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Jewish World Review June 26, 2000/23 Sivan, 5760

Suzanne Fields

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Consumer Reports

Waiting too long for the baby -- NOT EVERY WOMAN wants to be a mother, but when she does, and nature says no, that's sad indeed. I cried every day for more than a year waiting for my first daughter to tell me she was on her way.

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 motherhood.


06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink

©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate