August 12, 2010

Coulda, Shoulda

The other night Beth and I were watching the Freakshow Channel Discovery Health. After watching a parade of primordial dwarfs, women who inexplicably had no idea they were nine months pregnant until a human being fell from their uterus, and the fattest man on earth, we were presented with an hour-long documentary about women who'd gotten themselves knocked up. Okay, nothing extraordinary there. Except these women ranged in age from mid fifties to seventy. And then I wanted to claw my eyes out.

Patton Oswalt - one of the funniest comedians to ever walk the planet, by the way - has a great line he uses when talking about this very thing. "We're science - all about the coulda, not about the shoulda." And its true.

We are living longer than ever before. I'm slightly terrified because given my genetics I could very well find myself living to the ripe old age of 327. And what scares me about that is that our bodies are far outlasting our brains. Sure, I'll be upright but I'll think I'm the reincarnation of Liberace.

I don't have a vagina that I know of but I can't imagine the physical challenges of bearing and delivering children at that age. I know that my 37 year-old self sometimes has a pretty hard time handling two kids. I can't imagine the challenge if I was 20 or 30 years older.

But to focus on the physical ramifications for the parents is to miss the point.

Like I said, I'm 37 years old but I still need my mom and dad, I'm still happy they're in my life, and I count on them to be there for me. And hopefully the inverse is true. But kids with older parents - vastly older parents - aren't going to get the benefit of their parents' company, knowledge and wisdom. Because early in their lives their parents will die. To me that sounds like a selfish move by the parents and an unfair one to the kids.

What do you think? Is having a kid at an advanced age a good idea? When should people stop trying to become parents?

Posted by Chris at August 12, 2010 6:55 AM

I'm probably going to get slammed for this, but I think people should stop trying to become "parents" (and by that I mean biologically, which is sadly all that matters to some people) when it becomes a ridiculous ordeal. Then again, I think people should avoid in general endeavors which put undue strain on their health, finances or marriage.

And yeah, I think it's selfish to have children very late in life, or when you have enough health problems that it's likely (READ: likely) you'll die before your kid grows up.

Posted by: Fraulein N at August 12, 2010 8:41 AM

Two words. Methuselah's Children.

Posted by: Allan at August 12, 2010 9:08 AM

You'll look good in sequins.

Posted by: Pegnandy at August 12, 2010 9:24 AM

Hard to say. Since women bear the child, I think it's different for women and men. As guidelines, I'd say 45 for women and 60 for men. But I bet someone could show me why that's not right and I'd be fine with that.

We chose to have our kids in our late 20s for the reasons you're talking about. We wanted to not only be alive when our kids have kids, we want to be active, healthy people.

Posted by: Brad at August 12, 2010 9:27 AM

Since Canada is not yet controlled by a communist regime, I am allowed to utter the following nonsense...

I feel - like in the sports world - there should be a ceiling and a floor on child-bearing years... I mean we're all on this earth for the same reasons, right? To make a ton of money and listen to really hard music...

So I don't want Sammy and Amy down the street having kids at 18 years old because that means more of my hard earned cash is going to welfare, on the other hand, while it won't impact me, the bleed heart in me says that older parents, like over 45 stand the chance on not being there for their kids like parents between the ages of say 28-38.

So those, in my opinion, are the perfect years...

That being said... My daugher is 8 months old and I'm 39, so if you do the math, I'm doing her wrong but she has 2 older brothers (almost 6 and almost 4) so they can keep her on the straight and narrow...

But older parents generally have more infrastructure in place to support kids - house, cars, nannies, more experiences, so when the kids are old enough, they really don't want to be around the parents anyways...

Posted by: urban daddy at August 12, 2010 9:43 AM

Hi Chris, I hope you are ok in all the DC flash floods... stay safe!

Older parents... way older parents...since you asked my opinion I'll give it. Biologically speaking,we are not supposed to have children past a certain age. I met a woman who is in her late 50s, retired, single, decided she wanted kids. She spent 300k on 3 surrogacies, ended up with 2 beautiful twins. But now she has no more money and will have to go back to work and she is completely worn out.

And that lady in the news a while back who had the twins in her 60s, feeling so assured she would live for a long time because hr mom did and she'd dead.

I think having kids that late is wrong on many levels. And it is not fair to the kids.

Posted by: jessica at August 12, 2010 10:07 AM

Ahh, I love that you always ask the really interesting questions that let us stretch out a bit.

Here's my take on it: this is the point at which we teeter on the brink of going down the totalitarian road. "You should only have kids from [x] to [y]." The point of freedom, true freedom, is the ability to make the really big decisions all by your lonesome, sometimes really good ones, sometimes really bad ones.

