Join 3,564 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Make Babies
December 12, 2012 6:30 PM   Subscribe

"Older parenthood will upend American society." "Is waiting to have kids a big mistake?" "Why do women believe they can delay children for so long?" "Older men are more likely than young ones to father a child who develops autism or schizophrenia, because of random mutations that become more numerous with advancing paternal age."
posted by vidur (162 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Anything that reduces population while simultaneously creating evolutionary pressure for longer lives is OK by me.
posted by DU at 6:33 PM on December 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


It's not necessarily that women want to delay having children, its that economically they have had to if they want to stay in the middle class. There is zero support for women to have kids and get an education or work in this country. Add in a 50% divorce rate and yeah.

Upper middle class, rich and poor women can have all the kids they want and it doesn't affect their prospects so much.
posted by fshgrl at 6:35 PM on December 12, 2012 [92 favorites]


I have nothing intelligent to contribute, but I am so tired of this being a thing.

I could literally never hear about how my reproductive system is a ticking time bomb ever again, and that would be fine.

(Also if someone would tell my mother this, that would also be great.)
posted by Sara C. at 6:42 PM on December 12, 2012 [101 favorites]


"Why do women believe they can delay children for so long?"

Oh, Kate Roiphe, is there anything you can't blame women for?
posted by lunasol at 6:43 PM on December 12, 2012 [49 favorites]



I'm 40 and my son will graduate from high school this year. Many of my colleagues are just now getting around to popping out kids.

I... I kinda feel bad for them. Raising kids and working fulltime+ was challenging enough when I was 30. Now I'm older and less capable and less give-a-fuck and I think I'd make a worse parent now.

Sometimes, I think the best thing I ever did was have a kid out of wedlock at 21.

It's not necessarily that women want to delay having children, its that economically they have had to if they want to stay in the middle class. There is zero support for women to have kids and get an education or work in this country. Add in a 50% divorce rate and yeah.

That's not quite true. As a single parent in college, I got a *ton* more support than other returning adult students.

Frankly, I think if you're a woman and you intend on a college->masters/phd->career track, you should have a kid or two in high school. You'll get tons more aid and help in undergraduate, in grad school the kids will be largely self-sufficient and by the time you're starting your career they'll be close to headed off to college and largely out of your hair.

Not that that is ideal either, but, look, you gotta game the system your faced with. I've seen a few women who did this and it seems (to me, sure) infinitely easier than trying to squeeze in a couple kids at 34 while trying to build a career.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:44 PM on December 12, 2012 [20 favorites]


We all know smart women in their late 30s or early 40s who are surprised at the sudden necessity to decide whether to have children. These are women for whom the idea of the biological clock seems to have stealthily crept up on them, women who have a sort of startled revelation that they have missed their moment to have children or that the moment is suddenly, pressingly upon them.

Nope, not me. I'm 28 and I'm brutally aware that there's no way I can have a baby in the next two years and given I don't even know if I want kids or not, it's basically a done deal. Barring any twists of fate I guess. I'm not sure how you could get to be my age and not be aware of this.

This article is breathlessly contemplating why women don't understand biology but I think it's obvious the answer isn't to extend fertility or change biology but make it possible from a social perspective. Because right now it's really really hard. What with the unemployment, crushing student debt, lack of reliable paid maternity leave and affordable childcare, etc.
posted by bleep at 6:45 PM on December 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


"Why do women believe they can delay children for so long?"

Because it often takes that long to establish a stable career when you can afford to raise them. But here we go again, no matter what someone does or doesn't do, they are going to get blamed for whatever problems their children have. You had them too soon! You had them too late! You consumed too much caffeine and gluten, and not enough vitamins and minerals, you selfish wretch! How dare you feel stress during pregnancy! And we get on Scientologists for their silent births as if the rest of the world doesn't peck on women enough?

Let's not forget there are studies that show a link between being born in the winter and developing schizophrenia, too, so let's just call out all those rotten no-goodnicks who conceived their children at the wrong time of year -- having a lackadaisical attitude when you use your uterus just won't do!

Sometimes bad things just happen because they do...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 6:47 PM on December 12, 2012 [28 favorites]


There's someone who will write an article to make you feel bad about your life no what choices you made.
posted by octothorpe at 6:51 PM on December 12, 2012 [51 favorites]


The upside is there will probably be a lot more of us kid-free, single peeps hanging out at the pool at Hedonism in our 60s and 70s so BOO YA buy stock in Viagra NOW.
posted by spicynuts at 6:54 PM on December 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Gee, someone should have warned my grandmas that their uteruses were closed for business. But they just went ahead and had their first children after 40 anyway.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:57 PM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is relevant to my interests.

We have some friends, fierce members of the Anti-Breeder Brigade (as am I, but I prefer to ignore children whilst being polite) who have decided to start trying as her clock bongs 40 (i figure it's stopped ticking, and is more a clarion call to pop out some kids).

Most of our peer group don't even consider kids until they hit 35 (which was "TOO OLD" when my parents were growing up), so I have been pondering the whys and wherefores, and wondering about the implications, social and medical, because there will be some.

(I wonder if we hadn't gone to a two-income requirement if this shift would have happened. I guess we can't put that baby back in the test tube, but it would be nice if it was a viable option).

Also -
Metafilter: having a lackadaisical attitude when you use your uterus just won't do!
posted by Mezentian at 6:57 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am 51, my 13-year-old is in the TV room right now starting up a Star Trek Next Gen on Netflix. He and I are about 200 episodes into our continuing mission to watch every episode (and movie) of every Star Trek franchise.

Older parenting is different for sure. You have less energy, sure, but far more cunning. And money. And, in most cases, time to spend with your child.
posted by LarryC at 6:58 PM on December 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


So how 'bout adoption, am I right?
posted by LogicalDash at 6:59 PM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Older parenthood will upend American society."

Yes, all of American society will dissolve into something completely unrecognizable because of older parenthood. The economy will collapse, the social contract will be broken leaving the poor and the elderly to starve or die of disease, cars will stop being the favored mode of transportation, Hollywood will cease to make movies, television will become a non-commercial medium, Clear Channel will break up and stations will once again become locally programmed, the food supply chain will cease to use grocery stores as its main distribution method, minorities of racial and sexual sorts will find they are no longer demonized through legal and social means, fireworks will no longer be set off on July 4th, and Christmas will cease to be a Federal holiday.

Oh wait, none of those things will happen.

Carry on making your own reproductive choices as you see fit in the context of your own life.
posted by hippybear at 6:59 PM on December 12, 2012 [34 favorites]


Oh, so now we're not only too stupid to know how our own bodies work, we're "upending" society!! Excellent.

The older I get the weirder it seems, how very very concerned so many people are about what women do with their reproductive organs, as a class. Almost like everyone else felt some sense of ownership of said organs. What a bizarre idea.

It's like if we had front page hand-wringing articles about why people had their appendixes removed. WHAT DOES THIS TREND MEAN FOR AMERICA? WE TRY TO FIND OUT.
posted by emjaybee at 7:00 PM on December 12, 2012 [19 favorites]


Are there actually women out there in this day and age who aren't aware that it gets more difficult to get pregnant from 30 onwards? I feel like that specific TICKING BOMB OF DOOM has been drilled into my head since I turned 18. From family, friends and especially the media.
posted by liquorice at 7:00 PM on December 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yes, all of American society will dissolve into something completely unrecognizable because of older parenthood.

No, this is what gay marriage will do! Don't take that away from us! I want to ruin lives!
posted by elizardbits at 7:02 PM on December 12, 2012 [25 favorites]


Oh god what about gays who have children after 40?! NOW I'm scared.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:05 PM on December 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


"we're "upending" society!! Excellent. "

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

(the table is society)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:06 PM on December 12, 2012 [74 favorites]


because of random mutations

This means we can totally use "wanting to create our own X-Men squad" as an excuse, right?

xoxo, childless twenty-something who can barely keep desert plants alive
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:06 PM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hi, no relationship has worked out for me yet OK? And I don't want to have children with some random person and not love them and have kids in that? My parents were 35 and 40 when I was born and I am like a workaholic overachiever healthy person and have a younger brother and my parents are my parents and are brilliant professionals who rebuilt their careers here after coming from India to the US to have children. And everything is fine.

Man I hate these articles. And always put the blame on women, not any of the bazillion guys I've met who still aren't serious about dating at 32, 33, 34...
posted by sweetkid at 7:08 PM on December 12, 2012 [51 favorites]


My ex and I did actually have a kid pretty young for these days (25) and he turned out pretty great and is graduating from College on Saturday but it's not like I'd really recommend it. It was a tough slog for a bunch of years and we were always pretty conspicuously younger than his friend's parents.
posted by octothorpe at 7:08 PM on December 12, 2012


If for some hilariously terrible ill-conceived bad wrong no good reason I should ever be immensely foolish enough to ever want a kid sometime in the future I will just buy one on the internets. I mean, come the fuck on.

Ideally there will be a good return policy and excellent customer service.
posted by elizardbits at 7:10 PM on December 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


19th floor walk-up?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 7:12 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is only slightly less shitty then the current trend of "moderate" right-wing commentators like Ross Douthat lamenting the fact that librul "decadence" (his term) is keeping women from being literally barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:13 PM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


While I couldn't agree more that every article written about modern parenthood manages to blame women for their choices, I do think it's a good thing that the pros of having children young is starting to get some airtime.

For decades, we've been told that having children young will ruin your life, destroy your prospects. The fact that that's a basically false assumption doesn't get much traction.

The real, sticky truth is that there is no perfect time to have kids. You simply are trading one set of complications for another, regardless of when, or if, you become a parent.

I also think it's good that we, as a culture, are waking up to the fact that teen parenthood is less a social problem and more an economic one.
posted by Athene at 7:13 PM on December 12, 2012 [26 favorites]


elizardbits: "No, this is what gay marriage will do! Don't take that away from us! I want to ruin lives!"

There have been gay marriage campaigns in, what, 11 states by now? Somewhere out there, I have to believe there's a straight couple who met on a gay marriage campaign and are now thinking about getting married.

Just another data point in liburl's continued War on Marriage.
posted by Apropos of Something at 7:16 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


But the BIOLOGICAL CLOCK OF DOOM speech is the companion to the 'dumb kids who have kids' speech which, depending on socio-economic background, can mean anyone under 30.

