I’m Sorry, But You Can’t Put Your Biological Clock on Snooze Forever

March 2, 2012  |  

There are some women who’s biological clock is ticking so loudly in their ears that they think they may never have a chance of becoming a mother, and then there are others who have hit the snooze button in favor of waiting for that special someone to father their child or until their career settles down to start changing diapers. Regardless of the reasons these women aren’t mothers, both realize they don’t have forever to make that dream come true, but a new scientific breakthrough suggests that they actually might.

Dr. Jonathan Tilly, a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, has discovered a way to extract stem cells from women’s ovaries that are capable of generating new eggs. If the scientists are able to fertilize the eggs and turn them into embryos, Dr. Tilly believes “we might get to the point of actually having an unlimited source of human eggs,” meaning age and menopause will no longer prevent women from being able to bear a child.

Middle-aged women everywhere seem to be applauding this research, which is no doubt impressive. Kimberly Seals Allers, founder of MochaManual.com, told The Grio Dr. Tilly’s research is “good news for black women” who, for whatever circumstances, may not be able to have children until much later in life.

“Most studies have pointed to a priority on career, education and financial stability and the lack of suitable marriage partners, which has pushed childbearing to the back burner,” she said.

Seals also points out something we’ve all noticed in recent years, which is that women have become increasingly comfortable with being older mothers.

“I  like to throw in the ’40 is the new 30′ phenomenon,” she said. “Black women feel younger, [so] becoming a mother at 40 and beyond just doesn’t feel as old anymore.”

But just because you feel 30 doesn’t mean your body isn’t in fact 40. Ovarian failure and a decrease in the number of eggs women produce is just one aspect of being a mature mother. There are other health risks that have been well-documented in women as young as 35, although 40 is the typical age where physicians have real concern. At this age there is an increased risk of chromosome abnormalities leading to Down Syndrome, the possibility of miscarriage is increased, and the risk of chronic health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure is elevated. Imagine how much those risks increase with just another 10 years of age. Sure, those statistics are general and the potential for developing any of these issues has a lot to do with your individual health at the time you conceive, but no matter how good you look or how fit you feel, your body is the age that it is and these risks are there.

The feminist in women has looked at this data with the attitude of, if men can have babies until they die why can’t women? Well, there is a huge difference between a man being able to impregnate someone and  a woman getting pregnant: Men don’t carry babies, women do, and nine months is no short amount of time. Plus, men aren’t without risk either. Studies have shown that babies born to men 40 and older have a higher risk for autism. So the bottom line is that no late-stage pregnancy is without risk, no matter how much science might be able to tweak what is biologically possible.

I can understand the strong urge to become a mother, and that life circumstances sometimes get in the way of making that a reality in your 20s and even your 30s but this issue goes far beyond gender equality. At some point we have to ask if the ability to do something means that you actually should. We also need to look at the fact that perhaps out innate biological clocks operate the way they do for a reason, and menopause is our body’s way of telling us you’ve passed your time.

The advances that modern science have made are truly astounding but sometimes the greater good needs to outweigh selfish desires when it comes to our health. Becoming a mother is not just about you, it’s about the baby and when you choose to become a mother you have an obligation to make sure that you will be around to raise that child. If that means your age won’t allow you to become a mother in the traditional sense, I think the ultimate form of self-sacrifice is to accept that truth and realize there are other ways to parent that won’t put you or someone else at risk. And for women who know they want to become mothers, they need to build that into their life plan like anything else. At some point, no matter how much science can do, it will be too late.

What do you think about the potential for women to have babies at any age? Do you think at some point women are too old to be mothers?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

More on Madame Noire!

Trending on MadameNoire

View Comments
Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN
  • Luz

    My beautiful mother had me when she was 42, who says women can’t have children in their mild life. I think it’s amazing. Now I am 25 and she passed on.. But I took care of her. That makes me happy.

  • Giselle

    Who cares, we all wait for different reasons or have children early for whatever reason, doesn’t make either decision a bad one. Stop the madness! However, as far as I am concerned my body was created by my Creator so, my life is directed and guided by him and if he wants to bless me late in life with children, he can and will do so. Every body is different.

