 now. I do more with my children, have more energy and patience than women half my age. I even coach kids' soccer and swiming. I also look like I am in my early to mid-30s. It is an individual thing. My husband and have very youthful spirits. I have met many parents 20 years younger -who look and act like they are middle age.

    Posted by Bambinosmom March 25, 10 04:06 PM
  1. Being the 54 year old mother of a 5 year old, I can tell you that these are legitimate questions for any "older" parent to ask themselves: What can I do NOW to try to ensure that I will be healthy and able to actively parent her all the way to adulthood? How can I try to avoid becoming so "old fashioned" in my outlook that she and her friends cringe at the sight of her 65 year old mother when she is 16? What decisions can we make to try to ensure her financial stability after my husband and I are gone? What is NOT legitimate is a question of an outsider: How could you (of whatever age) responsibly choose to parent a child? IT IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS TO JUDGE THE VALUE OF THE LOVE BETWEEN A PARENT AND CHILD.

    \

    Posted by Carol April 10, 10 03:49 AM
  1. I went for IVF treatments 5 years ago. I was 47. The treatments did not take. My husband felt we were too old to continue and told me to stop.
    He refused me any more treatments.
    Truth is if he should pass away before I am 65 I will pursue this option on my own immediately. I will go public with the birth after I deliver.
    I'll set up a web-site for older women pursuing IVF and I will help them
    with their decision and treatment options. There should not be an age maximum for older ladies. There is none for older men and women don't always meet Mr. Right. Many older ladies become spinsters and often times give care to older parents.
    Why shouldn't they pursue this option in their elder years if they are healthy? I would rather have a child in my life in my senior years than a man. So why not?
    Parents can die at any age. So if a child is desperately wanted by an old gal this is her choice to make like a woman's right to choose.
    Only she can make this choice and it's no one's business.

    Posted by Mary April 18, 11 02:32 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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