I have a career, we own our house (aka pay the bank large sums an hope to eventually actually own it), so on and so forth, and we were in our late twenties when we had our child. For all the 'have kids when you want to' there are medical concerns* and socially there are issues where the inter/intra-family care situations become transactional ones with paid care. It isn't about women, it's about the choices people make under current societal structures are changing the way society acts.

I mean, of course it's the fault of women, everything is always the fault of women, but lets not actually ignore the reality of having children later and later and how those trends impact society. And the way society frames IVF and fertility treatment is relentlessly and fraudulently positive.

I mean, as a friend put it, it'll be our (hers and my) class getting paid to look after kids and the elderly because we have effectively skipped a generation of inter/intra-familial carers AND no longer create the social bonds to replace it. But that's okay, our wages will always be minuscule in order to facilitate more middle-class and up workers.

*Mother and child and not just 'oh they over-diagnose X'. For all the 'my grandma had 15 kids naturally after 40 and is fine' there are 'could never get/stay pregnant' and 'physiologically never recovered from birth' and 'children with X disorders linked to fertility treatments and advanced maternal/paternal age'. Yes those thing happen regardless of age but wilfully refusing to acknowledge the research because it shows the risks get bigger and bigger as you get older is unhelpful. And leads to situations where people don't really believe that there things happen to them.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:20 PM on December 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sometimes, I think the best thing I ever did was have a kid out of wedlock at 21.

Heh, I have a 3 year old.
Had my wife and I been less careful when we first got together, that child would now be halfway through college.

There are many advantages to having had a child now rather than then, like being able to afford classes/gymnastics/whatever and having the ability for one parent to stay home.

But at the same point, every time I have to squeeze up a slide ladder or squat down on the floor for the 2000th time that day, I think 'Man, would it really have been so hard having a kid at 19....?"
posted by madajb at 7:22 PM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I mean, of course it's the fault of women, everything is always the fault of women, but lets not actually ignore the reality of having children later and later and how those trends impact society.

Older men are more likely than young ones to father a child who develops autism or schizophrenia, because of random mutations that become more numerous with advancing paternal age.

Well, now it's apparently the fault of men, too. So I guess that's progress.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:24 PM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Why do women believe they can delay children for so long?"

Why is it so hard for the author to understand how difficult it is to meet the right partner (especially one that you can be confident would make a good father and partner), have enough confidence and security in the relationship that you know you won't have to raise the kid alone in a financially insecure situation, and also have a job that would ensure financial security for you and your kid should you be put in the situation where you have to raise the kid on your own?

And frankly, to bring a kid into the world when they have to live in a country without a social safety net and without a guaranteed right to healthcare is scary. I once listened to the saddest story about a kid who got hit by a car and cracked all his teeth. The father's anguish and tears over how he couldn't afford to get his kid's teeth fixed because he'd just lost his job was heartbreaking.
posted by discopolo at 7:25 PM on December 12, 2012 [27 favorites]


xoxo, childless twenty-something who can barely keep desert plants alive

Hey, by the way, I am a garden journalism professional (yes, for money), and I think that keeping desert plants alive in a typical heated/cooled/dim residence is somewhat harder than advertised. It's not sunny enough, the humidity is all over the place, and if you get spider mites — man, what a pain.

tl;dr, you are doing a good job.
posted by purpleclover at 7:27 PM on December 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'm almost 33, DH is 63 and we are still thinking about it. Oy.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:28 PM on December 12, 2012


Older men are more likely than young ones to father a child who develops autism or schizophrenia, because of random mutations that become more numerous with advancing paternal age.

I wonder if this will make women a lot more cautious about having kids with an older guy. Most women want to have children with the person they love. But I could see loving someone and wondering if he'd be okay with using a young sperm donor instead of him.
posted by discopolo at 7:28 PM on December 12, 2012


I find that the gentle tick-tocking of my biology is particularly rhythmic and soothing. Tick tock, tick tock, almost like waves gently knocking against the hull of a shiny white sailboat. May it tick forever while I glance up from my book to watch screaming little children terrorize each other on shore, tiny frenetic dots too far away for me to hear them.
posted by mochapickle at 7:32 PM on December 12, 2012 [33 favorites]


Put that sperm on ice! And then you're good!
posted by zscore at 7:32 PM on December 12, 2012


My wife would be one of the "older parents". The dehumanizing way in which this post is set up is just infuriating and off-putting.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:33 PM on December 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


lets not actually ignore the reality of having children later and later and how those trends impact society

What is the "reality of having children later"? How do those "trends" impact society?

Because the only thing I can think of is that you have to figure out what to do about Dad's dementia when you're thirty rather than forty, or whatever. Which is unfortunate, but not really the AMERICA DESTROYING TRAVESTY the media clutches pearls over.

And even that is not really much of a thing if you're talking about "delaying" childbearing from one's early 20's to one's mid 30's. Which is what we're really talking about here since having kids past about 45 is not a trend at all, but more of a slightly less unheard of outlier. Isn't the median age of having a first child like 27 or something, in the US? That's not that old. It's up from 22 or whatever in the fifties, but everyone agrees the fifties sucked.

Is there some kind of huge looming crisis I'm just not seeing here?
posted by Sara C. at 7:36 PM on December 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


It occurs to me that my parents were 'older,' in that my mom had me when she was, IIRC, 36, and my sister when she was 39. I seem to have turned out fine, and my sister's well her way to a PhD. So that probably colors my view of the world, when I roll my eyes at this so hard they roll all the way around to where they started.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:36 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


My mother was 42 and my father was 45 when I was born. Every time I read one of these articles it makes me feel like it's a wonder I'm able to tie my shoes. (Then I remember I didn't actually learn to tie my shoes until 7th grade.)
posted by phoenixy at 7:38 PM on December 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


I know some people think this is alarmist pointless women-blaming or something, but as a woman in my early 20s I read Baby Chase by Holly Finn and I did change my priorities after that, away from dating random people I sort of liked to dating people I thought might be good parents with me. Biology can be unfair, but I really would like to hedge my bets on whatever is most likely to help me avoid the IVF roulette Finn described in her book. Sure, serve me a smattering of how you had a baby at 40 who is awesome and perfect, but I'm not going to bet my life on anecdotes. Not everyone can be so lucky.
posted by melissam at 7:38 PM on December 12, 2012 [14 favorites]


fshgrl: "It's not necessarily that women want to delay having children, its that economically they have had to if they want to stay in the middle class. There is zero support for women to have kids and get an education or work in this country. Add in a 50% divorce rate and yeah."

I am not having kids until I'm living in a country that cares about its citizens. The social contract in the USA is a fucking joke.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:40 PM on December 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


It took me until I was 40 to find a guy I wanted to be my life partner and the father of my child. I didn't "choose" to wait to get married and have babies. I didn't "put my career ahead of childbearing." My plan was to meet Mr Right when I was 28 or 30 and have two or three kids in rapid succession. Didn't work that way in real life.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:40 PM on December 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


'Man, would it really have been so hard having a kid at 19....?"

Yes, it would have.

Look, I don't want to get all personal and shit, but my parents had me at 21. They are awesome people and I don't want to badmouth their life choices or whatever (much less the life choices of anyone reading this), but it was not a great thing. For them or for me. For so many reasons. Reasons that make occasional back pain totally irrelevant. Reasons that make Tony Randall's life choices look brilliant in comparison.
posted by Sara C. at 7:41 PM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ideally there will be a good return policy and excellent customer service.

And free Prime shipping with Amazon Mom.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:42 PM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Summary: if you're a woman, you're doing it wrong.
posted by medusa at 7:43 PM on December 12, 2012 [39 favorites]


"Why do women believe they can delay children for so long?"

Because some of us DONT WANT KIDS. At least not biological ones. Holy fucksticks is this so hard for people to understand?! I have shitty health, shitty income, and shitty maternal instincts. I don't want a kid now, and I don't want a kid out of my body ever!

And hell even if I DID want kids out of my own fleshy bits, I'm still younger than both of my parents when they had me!

I'd rather wait, as they did, till I'm financially secure, settled, and able to provide a household of relative comfort for a child. And honestly, I'm going to adopt if I do have kids, because there are TOO MANY older kids stuck in the foster system who need homes and families for me to even think playing Russian Genetic Roulette with my kid's lives would ever be a good idea.
posted by strixus at 7:43 PM on December 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's kind of hilarious, really, how the media seems to alternate between a) screaming at me that I have NO IDEA how hard being parent is and OMG it will swallow my life whole and destroy my marriage if I don't have everything arranged just right, and b) screaming at me that if I don't have children before I'm 35 I'm heinously irresponsible and selfish.

Wow, I cannot imagine why so many women feel cornered and anxious when it comes to their reproductive choices!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:47 PM on December 12, 2012 [32 favorites]


Sure, serve me a smattering of how you had a baby at 40 who is awesome and perfect, but I'm not going to bet my life on anecdotes. Not everyone can be so lucky.

As someone who is actually old enough to start starting to start to think seriously about this stuff, my mentality is basically, "welp, if I don't get the opportunity to shove a little human out of my uterus, so the fuck what?" I mean, I guess it's something that's on my bucket list, but so is "visit all seven continents" and "eat a live octopus".

Adoption exists.

Not having a kid is also an option. I think I'd be an amazing parent, but, you know, it's like I said up there about the bucket list. I guess there are some people who will just fucking die if they don't have a kid, but it turns out I'm not one of them. And there are plenty of other experiences I'm disappointed I'll probably never have -- I'm still here.
posted by Sara C. at 7:48 PM on December 12, 2012 [11 favorites]


I am 30, and since graduating from college 8 years ago, there have been about 3 months where I've had all 4 of:
1- A partner
2- A job
3- Health insurance (which didn't cover maternity, but I could at least have put the kid on it after they were born, I think?)
4- The ability to, through FMLA, take -unpaid- time off work with a chance that I'd have a job when I came back to work.

Most of my peers are in the same position. Add in long hours (I can't imagine wanting to have a child with a 10-hr/day job plus a 2-hr round trip commute), debt, lack of kid-appropriate housing, and un-great schools, Is it any wonder we're not thinking about children?

I have told friends that I don't even allow myself to think about whether I *want* to have children, I just assume that it's a bridge I'll cross when I come to it if it ever actually becomes an option.

I have a feeling that in 20 or 30 years, this is really going to start to become a serious economic issue in this country, when we have very negative population growth. Why blame the lack of a social safety net when you can just blame it on women?
posted by matcha action at 7:49 PM on December 12, 2012 [35 favorites]


>"Why do women believe they can delay children for so long?"

