We brought our daughter home from China when she was 5.5 years old. I call her the "best birthday gift ever" because we landed home on what was my 53rd birthday. I am now 65 -- the same age as a German woman who was artificially inseminated using both donated sperm and eggs and is now expecting quadruplets -- an event she is sharing publicly via a German TV channel.
For the past dozen years, I have stared down anyone who dared suggest that I was too old to parent. My husband and I went into adoption with our eyes wide open. We were emotionally, mentally, physically and financially ready to bring two children into our lives. We are fit, active, engaged parents who keep a mindful eye on our health. We have devoted our lives fully to our children who are the lights of our lives. Of course our ages have been a factor in our parenting, just the same as having younger parents would impact the child's experience. I'm thrilled to report that my kids are thriving and I'm happy to discuss why older parents can be perfectly wonderful parents to have.
The German woman, though? Yeah, she gives me pause. Never being too old to love a child isn't the same as never being too old to parent one. Parenting requires energy levels and good health. Love just requires an open heart.
Annegret Raunigk is getting worldwide attention for her decision to have more biological children. She has 13 other kids -- the oldest is 44 -- by five different fathers. It was her 13th child, a little girl she gave birth to with the help of medical science -- another event that grabbed headlines -- that inspired her to go for more, she told the German newspaper, Bild: Her 9-year-old daughter wants a younger sibling.
Certainly by comparison, my own late-motherhood story is tepid. I adopted children who needed a family; I didn't attempt to conceive my own. Yet, in my head, reading about Raunigk I am channeling all the criticisms lobbed my way over the years, all those comments suggesting that I was too old to parent. I also am hearing my replies to the naysayers:
"Sure I'm the oldest mommy in the class, but doesn't someone have to be?" That was me diffusing the situation instead of punching out someone's headlights.
"I'm in good shape, come from a long line of long-lifers, and besides, anybody can step off a curb at any age and be mowed down and snuffed out -- just like that." That was me nicely saying "life is random and how do you know your time won't be up before mine, especially as you continue to annoy me and stand dangerously close to that curb?"
"Life doesn't come with guarantees. It's more a game of rolling the dice and, statistically speaking, you throw deuces just as often as the next guy." To be totally candid, I don't even know what that means although I know I've said it a bunch of times.
Raunigk, a Berlin native, is undoubtedly getting an earful. She's been called selfish; she's been called old. There have been calls for her doctor to lose his medical license. Commenters have roundly shredded her for caving into her daughter's request for a younger sibling -- if that's truly her motivation. "It's part of the entitled generation," said Bonnie Schmidt in a MSN.com comment.
And of course there is the "made for TV" aspect of this that gives people the heebie-jeebies. Who in their right mind would subject themselves to such scrutiny if not for boatloads of money? Is that what Raunigk is doing? Will there be a book? Magazine covers showing her 65-year-old naked pregnant belly? Appearances on reality TV shows? Will it all be done for money? For public entertainment?
The Russian and English teacher's pregnancy comes after multiple attempts abroad at artificial insemination over the last 18 months, according to the private TV channel in Germany -- the one that is covering the pregnancy. The RTL broadcaster said it would air an interview with the expectant mother and plans to track her pregnancy and birth.
The risks of complication in older women giving birth are great -- both to themselves and to the babies. What are the odds that something will go wrong? Will Raunigk's doctor insist that she terminate one or more of the babies? The drama will be tangible and played out on a global stage with cliffhangers in the same league as "Who shot JR?"
But at the end of the day, there's really nothing to look at here, folks, so we'd all just best move on. Everyone thinks they have a right to pass judgement on her, that their opinion of what she chooses to do matters. Here's a news flash: They don't. You may not like it, but it's none of your business -- no matter how Octomom-ish this feels.
As for those of us who are older moms, you can leave us alone too. Not everybody is ready to parent at 25 or 30. Not everybody should even be a parent -- or wants to. And then there are those of us who wanted to create and grow our families by whatever options we had available. You may check your two-cents at the door.