  • Toya Sharee

    The opinions are so diverse!  My two cents: I don’t think someone should rush and have a baby at whatever age in a race to beat the biological clock, but I do think it’s important for women to evaluate their life choices and how they will play out long-term, especially if they know they want to have children at some point. 

    No one is promised tomorrow and no one is guaranteed to see their grandchildren, if their children even choose to have children, so to sit around and think about circumstantial events that may or may not happen could be more stress than it’s worth.  Children only make achieving certain things more difficult (not impossible, but more difficult) so I have a lot of respect for women who choose to wait and get to a comfortable place in their career (especially in this economy)  as well as waiting to be in a stable relationship.  As far as having children being an ACCOMPLISHMENT, I’m leery of that adjective.  I see too many mothers who feel they deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for something that anything with a vagina and two working ovaries and a uterus could accomplish.  Talk to me when you have an 18 year old who isn’t holding me at gunpoint or leeching off of my tax dollars.  Being a mother is a respectable, be it even honorable position, but the ability to carry a pregnancy? Questionable.

    I have to disagree with Nina, not anyone can be a CEO or own their own business…successfully anyway.  While I respect all that she’s accomplished, she should understand that her situation is not typical and shouldn’t be used as an example of how all women should strive to be mothers in their twenties.  Either way, it’s bad enough the goverment wants to tell women how to treat their reproductive organs, we as women should be the last ones to tell other women what is or isn’t acceptable as far as their choice (or lackthereof) to become a parent.

  • Superb Zen

    Wow!!!!
    Self-righteousness is rampant on this site lol.
    As long as people are raising healthy and happy children who gives a squirt how young or old their parents are???
    Everyone has their own path to greatness and thank God for that cause it’d be a boring universe if otherwise.

    I say this as a 38 year old man with no kids or wife and my hopes high!!!
    Thx for reading.

  • Rastaman

    I am going to suppose that the same people who believe a woman having children is an accomplishment are also impressed by men who say they take support their children.  

    I agree that raising children is probably one of the most important jobs any one can ever do and raising children who grow up to be well adjusted contributing members of society is definitely an accomplishment. 

    But all the folks trying to take a bow for just birthing kids may want to hold off on the self congratulatory pats on the back.   Look around, there is 6 billion other humans on the planet, what you have done is really not as special as want to make it out to be.  Yeah your child may be the next Ghandi, MLK or Einstein but that is probably more a result of nurture than nature. 

  • Rastaman

    I am going to suppose that the same people who believe a woman having children is an accomplishment are also impressed by men who say they take support their children.  

    I agree that raising children is probably one of the most important jobs any one can ever do and raising children who grow up to be well adjusted contributing members of society is definitely an accomplishment. 

    But all the folks trying to take a bow for just birthing kids may want to hold off on the self congratulatory pats on the back.   Look around, there is 6 billion other humans on the planet, what you have done is really not as special as want to make it out to be.  Yeah your child may be the next Ghandi, MLK or Einstein but that is probably more a result of nurture than nature. 

  • sunrisesmile

    As I read through these comments, I realize that the problem is that with women’s liberation, and the desire to ” make our own money”, many of us forgot that children need to be RAISED, not just had. There are women who regard motherhood as an unimportant feat because it doesn’t take as much effort as completing a degree, or running a company. Some people don’t consider completing your education as important as being chosen to bear a child ( that’s right, not everyone is chosen to have children). Part of the reason our society is on the downslide is due to the lack of MOTHERS. Everyone wants to run a company, everyone wants to chase their dreams and aspirations, all the while forgetting that being a mother IS one of life’s greatest achievements. The love that you pour into another person, the values that you instill into another human being will live on long after you have passed away. Your legacy continues. However, a CEO is replaced sometimes while still in office. I am yet to see a headstone that reads ” A Loving CEO”. I learned I was pregnant in my sophmore year in undergrad, and after her birth, I finished my degree part time while I worked full time. I immediately went to graduate school ( part time still), and I am currenlty completing my Doctorate in Educational Leadership. I just turned 35 and my daughter is 15. I will admit, I wanted more kids, but I was determined to be more than a statistic, and I sacrificed a lot of things because of it. I didnt have a lot of time for foolishness, so when relationships began to get shady, they were ended. I didn’t have time to party much ( I completed assignments on the weekends, and any extra time was spent with my daughter). Through it all I have realized, that you CANNOT HAVE IT ALL. There are many lonely, childless CEO’s, and there are many uneducated and overwhelmed mothers. You have to find a middle ground that is suitable for YOU. I know that her birth created a hunger for success unlike before, and now I realize that I NEEDED her. I would be a completely different person had I of not had her. Being a mother taught me how to be compassionate, patient, humble, and most importantly loving. My daughter is truly the best thing that ever happened to me.

