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Young at Heart

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A blog by Ellen Glazer, August 12, 2010

Joyce at 34 is a documentary about a filmmaker, Joyce Chopra, who, together with her husband, decides to have a baby at age 34. There is nothing remarkable about that decision these days, but when the film was made in 1972, it was noteworthy.

Although 38 years have passed since I saw the film, I can still remember the scene in which family members are surprised by the news that Joyce is having a baby — at the ripe old age of 34.

Although it seems dated to think of someone age 34 as a “geriatric mother” (actually, that defined pregnant women over age 30), age remains a question for most people thinking about having a baby — or adopting. Everyone’s situation is different, but for the most part, people strive to have children when they are mature and settled enough to feel confident and ready to be parents, but still young enough to be fertile. Would that there was a simple formula that enabled people to achieve this maturity-settled-fertile balance.

These days I tend to see very few: “Joyce’s at 34.” Many of the people who come to see me are over 40 and in recent months, I have seen several couples in which both members are over age 45. Each story is poignant, and each person’s struggle touches my heart. There are couples in which the women who waited for years hoping to find the right partner, anxious that by the time they found him it would be “too late.” There are couples who had a child years earlier and thought their family was complete only to decide to try for a second when it was no longer possible. There are couples in which one or both people was widowed and spent his/her/their 30s trying to regain their lives and move on. Sadly, there are couples who have lost a child.

Couples in which the woman is in her mid-forties usually come to a point at which they know they have to look at other approaches to family building — adoption, egg donation, remaining without children (or as a one-child family), foster care, possibly embryo adoption or working with a gestational carrier and egg donor. This blog is not about those choices — it is about how you feel about your age. A few thoughts…

  • Look forward, not back: you can’t turn back the clock. Your age is what it is. All you can do is to take action so that you are not unnecessarily older if a baby or child is going to join your family.
  • Age is and isn’t a state of mind. The numbers don’t lie — 40 is 40, 50 is 50, 60 is 60… That said, we all know people who are old at 40 and others who are young at 80. For yourself and your child, you can do what you can to think young and feel young.
  • Many people focus on how young they feel at 45 or 50. That’s terrific and hopefully, you will feel equally young and energetic at 65 or 70. However, how will it be helping your 30-year-old move into a new home or apartment when you are 75 or 80? Think about who else there is — hopefully in your family — to offer a youthful presence and helping hands to your young adult child.
  • Your age is a good reason to have more than one child. If you are just beginning your family in your 40’s, you may want to commit yourselves to having at least two children. They will have each other as they face the challenges — and joys — of having older parents.

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