First-time Mom at Age 50 and Beyond – by Margaret Hart
I visited a good friend recently who I have known for going on 20 years. We first met when we were both fresh out of college, single, and living and working in New York City. In those days, we were both focused on our careers and not thinking seriously about marriage and children. Fast forward 17 years, and we are now both mothers of sons: mine is almost eight years old, and hers is just 16 months.
My friend and I both came to motherhood later, but we took very different paths. I became a parent after marriage. She chose to become a parent as a single mother, not in a relationship, but wanting to start a family and electing to do so with the help of a friend who became the sperm donor. Her eggs, his sperm, produced at least five embryos that she froze at age 43. (These are the only meaningful details she has shared with me, even though I have shared much more with her about my road to motherhood. The sharing of personal information is a topic for another blog.)
We have both become first-time mothers later in life, but she much later. I became a mom in my early 40s; she at age 50, some seven years after she froze her embryos. If pregnancy at age 50, with thawed embryos, weren’t miraculous enough, she is now pregnant again, with yet another of those embryos, and due in November. She will be 52.
When I was in my late 30s and early 40s, I was told by a fertility expert at one of the top centers for reproductive medicine in the country that my chances of becoming pregnant were slim. I was quoted percentages in the single digits. There was nothing wrong with me or my husband that could be diagnosed and fixed (or not); I was diagnosed with “unexplained infertility,” which made it all the more frustrating. Despite my eggs being deemed good quality and my husband’s sperm ready for action, my odds were low simply because of my biological age.
My friend, on the other hand, got pregnant with one frozen embryo on the first try–both for her first child and for the child she now carries in her womb. Astonishing! She, it seems, has defied the odds–big time! Although, depending upon your beliefs as to when life begins, you might say she created a life at a much earlier biological age, when she went through IVF at age 43 and froze her embryos. Either way you do the math, she has become a mother much, much later in life, and much later than most women.
I understand the science all too well, but it is still baffling to me how she beat the odds. It is also frustrating for me. I can’t stop thinking about why I was unsuccessful in my attempts with IVF in my 30s and early 40s. (But this is another topic for another blog.) At the moment, I am still in denial that my friend is becoming a mother at age 52. And a single mother, working full time, and with no other means of financial support (a subject, oddly, that she is much more forthcoming about than how she has started her family) to help her raise her son and his soon-to-be sibling.
I wonder how many women would make the same choices my friend has made. I am not in her shoes, and I try not to judge. But I don’t think I would have made the choices that she has. As it turns out, however, there are many women who do. My friend is involved in at least one group of older, single mothers “by choice,” and this group seems to be growing in numbers. There are events and meetings and celebrations. It seems to be a group that is accepted, and celebrated. I find that interesting. And what would be even more interesting, would be to find out what the Census reveals, years from now when data are released about single parents and single mothers by choice.
I also find myself wondering at what age it is appropriate to “stop” having children. My friend will be 72 years old when her children are graduating from high school. She will be old enough to be their grandmother, let alone their mother. Am I the only one who thinks this is a little too old? This is just one of the many questions I ask myself when I think about the fact that I became a mother later in life and how I will be older than many others moms of similar-aged children when my son is in high school. Is age really an issue? Certainly there are many definitions of a good parent: one who provides food, shelter, and love are the basics. But is a younger parent better than an older parent? What about being able to be active and engaged in the life of your child? Someone who is much older will likely have limited capacities for participation, right?
Is it sensible to become a first-time mom at age 50 or over? How much does your age make a difference in how effective you can be as a parent and how well you can raise your child? I don’t have the answers, that’s for sure. But my friend becoming a mom at 50, and welcoming her second child in November, at age 52, has definitely gotten me to thinking about motherhood much, much later in life.