State of Wonder, Gifts, My New Unpaid Career

Here’s a little piece of advice: if you are a stay-at-home mom whose children are in school, and you are worried about how to spend your time, try signing up for numerous volunteer commitments, each of which isn’t too time consuming on its own, but when added together fill all your days with unpaid busyness.  I’m finding my days are just flying by.  Who knew?  It’s also been incredibly warm – hot even – and beautiful here, and so I’m completely stunned that October is in TWO DAYS, and also, did I move someplace with a good climate without knowing it?

I’m not complaining though – my life is pretty fun and flexible and despite the fact that I’m writing an advice column for our community newsletter – I kid you not, I have advice to give – I still managed to have coffee with two good friends this week and I finished reading “State of Wonder“, which I recommend highly.  Mostly I want to talk about it to someone.  It’s a fascinating book that brings up the question “How old is too old to have children”?  In the book, a doctor is studying a tribe in the Amazon, the women of which continue to give birth until they die, the average life span being around 70.  The thought of having a baby’s head coming out of a 70 year old vagina is kind of squeamy, to me, although I guess the pregnancy hormones would make for some luscious old-lady hair.  But seriously, how old is too old?  I don’t have any answers; although a girlfriend and I have discussed this, relative to our older husbands.  Since men don’t really have a biological clock, not really, is there a point where they are “too old” to have children?  Way back in my long-ago youth, I was a candy striper at an old age facility, and I can’t really imagine any of those people in an expectant parent state, but at what point do we get there?  Discuss.

I had an interesting conversation with regards to gifts and spouses.  I’m finding it’s not uncommon for spouses to not give gifts to each other at birthdays, Christmas, etc.  My husband and I do give each other gifts, although the gifts are generally not surprises.  Mostly I like to state my preferences for certain items, and am sure to let him know what size I wear.  His birthday is coming up, and although almost every single year I give him golf balls and a golf shirt, this year is going to be different!  It won’t be surprising to him though.  I suppose we could skip the whole gift wrap and opening steps, since we both tend to be specific on the things that we like, but what would be the fun in that? 

So here are our discussion topics for the day: a) how old were you when you had children, and how old is “too old” to have children, and b) do you and your spouse give each other gifts, and if so, are they ever a surprise? 


  1. Well.

    I was 27 when my first was born; I’ll be almost 34 when this last one arrives, meaning that when he or she graduates from high school I’ll be 52. Young enough to enjoy life *after* kids!

    It’s not an easy question, how old is ‘too old’. For me, I think the health of both mom & baby need to be taken into account… and thinking ahead, too. Those stories I hear about women having babies in their 60s just because medical science makes it possible… I have a huge problem with that. To me, it seems awfully selfish.

    And I think the same goes for men, too. Just because they can father children, in theory, until they die, doesn’t mean they should. Being a fun, energetic parent (and eventually, a loving and involved grandparent!) I think is pretty important.

    Mind you, my mom was young when she had me (not quite 20) so maybe I’m biased. I do know that the kids love her & her boundless enthusiasm & stamina fiercely (and had a harder time with FIL, who didn’t have children until he was 36 and as such seemed like a Very Old Man to them).

  2. Paul and I give each other presents. My family does wish lists, so a lot of times what we do is buy up the things on each other’s lists that no one else bought. But we also do some “I thought you’d like this” things.

  3. I had my kids at 28 and 30. I wouldn’t want babies at age 70. For one thing, at that age it would be MUCH harder to get back in my skinny jeans. I’m less squeamish about 70 year old vaginas than I am by what my breasts would look like after 55 plus years of child bearing and feeding. They’d be down by ankles.

    As to gift-giving, we change from year to year. Sometimes it’s a surprise, sometimes we coordinate and justify a big purchase (ie chesterfield) as a joint present. But my husband frequently surprises me with really grand flower arrangements for no reason. I love that!

  4. I had my kids when I was 21 and 27. I don’t know how old is too old but at a point it can cause harm to the baby for a woman to have a child.

    My husband and I don’t usually do gifts for each other. It’s always been this way.

  5. I listened to an article by that author on NPR this summer, it sounds like an interesting book.

    I believe the plot is that there’s a tea the women drink in the fictional tribe that keeps them fertile forever & the doctor is trying to research it to import it to Western markets? I was very interested in the fact that the author had a history as a pharmaceutical rep. A POV we don’t hear about in fiction often.

    I had my kids at 17 & 21. Many of my friends are having babies right now & my biologic clock & I are having a war. I suspect that I’ll be fighting that war for a long time, since our baby days are so long behind us.

    We give gifts. At Christmas, we do a large joint gift (TV last year, etc) & then small gifts. My birthday is 8 days after my husband’s & he always manages to show up whatever gifts I give him. Not maliciously or anything, I just think he’s a better gift giver than I am. & he also completely disregards my “It’s too spendy!” cries, where as I know he wouldn’t enjoy a gift from me if he knew it had gone onto our credit card.

    I really enjoyed that chat with you & Marilyn, it’s interesting to see how different couples interact with each other.

  6. I had my kids when I was 19 and 26. I haven’t had a baby urge since. I’m done. Was done. Have been done done ever since. My brother in law and his wife are expecting their 1st in January and they are 40. Just timing of life. They don’t think they’re too old. I don’t either. It’s just different. I’ll be watching my last highschool graduation at 44 and they’ll be waiting for the first day.

    My husband and I give birthday gifts and Christmas gifts but not anniversary gifts. Many actually. Some are surprises, others not. We try to surprise each other but it’s hard.

  7. I was 32, 33, and 36 when I had my kids. Although I don’t regret waiting – my husband and I were married for seven years, and had been together 13 years, before we had a kid – I often wish I had more energy now. I can’t imagine having a baby past 40 – the energy required just to make it through the pregnancy is no longer available.

    My daughter and I were just reading the Guiness Book Of Records this evening and the oldest woman to have a baby is a 70-year-old in India. She looked very happy in the picture (it was her first child). I heard a CBC feature a year or so ago on the oldest Canadian woman to have a baby – she was 64, I think. She said that she had so much family around to help care for the child that she was not concerned in the least about the energy required, or what might happen to the baby if she passed away.

    I have some friends who have had to go through fertility treatments to have a baby and they feel very, very strongly that anyone who wants to have a baby, at any age, no matter what their physical circumstance, deserves access to fertility treatment. Having never been in that position I wouldn’t want to judge but I will say that I personally do not think I could survive a pregnancy post menopause, and I don’t think I would be a very good mom.

    (Hell, I’m often not a very good mom at age 40.)

    MAN, do you mind much if I write a novel in your comments section? Is there a character limit in Blogger?

    I’ll just wrap up by saying that my husband and I “help the children shop” for birthdays and Christmas and so sort of de facto end up getting each other three gifts each. But officially speaking there’s no gift from each other.

  8. The how old is too old question floods my mind with contradictory responses. No one is guaranteed a long life, no matter how young they are, then again if you’re already 60 mathematics aren’t on your side. My Mom has been every bit as energetic a grandparent as my significantly younger MIL. Pregnancy almost killed me at 30 and even though I’ve never stopped wanting a third I shudder to think what it would do to me now.

    My husband is usually a better gift-giver than I am. We’re hit or miss on pretty much every occasion, unless something really good presents itself. You’d have to pry my gorgeous indigo stand mixer out of my cold dead hands, even though I thought it was way too expensive when he gave it to me.

  9. I can’t say how old is too old. LOL I had my babies at 23, 25, 27 and 29, with my personal goal to have 4 before I was 30. I wish I could have more, and I would if I could. I would keep going until my body was done. Well, actually, I guess I already did that.

    Gifts – My hubby and I do not give each other gifts. Just after we were married I told my hubby that if he ever wanted to buy me flowers to get me fast food instead. So far, so good! 😀

    We DO fill each other’s stockings at Christmas. That’s it.

  10. Well I hope to be well enough to crap another one out someday and if that means I’m old…like 40 than so be it…but to have one after that benchmark? I don’t know. It is kind of selfish to be having a child at 70 don’t you think? I mean, one foot in the grave already and then when the kid is 10 you’re 80…doesn’t make sense.

  11. I was 28 when I had my first and 32 for my second. I think I was on the old side for my second. I wouldn’t have wanted to be much older. I want to enjoy an empty nest while I am young enough to enjoy it.

    As for gifts, we don’t do gifts for really anything. We always exchange cards. At Christmas we fill each other’s stockings and may exchange a few small things, sometimes a surprise, sometimes not. I think when our kids our older we will do more for each other at Christmas. As for birthdays and anniversary, my husband’s birthday is 10/1, mine is 10/4 and our anniversary is 10/23. We try to go out for a special date in october to celebrate.

  12. My maternal grandparents had 7 kids and then my grandma died in her 50s. My grandpa remarried a widow who had had 8 kids. A few years ago my mom told me that my grandpa and step-grandma had considered having a baby of their own–she had a very late menopause and was still fertile when they married. It was weird to me to realize I could have had a half-aunt younger than me. My mom thinks my step-grandma feels a little sad they didn’t. She and my grandpa were married for 25 years before he died, so a child would have made it to adulthood with both parents there–although my grandpa was pretty feeble for the last few years of his life.

    I think it’s wise for women who do want children to have them when they’re young if they can, because fertility and the likelihood for a healthy baby both decrease significantly with age. But I’m cheered when I hear of women in their 40s and beyond having successful pregnancies, because I’m 40 and I’d still love to have one more baby. (I had my 5 kids from age 26 to 37.) Actually I’d love to have 2 more babies, but that’s very unlikely, especially since each subsequent pregnancy seems to wreak further havoc on my somewhat fragile health.

    Oh, gifts: These days I often ask for the gift of my husband’s time, like having him take the kids for a day.

  13. You already know the state of the gift giving in my house.

    As for the baby thing…hmmm. I was 31 and 33 when I had my kids. However if it had gone according to plan it would have been 25 and 27. The whole infertility thing was a bit of a surprise that delayed things. My biggest concern with women (or men) having kids when they’re 65 and up is that they’re sure to leave orphaned children and that seems selfish to me. Like those women that had IVF when they were in their 60s.

  14. I think that it’s not fair to have a baby when you’re almost certainly not going to be around to parent him or her to eighteen years old at least.

    My husband and I sometimes exchange birthday gifts, and sometimes don’t. The relevant factor is whether one of us really wants something at that particular moment…

  15. Hubs and I think about how old we’ll be when a child would graduate from high school. We want to be around into some of their adulthood, too. So we draw that line a little earlier.

    We sometimes do presents- it just depends on what else is going on then. Some surprises, some not.

  16. a) how old were you when you had children, and how old is “too old” to have children?
    I was 29 when I had Ivan. We are only having one child, by choice. I find this (fact of choosing to have one child) to be very controversial. I think a couple should think about who is going to be there for the child in their adult years. I would have loved to have my mom around for my wedding or when I had a baby.
    b) do you and your spouse give each other gifts, and if so, are they ever a surprise?
    We give each other gifts. It is always a surprise for him. I am hard to surprise.

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