  • Happy Mommy!

    While this is an encouraging article for women of all ages who wish to have children, I am the woman shown in the picture.  

    Plesantly surprised to receive a link with my picture (taken almost five years ago),  I would appreciate a small disclaimer underneath my photograph that states, ” The model pictured here did not undergo any of the procedures discussed in this article, as an “older” mom, she did conceive naturally.”

    This picture was used without my knowledge, though I am indeed a woman who delivered my first (and only child)  at 44 years of age. Blessed with a healthy, happy, beatiful son!

     

    • Karma is real

       @ Happy Mommy! U r gorgeous and congrats on having a happy healthy pregnancy/baby. I am 41 and just now thinking about becoming a parent either thru birth/adoption or both, I really needed to hear a positive slant on “older age” mothers who do just fine!

      • HAPPY MOMMY!

        @ Karma Thank you!  I say often “motherhood is the BEST job I’ve ever had!”  My son is absolutely the Light of my universe!

        It is very possible to have a healthy pregnancy after 40 as well as balance family and career aspirations.

        Wishing you many blessings!

    • Papillonsarah

      Congratulations! But honey, pregnancy sure looked good on you. You weren’t looking anything close to 44!

      I’ve heard that for older women who are able to conceive naturally, it’s means they are more likely to live longer. Reason being that their reproductive system is probably aging more slowly, so they may age slower compared to the general population. So older mothers don’t need to worry about living long enough to see their kids grow up and have kids of their own 🙂

      • HAPPY MOMMY!

        Thank you!!! I was blessed with a stress free pregnancy. I’m doing just fine keeping up with my little guy. 
         I  am not at all … as one person wrote “a  little jealous of the {lack of} free time” I find time to take great care of me 😉  “achievements” thankfully I have a host of personal and professional accomplishments;  do enjoy “disposable income” by God’s Grace! And When I die I pray my tombstone reads “loving wife, mother, sister and friend who lived a fullfilled and happy life”!

  • Mreazye17

    Humans are one of the few (maybe only) animals who go through menopause. There’s a reason that women’s bodies weren’t created to procreate forever. They’re biologically wired to be grandmothers, not raising children forever. Read the research on it.

  • Wuluwulu

    Humans discuss the same things century after century never tiring.  I would love to see more ppl becoming adoptive parents and taking some of these children out of the system.   While having a child is wonderful, there is absolutely nothing special about it.  Taking a child you never birthed and loving them as your own is special. 

  • moonrose4me

    You know, its crazy, when I walk around and see the way some of these girls think its cool to be a baby mama. Like having a baby is a accessory or something. I’m in my 30’s and have no children, not because I can’t found the right man or don’t like kids, but because I’m enjoying the way my life is right now. I can do what I want, when I want.
    My mother always told me that if she could re-do her life she would have finished school and had a career before considering having kids instead of just being a stay at home mom. She now is taking classes to be a physical therapist (I’m so proud of her 🙂 

    Now, I’m not saying having kids is not a blessing (I wouldn’t be here lol) just some women choose different paths.

