A Blog by

Tick Tock

Ginny and her niece

I’d like to be a mother—someday. Now is not a good time. I’m 28 years old, unmarried, and trying to build a freelance writing business from a small New York apartment.

I grew up in the wake of the feminist movement, and boy am I glad about that. Gender inequalities still exist, of course (ahem). But since grade school, my parents, teachers and favorite after-school-TV-show characters have encouraged me to invest in my education and career, just like any ambitious man. And I have.

Alas, biology still holds a trump card: my closing fertility window. By the time I’m 38, my bank account may be pregnant, but my eggs will be fossils. In last week’s issue of New Scientist, I wrote about a far-out experimental solution: freezing pieces of my ovary. The premise of the story was that if this technology ever gets off the ground, it could fulfill the original promise of the birth control pill, allowing women to make career decisions without the pressure of a ticking clock.

And it’s such a satisfying premise, isn’t it, especially for science-loving feminists like me. But after five months of airing it, triumphantly, to everyone I know, and thinking about their responses, my enthusiasm has waned. The cultural limits on the age of motherhood, I’m afraid, are far stronger than the biological ones.

Ovarian tissue freezing was first developed for women with cancer, and so far has resulted in only 19 babies worldwide. As my piece explains, researchers are still working out lots of kinks in the freezing and surgical techniques, so it’s unclear when or whether it will ever be reliable enough for healthy women to bet on. But let’s just pretend that it worked perfectly. I could freeze an ovary at age 25, put it back in at my leisure, whether at age 26 or 50, and conceive naturally. If that were possible, would the technology change societal norms?

There’s an obvious precedent. On May 9, 1960, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Enovid, the first birth control pill. Today more than 100 million women worldwide use some form of oral contraceptive.

Before the pill, women had children early and often wound up with more than they could afford. The pill’s initial backers, women’s rights activists Katharine McCormick and Margaret Sanger, argued in the 1920s that contraception would give women a way out of this form of poverty. It did.

Katharine McCormick and Margaret Sanger
Susan Perkins at the American Museum of Natural History is almost done with a truly heroic feat: overseeing a blog that features a new parasite every day in 2010. As we glide towards the end of the year, she's launched "The Twelve Parasites of Christmas." So far, mistletoe (that botanical equivalent of a tapeworm!), two turtle doves (and their blood parasites), and the cauliflower mushroom, bane of Christmas trees. What gifts await us in the next week?

From 1970 to 2006, the average age of first-time motherhood in the U.S. went from 21.4 to 25 years, and the proportion aged 35 years and older increased nearly eight times. Same deal in Europe and Asia.

Free from young motherhood, women can work and rack up degrees. Ladies in the American workforce climbed from 26.2 million in 1965 to 71.6 million in 2008. In 1970, less than 5 percent of first-year law students and 10 percent of medical students were women; by the ’90s, it was 45 and 40 percent, respectively.

Some economists point out that the pill’s benefits go beyond women’s work opportunities. It has dramatically lowered the number of unintended pregnancies, which saves a lot of healthcare dollars ($14,000 per woman for every five years of contraceptive use, according to one estimate). Fewer unwanted babies also means less alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy, less child abuse and neglect, higher birth weights, and overall healthier families.

But the pill had another, not-so-rosy sociological effect: it helped turn infertility into an epidemic. Now, instead of being stuck with children too early, women are burdened by the fact that if we wait too long, we won’t be able to conceive. An estimated 10 percent of couples worldwide can’t conceive within a year.

So back to my earlier question. If we had a technology that could stop the clock, would a bunch of Good Things happen to women? Would we earn more money before having a kid, allowing us to give said kid better medical care and more educational opportunities? Would employers, no longer at risk of losing a young employee in her 30s, finally start paying us what they pay men for the same job? Would more women stay in science? Without the terrifying “use-it-or-lose-it” voice in the back of our heads, would more of us realize that, actually, we don’t want any of those smelly babies?

I wish I could say that if only the technology existed, it would give women (and their partners) more choices and help us make better decisions. But I’m not sure it would. There’s a surprisingly strong cultural resistance to the idea of delaying motherhood. When I mentioned this story to colleagues and peers, I heard over and over again, “Yeah, but is it good for the kid to be the one with the old mom?” or “I wouldn’t have enough energy to do it at that age” or “At some point, women have to make up their minds.”

