Jewish World Review June 26, 2000/23 Sivan, 5760
Every revolution has its unintended consequences, and for many women a poignant consequence of the feminist revolution is the delay of motherhood. Many women pursuing a career before creating a family make the transition with ease. Many don't.
Who among us doesn't know a woman in her 30s desperate for a child and panicked that she may never have one? Making a baby takes time, and time runs out swiftly. Infertility is usually resistant to easy and proper diagnosis.
Fertility clinics are crowded with 35-ish women who have found that when they finally decide to create a family it just won't happen. The statistics suggest that women at 30 usually have no more problems than younger women in giving birth to healthy babies, but sometimes they do. For these women, the anxiety is stark, cruel and difficult. The cruelest anomaly is that even as time passes quickly, the clock can tick slowly.
Public health officials have discovered another alarming phenomenon. In Massachusetts, where over-30 mothers exceed under-30 mothers, there's a slight increase in the number of cases of babies born with low birth weight. Low birth-weight babies are often premature, and the largest numbers of low birth-weight babies are born to young minority mothers in the inner city, who suffer from poor nutritional habits and a lack of health care.
Now doctors are finding an increase in the number of such babies born to affluent white women. The reasons, according to medical analysts who talked to the New York Times, is that older women have more difficulty getting pregnant and often seek high-tech artificial methods, which often lead to multiple births and premature babies.
A miscarriage can be devastating. After suffering several, the gorgeous Sharon Stone, 42, and her husband Phil Bronstein adopted a baby in Texas. Adoption is an alternative except that it's increasingly more difficult, especially for couples who want a healthy white baby born in the United States. With the stigma of unwed motherhood greatly diminished, most teenage mothers are keeping their babies.
Waiting lists for adoptions are crowded with more than a hundred thousand names, and years can pass before a couple gets a baby. Foreign babies are easier to obtain, but this often requires expensive and lengthy stays in a difficult country and repeated depressing visits to poorly equipped orphanages. Finding a newborn infant for adoption is rare. None of these obstacles are insurmountable and most couples who want a baby will eventually get one, whether by birth or adoption.
But sad indeed is the fact that most women are still caught unaware that age can make a difficult difference. This is not a subject for discussion in women's studies classes. The emphasis there is about the many ways children interfere with careers.
Nor do women's magazines bristle with articles about the pleasures of being a young and energetic mother. The bonus of being a young grandmother is absent from women's discussions as well. Few of us bother to think that far ahead, but the cultural zeitgeist deprives young women of growing up with any appreciation for such pleasures. Most magazine articles about young mothers dwell on the problems of the poor, unwed and uneducated girl who gets pregnant by mistake and who must decide whether to abort or give birth.
When did we last read a positive portrait of a woman in her twenties who wants to have a family before a career? I talk to lots of women on college campuses who crave discussions of the joys of being a young parent. Few women get such an option. Men usually don't want to be young fathers.
Many new parents in their 40s, who say they blindly followed their careers without a thought of the wonder of parenthood, can't believe the joy they almost missed when a child finally arrives.
For many couples, waiting for maturity before starting a family is the right thing to do. But the choice
should be made with an informed awareness and understanding for the likely consequences of that
choice. You could ask any woman who comes late to the joys of
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