  • Nina Dashotta

    Crazy as fawk!! I’m 28, married with 3 kids, oldest kid will be 12 this year. Wasn’t no way on god’s green earth I would have been in my late 30’s-early 40’s talking bout having a baby…nooooo sir!!! I expect to have my masters by 35. And travel with my husband from then on out. What women who are not in the medical field do not understand that it is a risk to have a baby after a certain age because the eggs begin to die off and your body stops preparing for child bearing and starts preparing for menopause. And who the heck wants to be raising a child and a teen in their 50’s and 60’s?? Not Nina that’s who!!! All great and wonderful that you would want a career, financially stable and the prince charming mate, white picket fenced home but to me sistah, having a baby IS AND WAS AN ACCOMPLISHMENT because anyone can become a CEO, own your own business, there you have it. Anyone can get a PhD, their selling them online for a few thousand but only someone who has inside issues with having children would say its not an accomplishment to be able to bring another life into this world, feel it growing and moving inside of you. How effing insensitive of you to say. Not everyone can have a baby if you believe it or not so umm yeah…it’s an accomplishment, to me and every other woman who wants or has children. The power your body gives out, you must be sterile and mad about it

    • Gina

      Umm you were a teen mom, not exactly something to be proud of. You have children and obviously thought sex was more important than getting an education. That is why you are 28 and you are not finished with school yet. Some people don’t want to wait until they are older to travel and “enjoy life.” Some people want to do it when they are young and vital. Some don’t even want children. The other person is right. Any MF’er can have sex and have a children. Not many people can run a business or be a doctor. Sh*t only 3% of the population have a doctorate! So how can ANYBODY do it? If it is so easy to run a successful business and complete formal school how come you have done neither? I bet you are one of those people that  hate when a person mentions how many degrees, how many places they have traveled, how many homes they have, how much money they make, because you get jealous, huh? Stay in your lane sweetheart.

      • NicciNic

        Some people actually CAN’T have kids. Period. So she is right about that. And as long as you take care of your kids being a teen mom is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a life lesson and one you love unconditionally. It doesn’t mean she thought having sex was more important than having an education. For all you know she could have graduated with honors and made straight A’s all through school. You never know someone’s situation. And no matter when they’ve had them I don’t know a single person who’s not proud of their kids or that they had them.

    • Sistercocoa

      Nina, apparently you are very undereducated.  All of your sentences are structred rather poorly.  Your argument is nonsensical.  A purchased PhD is a piece of paper, not a degree.  You need to go to school and become educated.  Your way of thinking is so 16th century

  • Genevieve

    There is a reason why women produce fewer eggs as they age. Who wants a high risk pregnancy, various health complications and then dealing with relatively young children when you are elligible for  ‘senior perks’ like an AARP card?
     We were not NATURALLY made to give birth after a particular point in our lives, why the **** would you try to change nature?!

     when I reach 50+, there are certain things that I want to worry about. Retirement, enjoying my golden years with my husband, etc. Pre-school, elementary and middle school aged children DO NOT  fall in that category.

    • Nina Dashotta

      And let the church say AMEN!! Being a nurse and working with women like this you can not imagine how many down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, developmentally delayed babies I have helped deliver and take care of from women who were 35+. Lol and our OB was a beast, every time she had an “elderly gravida” (which is a woman giving birth at age 35+) she said she would ask them and I quote “who told you it was cute to be a Grammy mammy” someone old enough to be a grand and mom. I’m not knocking any woman who want that type of life, makes me no matter but they need to understand the risk associated with doing so…in addition, not every woman body is the same. You can be 40 with a metabolism as a 20 and vice versa.

      • Gina

        You are an idiot. Young mothers have children with problems too. No one should inspire to be a grandma at 35. That would mean you were a teen parent which is not something most people want to strive for. How is 35 elderly? What are you planning to die at 60? Stick to being a nurse aide and try to keep your foolishness yourself.

      • Sistercocoa

        Nina, you are lying.  You are not a nurse using such poor language. You might be a CNA, but you are not a nurse.   No OB would ever use that type of unprofessional language without fear of being sued for discrimination.  What hospital do you work at?  I know…none.

