We’ve been discussing parenthood in our later years. I’m 42 and my husband is 52. We love babies, and these are only my thoughts because I wanted to arrive at a decision. Our culture seems to frown on being an older parent, but why?
Pregnancy is natural.
My body is made to bear children and there is a natural beginning and end to a woman’s reproductive years. This natural beginning and end do not always coincide with what society accepts as the beginning and end to reproduction. A 15 year old young woman seems to us to be too young to bear children, but why is that? It’s because she is not likely to be married, mature and stable enough to raise the child in an intact home with the father. That is a good reason not to become a parent. Being open to life at 15 means that you are planning for your future family by learning about yourself and your interests, talents and passions. You are planning to be a parent long before you actually become one. Being open to life at 40 can be a very different prospect.
Chances of miscarriage are higher.
Do parents have an obligation to abstain during fertile periods because the chances of miscarriage are higher? While it is perfectly natural and reasonable to want to abstain for that reason (miscarriage is heart-breaking) it also is not immoral not to abstain. Biomedical research now estimates that perhaps less than 30% of conceived humans survive until birth (even not counting induced abortions) so that risk is always there in any pregnancy. A miscarriage is not killing; it is a natural death. Even for all the sadness of the loss of a little life, the question is really, in my mind, about whether I can handle the loss again. To think about that, I have had to confront my feelings on two previous miscarriages.
Parenthood is everlasting.
I loved those children even though I never held them and I realized that the gift of a child is everlasting. St. Thomas Aquinas states in “On Being and Essence” that a human soul does not exist individually until the body exists. The existence is “received” from God. He also said that a soul depends on the body “as regards its beginning, but not as regards its termination.” Our bodies die but our souls do not die, and a parent remains a parent eternally. That is the nature of being a parent.
The Holy Trinity teaches us this too. God the Father generates the Son eternally and the Son is eternally begotten. Their Love that is the Holy Spirit is also eternally breathed forth. There was never a time when the Father did not give Himself completely to the Son and the Father and the Son together did not spirate in love the Holy Spirit. The three divine Persons of the Blessed Trinity are co-equal and co-eternal.
“And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.” (Athanasian Creed)
Further, Mary never stopped being the Mother of God. It seems to me that the revelation of the Trinity can help parents to cope with miscarriage or the loss of a child of any age in a very meaningful way as something that is an eternal abundance rather than completely a temporal loss.
There are legitimate concerns for the older parent
This is, I think, the subjective part of the question of not just motherhood, but also fatherhood, after 40. If parents have constructed a family based on the solid teaching of the Sacraments, then what is the harm in additional children later in life? There certainly may be legitimate financial concerns. Children do cost money. But what if you can afford more children? What does that mean?
We are blessed to live in a place where my husband can provide adequately for us and I wonder if I have an obligation to use that blessing to bring forth new life rather than spend money on other pleasures. After years of being confused by the me-focused, anti-life message of our modern culture, I realize that a child is the greatest gift of all. For us, every child that has been born has provided motivation to simplify our lives and to depend less on material things for happiness and more on each other.
This last child was a very special blessing because our other children were old enough to appreciate the gift of life throughout the pregnancy too. When the day comes that they learn about abortion and birth control, they will have direct experience that has already taught them naturally why those things are horrendous. I’m sad they even have to ever know about those things.
This new child has added vibrancy to our family, especially for the parents. If my husband and I die before the child is very old, we know he has brothers and sisters to care for him too. And they will. No secular sex-ed class could ever be more comprehensive than this experience was for them. Instead of learning about body parts and condoms, they’ve learned about the real meaning of marriage, family and commitment.
Regarding my own health, that’s probably the only real concern I have but I leave that in God’s hands. If I’m really open to life, then I have decided that I must stick with that idea to the end. This isn’t a lecture to anyone else because health concerns are certainly valid concerns. These are simply the thoughts of a redeemed and once broken woman who has been lifted by the richness of the Church and the grace and glory of Christ. I’ve had a lot of sorrow in my past and I like the idea of being open to life after 40. So what are my tautologous thoughts?
“If I can still have children, then I can still have children.”
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