Last-Chance Babies

The number of children born to mothers 40 and older nearly doubled between 1990 and 2008. We talk to a few of these women who, at midlife, welcomed the child they thought they'd never have.
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Kathleen Hayes

Kathleen Hayes, 43

Chicago, Illinois

Gave birth to Henry at 42

"All I ever wanted to be was a mommy," says Kathleen. "I envisioned the white-picket-fence life with a husband and baby." But as she reached her mid-30s, Mr. Right hadn't shown up. A few friends suggested she use a sperm donor. At the time Kathleen couldn't imagine going that route. "I thought it would be odd to have a baby with a stranger," she remembers, "and on a teacher's salary, I figured I couldn't afford it."

When she turned 39, however, her thoughts shifted. Maybe she could do "baby first, husband later." By her 40th birthday Kathleen had started looking at sperm banks, checking out donors' baby pictures and listening to audio interviews, searching for a man who sounded happy and kind. She also wanted "open identity," meaning someone who had agreed to be contacted by her child once he or she turned 18. "I knew my child would want to know more."

Once she had picked the donor, Kathleen was shocked by how much trouble she had getting pregnant. "Even when your fertility numbers look good it can take a while when you're over 40," she says. She tried unsuccessfully for more than a year, including two failed in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles. The chromosomal abnormalities present in most older eggs were probably the reason she wasn't getting pregnant, her doctor explained. So when Kathleen read about a new procedure that checks for abnormalities before the embryos are transferred to the uterus, she decided to try it. She got pregnant on her next IVF and gave birth to her son, Henry, last year.

Henry suffered from reflux, so at first Kathleen struggled with sleep deprivation. "There were moments when I asked myself, 'Was I really thinking I could do this alone?'" But she found support online through Single Mothers by Choice -- and Henry turned a corner once he passed the six-month mark. "He's so much fun," Kathleen says. "There are many moments when I look at him and just well up with tears of joy. Sure, I'd still love to find Mr. Right, but I'm so glad I made this choice."

Continued on page 2:  Dez Stephens


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