        • Gina

          I thought I was the only one who noticed this about “Nina” It is apparent that Nina is a teenage parent (statistic) that tries to justify her poor choices by dimishing significant accomplishment by people who planned their life instead of making life and (babies) happen to them. I hate people like “Nina.” Yeah she is a “nurse” but she is still in school. Still in school with 3 children! Yeah right. What you planning to be a nurse practitioner? Or do you not know what that means? If you were a “nurse” you would be done with school. So save me with that nonsense. And what is it with people lying about being  “nurse” of all things. Are black and Hispanic people’s standards so low? Why not lie about being a scientist or a business owner or a doctor? Or is that too far fetched. 

    • JEM

      This is a rhetorical question, but why do women continue to get their period (sometimes into their 50s) if they weren’t meant to have children past their so-called “prime”? If that’s the case, then our bodies should have been designed to go into menopause at 30 to ensure that we only produce “strong” offspring. I think all the chemicals in our food supply, the destruction of our environment, and gene mutation from the aforementioned lend to all these complications with later in life pregnancy. Back in the day (like 80+ years ago), women had children until they couldn’t have them anymore. And as I said in my other post, this idea of having a biological clock must be a U.S./western concept because from my personal experience, black folks from other countries don’t even think that way. They continue to have children for as long as they can. And I believe it’s easier for them to do so because they DON’T follow the poor western diet and aren’t bombarded by toxins that come with modern conveniences like in the U.S. I’m just speculating, I’m not a medical expert or researcher, I’m just going from what I’ve observed/heard from people I’ve met from African and Caribbean countries. 

      • moonrose4me

        Can the church get a AMEN!

  • JEM

    I tend to think all the fuss about a “biological clock” is an American thang. I’m American, but I have friends with parents from different countries and they aren’t worried about risks and being “too old” to keep up. I have met so many people who are what I like to call “later in life” children. My BF is 32 and his mom is 74. He was the last out of 9 children! She is still healthy and kickin’. My ex was the youngest out of 7 and his mom and dad are in their 70s AND his maternal grandmother is still alive! I had neighbors from Nigeria and the siblings ranged from lil kids to adults (all from the same parents). I am a “later in life” child too, my mom had me when she was 35. When I was a little kid, I never met anyone who had “old parents” like I did. But when I started meeting more people from different backgrounds, I realized that having older parents is common outside of the U.S.- it’s not even an issue. When you want kids is a personal choice- obviously you should listen to any medical advice from your doctor to ensure a healthy pregnancy, but I think if you are up to the task and healthy enough to do it, then that’s all that matters. There are going to be people who try to take it to extremes- having kids at 60 and whatnot, but there’s always those few people who take things to extremes (Octomom, Kate Gosselin, etc). But in general, having kids in your 30s is not much different than in your 20s. My Mom had me in her mid 30s, had my brother in her early 20s, and the quality of upbringing was the same. Ironically, my brother was the one who was born premature! My mom’s pregnancy with me was normal.

  • Jojoaustin2002

    I don’t know why this occurred to me but if these people have children who do the same thing, wait until their 40s they will probably never see their grandchildren!!!!!

    • Gina

      SO? What is your point?

  • LALATAREA

    Why is it that when a woman delays or decides she doesnt want to have children she is selfish?
    I’ll prolly get s**tt for this but really getting pregnant and having a child ISNT a great accomplishment!
    Being the CEO of a company, getting a PhD, curing cancer etc that is an ACCOMPLISHMENT! What is so wrong with a woman wanting to be more than a mother? I feel that the women who call it selfish are deep down a little jealous of the free time, achievements, disposable income and all the perks that come with NOT being tied down with children. Personally, when i die i dont want my tombstone to just read “loving wife and mother”, i want more than that.

    • Sophia

       The way I respect and love this comment is surreal love it xx

    • Maia

      ***Cyber high five, lol***

      I have been saying the same thing for years!!! 

    • moonrose4me

      I know thats right, girl!

    • tastythoughts

      slow clap…your right

      • Lafia

        I absolutely agree with you, you can be more than a mother. My mom’s A Doctor. She raised six children who are all out of college: We are A Detective, an air force captain, a Pediatrician, an ER nurse, an engineer and me-the youngest 26- an IT technician. She’s 57. 

