By Athena ReichAug 01, 2018
The author with her son. photo:iStockphoto
I've spent the last few weeks sifting through egg donor profiles. I am 42 years old, and while I would have loved to marry my soul mate at 27 and give birth by 30, relationships aren’t that simple and neither is fertility.
At 36, I shifted my priorities from dating to procreating. Several IUIs and IVFs later, I became the proud mother of a glorious child, conceived using donor egg and donor sperm. And now, I’m wild/crazy/brave enough to go for my second.
As a single lesbian mother by choice with low ovarian reserve, I am a little outside the box when it comes to family building. As a result, I have raised a few eyebrows, and suffered my fair share of fools.
I spend way too much time deflecting ageism, and I'm not the only one. Judging by my IRL and Facebook community of older moms, it seems that, as women, if we step just a little outside the box by having children at a time society deems too late, everyone and their dog has something to say about it. These comments can be hurtful—and they make you look ignorant.
Here are the top eight things to never say to an older mom with a baby.
If you have to ask, it means you aren’t sure. If you aren’t sure, there’s a chance you are talking to the mother and are going to hurt her (and her child’s) feelings. Just as you should never ask a woman if she’s pregnant, and you shouldn’t ask a transracial family if their kid is adopted, you shouldn’t go around asking sensitive questions to strangers. Families are diverse. Get used to it.
You are a math genius! Funny, during my three years of hormone injections, miscarriages and surgeries, I never actually sat down to do the simple arithmetic! And since the definition of a good parent is youth, then I guess emotional stability, financial security and wanting-a-child-so-bad-you-will-do-anything-to-make-it-happen have absolutely no value and I should just give up. Thanks for enlightening me.
An acquaintance of mine reports that in the middle of delivering her baby, as she was suffering through a labour complication, her nurse actually said to her, “You’re older; you should have talked to someone about the risks. You were selfish to get pregnant.” (The mom-to-be filed a report and the nurse was banned from her room, but… really?!)
While it’s true there can be more pregnancy and labour complications with age, there is also ample research to suggest children of older moms fare better in terms of intelligence, health and education.
And by the way, doctors later told that mom that her complications were unrelated to her age. Let’s not forget that a hundred years ago, many women died in childbirth. Giving birth has always been complicated and risky.
Yes, it'll be tiring—like parenting is at any age. But you know what’s really draining? Wanting a kid your whole life and waiting and dating and doing everything possible to find the right relationship to make it work. On the other hand, you know what’s energizing? My three-year-old’s face this morning, when he said, “Mama, you are my best friend, and my mom.” Yeah, I don’t think he cares that I’m 42 and we will be just fine.
Why? Because I will die sooner and my child will have to care for me before yours will? Let's break that one down.
First of all, Canadians are living much longer. Second, maybe I will be less of a burden because I had more time to focus on my career and finances. So, yes, it’s true, I will probably die sooner in my child’s life had I started in my twenties. But I’m guessing my child will benefit from having a more emotionally stable parent who got her yayas out before settling down.
Plus, life expectancies a hundred years ago for mothers (or anyone) were much lower. It’s an idealistic idea of family that has never really been true.
While the likelihood of some genetic diseases increases with age, the odds are still relatively small, at about 1 percent, for a 40-year-old woman to have a child with Down’s Syndrome. It's 2018, however, and we do have prenatal tests now. But more importantly: We all have strengths and weaknesses and the purpose in life is not conformity and productivity. What about love, diversity, connection and depth of experience?
Too bad you’ll probably never learn tact. Also, people in my family live well into their late 90’s. And anyone can get hit by a bus at anytime. So please. Just stop.
Because—wait a second, lady at the supermarket, are you asking me or judging me?
To summarize: There is no perfect age and there is no perfect family. There is no perfect time to give birth or perfect way to care for your child. There are pros and cons to each situation and if you are really concerned about my child’s wellbeing, why not ask how you can support me?
Because as I move forward with my dream of mothering two children, and sift through these donor profiles, I know I am motivated by my desire for love, meaning and connection. And that’s good enough.
Whatever your age or situation, I hope you are going for your dreams too, no matter the obstacles.