Too Old to Be a Mom?
The Emotional Terrain of the Older Mother continued...
Washington State therapist Marlene Koltin, who also leads support groups,
says, "Older moms have issues all their own and long for a sense of
community. They may not feel quite in sync with other moms." Older mothers
may be going through menopause while taking care of an infant. They don't
bounce back from sleep deprivation or stress like they did in their 20s. It's a
little harder to get up off the floor after playing with a baby. Many older
mothers are also caring for aging parents at the same time they are raising
young children -- a balancing act that can be more than challenging.
Although women in previous generations had a significant number of babies
when they were past 40, says David Bruce Sable, MD, a fertility specialist with
pioneering St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J., those children
tended to be the last in a string, rather than the first and only child, as is
often the case today. So, the topic of raising children without siblings also
comes up. And, says Duxbury, most older parents admit to an occasional sense of
not quite fitting in. For her, it was the moment that someone assumed she was
her daughter's grandmother. "Yipes," she recalls thinking, "If I
look like her grandmother now, what will my daughter think when she is
Breaking the Age Barrier
"What is immediately apparent," says Duxbury, "is that most of
us didn't choose to be older parents. We didn't sit down at 20 and say, 'Oh, I
guess I'll have a baby when I am 40.' Life led us down that road." Many
older parents come to parenthood with a legacy of loss; they've had
miscarriages and stillbirths and other disappointments, she says. They may not
have found love until late in life. "As older moms, we never take parenting
for granted," says Duxbury. "We look at our children as blessings that
arrived after long and often arduous journeys."
Nancy Hemenway, who had her daughter Zoe when she was 45, is a case in
point. "My husband and I didn't find each other until I was 38 and he was
37," says Hemenway, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area, and is the
executive director of INCIID (pronounced "inside'') the InterNational
Council on Infertility Information Dissemination. It took years of trying to
conceive, several miscarriages, and finally treatment by a reproductive
endocrinologist, before Hemenway gave birth. Now, at the age of 50, she is
about to adopt a second child.
"There are times that I get tired, but I think having Zoe has energized
me," says Hemenway. "In fact, I can't imagine not doing this. My
husband and I look at our daughter in awe, wondering, what would we have done