Because some of us DONT WANT KIDS. At least not biological ones. Holy fucksticks is this so hard for people to understand?! I have shitty health, shitty income, and shitty maternal instincts. I don't want a kid now, and I don't want a kid out of my body ever!


Um, yeah, so this isn't about you. It's about people who want kids but want to have them later in life.
posted by modernnomad at 7:50 PM on December 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


But here we go again, no matter what someone does or doesn't do, they are going to get blamed for whatever problems their children have.

I get where you're coming from but can't we take a rational look at risks and confront biological realities without it being framed this way? Certainly it isn't controversial that pregnant women shouldn't be shooting up with thalidomide/cocaine speedball cocktails, right? And that isn't being judgy mcjudgerson about people's choices, it's just reality.

There has to be a way to navigate between the extremes of "any choices you make are personal and okay and shouldn't be judged in any way, shape, or form" and "if you have a single drop of alcohol and don't play your baby mozart in the womb while paying a nutritionist big bucks to design a personalized diet and vitamin regimen you are a moral failure and terrible mother". We can find a middle ground.
posted by Justinian at 7:50 PM on December 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


"Obviously they do equalize the playing field to a certain extent, allowing women something closer to the same free, adventurous, work-filled years as men. They partially mitigate the maddening fact that men can have babies as late as they want with the promise that women can have them later than they used to."

The "maddening fact" is not that men can father children at 50 -- sure, we can, but that's very few men's vision for their family life. The "maddening fact" is that men, in general, are not willing to give up very much of their freedom, adventure, or work for the sake of our kids. "Having it all" is not an "absurd cliche," as Roiphe writes -- it is how men actually live. And if more men were willing to say "Being a lawyer sucks and my wife makes enough money to support us both, so I'm quitting this job taking on the primary child care role," their spouses would be in a rather different position.

Most men are not willing to do this. Let me be straight -- I wouldn't have been willing to do this.

But that is not a biological fact.
posted by escabeche at 8:06 PM on December 12, 2012 [44 favorites]


Is there some kind of huge looming crisis I'm just not seeing here?

The article does a pretty decent job of considering the effects. One of which is delaying child-bearing to 35+ means a much greater likelihood that you will be dealing with fertility treatments/disabilities than otherwise, while simultaneously dealing with your parent's dementia, without the support that has been a staple of society for a very long time. Because it isn't just you either, it's your parents as well. And your child will be dealing with it as well.

Of course there are outliers, there always are, but pretending like 'oh, it's just ten years' is naive.

Probably the biggest elephant in the room is healthcare though. At no point do I have to worry that I do or don't have healthcare. Emergency care is totally and completely free. Follow up may or may not have costs, depending on what is happening, why, your socio-economic status and things like that. But having healthcare is not part of the 'having kids' conversation here.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:06 PM on December 12, 2012


I have female/engaged friends who are completing/completed grad school and are thinking about this (we're in our late 20s). They're caught between wanting to build their careers and biological reality. Biology gives no shits about feminism or careers and sends your fertility on a downward slope from the time you turn 20. A better social (and familial) support system makes pregnancy and getting back to work a lot easier, but even in the most supportive environments it still has career effects simply for the medical realities of pregnancy.
posted by schroedinger at 8:11 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sure, make fun of the article...but when was the last time anyone here saw a baby? Or even a child? I am here to tell you there aren't any in Toronto. C'MON WIMMINS, WERE DEPENDING ON YOU
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:17 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sure, make fun of the article...but when was the last time anyone here saw a baby? Or even a child?

Dude I am on the UWS of Manhattan, everyone I see is either an old lady, an infant, or a tired Jamaican lady taking care of them.
posted by The Whelk at 8:19 PM on December 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah. If I could have had kids younger, I would have. But 'choice' sometimes has little impact against the overriding dictates of life, now, doesn't it? I could have wanted that as much as anyone, but for some of us, it just ain't happening.

Jeebus -- I'm supposed to have frozen my sperm now? It's enough that I get to throw out expired condoms for lack of opportunity. Freezing my sperm would indicate a level of optimism that runs completely contrary to all experience and reasonable expectation.

'Choice'. Fuck almighty. I knew what I wanted. It just didn't happen, and not for lack of trying. Life's disappointments are enough to deal with without this indirect single-shaming, thank you.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:19 PM on December 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


That high buzzing sound every time the Joker appeared in "The Dark Knight"?

That, every time a clinician uttered the phrase "advanced maternal age" around my wife when she was pregnant. I savored that experience like a fine aged whiskey. And kept her away from knives.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:21 PM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would have loved to have had my little one earlier, but my body (without intervention) gave me my girl when I was almost 40. I'd been told since I was 20 that I'd never successfully conceive and carry to term without heavy intervention, which was not a personally acceptable route.

But one of the things that had kept me from trying more determinedly at a younger age was the lack of willingness to commit to a family unit in the allegedly ideal age range in the males I partnered with. And that's something society has to reckon with.

Another is that I didn't want to have children in the same situation my mother was in - young, under-experienced in the world, and freshly warped by her upbringing.

Yep, we're going to have challenges. But every family model has them. Yep, society doesn't make it easy. But that's true for loads of familial configurations. Yep, people are going to make shitty, snide, smug remarks and think themselves very clever for having the critical turn or the very best possible outcome. Well, yay for them. But they can't touch my joy.
posted by batmonkey at 8:23 PM on December 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


a much greater likelihood that you will be dealing with fertility treatments/disabilities than otherwise

I'm confused about why fertility treatments and disabilities are lumped in like that. The choice of undergoing fertility treatments is a choice that doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with postponing childbearing to "unnatural" maternal ages. And the slightly elevated chances of rare birth defects has little to do with the choice of whether to use fertility treatments or not.

Keep in mind, too, that some people will be born with disabilities regardless of their parents' ages.

In fact, that's one of the things that changed my desire to have (biological) kids from "YES OF COURSE" to "if it happens, that would be wonderful". I saw my peers having children at the "right" age, and some of them had terrible complications during pregnancy, had miscarriages or stillbirths, had children with congenital health problems, etc. I realized that this is not something you can control by living your life the way society tells you to. You might get pregnant at 25 and tragic things could still happen.

without the support that has been a staple of society for a very long time.

This makes a lot of assumptions about the world that are not true.
posted by Sara C. at 8:28 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nice. So, I'm 41 and my wife is turning 39 in a few days. She's also nearing the end of the second trimester. This article is doing wonders for my state of mind and worrying about the health of my future child. I have to go out of my way to make sure she doesn't read shit like this.

Thanks. Meanwhile our doctors are fine with our ages and everything's going along nicely.

While my parents had me when they were 20 I am not them. I'm also a lot more of a stable person than they were. I have a decent paying job - I don't have to work my ass off just to pay the bills and I can spend time with our child. We know what we want when it comes to how our child will be raised. I know what's important in my life, I understand mortality.

I think we'll be fine.
posted by melt away at 8:30 PM on December 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sure, serve me a smattering of how you had a baby at 40 who is awesome and perfect, but I'm not going to bet my life on anecdotes. Not everyone can be so lucky.

Yeah, I'm glad I had my kids young. It was either have 'em young, or not at all, because RA often has a tendency to worsen over time. (Mine has, but I'm still pretty lucky in that department.)

Ultimately, it has to come down to what works best for you. Society is going to bitch at you either way.
posted by MissySedai at 8:34 PM on December 12, 2012


Speaking as a woman with a white-collar job who's in her late twenties and four months pregnant, well, I don't know anyone my age who's anywhere close to being ready to have kids other than myself and my sister-in-law who will probably get started when she's thirty and finishes her residency. I know very few people in long-term relationships, I know very few people with stable employment, etc, etc.

And all I have to say to them is, JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU TRY TO FIND CHILDCARE. I've been applying for months now. I called the first daycare the day after I had my positive pregnancy test, no joke. But whooo knoooows if I will have anyone to take care of my little kiddo when I'm ready to go back to work? Nobody will let me know until the minute they decide they have an opening, which could be a week before they expect me to start paying tuition. And the expense is ridiculous.

I'm lucky enough not to have to worry about the health insurance aspect, thank goodness, but man, the US has got to get it together and help families out with infant care in some kind of consistent, sane way. Hooray, there are subsidized preschools for kids 3 and up! What the hell are people supposed to do before then?
posted by town of cats at 8:35 PM on December 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


There's also more than a little vein of heteronormativity in this sort of thing. Gay men and lesbians can't have kids without all those awful fertility treatments and/or impersonal adoptions that get treated as inherently lesser options--even, at times, to things like "having a one-night stand and accidentally getting pregnant", I've seen articles that described how that was such a blessing because hey, otherwise it might have been a trip to IVF-land ten years later.

Coming out to myself and realizing that possibly having kids someday was no longer going to socially require me to make some attempt to let one of them hijack my body for a period of time? That was one of the most wonderful things about it. I could skip out on babies completely, if I want. It's brilliant.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:41 PM on December 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


And all I have to say to them is, JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU TRY TO FIND CHILDCARE.

Heh. That particular nightmare is what led me and the Maus to say "Fuck it, we're doing the "Family Values" thing." We continued living in an apartment, I was a full-time Mom for 11 years, and then when I re-entered the workforce, I did so in a work-at-home capacity (which, actually, I love, and intend to do til I croak).

We had done the math, and found it would actually cost us about $200/week more than what I was bringing home for me to go back to work. BANANAS!

It meant we stayed fairly broke for a few years as the Maus climbed up the employment ladder, which was inconvenient and often frustrating, but we don't regret it. It sure beat the hell out of having a nervous breakdown from trying to find decent care.
posted by MissySedai at 8:44 PM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've reached the dreaded Advanced Maternal Age and my husband just turned 39. Since we will never, ever be able to afford daycare, we will not be able to have any kids. I'm working on accepting this reality but it sucks and makes me want to throw things.
posted by crankylex at 8:45 PM on December 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Older men are more likely than young ones to father a child who develops autism or schizophrenia, because of random mutations that become more numerous with advancing paternal age.

I do love these articles, they talk about increased risks of autism, down's syndrome etc etc with older parents. What they really talk about what those risks are. Because - from a personal, not a public health - perspective, they are still low. If you have a baby from 35-39, the risk of Down's is 1 in 214. Now that's nearly ten times more likely than 20-24, for sure. But it's still very, very low. I believe rates for other conditions are also quite low.

