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Assisted Reproduction

Too Old To Be A Parent?

I am happy to be able to host Marna Gatlin, founder and CEO of Parents Via Egg Donation (PVED), as a guest blogger today. Marna’s organization, PVED, is an invaluable resource for anyone considering egg donation and I encourage all of our readers to bookmark her site and blog for a truly enriching experience. Today, Marna takes a look at the age old issue of how old is too old to be a parent — a subject that has touched a number of clients of mine over the years:

Back in December of 2008 I wrote a post about age and pregnancy. I asked our readers when is too old really too old? And then in July of 2009 I wrote yet another post regarding pregnancy and having a child after 50.

My worst fears came to pass when The Spanish woman who had twins at age 66 passed away in 2009 leaving her two year old twins behind, who are now four years old and being raised by other family members. And then Jenny Brown shortly after stated that at the age of 72 (yes I said 72, which is threes younger than my mother) stated she wanted to have a baby, and is spending thousands upon thousands to do just that.

Ms Brown, a former academic who has never had a long-term partner, said: “Any mother can die at any age – look at Jade Goody. I hope to live to 100 but I’ll ask one of my younger friends to be a guardian in case”.

Andy Vorzimer (The Spin Doctor) shared with us today several stories about older women and pregnancy. There was a woman from Brazil at age 61 who is married to a much younger man (38) who is due in November from the help of donor eggs. She states simply:

“My husband wanted to be a father. I wanted to be a mother too. I am in great health … and I have undergone a very thorough medical clearance”.

So I get it, I get that fact she wants to become a mother and she loves her husband who is 38. I also understand that socially we’d look at this couple as really 38 because of the age of the husband. We don’t think twice if a much younger woman presents herself and her husband or partner is older, we look at them at the age of the woman, right?

The fact they aren’t going to disclose to their future daughter that she her origins came from egg donation is sad. I mean come on, really? Mom’s 61 years old and she thinks her child isn’t going to realize that having a child at 61 is virtually impossible? Well, okay.

And then there’s Italy the land of love and romance. I’m sorry there’s really something wrong with removing a child after the fact on the belief the Italian government thinks they are too old to raise a baby. I understand removing a child from parents regardless of the age of the parent due to abuse or neglect but to focus on their ages of 57 (mother) and (70) father isn’t right.

As a mother via egg donation I could easily identify with Jenny Brown, or the women from Brazil who have conceived in their 60’s. When I began trying to create a family I experienced loss after loss. With each loss my desire to become a mother became more and more desperate. It was all I thought about.

To hold a baby.

To love a baby.

To become a mother.

So I get it already, really I do. But where do we draw the line? When is enough, enough?

You can imagine I have asked myself quite regularly “Marna, when do you think you’d have stopped your quest to become a mother? How long would you have continued to try?”

The answer for “me” is “I don’t know”. I don’t know if I would have attempted to try up into my 50’s or 60’s. I just know that desire to have a child was so strong and deep within myself, and I was so focused that the idea of failing was just not in my programming.

For me it’s not just black and white, cut and dried – it’s complicated. Very complicated. While I don’t think it’s fair for a child to be born to a woman who is deemed elderly (which I believe is the age of 60 and beyond). Again for me, being 55 and having your first baby is really pushing the envelope.

What I will tell you is I don’t think there is a magic age. There are many women under the age of 35 who aren’t healthy either physically or emotionally who shouldn’t be procreating just because they can, or they choose to. I know lots and lots of 50 year olds who can run circles around both physically and emotionally the under 35 crowd who have made delightful parents. I have also seen way too many children in my time who have lost parents (young parents) to illness or accidents.

So when we look at those who want to have children over the age of 40 or even 50 what exactly are we looking at? What if the father is 30 and the mother is 50. What age are the parents then? 30 right? We’d think that way if the situation were reversed. Older men have married younger women for decades and had children – Tony Randall, Donald Trump, John Travolta, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Van Morrison, Phil Collins, Anthony Quinn, Elton John, the list goes on and on and on.

And we can’t forget about our beloved single mothers. Are we being fair to them when clinics and agencies AND society imposes stricter guidelines because they are with a partner?

No matter what, the most important aspect to all of this is to remember that regardless of how young or old a parent is when they bring a child into the world they need to form a plan. A plan that states clearly in the event of an illness or a death that prohibits the parent from providing the care needed to raise their child someone of their choosing will step in for them and do that job. Unforeseen things happen all the time, and this is something we all need to be prepared for.

I am going to ask each of you – how old is too old?

Marna Gatlin


One comment for “Too Old To Be A Parent?”

  • DeQuerton

    We should probably stick to the general rule that the best time to have a baby is when you can’t stand not to. And attitude ought to count for something. If you think you will live to 100, then your time frame will look different than someone else’s. All parents at any age need a Plan B for their children anyway since no one’s planned time frame for sticking around is guaranteed, witness the number of grandparents thrust into the parental role through time and space, bringing us full circle to one’s motivation for life and all that this encompasses as more important than mere age.

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