Because that seems to be the point.
This isn’t a real pregnant 70-year-old, though. She’s a British TV host, Kate Garraway, who is 46 and warning young women through the First Response Early Result Pregnancy campaign to MAKE BABIES NOW. Like, right now. Garraway got involved in the campaign because she had her two children at ages 38 and 42 and now is unable to have more. So to scare women about the terrors of old mommies, Garraway got done up in prosthetics to look like a 70-year-old who is heavily pregnant.
Except … no.
As quoted by the Telegraph, Garraway warns that the “fertility door is slamming shut.”
“I do look back now and realise that leaving pregnancy late can be a risky bet as diminishing fertility can stack the odds against you. In some ways I wish I’d had my babies younger. Now I would love a third child but I’ve almost certainly left it too late. My fertility door is slamming shut, I want to alert women to start thinking about their fertility at a younger age than my generation did.”
Do people really think that women are not aware of the perils of “waiting too long,” so to speak? Everyone is aware of it: us, the men we date, our grandparents, our parents, presumably our bosses. Whether to focus on our education and careers first or have children more immediately is planted in the mind, if not in the forefront, of all women who think they want to have babies someday. (FWIW, I have an early thirtysomething girl friend who already has her eggs on already. And Amelia has been talking about having a baby as a single mom for at least a year now.) There’s a little matter of finances, too. I personally believe in planning parenthood, so it’s something I want to do when a hypothetical partner and I can support a family. While I can understand First Response and Kate Garraway’s big sisterly advice to not wait around forever, it’s a bit patronizing to suggest we’re just letting it lapse as we would a tooth cleaning.
The real problem here is not women dillydallying, though. The real problem is the structural changes that need to be made to support families and women’s continually growing role in the workplace. Society doesn’t want to make it more flexible for families to have kids and continue on with their careers apace. If that was the case, we would have paid parental leave — so moms or dads can stay home with young children. Heck, America is one of four countries in the world without paid maternal leave. Clearly, as a whole, the country is not serious about making it happen.
Instead, women are subject to a barrage of scare tactics that have us convinced us we’re always doing it wrong. It’s downright obnoxious that society sends women so many conflicting messages about how best to live our lives — lean in and be a success in your career, but have babies when you are younger so your eggs don’t dry up! It’s a bind and there’s no way to win. As The Frisky’s Mirror, Mirror columnist Kate Fridkis wrote in a recent essay on Slate.com (in which she describes getting pregnant at age 26 in New York City):
My friends were career-oriented and driven, and for all of us, being a young woman was about proving ourselves in a competitive world. Sheryl Sandberg and Hillary Clinton were urging us forward, reminding us of our endless potential. And it was clear that having a baby before fully establishing yourself professionally was exactly the same as giving up on your potential. Having a baby was the kind of thing that my friends’ less ambitious sisters sometimes did, much to everyone’s long-distance concern.
To be clear, as a single woman who’s happily not responsible for anyone else’s life right now, I don’t have a dog in this particular fertility/age fight. What’s more is that my mom got knocked up with me — accidentally, as my father loves to tell people! — when she was 39. Two of my sisters both got pregnant at 38. We are apparently a family of Fertile Myrtles toddling towards the old age home. And on that note, I’m bothered by the aspect of the First Response campaign that claims Garraway’s septugenarian makeover sought to prompt ”shock and provoke debate about ‘how old is too old’ to have a baby.” But of course it’s not really 70-year-olds who are getting pregnant; it’s women in their late-30s and early-40s. It’s really no one else’s business how close to their deathbed new parents are other than their own families.
To me, this whole campaign seems misguided, if not slightly cruel.
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