The XX Factor

The Problem With Over-50 Moms Isn’t Their Age, It’s Their Privilege

New York Magazine.
New York Magazine.

This week’s New York Magazine has a very provocative cover story on first time moms who are 50+. Author Lisa Miller argues valliantly against the prejudice these senior moms face, which is generally that people are creeped out by the scientific meddling necessary to conceive at such an advanced age. One mother who had twins when she was 53, lamented to Miller, “If you don’t meet people’s expectations of what a mother looks like, they can’t hack it.” Miller finds studies and statistics that support the notion that parents who have children very late in life—so late, in fact, that some of them are reversing menopause—raise children that are just as healthy and happy as children raised by younger parents. The science Miller discusses is all compelling and convincing. But the one thing she can’t really wholeheartedly defend is the extreme privilege of these women:

Here’s the final point, and the trickiest. People—straight or gay; married, partnered, or single—who have babies at 50 are often wealthy. The average egg-donor cycle costs $25,000, but the cost can run as high as $35,000 for the eggs of an elite, Ivy-educated girl. A surrogate costs as much as $110,000, which insurance often does not cover. Adoption, depending on how you do it, costs between $20,000 and $40,000 out of pocket.

Some of the reaction towards women who have children so late in life is not just visceral disgust at the idea of a 60-year-old suckling an infant. When we live in a country where 50.7 million people don’t even have health insurance, when lots of people (including people with small, very sick children) are living one major illness away from bankruptcy and death, it can appear somewhat Marie Antoinetteish to be paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to thwart biology (and studies show that those women may be at a greater risk for breast cancer).This is not to condone the hatred directed towards these senior moms, but merely to explain that some of the distaste maybe based not on their advanced ages, but on the unfairness of it all.