Yet did any honest reader come across that story this week about the 67-year-old Barcelona woman who just gave birth to twins – by lying about her age to a Los Angeles fertility doctor – and not relexively think: Freak show?
The woman, an unmarried retired Barcelona department store clerk who’s telling reporters she’s in the market for a younger husband and a playpen, is now the oldest mother in the world. The doctor, Vicken Sahakian, looks (by his picture in the Los Angeles Times story, anyway) to now have the biggest headache in the world. His cutoff date for helping single mothers get pregnant is 55, but unfortunately he didn’t demand to see a passport in this case, just Spanish medical records.
I think a 55-year-old cutoff date is still too old, but before you dismiss me as “mean-spirited” for that, please consider a few facts.
Leaving aside all the increased health risks to these older mothers and their babies, the cold, hard reason your life and health insurance premiums rise each year is that the longer you live, the more likely it is that the passage of time means you will, in the near future, sicken and die.
Sure, older men can still marry younger women and father children. We all know about Tony Randall et al. But why spend tens of thousands of dollars to raise the odds that a child will grow up motherless?
A few years ago infertility doctors got on the wrong side of the feminist establishment by trying to educate women who were waiting too long to have children. One survey revealed that very few women – just over 10 percent – realized that fertility begins to decline even at age 27, and almost 40 percent mistakenly believed it doesn’t drop until age 40.
The truth is that by 42, 90 percent of a woman’s eggs are abnormal. Those aging celebrites like Geena Davis and Angela Bassett you see giving birth in their late ’40s and beyond can afford expensive fertility treatments. If they die before the babies grow up, at least they have enough money to make sure their children will be well provided for. Most women are not in the same position.
But an American Society for Reproductive Medicine brochure stating a simple fact that might help many women avoid heartbreak – “Advancing age decreases your ability to have children” – was blasted by feminists. (This seemed about as useful as criticizing lung specialists for suggesting that maybe it’s not so great you’ve got your own cigarette now, baby.) Why it was so terrible to point out that, no, you can’t have it all, was never explained.
I became pregnant with my daughter, now 17, when I was 30, which now seems pretty young compared to all my friends and aquaintances but in the grand chronological shcheme of things really wasn’t. I still remember, with more than some mortification, a particularly embarrassing remark I made at the time.
My father had remarked that he’d read somewhere older mothers often gave birth to high-I.Q. babies. But I couldn’t figure out his point, since my own mother was only 24 when she gave birth to me.
“No, no…” he explained happily. “She wasn’t an older mother. You are.” Oh…
I’ve given thanks many times since then, though, that I really wasn’t, all things considered. Because when my daughter was 13 I was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. For some reason I find myself still around, and grateful that at least I did get her through high-school and off to her first year of college, which at the time of my diagnosis was my only wish. And frankly, the odds were against it.
How awful for us both if she’d been even younger. (And I’d been even older.)
PajamasMedia Special Correspondent CATHERINE SEIPP writes the weekly “From the Left Coast” column for National Review Online, a monthly column for Independent Women’s Forum and freelances other places, such as the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal op-ed pages. She previously wrote columns for: Buzz, Mediaweek, UPI, New York Press and Salon. Her work has also appeared in Reason, Penthouse, TV Guide, the National Post and Forbes.