I even heard this from researchers who work on fertility preservation. Take Nicole Noyes, a professor of obstetrics at the New York University Fertility Center. Noyes and her colleagues have done hundreds of egg freezing procedures, in which a woman does the first half of in vitro fertilization, but then puts the eggs on ice. When I told Noyes I didn’t see myself having children until at least my late 30s, she gasped. She told me that her mother, who had eight children post World War II, had encouraged her to get a job and hold off on family. Noyes got pregnant at age 33, but considers herself lucky. “Looking back, I shudder to think that I waited so long,” she says. “The generation behind me has to go, OK there’s a happy medium.” (Then, about 15 minutes after our call, Noyes sent me a follow-up email, writing: “I hope I didn’t scare you about your fertility but rather make you appreciate that you are at your peak of it NOW and I don’t want you to waste it.” No pressure or anything.)

I’m sympathetic to some of these arguments. For me, though, a technology that could give me even 10 years — between age 30 and 40, say — would mean a lot. And really, is there anything so terrible about a 40-year-old mother?

Ovarian tissue banking is way too experimental to help me. But maybe it will be there for my niece, or hell, my daughter.

Top image via Flickr

This post was originally published on The Last Word on Nothing


39 thoughts on “Tick Tock

  1. Haha “waste it”? When I think of a 28-year-old uber-talented writer living in New York, my first thought is not of wastage. To step out of that into a motherhood script before you’re ready? Now THAT would be a waste.

  2. Ya know, I’m talking to a LOT of women here in Boston who are waiting–just as my own mom did–to have kids. Their kids are adorable, adjusted AND healthy!

    My parents were in their late 40’s and early 50’s when my sister and I were teens; we did tons of outdoor activities weekly, if not daily! Mom and Dad had both the physical and emotional energy for child rearing despite their “older” status.

    I can’t help but think what I’ve thought before–that “when you have kids,” like “when you get married,” is a topic on which people can’t help but comment. Though there’s evidence that waiting can do harm, aren’t there also a lot of kids born from older parents who are doing great things?

    I’m going to start asking “kids”/my colleagues/etc how old their parents were when they were born. A little survey! I’ll report back in one year 🙂

  3. Great piece. I find that there are still so many societal “norms” (yes, I’d like to put that in quotes to underscore my opinion of them) that imply extreme judgment for late-life mothers–and even greater judgment for those women who consciously choose not to have children at all. A conversation worth having, I think, often and intelligently, so that with luck, those norms will one day seem abnormal indeed.

  4. My parents were old, too, Meagan — mom was 34 and dad 48 when I was born, and I’m the oldest! I have to admit that when I was a kid, I was soooo embarrassed to have the oldest dad at school. But in retrospect, what aren’t young kids embarrassed about, ya know?

    Maria — let’s hope so!

  5. Great piece, Ginny! I just want to address one thing: I think it IS possible to be a mom and still a (busy) freelance writer. In fact I think my career has never been better! I only work four days a week now, but I don’t think that’s really affected much in the way of opportunity or output. So….it’s not impossible to have both. 🙂

  6. I read this with interest. I’m a guy, 46, no kids, and some training in sociology n anthropology (hence no work). As a guy I say I really believe in all that ‘clock’ nonsense. Ive seen committed lesbians decide one day around age 23 ‘Must Have Baby’ and be married and pregnant within a year. Exactly what drives women’s minds to work that way is something we can observe but not really understand. Guys, I mean, not ‘science.’
    It’s a good question, if you could be fertile at any time in your life, would you? I guess some would and some wouldn’t. Not everybody is completely driven by the need for them and their children to never ever seem a little bit weird. And if people were doing it, it would seem less weird. Like Homeschooling.
    I recommend the B. Sterling novel Holy Fire which looks at life extension and some implications thereof. Suppose fertility is not extended past say 50 for women, but life and apparent youth get extended to 200, at least if youre rich, with a reasonable hope that as you get older, techniques may get better yet. Google Kurzweil on this. So most fields are dominated by people well past 100 who may never die, so everybody who is young is kind of desperate and waiting their turn. (Describes what it was like being a gen x person too…)
    Having said all that I remember its a truism in social sciences that the fertility rate and age is one of the slowest-to-change of all statistics. Hemlines go up, then come down. Theres war and peace. GOP and dems, and women, by and large, are having the same number of babies at about the same age as were in that country or area last year or last decade.
    Really well written. Since Ive been out of school Ive lost the discipline to write anything that sounds so professional. It’s an intensely personal question but you dont go all mushy about it.