The other things never mentioned in talk about those non-selfish days of yore:

1. Most women weren't working.
2. A single salary was certainly enough for a middle/working class existence.
3. Retirement age was 55. Most men were dead before they got to 70.
4. There was an extensive welfare state available, and domestic economies across the developed world were booming.
posted by smoke at 8:45 PM on December 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Older parenthood will upend American society."

Women have been having children in their 40s for a long ass time. Only it was their 5th or 10th child, and not their first. When I told my mom I wanted "only" 3 children because I was getting older, she said "Women in Vietnam have babies in their 40s all the time! I want 5 grandchildren!"

I just had genetic counseling for my "Advanced Maternal Age" pregnancy. They showed me a chart with the chances of having a child with one of the Trisomy disorders at each age. I'm 35, and the chances of having a "normal" child are... 99.7%. At 40, it'll be 99.1%. There are risks, but it's certainly not as dire as it's being portrayed here.

It's also true that the chances of conception go down as you get older. However, the cumulative conception rate for women aged 35-39 is 60% after one year of trying and 85% at two years. Not great, but not terrible either.

If we want to go by anecdotes, the couple I know with the most trouble conceiving got married at 25 and started trying at 27. I conceived quicker than my 28-year old friends. All my mommy friends are older than me, and several are pregnant again (with the only assisted reproduction case being due to the father's sperm issues).

I'm really tired of this "oh no, you're doing it wrong!" bullshit directed at educated, career-driven women. It's so pervasive that the second highest cohort of unplanned pregnancies happens amongst women in their 40s, who just assume they won't conceive. And it's not hard to find the moral panic subtext behind these articles.
posted by snickerdoodle at 8:46 PM on December 12, 2012 [22 favorites]


"Women in Vietnam have babies in their 40s all the time! I want 5 grandchildren!"

"Go steal 'em from the neighbors, Ma. I'm DONE."
posted by MissySedai at 8:49 PM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Everyone tends to trot out their personal stories every time one of these news articles gets posted. And when I say "these articles" I'm pretty sure we all know that articles discussing the whys and wherefores of American reproduction pretty much constitute a literary genre these days. But honestly, this isn't about you. There have always been older parents or adults who don't have kids (to some degree).

While everyone gets all bent about personal narratives and fixated on the tensions between personal choice and adhering to societal norms, it's rare that anyone actually does any actual research or even semi-educated speculation about what's going on.

To me it seems that this is pretty clearly correlated with a) the ever-shrinking middle class and b) the fact that finally post-secondary education rates for women in the US are rising to first-world levels. There's a clear correlation between female education rates and reproductive rates throughout the developing world so I don't see why the US should be any different. It just took a while longer to get here.

At any rate it doesn't really matter. Some small subset of the US will march on, looking more and more like the European countries that US pundits have decried for decades. And the rest of the US will be immigrants. Hopefully they'll let everyone else stay.
posted by GuyZero at 8:51 PM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


i will name my imaginary internets baby Wizardsleeves Spartacus Pantaloons
posted by elizardbits at 8:54 PM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sure, lots of bullshitty stuff about how your fertility is my business.

What I would say is, as a 45 year old who had his youngest child at 30, that parenthood is the greatest thing in the world if you want to be a parent. If there is any regret, even minor, it's that I didn't have them earlier. Really, there is always a good reason to delay parenthood. You're never truly ready. I could have lived life happily without ever having kids. But with hindsight, I am completely, absolutely, and unequivocally happy that I didn't wait until I was "ready". This is a message I think deserves a good hearing among a significant portion of younger folks who are waiting for the right time.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:55 PM on December 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


And the slightly elevated chances of rare birth defects has little to do with the choice of whether to use fertility treatments or not.

The article suggests otherwise, that certain fertility treatments do actually elevate chances of birth defects. As does advanced parental age. Yes, shit happens regardless of age, but the chances are increased the older you and/or your partner in the endeavour is AND by using certain fertility treatments. The commentary about how unregulated a lot of it is unnerves me too - that the research hasn't actually been done to prove it's safe the way it's being used (cycle after cycle after cycle on clomid is the example in the article).

'Choice' doesn't always come with an obviously right one, or safe one. It isn't that fertility treatments are awful, it's that they're rarely portrayed in a truthful manner (either how it work, what actually happens or the outcomes) and they aren't as researched as they should be for an industry that is as immense as it is. Anecdata is a really awful way to try and address this issue. For every example there is a counter-example; my grandmother's fifth child was born when she was in her late twenties, same with my great-grandmother - neither of whom went on to have any more, by choice. Women did have more kids but they started far earlier than even their mid-twenties. And a lot more of those children died, or were harmed during birth, and a lot more mothers were harmed during pregnancy/birth/post-partum. And they did not have the actual choices we have today, like birth control and education. We are working class so they'd always had a 'career' so to speak, but reliable birth control and more employment options were what 'limited' both women - my mother, sadly, was limited by her fertility and would always have wanted more, but not enough to go through staving off early menopause.

You cannot retrospectively assign our risks and values to our foremothers, any more than you can assign their risks and values to us.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:03 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


If there is any regret, even minor, it's that I didn't have them earlier.

There are times when I am filled with such overwhelming love for my child that I have the same thought. And I actually agree that if you are in a committed relationship, and you're in a mentally good place, you're ready. But that wasn't the case for me until my 30s, and so those moments pass quickly.

My parents had me when they were 17 and 27, and recovering from a traumatic war. They were not ready, and I have the physical scars and therapy bills to prove it. If my mom had had access to contraception in Vietnam, she would have waited, and perhaps her children would have grown up comfortable having kids in their 20s.
posted by snickerdoodle at 9:04 PM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the thing is these writers dont really care but are trying to sell an article.

(P.S. I have a ticking time-bomb in my womb and it will explode if I stop moving. Oh lord... I am so tired.)
posted by Kloryne at 9:04 PM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Go steal 'em from the neighbors, Ma. I'm DONE."

Using that this Christmas.
posted by Sara C. at 9:05 PM on December 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think the thing is these writers dont really care but are trying to sell an article.

Very much so. All these first-person accounts of expensive, invasive fertility treatments? It's not because readers are clamoring to read them so much as writers need to pay for them.
posted by GuyZero at 9:08 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


But one of the things that had kept me from trying more determinedly at a younger age was the lack of willingness to commit to a family unit in the allegedly ideal age range in the males I partnered with.

This. Probably half the childless women I know would have happily had kids in their 20s and made it work but the men weren't down. Anyone who did, it was an accident. I think the article should he asking why men thought they could put off umpregnating their partners for 10 years or so and still expect to be a father.
posted by fshgrl at 9:17 PM on December 12, 2012 [16 favorites]


Yes, it would have.

Look, I don't want to get all personal and shit, but my parents had me at 21. They are awesome people and I don't want to badmouth their life choices or whatever (much less the life choices of anyone reading this), but it was not a great thing.


Oh, sure, don't get me wrong, I know overall it would not have been as good as it is now, but 'sit up, sit down,dance all around' in Mommy and Me can be damn tiring. heh.

Then again, my mom was 22 when the first kid showed up, and I'm pretty certain she avoided Mommy and Me entirely so maybe she was smarter all around.
posted by madajb at 9:23 PM on December 12, 2012


The only point of Mommy and Me is to find the other mommies who are rolling their eyes and set up play dates with them.
posted by snickerdoodle at 9:27 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hello, I am a 46 year old mother of a 1st grader and a preschooler, and I AM DESTROYING THE HUMAN RACE!!! MWAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Ahem.
posted by jeanmari at 9:27 PM on December 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


Ideally there will be a good return policy and excellent customer service.

I imagine Amazon will eventually improve on the 9 month shipping time.
posted by madajb at 9:32 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Planning is great and everything, but there is also this thing called life. It comes in all shapes and sizes. Some people have kids when they are young. Some when the are old. But you deal with it, experience it, live it. It all may work out. It may not work out, but, then again, life is filled with joy, boredom, sorrow, tragedy, you name it. Of course, you can't quantify that in a fucking pie chart.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:51 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Our society doesn't really allow responsible child-bearing by younger people. For most people to be successful enough to have kids, you are talking 4 years of college, a few years of stable job experience, and maybe paying off your student loans a bit. For most people, that places the lower boundary at 25 years old. However, that assumes nothing goes wrong (you go to college right away, get a good job right away, don't get overburdened with loans, and don't get sick). For professionals, it's even worse - tack on another 3-4 years for a professional or master's degree. For some doctorate programs, you can literally be 30 before you ever get out of school (graduate high school at 18, 4 year undergrad, 3 year master's, 5 year doctorate), assuming you went continuously since you started. Throw in a couple of years of post-docs and some career paths will be lucky to start before they're 33-34!

Of course, some college students have kids, but I think they're usually either riding their parent's support or their partner's - not everyone will have that option.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:01 PM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Everyone should have children in their twenties!

- Boooo!

Very well. Everyone should delay childbearing as long as possible to maximize earning potential!

- Boooooooooo!

Hmm. Delayed childrearing for some, miniature American flags for others!

- Yaaaay!
posted by deathpanels at 10:01 PM on December 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


My mother was thirty eight when I was born, and I'm a godless heathen lefty vegetarian. Mamas, don't let yer babies grow up to be cowboys.
posted by deathpanels at 10:04 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I will say, having kids when I was on the older side (34) did teach me one thing: that my magical teenage/young adult ability to stay up all night and still go to work/school the next morning, and sometimes get through a 36 hour stretch before needing to sleep, would have come in handy to take care of the kids at night. Still glad I waited, for economic and other reasons, but boy, I wish I'd still had that energy and tolerance for sleepless nights.
posted by davejay at 10:23 PM on December 12, 2012


Our society doesn't really allow responsible child-bearing by younger people.

I would suggest that it does, but only if you have a single-earner household (and so one is working full time, one is raising, and neither is going to school) or a three-generation-in-one-household support system (and so two are working and/or going to school, and the grandmother is raising the child in the early years.)

If you're in the somewhat modern arrangement of moving out when you're young, or moving out when you get married, and moving far away from your own parents, then yeah, it is a lot tougher. Or if you intend to finish a 4-year degree before considering having children, and putting that degree to good use.
posted by davejay at 10:26 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


So all we need to do to fix this is:

1) Fix the education problem of overcredentialism
2) Socialize daycare
3) make healthcare free
4) give parents reasonable family leave
5) Make men mature in their early twenties
6) Restore single-earner middle class job salaries
7) Eliminate crushing student debt
8) Reconstruct all fragile chromosome sites in genome
9) Cyborg knees
10) Engineer radiation resistant testes
posted by benzenedream at 10:31 PM on December 12, 2012 [34 favorites]


Wasn't there a science fiction novel written a while back (which if I'm thinking of the right one, has come up in a discussion here before) with the premise that as society demands more and more advanced education in order to be economically productive, and raising a child becomes more and more expensive and inconsistent with working, that the logical solution would be for women to have children when they were young — like before college — and then hand them off to their parents to raise? Rinse, repeat; every generation gets raised by their grandparents (who are well into middle age) while their parents are off raising hell and getting educated.

