Toronto mom Tessa* had always wanted at least four children. The former lawyer already had three kids when her marriage ended in 2001. Now, at 56, her dream is complete—two months ago she gave birth to her fourth child.
Fifty-six! Let that number sink in for a moment. I’m 45 and recently went through a bit of a mourning period when I realized I was too old to have another child—and not just because my eggs are old, but because I don’t think it’d be fair to the baby. However, Tessa (using a pseudonym to protect her son’s privacy), now a single mother, obviously didn’t feel the same way. She is post-menopausal, had three rounds of IVF and used a donor egg and donor sperm to get pregnant with her son. The pregnancy wasn’t easy—she had extreme morning sickness and was on intermittent bedrest for the first 14 weeks. While she was laid up, her 26-year-old daughter organized her home care. Her daughter was also the one who caught the baby, cut the umbilical cord and agreed to raise the child if anything should happen to her mother.
According to the story in the Toronto Star, Tessa’s daughter, two sons, and her 76-year-old mother are thrilled with the newest addition to the family. Tessa’s mother said that, despite her initial misgivings, she has come around and knows her daughter is up to the task of raising another child. “I had misgivings before she had the baby,” she told the Star. “I don’t have any now. She was a good mother with the other three children and she will be a good mother now.”
It cost Tessa approximately $48,500 to have her son and it would not have been possible without technological advances and a donor egg and sperm. But just because it’s possible, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Tessa used a donor egg from a young woman which makes the chances of abnormalities in her son very low. However, older women do run higher risks of gestational diabetes, pre-term labour and high blood pressure—not to mention the general wear and tear on an older body.
I am firmly pro-choice, and I believe women should have final say in what happens to their bodies and should be in control of their fertility. But there is something in this story that compels me to judge. When Tessa’s son is old enough to vote, she will be 74. What is the likelihood that she will be there for his wedding? Or be at the birth of his child? It’s most likely that her own daughter will fill in as the maternal role model as time goes on.
Families are complicated and diverse. Throughout time, there have been grandparents raising grandchildren and older women having babies. So why does the idea of women in their 50s having babies make me squeamish? Is that fair of me? It just seems selfish considering there are abandoned children out there who need homes. It appears that Tessa has created a loving family for her son, which is all that matters in the end. I guess women having babies later in life is something I’ll have to get used to.
*Name has been changed