  7. Melinda — You are definitely an inspiration for me! I think I could probably handle the schedule-juggling; the bigger problem is that we’d have to move into a bigger place (which means, probably leaving our beloved neighborhood) and cut down on travel, which is one of my favorite parts of the job. Still, do-able, and I probably will do it…in a few years. 🙂

    Matt — thanks for the male perspective, which I must admit is all but absent in the piece. I don’t think you’re quite right about the number of babies/age of babies not changing over time. There are some striking statistics showing many changes from 1950s to now.

  8. Yep. I’m a 28-year-old science writer, just starting out, thinking of having a baby with my husband. I’m bummed at the prospect of refocusing, but it also feels like I’m discovering something really cool in life that nobody ever talks about. My friends are all career nuts and nowhere near baby-ready. (If I hadn’t met my hubby at work, I would be in the same boat.) My mother is my role-model-feminist and she doesn’t even remember what it was like to have kids. I find that everyone is so focused on equalizing the job pool that they forgot to tell me how amazing having a baby can be. I have the opposite problem as you, Virginia. Im afraid I’m going to fall into a “traditional woman” black hole.

  9. Yah, I’ve been researching this a lot lately as well, since I am 32 and getting divorced threw me a hiccup in the timing. Now, I really have to rebuild things generally to get to the right spot fiscally, career-wise, and relationship-wise, so I’m lookin at… 35-37? Huge risk. I got super bummed at even the prospect of acknowledging that I may just have to accept that I do not get to have a child, even though I’m still not sure I want one. I am sure, however, that I’d be absolutely devastated if it turned out that I did and then couldn’t. I achieved temporary relief from learning about egg freezing, but then it turned out to be exorbitant and rough on the body, and of course insurance doesn’t cover it for ‘luxury’ reasons, only if you have cancer. I was re-bummed again, but then I looked into the pricing of fertility treatments and found that they aren’t nearly as expensive as egg extraction and storage would be if I did that now… so I am running with the semi-comforting logic that I can throw money at it later, though deep down it is not much of a placation. However, what can I do? The time is not now.

    But later in around 2-3 years, which is my personal goal for reaching financial and the career stability suitable to supporting a family, if the new relationship thing hasn’t worked out then I may be making the decision to go rogue. That is more or less the choice that I am faced with now.

    I do think that the tide could eventually move towards developing the fertility technology more though, since there are an ever increasing number of women like us who find themselves in this situation one way or another. There are even some labs that subtly advertise it. But a typical single woman’s salary isn’t typically high enough to support actually purchasing these services, as of yet. Some will start using this to prolong fertility though, so slowly but surely, we will likely converge towards this being a simpler and less risky reproductive choice. The cultural opinion will follow — I’m actually not too worried about that. Nor do I care too much. Strong statistics support that older parents generate more stable and successful children on average, even if it is sad that they lose you as a parent at a relatively young age compared to their cohort (meaning their mid 30’s to 50’s)

    Anyway, nice article, it’s all on my mind

  10. I also wish that women didn’t have to decide to delay their careers because of maternity. We should push society to change the rules so that a women could take the decision of having a baby whenever they want, and it shouldn’t affect their career. If you think about it, nobody tells a man that they have to delay having kids for their career. The asymmetry is astounding, but it is because all the social structures (work/maternity compensation/hiring/tenure) were done with a male working force in mind. If you could take the time to have your baby without major consequences to the rest of your life (you know, like men do), I imagine that a lot more women wouldn’t be in this conundrum.