While it seems pretty squicky on first blush it does basically solve the majority of the problems without a sudden about-face on social support systems (which, much as it might be nice, is probably unlikely). I can think of lots of people in their 40s who would make great parents, and are in the financial and career position to make everything work except for the biology; at the same time, plenty of younger people have very functional biology but are in no position to actually use it.

(Alternately, the free market answer would be to just let people sell babies and then the supply and demand would sort itself out rather handily.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:48 PM on December 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


My parents were old for the time (39 and 34, respectively, was by far the oldest-at-birth set of parents among my friends) and I kind of wished as a kid they were younger. My dad never really seemed to have much energy for me when he got home from work (I totally get it now, but at the time it was frustrating), and it just seemed like the younger parents were having more fun. But a kid's perspective is warped.
posted by maxwelton at 11:01 PM on December 12, 2012


One thing to remember is that older parenthood just isn’t an American phenomenon. It’s happening all across the world. The two charts on the second page of this document (PDF) from the OECD are really interesting. The first chart (Mean age of mothers at first childbirth) shows that the US is still on the low end of the range for mother’s age at the birth of their first child. Many European countries have a higher average age (For example, the average age is 30 in the UK and Germany compared to 25 in the US). The second chart on page 2 (The postponement of the first birth in 2009, since 1970) shows that the trend toward older parenthood is more pronounced in Europe than in the US.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 11:01 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Biology, meet Economics.
posted by steamynachos at 11:12 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Most married women were "working" in the US between the time of the first settlement by Europeans and the Second World War. The married women who didn't do work other than childcare and housework were a small minority, and the women who did none of that work were an even smaller minority; women who were farmers did tons of farm work, many women "took in" sewing or washing or ironing, women raised poultry and sold eggs door to door, made butter and cheese and sold them, etc. In manufacturing communities, lots of married women did piecework and finishing work for mills. And of course, lots of women were domestic servants.

The myth that married women didn't use to work in the US is pernicious and devalues the millions of poor, working-class, and farm women who knocked themselves out earning some, most, or all of the family income doing demanding, low-paid work in addition to being responsible for the childcare and the much harder housework of the day (chopping kindling, pumping water, building fires, doing laundry by hand, etc.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:27 PM on December 12, 2012 [31 favorites]


In addition to the financial security/health insurance thing, I also think it's weird that only recently (and mostly because of the Internet) there's been more information about how just being pregnant can have a huge toll on a woman's health and financial well-being.

I just read an article about how this woman got fired for taking too many bathroom breaks at work and they made her throw up at her desk in a wastebasket because they felt like her going to the bathroom to vomit was unfair. They said they weren't paying her to rush off to the bathroom a million times a day. (And pregnancy isn't considered a disability.)

It's annoying how a lot of people think pregnancy is a walk in the park, that aside from pushing the baby out, it's just a huge, happy picnic/excuse for eating cake and napping versus extremely difficult on women's bodies before and after having the baby.

It's just not a supportive enough society or culture to actually make taking the risk a good idea unless you're wealthy or are oddly certain everything will be fine.
posted by discopolo at 11:54 PM on December 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


Haven't read all the comments yet, because it's a few minutes short of 3:00 AM and my eyes are drying, so the contacts aren't working so well. But my (about-to-be) 38-year-old self is going to go upstairs to join my 36-year-old wife, with whom I'll start trying to have kids come January-ish, much to the horror of our old-school Indian parents, who popped their firstborns out in their 20s and can't understand what we're doing.

From what I've read so far, the general message I get is "shhh, relax and do things on your own time, and don't worry about manufactured societal pressures." I can live with that. :-)
posted by CommonSense at 11:56 PM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


The married women who didn't do work other than childcare and housework were a small minority

Not disagreeing with you wholly, Sidhedevil, nor devaluing work women have done historically and continue to do, but the US Dept of Labor's statistics are pretty clearcut about workforce participation rates.

Informal work is something a lot of women do on top of their jobs now, rather than jobs in lieu of.
posted by smoke at 12:37 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't help but feel that something happened a few years ago that made a lot of women who were wanting to start a family in their twenties reconsider their options. What was it again?

Oh yeah, that worldwide economic recession thingy that started in 2007. Might that have something to do with it? But surely basic economic considerations don't enter into this and it's all silly women being swayed by feminism and having it all who just finally need to be told they can't have everything?

Isn't it?

(Aside: it's always interesting to see how eager socalled liberal publications (TNR, Slate, NYT) are to scold its own audience for its supposed faults while carefully not mentioning any class or economic factors, like trying to solve physics problems without using maths.)
posted by MartinWisse at 12:57 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since everyone else is throwing their anecdata in to the bucket - I had my first (and only) child at 28. This was considered young by our social-peer group, and in my mothers group in a 'nice' suburb of Sydney I was the youngest first time mother by at least four years. Even now most of our friends who are our age (late thirties-early forties) have babies and toddlers or no kids yet. Yet by my family standards (mothers, grand-mothers etc.) this was quite old to have a first child. Previously I had been employed, and I went back to work when my son was 13 months old. Due to my husband's career we moved a lot, so finding a new workplace every few years was going to happen, regardless. So I guess I didn't have the 'but I will not get to build my career if I take a break now' thing.*

I understand the 'I haven't met the right person to have a kid with yet' thing (I was lucky enough to meet my future partner when I was 23). What I don't get is the 'we are not financially ready yet to have a child'. The only people I ever hear/see may these arguments are people that are already financially better off than large swathes of the population. Is it that we are being sold some weird idea on how expensive it is to have kids? Both the literal 'but I have to buy all this expensive crap for the baby/pay for expensive clubs and schooling' (which you don't. Trust me) or is it 'but one of us has to leave our job which is a hit, and then it is harder getting back on the ladder, which is a hit' which is true, but is always going to be true. Thing is, having a kid is a sacrifice in some ways. But I feel that it really is made out to be a bigger sacrifice than it is.

*I got pregnant at the end of a two year working holiday in the UK/Europe, and when we returned to Aus I decided to go to uni rather than return to work since I was pregnant.
posted by Megami at 1:17 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Coincidentally, listening to a podcast about this very subject on on the Slate Double X gabfest. Doesn't seem to be on the website right now, but if you are interested check out here in the near future.
posted by Megami at 1:44 AM on December 13, 2012


Most married women were "working" in the US between the time of the first settlement by Europeans and the Second World War. The married women who didn't do work other than childcare and housework were a small minority, and the women who did none of that work were an even smaller minority; women who were farmers did tons of farm work, many women "took in" sewing or washing or ironing, women raised poultry and sold eggs door to door, made butter and cheese and sold them, etc. In manufacturing communities, lots of married women did piecework and finishing work for mills. And of course, lots of women were domestic servants.

Unskilled work you can do from home while you watch your kids isn't exactly the same as a modern career requiring years of post secondary education. Not to mention most of those women were poor, and poor women aren't the ones delaying children today.
posted by fshgrl at 2:08 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Even over here in a land of paid maternity and paternity leave, social aid programs for parents and children, reimbursed childcare (there are limits to it, but it covers the essential), couples still have children "late" in life. In fact, the average maternal age was 25 back in the 1970s, and is up to 29 now, and, well, while some believe that the EU is imploding, from the inside of a well-to-do member country... it's not.

In Western, Northern, and Southern Europe, first-time mothers are on average 26 to 29 years old, up from 23 to 25 years at the start of the 1970s. - Advanced Maternal Age, Wikipedia

The furthest my gynecologist went along the path of drama was to matter-of-factly tell me at age 35 that my fertility was now dropping fast, statistically speaking, and if I wanted to have kids, to get it done soon and let her know before getting pregnant. She's had good outcomes in giving women planning later pregnancies a mix of vitamins and such; apparently just that can make a huge positive difference.

Anyway, count me among all y'all who've mentioned wanting kids but not having met the right person. I was in a long-term relationship with a guy who had a great family, really lovely people... and he ended up going from emotionally abusive to physically abusive. His family was so great, that my ex-mother-not-quite-in-law still calls me her daughter (just "daughter", she's a complete sweetheart). That was eight years ago. I just can't find anyone; nor has anyone "found" me; I'm accepting it by appreciating my dear furballs more and following the growth of friends' children. And traveling lots and doing things I feel contribute holistically to the future. Having kids and raising them well isn't the only way a person can contribute, after all.
posted by fraula at 2:51 AM on December 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Anything that reduces population while simultaneously creating evolutionary pressure for longer lives is OK by me.
posted by DU at 2:33 AM on December 13


Absolutely right, except for the bit about creating longer lives.
posted by Decani at 2:55 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Starting around early middle school, I was told by pretty much everyone I knew that I shouldn't have sex because if I got pregnant I'd be socially shunned, have to drop out of school, wouldn't be able to go to college, wouldn't have a career, and would be poor forever.

It was only around my senior year of college (so age 22) when it occurred to me one day that I was finally at the point in my life that *if* I accidentally got pregnant, it would not ruin everything. Because at least I would have a degree.

However, at age 22 while dating guys, even in years-long relationships, it was made clear to me by peers and parents that I STILL shouldn't get married or pregnant, because I had to build a career first, and enjoy my 20s, and have fun, and do all those things I would regret not doing, and you change so much in your mid-20s that it was certainly not a good idea to get married or have babies anytime soon. So don't get pregnant on purpose yet.

So finally around age 26 I think it occurred to me that, okay, now it really WOULD be not-catastrophic if I got pregnant accidentally.

But I was building a pretty good career, and a reputation within my industry, and becoming a literal poster child for women in my industry, and I wasn't going to throw all that away to stay home with babies, was I? I wouldn't be THAT woman who was becoming so successful but then drop out, right? My inner turmoil on that matter can be found here. So, STILL don't get pregnant on purpose yet.

