• Thu, Apr 22 2010

CNN Wonders (Accidentally Aloud): Is It “Scary” When Mature Ladies Have Kids?

You know what you never hear about? The challenges women face as they age. You just don’t hear it discussed.

So thank goodness CNN is finally shining some light on the subject! And not just the subject of women getting older, but of women having babies as they get older. In this magnificently insultingly-titled article, “How scary is having a baby when you’re over 40?” the writers profile Lee Robinson, a 44-year-old woman who became pregnant by accident, and then panicked that she would face some health challenges because of her age.

Fortunately, CNN was there to step in and provide a summary of why not just Robinson, but any woman over the age of 40 should be “scared” about getting pregnant.

And from a health point of view, the concerns are completely legitimate — a greater risk for preeclampsia, down syndrome and chromosomal disorders, to name a few. But the thing is, I’m pretty sure that we ladies do a good enough job of worrying about getting older and the physical changes our bodies go through as we age without CNN chiming in. For God’s sake, the woman that they profiled was damn near panic attacks every day of her pregnancy. The article even goes so far as to re-print a Facebook status:

“[Lee] is battling negative thinking,” she wrote. “Please keep peppering her with ‘healthy, normal babies born to 40-something mothers’ stories because she really needs to hear/read them repeatedly right now.”

Which leads me to my question: if they know that wome facing this dilemma don’t want to read articles like the one they wrote, what purpose does the article serve? If it’s not to provide information that readers don’t already have, then why write it? To encourage women to have babies before they’re ready because otherwise it’s “scary”? (To say nothing of the infantile language…really, CNN? You couldn’t do better than “scary”?) To terrify young women who haven’t yet had kids as well as older women who are considering having kids? To give us yet another reason to fear getting older — because the constant messages about losing our youth and looks, and becoming obsolete in society and in the workforce, just weren’t enough? Or just so you can write an eye-catching headline?

In an unfortunate turn of events for CNN, all turned out well for their subject: “Last week, Robinson gave birth to a healthy boy named Price.” And, they add, “now she and her husband are thinking about having another child, even though she’s 44 years old.”

Oh, is she in her 40′s? You hadn’t mentioned that.

At the end of the article, the authors throw the women reading it a bone by tacking on a section about “the advantages of being an older mom.” Well, here’s one they left out — as an “older” mom, you’ve probably planned for this baby. And that probably means that you’re well aware of the risks you may incur by getting pregnant, and so you likely don’t need to be condescended to by a major media outlet.

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  • Lee Robinson

    Just ran across this online and had to respond…while I did have a few occasions during the course of my pregnancy that I was down or concerned about what might go wrong, I honestly was much more upbeat and optimistic than I came across in the article. There wasn’t anything inaccurate in what they wrote…it just sounds as if the bad moments that they describe characterized the entire nine months or so. In fact, my perspective is that even though the risks are higher at this age, the odds of a 40-something woman having a perfectly healthy baby are still greater than the odds of there being a problem. If I were to become pregnant now, at age 45, the risk of Down Syndrome are 1 in 30…definitely higher than the 1 in 1250 that they would have been 20 years ago, but that still means a 27 in 30 chance that the baby would NOT have it. A 90% chance of a good outcome? That sounds pretty positive to me. And for the record, my son was clear of markers around the beginning of my second trimester, so any worrying was pretty well done by then, anyway.

    Somehow, seeing myself described as having a panic attack every day was a nit horrifying (although I certainly understand how one might think so after reading the article), and that really wasn’t the case at all.

  • Lee Robinson

    Make that a *bit* horrifying!