  11. Had first child at age 33, last at age 38. My husband was born when *his* mother was 38, and that was more than four decades ago. I know many parents our age whose children are our children’s ages.

    Honestly, had we had children any sooner, I feel like we’d’ve been so clueless and still too young. I’m glad we waited until our 30s. Yes, fertility wanes (although mine showed no signs of that). I didn’t delay my career for maternity, and I didn’t delay maternity for my career. We were trying to figure out just a couple of days ago what made us decide it was time. What it came down to was, it just seemed like about the right time.

    As someone who has had an infant at age 38 and who has many friends who’ve also had children in that age range, I can say no, there is nothing whatsoever that is terrible about it. In fact, it’s rather wonderful because I’m not a frantic 20-something trying to do everything at once but a rather stable middle-aged woman who is much more sure of herself than she was a decade or more ago. I can only assume that’s useful for my children, too.

  12. I think there are arguments for doing it both ways. I had my child at age 31 (youngish), and I have moments when I feel so bone tired that I wonder if I shouldn’t have done it sooner. But then I think that having a child requires so much of your time and energy that I’m glad I climbed ladders, finished grad school, had fun, and did a little traveling before the little bugger came along. Not that those things can’t happen after children! They just become a bit more challenging.

    As for work, I have to agree with another commenter. There’s no law that says your career has to suffer once you have a baby. There are some institutions that are not as forgiving when you need to take time off for a sick baby. But there are plenty of work places out there with flexibility and sensitivity to motherhood. If you come in and bust your butt and continue to produce quality work, then an employer would be an idiot not to reward you.

    As a sidebar, and I think this was already mentioned too, children are a great inspiration! I’m a writer as well (an editor in the science field and a blogger for a parenting site), and since my son was born, I’ve felt this drive to just write and write and write, even when I’m bone tired from weeks of sleep deprivation.

    Long story short: The right time to have a child is not when society tells you. It’s when you are good and ready.

  13. I think most of the problems derive from the perception that having children and a career is an and/or thing. I don’t believe that has to be the case.

    It would be great to have a choice and prolong fertility indefinitely until we’re ready but since that is not the case yet, the decision lies in “do I want kids at all”? If the answer is yes, then I believe the right time is different for each person.

    I had my first child at 21, the second one at 23 (just starting my 1st career) and the third at 37, while on my second year in medical school. Six weeks before exams too. Didn’t take a day off, had baby on Wednesday, went back to lectures on Friday (ok, took one day off). My age didn’t make any difference – you need energy in your 20s and you need energy in your late 30s and 40s.

    The big difference between the first two and the third one is that I know I have less years to enjoy him. Being much younger with the others, I made mistakes of course, but I got to grow up with them. But I only get to grow old with no. 3. Starting my new career now as a doctor, I don’t consider my younger to be an obstacle. I get to have them both – a career AND a baby. Yes, it’s more tiring and you don’t have much time for yourself but that’s a small sacrifice. I’m considering having another one, too.

    Another thing many people seem to forget is that the “baby” years are very few. They very soon go to school and start having a life of their own. And yes, money is always a problem unless you’re born a millionaire but again, it’s a matter of what is more important to people.

    I’m a firm believer in not putting things off, or rushing things for external reasons. People’s opinions don’t matter – everyone’s a critic and everyone is looking at things from their own perspective. I had people tell me “you’re having a baby – at your age?” when their own daughter was only a year younger and still unmarried and considered herself “too young to get tied down by kids”. Well, newsflash: Society’s perception doesn’t matter. What matters is doing what one wants to do and being lucky enough to be able to do it as early or as late as they wish. Everything else is not important.

    So, for me, I think doing it all is all you need to do. It requires energy and planning and lack of sleep but as Bon Jovi put it, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” And I’ll be dead for many, many years. So now is my chance to do what I want to do.

  14. You wrote:

    When I mentioned this story to colleagues and peers, I heard over and over again, “Yeah, but is it good for the kid to be the one with the old mom?” or “I wouldn’t have enough energy to do it at that age” or “At some point, women have to make up their minds.”

    1) Did you get the same response about old dads? Or men having to make up their minds?