So now I'm 28, getting married next year, I'm getting close to that magic age of 30 that most biology-savvy women in my peer group, including me, have in their heads as "better start trying to get knocked up!" But my partner and I have a few intercontinental moves to make in the next several years, his job where he's often away from home is a job he has to be committed to for the next several years, my job has switched to a role where I am mostly useful to my company by virtue of my ability to travel frequently and on short notice, so there's certainly no foreseeable situation in which either he or I can stay home with young children and still keep our jobs. On top of that, even I could quit my job if I had to, I am not okay with the idea of raising an infant in a foreign country without any friends or family when I only see my partner for a few weeks every few months. So we certainly don't want to get pregnant any time soon on purpose.

I mean I guess my point is, starting with the "having a kid will ruin your life!" at a young age and then continuing with "but you're not done building yourself as an adult yet!", while being pushed on from the other direction by well-known biological truths, you can very easily get squeezed into a situation where you feel like it has to get done soon but now you're in a situation where, thanks to all that responsibility in childbearing impressed on you from puberty, you feel like you "can't" have a kid. Which I think is where the (apparently uniquely middle-class) feeling of "But I can't have kids now! It's not the right time!", whether it's situational, financial, or emotional, comes from. We are so often and firmly told that there IS a right time but that time isn't here yet that we start internalizing that external social judgement, and before we know it we're fighting that AND biology.

It seems like the generation above us, Gen X I guess, let the "it's not the right time!" judgement win at the expense of biology. Watching those families with the expense and stress of fertility treatments, and miscarriages, and higher risks of certain genetic issues, I think my generation is going to end up letting biology win. And I'm sort of interested (in an intimidated way) to see what effect that has socially, particularly on women in the workforce.
posted by olinerd at 3:53 AM on December 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


People above have mentioned that advanced maternal/paternal age is associated with the child having various diseases (e.g. snickerdoodle).

But what about the potential medical benefit to the child? At the most extreme you could be talking about delaying children for 20 years. Much medical progress could be made in that time, vastly improving the life of your potential child.
posted by Sinadoxa at 4:12 AM on December 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


So finally around age 26 I think it occurred to me that, okay, now it really WOULD be not-catastrophic if I got pregnant accidentally.

I would guess there are very few men who would get really excited and happy if their sex partner accidentally got pregnant. With unplanned pregnancies in relationships (both in married and unmarried), you're not only pregnant but at risk for losing your partner's emotional support and also being verbally and emotionally abused during your pregnancy (unless you found the rare partner who acts like Jim Halpert did when finding out about Pam's pregnancy) should he interpret the pregnancy as a way to "trap" him. Surprise pregnancies can bring out an ugly side of a partner who may feel extremely stressed and become hostile towards their pregnant partner.

Not worth the risk.
posted by discopolo at 4:26 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


discopolo: not saying I would "plan" to get accidentally pregnant. Just that, if it happened, my reaction to it would be extremely different than if it had happened a few years earlier. And the "not catastrophic" evaluation assumed a worst case where I'd be on my own without support from the father.
posted by olinerd at 4:36 AM on December 13, 2012


Heh, I have a 3 year old.
Had my wife and I been less careful when we first got together, that child would now be halfway through college.


Am I the only one wondering what sort of decades-ago carelessness would result in a 3-year-old college junior?


Oh. OK, then.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:45 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I don't get is the 'we are not financially ready yet to have a child'.

That's probably because you don't live in the US and have easier access to health care, child day care and maternity leave. My friends just had a baby and it was via caesarian and the bill was over $30,000 just for the child birth. They're 40 and 35 and have careers and insurance so it wasn't a burden to them but a bill like that could be crushing to a 20 something who already has $100k in student loads over their head.
posted by octothorpe at 5:00 AM on December 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Octothorpe, great point. So I guess I should refine it to 'I don't get people in places like the UK and Australia who say they are not yet financially ready to have a child'.
posted by Megami at 5:04 AM on December 13, 2012



octothorpe writes "My ex and I did actually have a kid pretty young for these days (25) and he turned out pretty great and is graduating from College on Saturday but it's not like I'd really recommend it. It was a tough slog for a bunch of years and we were always pretty conspicuously younger than his friend's parents."

25's dead average for a first baby.
posted by Mitheral at 5:05 AM on December 13, 2012


So it's really weird, but I'm kind of in two places on this one. I had my (currently only) child when I was relatively young for childrearing - in my early twenties. At the time, I had enough stability that I could afford to raise her by myself if everything went wrong. And it did, but I was still fine. I had the biological capability and the stability to make it work.

Now, ten years later, I'm again in a stable, awesome relationship with someone who wants to make babies with me, and now is when I'm worrying about both the risk of birth defects if I wait longer, /and/ whether it's the right time. I'm looking at switching careers, or, "maybe we'll move soon," or "childcare is so expensive." I think honestly as we get older, we worry about those things more - I definitely don't have the faith I had in earlier years that things would work out, even though they did. But still, the notion of the "35-wall" terrifies me - in particular, because all over the country is this rising tide that it's totally okay to lie to pregnant women, or not give them information, if you think they might abort because of it.

If I could be guaranteed information on disabilities before the time it was illegal to abort, I wouldn't be so worried and this would not be this much of an issue. But as it is, I'm shit-terrified.
posted by corb at 5:41 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of my brothers and a close friend both fathered children past 50. They both had kids from a previous marriage and married younger women. Of course, "younger" in this case means in their late 30s, so not at all unusual for them.
posted by tommasz at 5:42 AM on December 13, 2012


37 here, wife is 39, with our 7 month old.

Everyone is right. We had a baby late, and he's all weird.

He cries all the time, he eats things he finds on the floor, he rolls around aimlessly. He doesn't have a job, a drain on society at large, and a mooch.

We blame ourselves because we waited too long and not only are we too biologically worn out to make a kid, we lack the energy for proper child-rearing.

Oh wait, that's all wrong.

We have a 7 month old and it's AWESOME. We're more comfortable with who we are, our relationship is stronger because we took the time to grow it, and we've mostly figured out what's important in life . I think the confidence, or comfort in ones own skin made this a lot more entertaining for all of us.

Yeah we're more tired, but i think by prioritizing, and treating him like a member of the family and not the cult-of-baby, so far it's been awesome.
posted by Lord_Pall at 6:31 AM on December 13, 2012 [16 favorites]


You can send him to the workhouse when he is about 5 or 6, though. Those nimble little fingers will be highly skilled at sewing together stylish yet affordable polyblend sportswear in no time!
posted by elizardbits at 6:52 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


This article lends support to my theory that what the world needs now is a lot more teen pregnancy.
posted by nowhere man at 7:06 AM on December 13, 2012


We're more comfortable with who we are, our relationship is stronger because we took the time to grow it, and we've mostly figured out what's important in life .

Oh My God, this this this. Look, I got married at 26 and planned to start trying a year after the wedding, but life intervened in various (good) ways and we didn't end up having our first until we'd been married 8 years. And you know what? I am GLAD that we had that time together as just us, to grow up a little, to get to know each other better, to go through that "life intervening" stuff (which, again, was good stuff, but very very stressful at times). Because having a kid? Is hard! It's wonderful, but it's hard! But we've already been through some wonderful, hard stuff, so we have better coping mechanisms.

Do I sometimes wish I'd had my first at 28 instead of at 34? Sure, if only from the physical perspective -- I had a lot more energy at 28! But I do not, for one minute, regret taking those extra years.
posted by devinemissk at 7:26 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


These articles are just frustrating and preachy and as pointed out above, miss the point. But, I was 34 and 36 when I had my kids (my wife is two years younger than me). I'm 40 now. We both agree that if it was a possibility (i.e., had we met earlier in life) we would have had kids at a younger age, even if we weren't as well off. And we would likely have had 3 kids, which is much less appealing for us at this age. My parents had me young enough that I knew all of my grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and most of my great-grandparents. My kids will know their grandparents, but they are rapidly getting old and infirm. I don't know if I will ever get to really know my grand kids if my children have to put of having kids as long as I did.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:06 AM on December 13, 2012


Maybe the best thing to do would be to adopt customs like the Mosuo walking marriage, separate childbearing from marriage entirely, and have a steel-clad safety net so that this is possible.

In any case, I think it's shitty and misogynist to blame women for delaying having children when it seems more like it's lack of support for having those children which is to blame. And it's true that even in European countries where there is a strong safety net, women are delaying their childbearing and having smaller families. There is no way we are going to go back to having big families young; we don't need to have six children so that three will live to grow up and help us on the farm or in the factory. Given environmental constraints, why do we need an expanding population anyway?

And young women want to do things like travel and live on their own in their 20's. I don't blame them. There's no way we're going back to the 50's way of "marry young, go from your parent's house or college dorm to live with your husband, and wait to travel and have hobbies until you retire."
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:16 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is nobody's business what anybody does with her own uterus except said owner of uterus. Ever. Amen.
posted by Kokopuff at 8:17 AM on December 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't really see why older parents here seem to deem this as some kind of an insult. Maybe I'm one of the younger people here, but I vividly remember my mother going through fertility issues when I was a little girl to have my sister in her late 30s. It was really an agonizing process and even then, at 5 years old I thought that this was something I wanted to avoid. My sister is intelligent and successful, but at that point my mother was playing against the odds there. I'm not keen on doing that myself and I understand that even with good intentions I still might not have a child, but it's the best I can do. And for my mother she did her best too- I'm not blaming her at all, it more a matter of trying to avoid the anguish of fertility problems for me. There are no guarantees of course.
posted by melissam at 8:21 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


We had our kids when we were both age 27, 30, 32, and 36. And we keep muttering, thank God we didn't wait until we were older to do this -- we wouldn't have had the strength!

Yes, some people we know who waited had the opportunity to travel or do grad school or job-hop for salary or what have you, but now that they finally had kids they look beat all the time. Ha, ha!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:03 AM on December 13, 2012


I don't really see why older parents here seem to deem this as some kind of an insult.

It is not that this is an insult, it is frustrating and annoying to be told "you should have had kids when you were younger." As if we didn't know that already. It wasn't a matter of choice or purposely putting off having children. And by the time you decide to be an older parent, that horse is long gone, and you either have kids now that you can or you don't.

I guess the real target audience of these articles are younger people.
posted by fimbulvetr at 9:09 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


It was really an agonizing process and even then, at 5 years old I thought that this was something I wanted to avoid.

You do realize this is something that is not in your power to avoid, right?

I mean, I know people who've struggled with infertility in their 20's.

I know people who've had miscarriages in their 20's.

I know people who've had difficult pregnancies and harrowing childbirth/postnatal experiences (including rare birth defects) in their 20's.

