Thursday 23 January 2014

Frozen eggs, with a side order of anxiety (or Laura Linney had a baby aged 49)

Laura Linney and her husband have just welcomed their first child to the world- congratulations!

That first sentence omitted what every headline I have read said- that Laura Linney is 49. Most headlines were a lot more along the lines of 49 YEAR OLD WOMAN HAS BABY, IT'S LAURA LINNEY. WOAH. SHE'S 49, DID WE MENTION SHE'S 49? (I'm not even going to mention the men who have children in their 60s, even 70s, who get barely a mention).

I am trying to stay well clear of the sidebar of shame but this story- and other pregnancies of high profile woman (French politician Rachida Dati, Halle Berry, Carla Bruni)- do always receive lots of attention.

I thought this piece in the Huffington Post was well written and raised some good points. Namely that just because a very few women with enormous ammounts of money manage to have children in their mid to late forties it doesn't mean it's going to become normal or that you should think it's going to be an option for you. The article basically says what the media is all too keen to tell women every time they can, in the words of Helen Fielding, tick tock tick tock- don't wait too late to have a baby- but I think in a less hysterical way than is usual.

I think the article does raise the 'taboo' of possibly some of these pregnancies being achieved via donor eggs and obviously some high profile women have used surrogates. However it appears Cherie Blair fell pregnant at the age of 45 without any trying at all. My Mother has always said to me, and I think she may be right, that although it's not very scientific it does seem to be easier for women who have had a child at what is deemed a good age to have a child later- like Mrs Blair. Historically of course in an age before birth control women who survived child birth had many children and often into their forties- this is of course not mentioned by the mainstream press- nor does it seem to be an area of research in the medical community. How did women who were probably less well nourished, who had a lower life expectancy and lived in much poorer living conditions go on having children naturally well into their forties when many women struggle now? I am sure there are answers to do with chemicals in food, stress and modern medicine- and of course there were far more women who couldn't have children and who had no hope of having children at any age in those days.

I am from the generation when it really wasn't even normal for an educated girl, particularly a University educated girl- or to be fair boy- to have a child before 30. Honestly a very few people maybe went for it at about 28 but they were quite often religious and they were far from the norm! I think things have changed a little on this score in the UK. Basically though I felt like I was bombarded with information about not getting pregnant from the age of about ten to the age of about thirty and then suddenly I was told ooh well if you want a big family you may have left it too late (I don't want a big family personally but other people over the age of thirty might do).

This swell of stories and a recent birthday have made me think more on this question. If I had a child or children I would want to do the best for them and of course be as medically well as a I could. I suppose in the back of my mind stories like Laura Linney's do calm that anxiety I sometimes have about what if it doesn't happen in the next year or two.

I am not even certain about children- I currently would like to try I think if I meet the right person but am not at the stage of thinking about going it alone or settling with a partner for something other than love, or the one night stand route (all of these I have heard discussed and even taken up by educated, grown up women who felt they always wanted to have children, worked hard in their twenties and then realised in their early thirties that things had changed and women in their twenties were concentrating on marriage and babies over careers or as careers in a way that just wasn't discussed by our generation).

Yesterday I found myself googling freezing eggs- surely my subconscious is trying to tell me I know things are getting a little later and I'm trying to make an insurance plan. Planning from someone who doesn't really like to plan their Saturday nights too far in advance. It was probably a moment of madness.

 It's a tricky old world for us girls- I'm pretty sure I don't know any 32 year old men worrying about this issue... (though actually in my experience it is often actually the men who do have the issue in the end, but the media don't write stories saying: men! check you can reproduce before it's too late! tick tock).


That's Not My Age said...

Interesting post - I don't have children (or money!) and having just celebrated a big birthday, am a bit past it anyway. Quite a few of my friends are childless too, I guess I'm from the generation of women who put their careers first. It's such a tricky issue, I hope you decide what's best for you.

Metropolitan Mum said...

Great post, and have a very happy belated birthday! I am such a crap friend, sorry! Let me make up for it with pre AND post ballet drinks. Maybe it shouldn't be us dancing then though.
Don't worry, there's still lots of time if you want it. Dxx

Marie said...

Beautifully well written piece. Fascinating all the conflicting stories you read, exactly as you say, the hypocracy of the media and the way things get blown out of proportion. Interesting too how this is cultural and generational. A friend married a Turkish girl and immediately were they engaged the mother was planning to build a room for the new baby who of course was going to be coming very soon. It was interesting to me because it was just such a presumption of the priority being having a baby as soon as they were married.

Such a mine field, the whole babies thing. When you might have them, if you can have them, how many etc etc. thank you for your post, lots for me to think about.

Rose said...

TNMA- thanks very much, I agree I'm from that generation too, and overall I'm glad I am.

MM- thank you! no you're not you! that'd be great- yes we'll see!

Marie- thank you that's really kind of you to say and yes there really is a lot to think about isn't there

Anonymous said...

She may be 49 but I bet Laura Linney will be a very cool mum!

I agree that the media is very 'drama' about this issue - you can't take much notice of exceptional cases of being able to have children late or of being unlucky at a younger age. It is stressful because so often the articles or even medical advice can't really take account of the fact that so many factors other than age/fertility prospects come into it - your health in other ways, where you live, having a suitable partner, money etc!!

Having a big interest in genealogy I have noticed a (not scientifically observed but fairly dominant) pattern - with some exceptions women seem to marry, have children at very regular intervals from the time of marriage until mid forties, sometimes a little later, but with the gaps between the children becoming slightly longer. That indicates to me that their fertility had declined but not disappeared. There are also mysteries though - like couples married for 11 years then suddenly an only child (you have to wonder!). Of course back then there were no investigations or treatments, you just had to wait and accept your lot. I wish I had helpful answers, for you or for me! I think just staying calm, and being determined to make the best of yourself and your life no matter which path it takes you down, is a start.

Any daughter of yours would be very lucky though - she would never spend years trying to find her signature scent with you on hand!

Lucy (previous reader from ages ago but something went wrong with my blogger profile and can't log in!)

Anonymous said...

Apologies for the novel! It looked smaller in the comment box!! Lucy

Jeska said...

Great post, things I often think about. I like babies not children and like living my life with just my husband very much.

I am sure if it happened I would embrace motherhood, but I just don't know if i want to. I don't feel like I am missing out but who knows?!

Confusing times at 36! I still feel 20 Happy birthday :)

Anonymous said...

To date, there has not been a single celebrity who has openly discussed using donor eggs. We all know they used donor eggs, though.