    2) Matt makes a good point above — 40 today reallly is the new 30 from the 1940s. With better health care, food, medical care, etc., it’s not quite the same thing to be a 40 year old mom as it used to be. That will only accelerate.

  15. I just stumbled on this blog and it’s great! I think the cultural reactions to being an older mom will change, and already have changed in places where there are lots of older moms. I have a friend in Manhattan who had her first kid at 35 and was considered a “young mother” in her circles, which greatly amused her b/c she was considered a pretty old mother in her hometown.
    Also, it seems like these days everyone has to weigh in on every woman’s (much less pressure on men in my experience) choice about everything and how she’s doing it All Wrong and is a Bad Mother who will Ruin Her Kids. So I say screw cultural limits. I advise getting a thick skin instead.
    That said, I do think there’s more to biology than eggs. I’m 43 and I think a newborn’s sleep schedule would sap the will to live right out of me at this point. But of course, maybe that would be different, too, if it were my first, long-awaited kid!
    I had my first child at 32, my second one at 37. Personally, for me the right time was when I met a partner that I could imagine having kids with. I met my (now ex-)husband in graduate school and we stopped using birth control (ahem) a few months after we started dating. It then took me nearly three years to get pregnant. Then when I did, it was at what might be considered a “bad” moment — right out of grad school. I literally got my first job and got pregnant the same week. But given how long it had taken us (we were already discussing adoption, and when our second kid rolled around we were actually in the very early practical stages of the adoption process), we were just grateful and made it work. I’m with Angelika, it’s not an either/or thing. I’ve always worked, love my job, and make enough money so that I could support my boys by myself and save for college and retirement if I had to — albeit in Upstate New York, this would be more challenging in NYC or any more expensive place.

  16. Never had anybody say anything about old dads. Sigh.

    I can add a little perspective there, if it helps. I was my father’s first child in his second family, and when I was born he was 54. My younger brother was born four years later. My father was made redundant at age 64; he looked younger than he was, had always kept his age a joke secret from me and my brother and it was a complete surprise to me when he proved to be too close to retirement to get another job. He didn’t adjust easily to retirement, and still less well to his worsening memory and hearing, both of which he denied in increasingly facile ways.

    I realise that this is a lot later than the time-range that affects women, but it did have a social effect. In fact, even with that tiny difference between me and my brother it made a great difference. I had grown to age ten used to my father going out to and coming home from work; I had been to his office and seen that he was people’s boss. I saw where he got his status from, in short. But my brother was six when Dad retired, and really doesn’t remember that; as far as his conscious memory goes, our father was an increasingly deaf and irritable man with nothing to do. I remember Dad when he was fit and well; my brother really only grew to know him in slow decline. It’s not that my father wasn’t an irritable and contrary man at times before – his previous family have nothing like my respect for his memory – but all the same, I would unhesitatingly say that he had us too late. We were provided for, and well, but he wasn’t up to being an authority figure or a role model as he would have been even ten years before.

    None of this, of course, much reduces the basic unfairness of the gendering of fertility, I do realise that. But perhaps it gives the unfairness slightly more humanity.

  17. Well – I had mine at 41, 44 and 46. While at first in grad school, and later beginning my career. My career isn’t that great, but goin (I’m garden varietyt lecturer/prof in psychology). Kids put a dent in int, but much less than one would think.

    In some ways I was lucky (we had tried for 5 years) – but when I look down my history, having a last child at 43-44 was not unusual (and quite a few of them started lateish also).

    But, I would probably advise my daughter to start early (but drag it out) – should she listen to me. It is not terribly hard to take care of a kid well enough – most of those extras seem to be competitive parenting rather than having actual benefits for the kids. There is daycare, and it is good to be two about it.

    I’d advise early mainly because you don’t want to end up at a point where you can’t have the children you want.

    BUt, then, perhaps keep going. THe old mother does not bother me, because, you know, I get to have my kids who are great, and the age is not something I can do anything about.

    (But the judgment kind of bugs me. You know, the idea that maybe you shouldn’t… of couse rarely leveled at males who father kids at a time just about all women are way past menopause).

    I have had a few people thinking my kids were my grand-kids. After all, there are plenty of 40 somethings (and now 50 somethings) who have grandkids the age of my kids.

