Thursday, May 24, 2007

Giving Birth At Sixty

Today I read about the 60-year-old New Jersey woman who just gave birth to twins. She says that she would like to consider herself a role model for others -- about the freedom women have. In her case, part of her freedom was the freedom to go to South Africa to have an expensive procedure developed particularly for older women. I have to ask: who is she a role model for?

I am not judging her as an individual. She and her husband know what they can handle as new parents. And she has had other children: a 33-year-old, 29-year-old and 6-year-old, so you can't say she doesn't know what she is getting into. But I do have doubts about the "role model" idea.

Obviously, she has wealth and opportunity that are not available to many women. She can fly all over the world. My hunch as well is that, if she works, it is because she wants to, not because she has to. I also have a hunch that if she needs help for these babies (i.e. day care) she will not find it difficult to pay for. So even though people are living longer, I believe that her situation creates a false assumption about how easy/difficult it is to be a parent at any age. Also, these medical procedures are expensive and not everyone can afford them. How much can a couple afford to spend on their dream of having a "child of their own"?

I know that in vitro does not work for everyone. I know people who have tried several times and were heartbroken when they first came to the realization that they would not have children of their own. But they do have children of their own. They have adopted: some from China, from Korea, and from Ethiopia. Some have adopted older children. I consider them "role models". They have taken in a stranger, and called her "my child." So I believe her actions create false hope and false expectations about what parenting is all about. "Having your own child" becomes a kind of Holy Grail, instead of a gift from God.

I'm not saying that people who are trying to have children are wrong to try to reach for their dream. But for myself, when I see an article like this, I do get a brief pang "I'm only 50. What if...?" I feel the grief all over again. And according to the book of Ecclesiastes, there is a time and a place for everything ... and I believe that this includes a time to reach for our dreams, and a time to accept our limitations. A good role model can teach us both things.

4 comments:

more cows than people said...

(((diane))) thanks for this thoughtful post.

Barbara B. said...

I certainly empathize with people who struggle with infertility, since I experienced that myself and it was a very difficult time. But this woman already had 3 children, so it apparently was something more than infertility. Your reference to Ecclesiastes is wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

Barbara B. said...

(p.s. What I mean to say is... I wonder about the true nature of her motivation.)

Diane said...

I sympathize with people with fertility issues too, and it's not so much that I judge this woman, but I'm not sure about her as a "role model", partly because most people aren't as wealthy as her, and won't have access to all of the choices she has.