metro mama

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Too Old To Be a Mama?

There was an interesting column in the Focus section of yesterday’s Globe and Mail that really got me thinking. Unfortunately, I can’t link to it (it’s only available online to subscribers). Last week, a 63-year-old woman, Patricia Rashbrook, gave birth to a baby after receiving fertility treatments. Columnist Margaret Wente and writer and father David Eddie debated the morality of her choice. Here are a few excerpts:

Wente argues, “women are no longer enslaved by their reproductive organs—and a good thing too. If technology can give women wider reproductive options—as men have always had—that’s fine with me. And because we’re living so much longer and healthier, 63 is no longer old.”

Eddie counters, “but doesn’t this case seem symptomatic of a culture that has lost track of the fact that certain doors do close at some stage…..the truth is that as women approach 40, there is an exponential increase in the chance of birth defects and a correspondingly vertiginous drop-off in egg viability (Dr. Rashbrook used a donor egg). At some point, people just have to realize they have to grab a chair before the music stops.”

Wente counters, “if women were still required to abide by the biological imperatives that ruled the lives of their great-great-grandmothers, they’d have 10 or 14 pregnancies by the age of 42. Hey, that’s only natural!”

Eddie responds, “I’m afraid I do feel like all this postmenopausal hormone therapy and egg implantation is going against God’s design.” He also argues (and this is what gave me pause) “given current life-expectancy statistics, there’s a good chance neither she nor her husband will live to see J.J. into adulthood and that seems irresponsible.”

I have to take Wente’s position, although personally, I barely have the physical strength to raise a child now. I can’t imagine doing it at 63.

What isn’t under debate is the fact that there is no controversy over men who become fathers after retirement. On the contrary, they’re admired for their potency.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.



Blogger crazymumma said...

Hmmmmm, I think a 63 year old woman would have so much life experience to offer a child, as well as the financial capability to have lots of help to raise said child. I cannot imagine a 63 year old jumping thru all of those hoops without financial security and consideration as to who would care for that child in the eventuality of her death or decrease in energy.)
Oh and I think the analogy to the chair and the music is just plain rude and dismissive. Interesting article, thanks for pointing it out..Anne

1:17 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

This is an interesting topic you've raised! I agree on principle that it's a step forward, but here's the thiing - when men have historically bred children at an advanced age, at least the child's mother has been of an age to be around for the child's life. On the flip side, there are never any guarantees - anyone could die younger than expected.

But ultimately, I think my position is a personal one rather than a theoretical one - no way could a 63 year old keep up with that child, so I really hope she can afford some good help. Most people at that age are more likely to be grandparents, in which case they can play for a couple of hours and then give the little monkeys back!

4:08 PM  
Blogger penelopeto said...

Can i be a staunch feminist/womanist/pro-choicer mama-blogger and still think that this is just ridiculous? not because she's past some expiry date, or 'playing god' or whatever, but becuase i'm half her age and i am already frickin tired!
the only point i'll make that is somewhat political is that, although i don't believe that just because a woman has trouble getting pregnant/staying pregnant that she should give up and not seek medical routes, it seems as though once again, money and privilege seems to be the indicator of whether or not a woman gets to be a mom when nature said no.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

What Penelope said - I'm totally for the choice but still think that it's stupid. That kid will kill her.

Which is the other point, and one that is sometimes raised about older fathers - is it reasonable to expect people to consider whether they will live long enough to care for their children? That mom will be over 80 - if she makes it; not everyone does - before her child leaves home...

8:30 PM  
Blogger something blue said...

I like that we have more choices but after menopause seems to be pushing it to an extreme. I don't think it is right for a man to be fathering children as a senior either. It creeps me out to see Larry King with his young children.

12:44 AM  
Blogger scarbie doll said...

I agree with Wente's points, but ultimately feel it is selfish for anyone (male or female) to have a child at that age. There is no way you would have the energy to provide the attention a child needs, and chances are you won't be around to see his/her adulthood. You'd be lucky to see him going to the prom. The other thing that concerns me is that not enough is known about the after effects of a pregnancy on an older woman's body.

1:10 AM  
Blogger sunshine scribe said...

I think that the real debate should be why are we just talking about women's right to be a mother later in life. There are just as many issues with fathers. My grandfather was in his SIXTIES when he had my dad and he died when he was just 10 and his mother died a year later. It was tragic.

Like most things, I think it isn't up to me to impose my opinion on an individual's choice for their own body or their own life. But I wish they'd consider the effects on a child. Really consider it.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous tina c said...

why don't women think they can be a mom without having given birth?? did this lady have to birth a child to be a mom?? in terms of being too old when the child reaches adulthood, why not adopt a 10-year old kid? and this lady didn't even give birth to 'her own' kid if it was a donor egg. I just do not get why women see that their only path to motherhood is to give birth!

3:44 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Good lord, that woman is going to be chasing down toddlers to wrangle clean diapers on them 24/7 at a time when most women are retiring, traveling and devoting more time to themselves.

My inlaws are in their late 60's now. When my son comes over for a 24 hour visit, they need two days to recoup. So I hope this woman has some help.

12:11 AM  
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