        She’s more than a mother, she’s a doctor, a west african dancer, a wife, a sister, a boss etc…. but to hear her speak of her life…well I do believe she takes great pride in how she raised us. Getting pregnant and having a child ISN’T an accomplishment, but raising children you can be proud of is, being a MOTHER, is an accomplishment. imho.

    • Alessio Pinna

      Yeeep…. the point is, without the “loving mother” part no one will care on what is written on your tombstone. Maybe some of your friends will…. for the ocuple years they’ll survive you 😛

    • Alison

      Trust me, I’m not jealous of the free time that comes with regretting not starting a family when I had the chance. Not everyone thinks being a CEO is some accomplishment. Personally, I would be honored to have my tombstone read “loving wife and mother.” Disposable income, free time—who cares. I’d rather be broke and surrounded by a loving family than living in a huge house with a fancy car and nobody there with me.

  • Guest

    i think ths is brilliant! as someone who is just now at 31 looking to enter into law school and has not yet mr. right,i see this as a new lease on life! i never wanted to have children out of wedlock nor did i wish to be a single parent,so i dont have children.this research is brilliant and is a wonderful thing.

  • Guest

    “All things are lawful for me but not all things are expedient.” Preach Paul. ”
    the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”King James Bible your boy Paul again. 1 Cor 1:25 There’s a reason He gave us a clock. He did bless Abraham(Father of nations) and Sarah(princess, Isaac(laughter) and Rebekah, Zacharias(Yahweh remembers) and Elizabeth(God is my oath). I had fainted unless I believe to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living Ps 27:14. Hold to his promise. Trust and believe. Ask for his will. It seems to me there is more than one answer. A lot of young people have babies but Big Mamma raising them. 

    • Guest

      ..what?

  • Quest

    Whatever, i’m praying to have all my kids before 35. Funny how these researchers don’t mention high risk pregnancies, congenital problems or how about the fact that you’ll be close to retirement and your child is starting high school…not worth the snooze button..too risky. After a certain age i want to go back to enjoy being an empty nester and retire happy. I’m hoping all my kids are adults by 50, so that i can kick them out. 

    • SayCheese

      @f2ec79a7b2d0c2b2319d8e6b7be20533:disqus Exactly. I hate seeing a news story with a woman who is 70 giving birth. By the time that child turns 5 she will be dead. Who wants to start a family at 40. 40 is supposed to be the time someone is preparing for retirement and trying to save money for a beach house with the kids starting college or finishing high school. Not the time to start a family. 

      • LALATAREA

         You do realize fora woman to be 40 with children starting college or finishing high school she would have had to given birth in her early twenties at the latest. how many 22-23 yr olds do you know when enough stability, income etc to start famalies at that age? just saying.

        • Nina Dashotta

          Ummm me!!! Come on sistah expand your geographic horizons. I worked at old navy at 17, BEGGED for that job so my mother wouldnt bear the burden of being momma and grandma. Graduated HS with honors and went off to the local community college for nursing. Oh and this was only at 18 at this point. I then moved into my own place at 21 and been holding it down on my own ever since. Now granted I am most certainly the exception and not the rule because it does tick me off to no point seeing these 20 something parenting the way they do. But whether you want to believe it or not, there are so youngins that have it together better than the older ones. I had a friend I met at the insurance company I was working for, 39 had been married and had two kids the same age as mine. She couldn’t keep a place to stay and her car kept being repossessed. She brought in more money than me. Two SSI and her paycheck. I said that to say this: don’t discredit what a 20 something can do cause you feel you have more experience being 30+ yrs old

          • sweettea

            People are really quick to talk bad about young mothers. I started having children at 22. I already was married and had a degree in nursing yet we were constantly criticised for.wanting babies so young. I was in a hurry to have a family and that was my goal by the time I graduated high school. Every woman has the right to decide when having children is right for her even if the timing isn’t ideal by other peoples standards

          • Lalatarea

            sweetie I’m actually the same age as you. and if you got the 50 grand plus a year to properly support a child than congrats that’s great!