    And, you know, people always have had kids late. You don’t control conception, there will be late offspring. As my own genealogy shows.

  18. I had my children at 39 and 42, for the reasons you explain. I had no problems. They’re wonderful young men now, and I enjoyed every stage of their development.

  19. I second Jessa’s comment!

    I’m in the same boat, Ginny. I just turned 30, and I LOVE what I do. But ironically, what I do involves researching childbirth and ways to improve the American childbirth system. Obviously, it’s an intellectualization of my maternal instincts until such time that pursuing motherhood rather than merely researching it is financially feasible and acquisition of Mr. Awesome has been achieved. So it would be rather cruel if I were to never have the chance to become a mother myself…even if it were only for the mother street cred it would allow me at my day job. (Being childless and claiming authoritative knowledge in childbirth is a…slippery slope at times.)

    But recently I realized that the second criteria I just listed for having children — acquisition of Mr. Awesome — is purely a cultural construct…That is, insofar as being an absolute requirement for having children. That is another freedom that technology has allowed us. The research doesn’t say anything about fathers being a main ingredient for raising well-adapted children; what it talks about is attachment figures, which can come in many forms — family, friends…I realized that while I DO want a husband/life partner, there’s no logical reason to think that that must precede children, especially in light of biological constraints, not to mention my desire to choose the RIGHT person, not the RIGHT NOW person (as many our age have). The only prerequisite is having the social and financial resources to provide the life you want for your child. And I estimate being able to do that by age 35.

    So, I decided, come 35, I can justify taking the plunge. By that time I will have done my time. Spent the majority of my adult life alone. Directing my maternal instincts into something that can help babies everywhere, not just my own. Pursuing a career that I find fulfilling and that would make me marketable to a potential partner and allow me to contribute financially to the household. I’d arguably have earned the social right, even though that right is purely social and not relevant to the well being of my child whatsoever.

    If I were to wait much longer than 35, I’d be entering into “high risk” pregancy territory, potentially forfeiting the natural home birth I want for my children, and that I will have spent my career fighting for for all mothers who want it. I will be at risk for other complications such as down syndrome, or not getting pregnant at all.

    I think you’re right. The more I think about it, the clearer it becomes that the biggest barriers to motherhood are social, not biological. And with that realization comes a freedom to reject them. You can, and you will make it happen. There never is a truly ideal time or state of readiness for children, but you will know when you’ve done your best to get to that place and in that place there will be a child waiting. Or at least that is what I have decided for myself.

  20. We enjoyed having children. We love them and the newest members of our family, our sons’ wives and our granddaughter.

    At a recent family gathering, 4 generations of family, 20 in total, gathered around a table to share a meal and company. They ranged in age from the 92 year old great grandfather whose memory is fading to the youngest, not even 20 months old who asked (after coaching), “Why?” As I looked around the table at the warmth and laughter shared, I knew the answer.

    We recognize our own mortality, but we seek to make a difference. Through our endeavors, our writings and our interactions with others, especially with our children, their children and their children, we hope that our existence has meaning and that some of the wisdom that we have learned, we have shared.

  21. I must confess that I don’t understand most women’s and men’s drive to produce children from their own ovum and sperm. And it does seem to be a wired-in thing – because once the kids arrive, I hear mainly about the problems they bring with them.

    There are many men and women who don’t have children and are quite happy about that. As a species, we have no shortage of children, so why do so many of us worry so much about reproducing ourselves?

    There are lots of nieces and nephews around, lots of kids of over-worked friends and relatives who do not have enough time with adults who have the kids’ best interests at heart. If you want to devote part of your life to helping to raise children, there are plenty of them who need some help and a steady, regular non-mom, non-dad presence in their lives. Why worry so much that you might not personally bear one?

    When I look around me, it seems to me that we need fewer children as a group, and more adults involved in the upbringing of each of the children we do have. There’d be a lot more happy, healthy, educated children in a world like that.

  22. My children were born when I was 39 and 40 years old (we adopted). Turns out I had plenty of energy at that age, and now that they’re teenagers I don’t need so much physical energy -but with teenagers, wisdom helps a lot. Now I have stepchildren, a son-in-law, and grandchildren as well. Not bad for a woman who has never been pregnant!

