How Old Is Too Old To Have A Baby?

The other day while riding on the subway I noticed a woman with a wide gray streak in her hair. I noticed her because she and I seemed to be the only two women in the subway car wearing long-sleeve shirts. On that very hot day, all the other women, younger women, were wearing sundresses or sleeveless T-shirts. I thought it was kind of amusing that neither one of us had dared to bare. I remembered a friend once saying that you knew you were a certain age when you stopped waving good-bye on the beach.

But then I realized when the woman moved closer to me to get off at her stop that, unlike me, what she was wearing was not a loose fitting shirt but rather a billowy maternity top. The woman who looked at least fifty was very obviously pregnant.

We all know that women today are having babies later, and later. Through the use of IVF and the buying of donor eggs, more women than ever before have been able to give birth through their 40s and even into their 50s. Of course some women always have had their last child over 40. Now I dont know for a fact if this woman really was pregnant with her first child. But she got me thinking: Is a woman ever too old to finally have a baby if she really wants one?

I have a friend who did get pregnant and have a baby girl in her early fifties. I think she used a donor egg and it turned out to be a very happy experience. I also have heard of a childless couple who adopted twins in their fifties and are coping well. And, in another case, a couple in their sixties, using the husbands sperm, a donor egg and a surrogate are now caring for a 4-month-old infant. That couple was both embarrassed and ecstatic about their unusual late-in-life parenthood.

There are also sad stories about motherhood at really advanced ages with tragic outcomes. There is the Indian woman who had a baby, through IVF, at 72 and is now dying. And a Spanish woman who had twins at 66 and died only a couple of years after they were born. The question always is: When a mother is so old and could get sick, is it fair to the child? But at the same time there have been many grandmothers in their 60s and 70s who have taken care of children and raised them from the cradle to adulthood. And often an older woman has far more patience with a child. She has fewer distractions and can focus totally on that child. And maybe patience, along with love, are the qualities more than any other one needs for mothering. Heres what one woman, who had a child at forty, said when I asked her what she thought about whether one could be too old to have a baby. I think it is such a loss not to raise a child I would always understand and sympathize with a woman who wants to have a baby even if others think she is too old. And I agree. In fact, it may not only be women but maybe all female who have this desire. At Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, Kansas a 56-year-old chimpanzee just gave birth. Most chimps only live into their 40s. Now Suzie is caring for a cute baby chimp. I trust she will also be a very patient and loving mother. ?
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