How Old is Too Old?

This article caught my eye the other day, for obvious reasons. A 62-year old mother of 12, grandmother of 20, and great-grandmother of three got pregnant via IVF, and gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

If you read this blog often, you know I'm about as liberal as they come. I'm obviously pro-choice, and I don't believe anyone (or any state, South Dakota be damned) has the right to tell women what to do (or what not to do) with their bodies. And being a feminist, I believe that women should determine when they're ready to have children, and not cave to underlying societal pressure that basically says that once a woman hits 30, her ovaries have shriveled up and died anyway, so why even bother trying.

But my reaction to this story has surprised me, because while I don't think this woman's decision was wrong, per se, I think it is questionable at the very least. And I think more was at stake in this story than just "grandma gives birth to 13th child."

First of all, at my clinic, the largest one in the city where I live, the doctors won't even attempt IVF on a woman over 42 years of age. This is due to extremely low success rates, and other factors as well. It seems to me this woman's doctor created a "science project within a science project," as if to prove to the world that IVF could be done successfully on a woman who is a likely a card-carrying member of the AARP. Should this become a more common practice, now that's it's been done at least once? I don't know.

Second, I think my reaction to this story would be slightly more favorable if this baby was the woman's first child. If she had married later in life, or struggled for years and years with infertility, and finally had her dream of becoming a mother fulfilled. But that's not the case here. This woman has 12 (now 13) children! Her oldest is 40! Why on earth would anyone want 13 children? It's not like she needs them to work the farm or something.

I have more questions that I have answers. So, I'll throw this out there: what are your thoughts on a 62-year old woman getting pregnant via IVF and giving birth? Is a woman ever too old to be a mother?

13 Responses to “How Old is Too Old?”

  1. # Blogger Alisha

    This story perplexed me, as well. I have the same reservations about passing judgement as you do, but at the end of the day...I mean, come on. She's a flippin great-grandmother!!!

    Mostly, I am intrigued by what could possibly be her motivation. I haven't read much about it, so I'm just not sure what her story is. I'll just have to go check that out!  

  2. # Anonymous Clare Eats

    I really have no idea what to think, I have one big question: who will look after the child later in it's life? I guess with 12 other kids there will always be someone!  

  3. # Blogger Kross-Eyed Kitty

    I think it's ridiculous, and this is from someone who has also been through the whole IVF ringer.
    She is definitely a science project, and her doctor is unethical.

    All this from someone who also considers herself a very liberal thinker!  

  4. # Blogger Rocco

    Ineteresting to say the least... I believe that it's a womans body and she has the right to with it what she wants when she wants...Do you think there should be a limit to what age a woman should have a child? Of course not!!! So you shouldn't judge this woman..It's her right and god let's hope that this Republican government doesn't take that away also.  

  5. # Blogger Marie

    A 62-year old woman having her 13th child with her 3rd husband -- their second together. Let's see... they have a 3 1/2 year old together already... and the woman's eldest child is 40. Hmm.

    I don't know what the life expectancy for women is right now, but by the time this child is no longer a dependent (age 18), his mother will be 80.

    I feel sorry for the boy. And for his 3 1/2 year old sibling. Children deserve to have a mother who will be able to care for them... not whom they'll have to care for. Perhaps she's incredibly energetic and "young for her age." ????

    Personally, I think this woman was very selfish to pursue having children at her age. She certainly wasn't thinking of what would be best for the children...

    Mother Nature / God invented menopause for a reason -- that's the end of the child-bearing years.

    I predict some serious therapy bills in the future for these kids...  

  6. # Blogger Christine

    Um, it's her choice and whatnot and there is no good way to say, X years is too old...yet it seems to me, from the very limited details of the article that part of the motivation was her 48 year old husband's desire to have him some children.

    I don't think I would have encouraged her to undergo any fertility treatments if I were her doctor.  

  7. # Blogger Christine

    As a follow up, and because I was a bit in awe of it all...I asked a coworker of mine what she thought of it, as a 68 year old woman. Her thoughts are that our 62 year old is batshit crazy. OK, her exact words were, "she's out of her mind." I added the batshit crazy ;)  

  8. # Blogger CAL

    What's a shame is this young man won't likely get to share his life with his mother or come to know her as we all come to know our parents as adults. She may not see him graduate from high school or college. She might not see him find someone to spend his life with. She won't see his successes in life, not will she be there to comfort him after his failures.

    Sure, she *can* do this, but *should* she. Who was she thinking of in all this? The child she might not see reach adulthood? The husband who will be left to care for this child as a single parent? His siblings and nieces and nephews who will may have to step in to care for a motherless child? Or was she thinking how much she'd like to have another baby?  

  9. # Blogger kenju

    If she is giving the baby up for adoption to a couple who are childless - that would be great. I don't see why she would want to have another child at her age. She may be dead before the child goes to school! God knows I wouldn't want to have to deal with young children everyday at my age!  

  10. # Blogger Kristi

    Alisha-Apparently her motivation was to have more kids with her much-younger husband. If he wanted children, he might have considered that fact before he married someone older.

    Clare-Exactly. But I think every child deserves to be raised by two parents whenever possible.

    Ramona-My thoughts exactly.

    Rocco-It's a slippery slope, of course. Do we simply arbitrarily pick an age...say 48... and state that no woman should be able to reproduce past that point? Yet this grandma raises all kinds of ethical questions that I know I don't have the answers to.

    Marie-I agree. I believe her motivations were selfish as well, and she certainly wasn't thinking about the kind on environment her child would grow up in.

    Christine-I definitely see your point too, as I wrote above. It's a slippery slope. But yeah, I can't believe ANY fertility doctor okay-ed this. And now we know at least one older woman thinks this 62 year old is crazy! LOL.

    Cal-Exactly. I think she had very selfish motivations.

    Kenju-Yes! Then I think we'd have an entirely different view altogether of her choice. It's too bad she couldn't just enjoy being a grandma.  

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