Week in Review
Once upon a time I was having a conversation with a consultant. He was bald. And not in the best of shape. He looked older than he was. He started a family later in life. And one of the worst days of his life was when a waitress said how cute his grandson was. Because he looked like a grandfather. Even though he was only a father.
I had a coworker who died from a heart attack while on vacation. Running around with his grade-school-aged children. Another father who started his family later in life. It was not a problem for him. For men don’t have a biological clock ticking. So they can start a family as late as they want to in their life. But they may not live to see their children graduate from high school. Which is a horrible thing for a child.
This was something women were spared. Because they have a biological clock ticking. And couldn’t put off becoming a mother until they were ‘grandmother age’. Until now, that is (see Later, Baby: Will Freezing Your Eggs Free Your Career? by Emma Rosenblum posted 4/17/2014 on BloombergBusinessweek Technology).
LaJoie fits the typical profile of an egg freezer: They’re great at their jobs, they make a ton of money, and they’ve followed all of Sheryl Sandberg’s advice. But the husband and baby haven’t materialized, and they can recite the stats about their rapidly decreasing fertility as a depressing party trick. For LaJoie, now 45, it was demoralizing to see friend after friend get married and have kids, while she was stuck at the hospital without romantic prospects.
“You feel bad about yourself, like you’re the odd man out, and somehow you’ve messed up on your path,” says Sarah Elizabeth Richards, who spent $50,000 freezing several rounds of eggs in 2006 to 2008 and wrote a book about the experience, Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. “By freezing, you’ve done something about it. You’re walking taller; your head is held higher. And that can pay off in both your work and romantic lives.” Richards, now 43, is dating someone promising and says she’d like to thaw her eggs in the next year or so. She’s also at work on a new book and plans on finishing it before she tries to get pregnant. “Egg freezing gives you the gift of time to start a family, but it’s also, like, here’s how many years I actually have left for my other goals—what can I do with them?”
LaJoie got married soon after she froze (she told her husband about it on their very first date: “I was upfront and said, ‘This is my plan.’ He was, like, ‘OK!’ ”) and had her first baby naturally at 39. A few years later, after briefly trying fertility drugs, she thawed her eggs. The implantation worked, and her second son is 2 years old.
This is great news for women who want to conveniently work in the burden of being a mother somewhere in their busy schedules. But when you have a child at 43 you will be 51 at that child’s high school graduation. Old enough to be a grandmother. While the grandmother may be in a nursing home. Who may only see her grandchildren on holidays when they reluctantly visit her. For nursing homes are not places children want to be.
And you could be dead by your child’s graduation. For a lot of health issues can plague you by the time you turn 51. Especially when you’re having your children in your 40s. The risk of breast cancer increases with age. The risk of hypertension and pre-eclampsia/eclampsia increase with age. The risk of gestational diabetes increases with age. The risk of heart disease increases with age. As does the risk of other cancers, lupus, diabetes, pancreatitis, etc. Things not that common for women in their 20s and 30s. But more common for women over 40.
And babies have risks, too, when their mothers give birth when over 40. The risk of stillbirths and miscarriages increase with age. As does the risk for birth defects. So it’s all well and good for the mother to postpone motherhood but it’s not the best thing for her children. Who deserve young and healthy parents. Who can run with them while on vacation. And they deserve healthy grandparents to spoil them. Things you may not be able to do if you postpone motherhood until after you’re 40.