I know people who've lost parents young enough that their children will never know their grandparents.

Unfortunately this is just not stuff that is in our power to control. Would that it were, of course. But deciding in your early twenties that you're not going to let all this sad lady business happen to you is kind of like deciding you're never going to be unemployed, never going to get a divorce, never going to hurt someone you love, never get cancer, etc. etc. etc. Nice decision, but ultimately life doesn't work that way.
posted by Sara C. at 10:26 AM on December 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


The thing that's hilarious is how raced/classed this all is. People wring their hands and lament that middle-class white women are having kids later and later, but meanwhile, the lower average age of working class, black, and Latina mothers is often ascribed to "welfare queens" or how irresponsible of them, having kids while they're all lower income with no father around, etc. Meanwhile, girls get told they can be whatever they want to be, then scolded for trying to "have it all", then blamed for causing the Decline of Society because when we said you can be anything you want, we really meant "as long as you have a few kids in your 20's, too, even though the entire American capitalist structure is stacked against that, but how stupid of you to believe us when we said you can do anything!"
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:50 AM on December 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


People wring their hands and lament that middle-class white women are having kids later and later, but meanwhile, the lower average age of working class, black, and Latina mothers is often ascribed to "welfare queens" or how irresponsible of them,

Well, but is it classed or raced? Definitely handwringing abounds about lower class white women having kids young or whatever.

Also as middle class Asians never exist in these narratives but we usually go along with the white people.
posted by sweetkid at 10:54 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Surely "was something I wanted to avoid" isn't the same as "never going to let that happen."
posted by jfuller at 10:54 AM on December 13, 2012


And one can reduce one's chances of something even if not avoid it with absolute certainty. The fact that I don't smoke means I have greatly lowered my chances of lung cancer compared to the alternative. But I could still get lung cancer.
posted by Justinian at 11:02 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aaaaaand one can absolutely choose not to go through fertility treatments. Just because you're infertile, it doesn't mean you automatically have to go through that hell. Avoiding it sounds like a great idea.
posted by agregoli at 11:31 AM on December 13, 2012


People wring their hands and lament that middle-class white women are having kids later and later, but meanwhile, the lower average age of working class, black, and Latina mothers is often ascribed to "welfare queens" or how irresponsible of them,

Well, but is it classed or raced? Definitely handwringing abounds about lower class white women having kids young or whatever.

Also as middle class Asians never exist in these narratives but we usually go along with the white people.


Both? I meant working class, black, and Latina as separate qualifiers, though certainly they might overlap. I think class and race intersect such that people who are both working-class and minorities bear the most judgment, though.

One of the OP's articles mentions that Asian-American women also have a higher average birth age, but yes, on the whole no one seems to be handwringing about that.
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:47 AM on December 13, 2012


Unfortunately this is just not stuff that is in our power to control. Would that it were, of course. But deciding in your early twenties that you're not going to let all this sad lady business happen to you is kind of like deciding you're never going to be unemployed, never going to get a divorce, never going to hurt someone you love, never get cancer, etc. etc. etc. Nice decision, but ultimately life doesn't work that way.

I said there is no guarantee, but there is no disputing the fact that the odds you will struggle with your fertility increases with age. I can't believe anyone would try to deny that. It's like saying, why bother eating healthy because you could be one of the small number of people who get a disorder normally caused by eating badly for another reason.
posted by melissam at 11:52 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't deny that this is true statistically, and frankly I don't even deny that it's probably true on a micro level (though I would doubt that it's meaningful for any individual woman).

What gives me pause about the whole issue is two things:

1. Yes, guys. Seriously, we know. No educated middle class woman is deferring childbearing because she hasn't heard that menopause exists, or that fertility typically declines around one's late 30's. Enough already.

2. Frankly, unless one is planning to defer childbearing into one's late 40's or 50's (and I've never met a woman who thought that would be the ideal plan), this is all sort of academic. When we talk about (middle and upper class) women having children later in life, we're talking about women having their first child in their 30's rather than their 20's. While I'm sure there's some data that shows this is suboptimal in some sense, frankly having kids after about 17 is suboptimal, but nobody is ready to start promoting teen pregnancy so this is all really not useful life planning advice at all. If we're talking about the average age of American women on the whole, well, the median first pregnancy age is now 25 (per someone upthread - I originally thought it was 27). Which is precisely where both society and science say it should be. So then there is no problem. So either there is a problem, but there's really nothing we can do about it unless we drastically restructure society, or there is no problem and this is all just so much racism, classism, slut shaming, and mother blaming.
posted by Sara C. at 12:00 PM on December 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


1. Yes, guys. Seriously, we know. No educated middle class woman is deferring childbearing because she hasn't heard that menopause exists, or that fertility typically declines around one's late 30's. Enough already.

Are you sure about that? Because most of my friends who I have talked to told me they hadn't thought about it. But admittedly I haven't seen a study on this matter. All I know is that if I didn't know about it, I would have continued to live as a early twenties person well into my late twenties, not bothering at all to make any decisions that would make possible childbearing in my late twenties or early thirties any easier, which seems to be the best range for me considering all the tradeoffs and risk involved. Note I said for me, since I feel if every woman had this information, which I don't think they do, they are going to come to different conclusions.

frankly having kids after about 17 is suboptimal,

No actually from an anatomical perspective, it is not optimal at all to have children as a teenager in terms of bone structure and mortality risk among other things. The fact that you believe this underscores how little women are educated on fertility beyond the prevention stuff in sex ed. I didn't learn this until I started studying physical anthropology. I would recommend Ancient Bodies, Modern Lives by Wenda Trevethan and Building Babies by Kate Clancy to get a better understanding of fertility trade-offs in human beings. Hunter-gatherers often don't even reach puberty until 19 or so.
posted by melissam at 12:13 PM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


If we're talking about the average age of American women on the whole, well, the median first pregnancy age is now 25 (per someone upthread - I originally thought it was 27). Which is precisely where both society and science say it should be. So then there is no problem. So either there is a problem, but there's really nothing we can do about it unless we drastically restructure society, or there is no problem and this is all just so much racism, classism, slut shaming, and mother blaming.


But, that average comes from the horrible selfish feminists who are having kids too late, and the horrible baby-mama 47% welfare suckers having them too early! NO ONE IS PLEASED WITH YOUR CHILD-MAKING DECISIONS, WOMEN.
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:18 PM on December 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


So either there is a problem, but there's really nothing we can do about it unless we drastically restructure society, or there is no problem and this is all just so much racism, classism, slut shaming, and mother blaming.

I wanna favorite this more times than I already favorited it.
posted by sweetkid at 12:21 PM on December 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


> "We all know smart women in their late 30s or early 40s who are surprised at the sudden necessity to decide whether to have children. These are women for whom the idea of the biological clock seems to have stealthily crept up on them ..."

We do?

Do "we all" know ANY women who haven't been relentless told for decades that if they wait too late to have the babies it will mean DOOM and PAIN and DOOM? Because I don't.

Do these "surprised" women live in a box, perhaps? Or on a small desert island?

Gah.
posted by kyrademon at 12:29 PM on December 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


When it comes to their opinions about my family decisions, everyone is welcome to fuck off.

Also, there is nothing unusual about a woman in her 40s having babies. The only new thing is that it's more likely it's her first baby. One of my parents, my partner, and my best friend were born to women over 40. They were the last of their somewhat large-ish broods, not the first, but it's not like this is some new historical phenomenon.
posted by Miko at 12:58 PM on December 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


There is plenty of data indicating that especially among older college-educated women, the number of ideal children is higher than the number of children they have.

Also there is plenty of data indicating that realistic fertility awareness is lacking. For example this study that just came out: Age shock: misperceptions of the impact of age on fertility before and after IVF in women who conceived after age 40
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE Of the women, 30% expected their fertility to decline gradually until menopause at around 50 years and 31% reported that they expected to get pregnant without difficulty at the age of 40. Reasons for a mistaken belief in robust fertility included recollections of persistent and ongoing messaging about pregnancy prevention starting in adolescence (23%), healthy lifestyle and family history of fertility (26%), and incorrect information from friends, physicians or misleading media reports of pregnancies in older celebrity women (28%). Participants had not anticipated the possibility that they would need IVF to conceive with 44% reporting being ‘shocked’ and ‘alarmed’ to discover that their understanding of the rapidity of age-related reproductive decline was inaccurate’. In retrospect, their belated recognition of the effect of age on fertility led 72% of the women to state that they felt ‘lucky’ or had ‘beaten the odds’ in successfully conceiving after IVF. Of the women, 28% advocated better fertility education earlier in life and 23% indicated that with more information about declining fertility, they might have attempted conception at an earlier age. Yet 46% of women acknowledged that even if they had possessed better information, their life circumstances would not have permitted them to begin childbearing earlier.
posted by melissam at 12:59 PM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I heard many times from well-meaning friends that I was having my first child "very late" and to "expect complications". I was told it would take months and months to conceive. I was told all sorts of scary stuff.

Aaaand, here's the deal: Mr. Offalark and I made a decision. We'd try for a year, and if it worked, it worked, if it didn't, we'd close that book and plan more vacations abroad. No heroic measures. No plans to adopt.

Well, I'm 37 and in the last seven months I've been pregnant twice. The first one ended in a very early term miscarriage. They aren't all that uncommon and, though saddening and a little scary, it didn't stop us. I got a positive pregnancy test four weeks after my miscarriage completed (YEAH I KNOW) and in total we spent three ovulation windows "trying"; two hits, one miss. So much for the long haul.

All blood tests and scans show a perfectly healthy baby girl growing inside me. My CNMs and doctors all say I'm doing great. She's kicking me as I type this.

Genetic freak? It's possible. My sister had her second child at 41, and her second miscarriage at 42. Or is it my diet? I ate fairly clean paleo while we were trying to conceive, and for as long as I could during the first trimester. Or is it my good attitude? I don't know. Alas, I can't split the timelines and do experiments on myself to find out. I just wish I hadn't spent so much time worrying.
posted by offalark at 1:00 PM on December 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Hunter-gatherers often don't even reach puberty until 19 or so.

We're not hunter-gatherers. We reach puberty around thirteen. By eighteen to twenty we are at physical maturity. Beyond that point our bodies start to go into decline. Sure, it's a statistically unimportant sort of decline that is not worth worrying about. But yeah, physiologically our bodies want to have babies in our late teens or very early 20's.