Now you can argue that it would be a burden on the parents, and the kids, and society, etc. But that comes with the territory of having kids, regardless of the age of the parent.

And the bottom line is that if people are healthy enough to be having kids at 75 ( great googly moogly; remember how old 75 years old was when we were 10? You may be on to something with your 327 yrs prediction ), then yes they are pioneering new science but apperantly their bodies are up for the challenge. We're on the long march to immortality here; we may never make it, but we must begin to accept the fact that there is no expiration date on humans, and there will be a segment of the population that will be able to live healthy and strong to ages thought impossible just 50 years ago ( and repeat that thought every 50 years or so ).

So, _could_, sure. _should_, probably not. But it's not my place to say to you "No, you're too old." any more than I can _really_ control when my daughters have children ( I can put the fear of God, Mom, and Dad into them, but as Jurassic park reminds us, nature finds a way ).

Keep on thinking Chris!


Posted by: metawizard at August 12, 2010 10:14 AM

Been pondering that myself.

Posted by: k8 at August 12, 2010 10:14 AM

Its not the age that gives you the capability to produce children that matters. What matters is the time you have to spend with them.

Who cares if you can father (or mother) a child at 60+. At 62, will you be on the floor playing trucks with your toddler son, hunting bugs in the awful heat, or building snowmen? What about when your daughter turns 20+ and is walking down the isle? Will you even be alive at 80+ to walk with her? (Statistically speaking, you'd be pushing the limits.)

The mechanics of being able to produce children has nothing to do with being a parent. I have met some pretty *spry* people in their 60's & 70s, but I also know they admit it would be a challenge to keep up with young kids at that age- much less be an integral part of their growing up.

People really need to think through bringing babies into the world to fulfill their selfish desires, and remember that there is a whole lot more at stake than just what they want.

Posted by: 3jaysmom at August 12, 2010 10:28 AM

What's more disturbing than old women carrying babies is what's in the news recently. More girls are entering puberty at 7 years old. SEVEN! And infant girls who have been fed formulas in China have breasts.

Mad, crazy world we're living in.

Posted by: oakley at August 12, 2010 11:02 AM

Here's my take, from Catholicism:

The kids that would be born if no abortion existed should be adopted by the parents who cannot have children biologically without in vitro fertilization, etc. It goes both ways.

Posted by: alektra at August 12, 2010 11:11 AM

Having lost my parents 11 years ago at the age of 29, it is very traumatic to lose your parents that early - I still wish they were around to lean on.

Posted by: Heather at August 12, 2010 11:39 AM

OK...this post really hits home. I was seriously considering a divorce when my husband of 4 years (together 11) decided he was getting a vasectomy. I am 31, he is 40, and he also has children from a previous marraige. We have Henry who is 2 (3 in January)and then my step kids who live in another state. His theory was HE IS TOO OLD TO HAVE MORE. My theory was SUCK IT UP I WANT MORE. He had the vasectomy and we didnt speak for days (I even made him find his own ride to the procedure.

So...what do you think about this situation? I am not sure I will ever get over it, but we are "happy" again. It just hurts so bad that I wont have the opportunity to be pregnant or give Henry a sibling from his mom. Something I guess I will be taking to the grave....


Posted by: ~*CHERYL*~ at August 12, 2010 1:04 PM

I'm in the camp of the Probably You Shouldn't, But I'm Not Going To Tell Anyone What To Do's" (does that make me a Libertarian?). Anyhoo, my folks are all spry and in their 60s. They love to hang out with our kids but when I approached them about taking custody if something were to happen to us, they declined, stating the same reasons others have stated above: they should be with someone young who can be there for them and isn't likely to die sooner rather than later. I wanted to be done having kids at 30, because the incidence of chromosomal and developmental disorders ticks up a bit after 30, but I ended up remarrying and having my son at 34. I'm done now. I want to get the kids out of the nest and enjoy my retirement like my folks do now. I don't want to be parenting a high-schooler in my 60s.

Posted by: Brooke at August 12, 2010 1:18 PM

Yup, shouldn't have them beyond when you can naturally have them (and even then might want to give a bit of thought into how well you'll cope). Not fair on the kids, not fair on you.

People can be really healthy in their 60s, my granny was for the most part and then got cancer. Yes, that can happen when you're younger but more likely when you're older.

Posted by: Katherine at August 12, 2010 1:35 PM

I'm with Fraulein N. And I know it's really easy for me to say, since I was always ridiculously fertile, but it sure does seem to me like some otherwise reasonable women completely and utterly lose their minds when it comes to reproduction.

There are loads of different ways to mother. I'm enjoying doing it as a grandma these days.

