The other day in an online group discussion, I heard a question I’ve fielded hundreds (thousands?) of times: How old is too old to have a baby?
My first response: Too old for… what?
The other immediate responses were from people who have experienced getting pregnant and having a baby in their late 30s or even early 40s. All were (fortunately) positive anecdotes about the benefits of “older” parenting, even in light of a few cautionary tales about things like the additional fertility challenges and the increased incidence of multiples (twins, triplets, or more).
But I still go back to my initial thought: When someone asks “How old is too old…,” what are their underlying concerns?
I propose that those concerns might need addressing regardless of the age question.
As I play out each prospective scenario in my own mind, wandering among the possibilities that the writer of the question was worried or thinking about, I eventually arrive at the same conclusion: These are possibilities or concerns that arise for people of virtually all ages.
Even given all the hard science and factual knowledge behind the nuts-and-bolts of fertility, there are still mysteries and unanswerable questions, even about the impact of a person’s age on their ability to get pregnant. There are statistics, sure. And there are anecdotes providing some semblance of evidence. But really -- that human conception occurs at all is, even to embryologists, an awe-filled, momentous yet smidge of an occasion in the human experience. Believe me: I’ve chatted up more than a few of the world’s greatest minds in the reproductive science arena.
But is this the asker’s question: How much harder is it to conceive at certain ages? Or is the initial question about “how old is too old” more about the person’s ability to be the kind of parent he or she wants to be? Or… is it something else?
As with so many of life’s big questions (and trust -- the questions of if and when to become a parent should be huge), you can find answers all over the spectrum. And it’s interesting, isn’t it, how we tend to assume we understand someone’s question and often leap to telling our own version of the story… before we really find out what it is that has prompted their query in the first place?