    Sure, I’m the oldest mom in my kids’ peer group. No one cares. I’m still the “coolest” mom they know, maybe because I’m more laid-back and have experienced more life than younger parents. And a lot of kids are raised by their grandparents, anyway.

  23. I’m 38 and in my third year of treatment for infertility. I’m in a support group and am far from the oldest or youngest member. It can strike couples at any age, and the numbers are closer to 1 in 8, not 1 in 10 couples who are trying to conceive.

    You’re right about cultural issues with “waiting to have children”. But it’s yet another damned if you do, damned if you don’t thing. It’s ridiculous to suggest anyone have a child if they’re not ready and they don’t have a partner to share the responsibility. It’s also ridiculous how people assume a woman who’s married without kids is selfish (I’ve been accused of this because we’re not open about fertility treatments due to my folks’ religious convictions).

    I just wish things were different. The US is so awesome in other areas, but when it comes to women having children we’re stuck in the 1960s attitude of where a woman’s place is.

  24. I’m not sure I will ever understand the need to make new children out of one’s own genes. Or any kind of panic to save your eggs or whatever. I never had that panic. I know adoption is costly and difficult, but it almost should be. Being a mother is such a health risk, not to mention pregnancy, so I don’t know why people feel the need. So much pain is involved with all parties concerned. Why someone would want to go through that in order to make a totally new person when there are parentless children in the world is beyond me. It’s not like you’re doing a favor to anyone. You can wait until you’re 60 to adopt or foster a child. Sure I know that the system makes it harder, and that might not be fair to the kids even. Not that they don’t deserve better than the best most of us can do. It’s just that I don’t think any of us is owed the experience of motherhood. It’s not a debt children should have to pay.

  25. While I am very pleased to live in a country where I have access to birth control (and therefore can continue childless), my sister had both of her kids in her 30s, her second child she was 38. They’re both perfectly healthy, and my sister has plenty of energy to keep up with them.
    People are living longer and healthier, I don’t see why there’s such a taboo on “older” parents. As a friend put it:
    Every child a wanted child, ever parent a willing parent. If you’ve got those covered, who cared how old you are?

  26. Hey, another Ginny!

    Late 30s is really not that bad. I worked on a labor and delivery floor for a while, and got to see lots of moms in their 40s deliver healthy babies, so I’m not too worried about the clock thing.

    One thing to consider, though, is that even if we can preserve healthy eggs, the body’s ability to carry a child and give birth will still be age-limited. I’d be interested to hear an expert opinion, but I’m guessing egg preservation would buy an extra 5-10 years at most.

    1. Actually, Ginny, a few experts told me that the uterus is capable of a healthy pregnancy (especially with hormone supplements, if needed) into the mid to late 50s, at least…

  27. I’m not sure I’d call Margaret Sanger a “women’s rights activist.” She was certainly a *birth control* activist, but her eugenicist views make her, at best, an activist for only a small, privileged subset of women.

  28. I really enjoyed this post! I would hope that all women can decide when/if they should be mother’s on their own time. Different things work for different women.

    From my experience:

    I am a 29 year old mother to a healthy, active toddler boy. I did not realize this beforehand but I am actually thrilled I had my baby in my late 20’s just because the amount of sleep deprivation in the first year combined with the amount of ENERGY it takes every day. I am in good health, a nonsmoker, I live a healthy lifestyle and am only 29 but I am SHOCKED at how much energy being a parent requires (emotional, physical, psychological). I would not have wanted to take this on in my 30’s or 40’s. Of course, I have a son and I often hear on the playground that boys are more active. But my belief is this is not gender-based and instead varies by the child.

    When my friends tell me they are expecting I always say to them: “Get done everything you want to do NOW.” 😉 I would say the same time to those who know they want a baby “one day.”

  29. I wanted to have a kid when I was 16. It didn’t happen. Now I’ve decided that I need to have a stable income before I try to have a kid. But I hope I can do it before I turn 30.

    There’s nothing wrong with having kids at any age. It’s up to the person potentially having them.

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