I found out I was pregnant at age 44 when I miscarried at six weeks. I'm so grateful I did. Even though I certainly don't consider myself old, I'm old for full-time mommyhood, and tthere's no way I would have had the child that late in life. My only other child is 28, and while I enjoyed the hell out of him, I don't have the energy or the patience to do all that again. It wouldn't be fair to me, and it certainly wouldn't be fair to a kid.

To everything, there is a season, and there is beauty and reason in that truth.

Posted by: Elise at August 12, 2010 1:44 PM

I had my first at 22 and the last at 32. I am still "young" for the oldest (he's 23 now). I have a friend who didn't have her first until 41. do the math. She will be 61 when this child is still in college. How do you get to enjoy grandchildren? And, let me just say, my parents have thoroughly enjoyed the whole grandparenting thing! They were never so nice and patient when they were parents but as grandparents? Whole other story. So, I guess I believe that if you haven't started by 40 you should really consider the long term affects. Your child could be having to take care of you at the ripe old age of 25.

Posted by: Debbie at August 12, 2010 1:49 PM

I had my boys at 22 and 27. I think I was a little young with my first one (in the lack-of-patience way) and perfect with my second. I see my friends in their mid 30s just now CONSIDERING having babies, and I think they are nuts.

When my mom's parents died (she was 60) - she started referring to herself as an orphan - and said that she had never expected to feel so alone - and to miss their friendship as much as she did. My ex's dad died when were 20 (leukemia, not age) and he misses him every day.

All that to say - over the age of 45 (for BOTH parents - these 60 year old men producing kids with younger women and then not being well enough to parent them really chaps my ass) - too old. Not fair to the kids. Sorry.

Posted by: Mindy at August 12, 2010 2:07 PM

I am on the side that the individual is the best person capable of knowing when it is too late. I have friends who have had children at really young ages and friends who were in their 40's for their first children. I had my first at 36 and at the end of the day, it was the perfect time for me. I regret nothing, not even the fact that I will be in my 50's while my first and only is in high school and college. I am in my early 40's now and if I got pregnant, I would not do anything but enjoy my pregnancy and go on with my life even if there are people out there who think I may be too long in the tooth for another baby.

Posted by: Blair at August 12, 2010 2:09 PM

I hope I'm not really old when I have kids, but at this rate, who knows :P

Posted by: Heather at August 12, 2010 2:20 PM

Excellent question, and a tough one! I don't think any of us has the right to tell someone what they can and can't (or rather should / shouldn't) do in this regard. Personally I do believe that there is such a thing as having kids too young and neither hubby nor I believe that you should have kids past a certain age. In his case he believes that past 40 you shouldn't. I feel if you are still trying at 40, fine, but you should have had your last kid by age 45 max.

There are pros and cons to having kids at different ages but I do think that before you hit your 20's is too young, and as stated when you hit your 40s it is time to call it a day. I know some people try for years, seek treatments etc and I can understand why (we are going through that now, and unless you've been there you really can't understand what a person is going though), but I think eventually there still has to come a point where you need to draw the line.

Hubby lost his dad when he was 8, and his mom when he was 28. I lost my father when I was 28 as well. I believe that loosing 1 or both parents when you are still young does have a very big impact on a person. Of course no one knows how long we will live for or how our health will hold up, but I know that I would want to try and ensure I am young enough to keep up with a kid, and that I will be around for as long as possible for them.

Posted by: Delia at August 12, 2010 4:54 PM

um, it's crazy. nothing more to say :)

Posted by: kati at August 12, 2010 8:07 PM

So I'll be 40 soon-ish. And I can tell you that I do not for a nano-second have the energy I did at 30... no clue how I could handle a newborn. Let alone at 50 or 60.

I am always suspicious when women "accidentally" pregnant after a first. After having been through it once, I'm 90 per cent sure you'd know.

Posted by: Nat at August 12, 2010 9:03 PM

I read an article yesterday in teh Washington Post about clinics in India, which are completely unregulated, that provide in vitro for couples up into their 70's. It struck me as a horrible idea for all of those reasons that others have outlined. I understand the desire to reproduce and experience pregnancy, but I think sometimes people loose sight of what comes after the baby arrives. The late nights, the financial burdens, the constant care for the next 20 years or so. I think this is true of many people, regardless of age. People need to rememebr that having children needs to be a selfless act, not done for selfish reasons.

Posted by: Annie at August 14, 2010 4:13 PM

Do not enough money to buy a car? You should not worry, because that's real to get the credit loans to work out such kind of problems. Thence take a student loan to buy everything you need.

Posted by: TWILABREWER22 at November 6, 2011 4:39 AM