In case you had forgotten or had somehow become convinced that sex differences are not real, Mick Jagger is here to refresh our sense of reality. The aging rock star just fathered his eighth child at age seventy-three. The mother to his latest progeny, ballerina Melanie Hamrick, is twenty-nine. Jagger is a great-grandfather. This is Hamrick’s first child.
Believe it or not, there is another male celebrity who has outpaced Jagger. Mel Gibson is expecting his ninth child with an even younger woman; his girlfriend is twenty-six, younger than some of Gibson’s own children.
Like it or not, Jagger and Gibson are creepy reminders that men can sire children into their old age, whereas women are designed to have babies in their twenties and thirties.
But that hasn’t stopped society from duping women into thinking we can procreate like men.
For starters, there is the multi-billion-dollar fertility industry, whose offerings now include egg harvesting and freezing for young women who want to put off having children until they “feel” ready. Forbes recently profiled a company called Prelude that specializes in egg harvesting. According to the article, Prelude’s goal is to “turn the fertility industry on its head” and” usher in a world where [women’s] decisions about family and career aren’t ruled by their biological clocks.”
Despite the fact that even a passing glance at any women’s magazine or website will unearth at least one regret story by a woman who had her eggs harvested, whether for her own use or to sell to an IVF clinic for another woman’s use, elite talking heads like Anne-Marie Slaughter of New America, of “Women Still Can’t Have It All” fame, propose it as a viable way to level the reproductive playing field.
And the women of Hollywood are no help either. The endless parade of female celebrities who start having families in their early forties contribute to a false reality that deludes so many of today’s women into thinking that getting pregnant for the first time at forty-one is no different than at thirty-one or twenty-one. POPSUGAR, for example, has one photo montage entitled “40, Fabulous, and Fertile: 26 Celebrities Who’ve Given Birth After Turning 40,” featuring one after another photo of women nearing middle age cradling newborns in their arms. What these stories omit, however, is the reality that most of these women could no doubt afford the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to conceive through IVF or with the help of fertility drugs, or their personal stories about the physical and emotional toll of going through the procedure, sometimes multiple times, just for one baby.
If anything, the success of the fertility industry and older moms of Hollywood attest to the reality that most women deeply yearn for children and will go to great lengths to have babies. And while plenty of men also share a deep desire for fatherhood, many of them are happy to go along with whatever, as they feel no pressure from Mother Nature. But women are ill-served by deceptive narratives that say fertility at forty is likely or that they can procreate like men.
Not every woman will have the chance to have a baby when it’s easiest for her body to conceive. But rather than push women further away from reproductive reality, we should be honest with them about the female body’s radically different timetable for bearing children. If we don’t, Mick Jagger and Mel Gibson will do it for us.