It's likely that your friends are not worrying about this now because they are in their early 20's. Not worried about it isn't the same thing as being unaware of it.
posted by Sara C. at 1:09 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]




We're not hunter-gatherers. We reach puberty around thirteen. By eighteen to twenty we are at physical maturity. Beyond that point our bodies start to go into decline. Sure, it's a statistically unimportant sort of decline that is not worth worrying about. But yeah, physiologically our bodies want to have babies in our late teens or very early 20's.

It's likely that your friends are not worrying about this now because they are in their early 20's. Not worried about it isn't the same thing as being unaware of it.


My point was that the teenage years have never been a point of optimal fertility and you did not refute that at all. Anatomically, this is simply not the case. In the end my friends don't particularly matter and the studies support the idea that many women maintain factually inaccurate and unrealistic ideas about fertility. The latter study is particularly enlightening because it shows the negative impact of anecdata a la "I had my baby when I was 40 and he/she was perfectly healthy" on women.
posted by melissam at 1:22 PM on December 13, 2012


my mother was playing against the odds there.

Do you mean, her, specifically; or the odds because of her age? Because the actual odds of conception an defect alike have been discussed in this thread and even in your thirties they are still quite good.

If you meant the former, are you sure your mother's age was really a deciding factor in her fertility issues?
posted by smoke at 1:32 PM on December 13, 2012


I had my kids at 31 and 35, in the latter half of the socially acceptable eight years for motherhood. I had two miscarriages before my first pregnancy and two more in between my first and my second. Imagine my delight when I went in for my NT scan at 14 weeks and found that my file was labeled "Elderly grandmultipara, habitual aborter."
posted by KathrynT at 1:37 PM on December 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


Elderly grandmultipara, habitual aborter

Medical terminology can be pretty hilarious sometimes--someone ought to do a post. And you definitely ought to have that phrase tatooed on your forehead or something.

For those curious about what all those words might mean, take a look here.
posted by flug at 2:39 PM on December 13, 2012


Do you mean, her, specifically; or the odds because of her age? Because the actual odds of conception an defect alike have been discussed in this thread and even in your thirties they are still quite good.

Depends. I notice some of the discussion, like this:

However, the cumulative conception rate for women aged 35-39 is 60% after one year of trying and 85% at two years. Not great, but not terrible either.

Is without citation completely and I cannot find any data with rates that good. Here is an actual published scientific source. It notes that, like most data on the subject, fertility drops rapidly in your late 30s, so it's irresponsible to group 35-year olds with 39-year-olds. The different between 30 and 35...not so significant, after that it seems to really decline. Survival rate for the fetus also drops with age.
posted by melissam at 3:02 PM on December 13, 2012


Imagine if we used the same kind of framing for male sexual / reproductive issues as we do for female ones. "Erectile dysfunction" would become "incompetent penis;" "premature ejaculation" would become "irritable climax" or "habitual failure of coitus." I know terms like "incompetent cervix" and "irritable uterus" and "habitual aborter" are medical terms that are not used with the intent to wound or belittle, but I do think they betray some really negative assumptions about women. (And as the one the terms were applied to, "hilarious" is not really the term I'd use.)
posted by KathrynT at 3:03 PM on December 13, 2012 [19 favorites]


It is interesting that even though we know of the connections between older men and rates of disability, it's women we continue to harangue about having babies early. Where are all the popular press articles urging men to marry younger and have children early? Where are the articles lambasting men for marrying younger women and condemning them to these higher risks?
posted by Miko at 3:14 PM on December 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


I'm almost 33, DH is 63 and we are still thinking about it. Oy.

This is the most interesting post in this entire thread and not a single follow-up question? I am disappoint, Metafilter.
posted by smithsmith at 3:20 PM on December 13, 2012


Where are the articles lambasting men for marrying younger women and condemning them to these higher risks?

Are the risks equal? I'm asking seriously, because I don't know.

There are many articles about the link between older fathers and both autism and schizophrenia, but the risk of these conditions is still low either way. With older mothers, you hear about a dramatic rise in Down's syndrome and death before one year of age. At least that's my understanding, as a lay person reading the news.

I hear the same thing about fertility: a gradual decline for fathers, and an abrupt drop for mothers.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:54 PM on December 13, 2012


Are the risks equal?

I'm not sure it matters since even if they are unequal, the relative level of hysteria remains disproportional.

But a lazy investigation isn't shockingly conclusive. The risk of autism in a child born to a father over 40 is put at 2% of births in this article.

This chart puts Down Syndrome risk for a woman at 43 at "1 in 50"...or 2%. But wait, fathers' ages are also correlated with increased risk of Down Syndrome and other abnormalities.

Also of note, there is fetal screening for Down Syndrome and many other fetal abnormalities, but not for autism.

Never really thought about this before today, but there's a distinct gender gap in both the amount of informatio available through research, and the messaging in pop culture.
posted by Miko at 4:34 PM on December 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


But a lazy investigation isn't shockingly conclusive. The risk of autism in a child born to a father over 40 is put at 2% of births in this article.

This chart puts Down Syndrome risk for a woman at 43 at "1 in 50"...or 2%. But wait, fathers' ages are also correlated with increased risk of Down Syndrome and other abnormalities.


The Down Syndrome risk for a mother at 23 is 0.06%. What's the risk of autism to a father of 23?

Never really thought about this before today, but there's a distinct gender gap in both the amount of informatio available through research, and the messaging in pop culture.

There is, but at least things are changing - the article in this post is an example, as are the numerous recent articles about autism. I had never heard about a paternal age effect at all 15 years ago.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:57 PM on December 13, 2012


The Down Syndrome risk for a mother at 23 is 0.06%. What's the risk of autism to a father of 23?

See, this is an exact example of what I mean when I say that this is either an irrelevant problem or not a problem.

Twenty-three is the absolute youngest point at which society thinks it's acceptable for middle class people to start having children. So if the research suggests that 23 is an optimal time to have children, then all the research in the world doesn't matter -- because most college educated women aren't going to start having kids at 23 anytime soon. We probably don't even have a realistic chance of getting the median first pregnancy age down from 25 to 23, no matter how many 30 year olds feel guilty about enjoying their lives.
posted by Sara C. at 5:23 PM on December 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


However, the cumulative conception rate for women aged 35-39 is 60% after one year of trying and 85% at two years. Not great, but not terrible either.

Is without citation completely and I cannot find any data with rates that good.


It's what my GYN told me at my last checkup. The PDF you linked says cumulative for 35 year olds is 80%, but the chart in the PDF seems to go a bit higher. Either way, the majority of late-30s women will conceive in 2 years.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:30 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


That wasn't my point. Maybe I shouldn't have picked 23.

I was talking about the relative risks of maternal age and paternal age. Saying that a man has a 2% change of fathering an autistic child at age 43 isn't meaningful unless I know how that risk changes with age. Maybe it's 1.25% at age 23. The data for maternal age and Down's syndrome is obviously a lot easier to find.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 6:19 PM on December 13, 2012


This is the most interesting post in this entire thread and not a single follow-up question? I am disappoint, Metafilter.

If you have a question, isn't it on you to ask it?
posted by MissySedai at 7:31 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]



I was talking about the relative risks of maternal age and paternal age.


Look, the point is that the emphasis on women being solely responsible for having children within the right age window is also a challenge. Because women are meeting men their age who are not getting this "OMG children immediately" message and instead "hey, paternal age is less of a thing so whatever" message so the pool of men for women who want to have children in the right window is already smaller. But it's STILL the women's fault for not finding someone within that smaller pool. And all these men are so confident they can get younger women at whatever point in their lives to have kids with because our culture is telling them they have all the time in the world.

Like how is it not extremely obvious that this is an additional challenge that is happening? I would like to date and marry someone around my age to have kids with, not someone 15+ years older, despite how viable their sperm still is, but MANY guys my age are still all, "I might be going to Seoul for six months, babe, nothing serious, babe" because they seriously believe they have tons of years left.
posted by sweetkid at 10:51 PM on December 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


I agree with everything you said. But Miko was asking why the media is harassing women and not men about *health risks* to the child. Now I'm hearing that this point is irrelevant to the discussion, so sorry for wasting your time.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:19 AM on December 14, 2012


Dr. Fisch and his colleagues found that the rate of Down syndrome steadily increased with advancing paternal age for the maternal age group of 35 to 39 years. The greatest increase, however, was seen in the maternal age group of 40 years and older with increasing paternal age. The rate of Down syndrome for both maternal and paternal age greater than 40 years is approximately 60 per 10,000 births, which is a six-fold increase compared with maternal and paternal ages less than 35 years of age. In this age group, the paternal contribution to Down syndrome was 50 percent. Men over age 40 were twice as likely to have a Down syndrome child than men less than 20 years old, notes Dr. Fisch. Since older women tend to be have children with older men, the increased incidence of this genetic abnormality in women older than 35 is likely to be the result of a combination effect of maternal and paternal age, rather than the result of maternal age only. This interaction would explain the dramatic increase in Down syndrome that is seen in women older than 35, he points out.
posted by Miko at 12:33 PM on December 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


We all know smart women in their late 30s or early 40s who are surprised at the sudden necessity to decide whether to have children.

Not really, no.
posted by bq at 1:57 PM on December 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's not bad waiting to have babies!! I mean, for Christ's sake!! Most people should wait to become adults before becoming parents. I really worry about the authors of those articles, saying a fifty year old mother looks "odd." What if you're just a really old looking thirty year old? Or what if you are a fifty year old mother? So what?????

I can't take these types of articles seriously. They never even talk about why someone would WANT to have a kid... why someone would put themselves through all the grief and possibly have to do more than their fair share of the work... what being a parent means to individual woman in a society like ours. As if those weren't much more relevant questions related to having a human life come out of you than what people think of older mothers.
posted by kettleoffish at 9:11 PM on December 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Changing the World, One Old Mother at a Time
Panic aside, Shulevitz raises some good questions. Though not as scary as it might sound, many parents are indeed having kids later, and many parents are also using fertility drugs and treatments to get pregnant. These procedures are relatively new, and we should pay attention to how they might affect kids and society at large. However, waiting to become a parent has its pros just like having babies at a younger age has its cons, and vice versa. And yes, examining this change in parenting is important, and it obviously caught my (and my ovaries') attention. But I'm still waiting for the article about how society has changed to support women in all parenting (or non!) decisions. And I'm still waiting to have kids, too.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:29 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


« Older The long awaited robots vs. monsters epic from Gui...  |  Ivan Day has a food history bl... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments