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Absurdly Elderly Mother

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When a woman older than 50 gives birth to a child.

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
alnair20aug93 on Apr 6th 2018 at 12:19:24 PM
Last Edited By:
alnair20aug93 on Jun 25th 2018 at 4:08:24 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

How Did We Miss This One? No Launching Please


Women past their mid-40s and early 50s go into the stage of menopause, where the menstrual cycle stops completely, barring any production of egg cells, so they can't have children at that point.

Not for these women. The thought of having children at an age beyond 50 is very unlikely. They're old enough to be grandmothers, but unknown to them, their biological clocks are still ticking. That revelation can cause several reactions; It's a wonder especially for an old woman who longed for a child, and it's a shock for another old woman who had children to have another one at that age.

Can be Truth in Television in part because menopause takes time and occurs at different ages depending on the woman. Women over 60 will have a slimmer chance of being impregnated naturally, so artificial means such as in-vitro fertilization are highly recommended. This can also be possible if the mother uses eggs from a donor, although the child will not biologically be hers. And being pregnant and giving birth at such an old age in both cases, can cause health risks. Both Writers Cannot Do Math and Artistic License Biology can also be a cause of this.

For this trope to work, this trope only applies when the mother's age is remarkable or unnatural for her species. It's not an example if they're Really 700 Years Old or a Long-Lived species like an elf, a straight example if they're human over 70, or a justified example if they've got some sort of Longevity Treatment or Fountain of Youth that delays or reverses menopause.

The Other Wiki has a list of mothers who gave birth over the age of 50. Guiness World Records, however, refuses to accept a number of well-known historical cases due to suspicion that they might have been cases of Family Relationship Switcheroo to cover up a younger family member's out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

Related to the Law of Inverse Fertility and Surprise Pregnancy. Contrast Absurdly Youthful Mother.

Examples:

Film

  • In Father of the Bride: Part II, George is worried enough that his daughter is having a baby, but after mishaps like selling the house, now he's getting more stressed that his wife Nina, who thought that she was entering menopause, is also pregnant.

Literature

  • Sybil Ramkin-Vimes is in her very late forties at least before she has her first child. Reality Ensues when she has serious complications during the childbirth, though both she and the baby fully recover.
  • Justified in Honor Harrington due to life-extension therapy, "Prolong", being commonplace in the setting: it extends both life expectancy and fertility.
  • Honor herself is 68 when she has her first child with Hamish Alexander.
  • Defied in The Laundry Series. Bob and his wife Mo initially decided against having children due to fact they might have to Mercy Kill them in the event of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. Towards the middle of the series, though, Bob says in moment of optimism that they could still try, and Mo points out among other things that he isn't the one "who'd have to go through a first pregnancy in his late thirties."
  • In The Left Hand of Darkness, Genly hears at one point that the king of Karhide is pregnant. He finds it funny. For the androgynous Gethenians it is also funny, but not because he is pregnant; rather, because he is well above forty. For them, mid-twenties is the age when they usually stop trying to conceive, and forty tends to be the menopause.
  • Star Trek: Typhon Pact: Beverly Crusher is 57 when she delivers her and Jean-Luc Picard's first child in Paths of Disharmony. Justified due to the Enterprise crew's youth having been extended by exposure to technobabble in Star Trek: Insurrection.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: In Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Cordelia plans to have a baby while in her 70's by using a Uterine Replicator. As a Betan her life expectancy is around 150.

Live Action Television

  • An episode of Chicago Med has a couple in their fifties come into the hospital with the wife suffering from a mystery ailment. At one point, she gets up to go to the bathroom and releases a lot of fluid as soon as she gets out of bed. Dr. Choi realizes that the "urine" is actually amniotic fluid and immediately gets her to the maternity ward.
  • Due to writers not being great at basic math; in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Keiko's mother apparently gave birth to her while in her sixties as her mother is said to be celebrating her 100th birthday during the episode "Dax" and Keiko is in her late thirties or early forties.
  • In the The X-Files season eleven finale episode, planned to be the series Grand Finale, "My Struggle IV" Scully is pregnant at age fifty.

Religion And Mythology

  • The Bible:
    • Sarah had a child at the age of 90. Prior to that, Sarah forces her slave Hagar to sleep with her equally elderly husband Abraham, and Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. After Sarah sends Hagar and her child away out of jealousy, God tells her that she's going to have a child, to which Sarah laughs it off due to being too old. She gives birth to Isaac, whose name means "she laughs".
    • In the Gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel tells the priest Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth is going to have a child. Even though the couple had prayed for a child for many years, Zechariah finds this unbelievable, since they are both old, to which Gabriel renders him mute until the child, whom they named John, is born.

Real Life

  • Janet Jackson gave birth to a son named Eissa al Manna at the age of 50.

Indexes:
Alt/redirect titles:

Feedback: 32 replies

Apr 6th 2018 at 1:06:06 PM

Due to writers not being great at basic math; in Star Trek Deep Space Nine Keiko's mother apparently gave birth to her while in her sixties as her mother is said to be celebrating her 100th birthday during the episode "Dax" and Keiko is in her late thirties or early forties.

In the The X Files season eleven finale episode, planned to be the series Grand Finale, "My Struggle IV" Scully is pregnant at age fifty.

''Discworld" character Nanny Ogg continued to have children into her fifties, and it is noted that this is not unusual in the very rural part of the Disc she lives in, nor for witches in general. Also Sybil Ramkin-Vimes is in her very late forties at least before she has her first child.

Apr 6th 2018 at 1:25:07 PM

Franken Fran: One chapter has Fran come up with a way for children to be deliberately delivered prematurely in a maggot-like form before being incubated in a cocoon for several months. As she's presenting the technique, the audience all get nauseous and leave except for one, an aged woman who ends up stealing the project for herself. At the end of the chapter, it turns out the process was fundamentally flawed (people are a lot more careless with a cocoon in an aquarium than a pregnant woman), but she doesn't care about them: her only desire was to become a mother despite her age. When the baby emerges from the cocoon, it seems to have melded with the cocoon's DNA to produce an insectoid hybrid.

Apr 6th 2018 at 4:58:09 PM

  • Vorkosigan Saga: In Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Cordelia plans to have a baby while in her 70's by using a Uterine Replicator. As a Betan her life expectancy is around 150.

Apr 6th 2018 at 5:29:49 PM

It helps that, in the bible, the life expectation (and likely the age where a woman can bear a baby) is higher than nowadays (i.e they age slower). Especially for Abraham's era.

Apr 7th 2018 at 4:36:02 AM

Both Writers Cannot Do Math and Artistic License Biology can be a cause of this. The page for Surprise Pregnancy also mentions that the trope can be Truth In Television in part because menopause takes time and occurs at different ages depending on the woman.

Apr 7th 2018 at 5:14:22 AM

Professional Wrestling

  • One of WWE's most notorious angles involved a seventy year old Mae Young giving birth to a human hand in 2000. She gave birth in the New Year's Eve special episode of RAW in 2012 to a New Year Baby (portrayed by Hornswoggle). The hand baby's father was Mark Henry, but the New Year Baby wasn't addressed.

Apr 7th 2018 at 6:49:56 AM

Absurdly Elderly Mother is a better name than Mom Looks Like A Granny. The trope is about women who give birth late — not mothers who merely look old.

Apr 7th 2018 at 7:56:58 AM

In The Left Hand Of Darkness, Genly hears at one point that the king of Karhide is pregnant. He finds it funny. For the androgynous Gethenians it is also funny, but not because he is pregnant; rather, because he is well above forty. For them, mid-twenties is the age when they usually stop trying to conceive, and forty tends to be the menopause.

Apr 7th 2018 at 8:27:02 AM

Inverted in an episode of Golden Girls. Blanche believes that she is pregnant when she is actually going through menopause. Instead of being relieve, she end up getting depress because she think she lose her sex appeal.

Apr 8th 2018 at 6:40:34 PM

Live Action Television

  • An episode of Chicago Med has a couple in their fifties come into the hospital with the wife suffering from a mystery ailment. At one point, she gets up to go to the bathroom and releases a lot of fluid as soon as she gets out of bed. Dr. Choi realizes that the "urine" is actually amniotic fluid and immediately gets her to the maternity ward.

Apr 10th 2018 at 9:52:33 AM

Literature:

  • Justified in Honor Harrington due to life-extension therapy, "Prolong", being commonplace in the setting: it extends both life expectancy and fertility.
    • When Honor is believed to have been executed as a war criminal by Haven State Sec in Echoes of Honor, her 97-year old mother agrees with her father to have another child as a solution to a Succession Crisis in Honor's Steadholder title on Grayson (one of her cousins got her Manticoran titles). They end up with twins.
    • Honor herself is 68 when she has her first child with Hamish Alexander.

Apr 10th 2018 at 1:24:26 PM

Regarding the Discworld example with Lady Ramkin, Reality Ensues when she has serious complications during the childbirth, though both she and the baby fully recover.

  • In The Belgariad and Malloreon:
    • Sorcerers stop aging at an age that "feels" right to them, so the eternally youthful Polgara the Sorceress is able to have twins at the end of the series, when she's well over 3000 years old.
    • Discussed at the end of the Malloreon when the Happily Married Garion and Ce'Nedra realize the implications of being, respectively, a sorcerer and a Dryad with the life expectancy of an oak tree. They're wryly told to get used to child-rearing.

Apr 11th 2018 at 12:29:01 PM

Real life example: Also possible if the mother uses eggs from a donor, although the child will not biologically be hers, and being pregnant and giving birth at such an old age can cause health risks

Apr 16th 2018 at 11:12:26 AM

I feel like “absurdly” is a bit of hyperbole. Suggesting “improbably” instead.

Apr 21st 2018 at 10:47:23 AM

Literature:

Apr 21st 2018 at 6:33:23 PM

Plus, y'know, medical technology in the 24th century is better than ours and people in general live longer. Keiko O'Brien's mother was in her sixties when she had Keiko, etc. Plus Insurrection made it clear that all of the rejuvenation will wear off when they leave, it takes years and years for effects to stabilize.

Apr 23rd 2018 at 3:52:55 PM

Apr 23rd 2018 at 11:02:40 PM

^^^^ I picked "absurdly" out of inspiration from Absurdly Youthful Mother.

Apr 24th 2018 at 5:55:15 AM

I don't think we should include fathers in this. Male fertility works differently to women's and men can safely father children at pretty much any age. I think having elderly father as a redirect should be removed too.

Apr 24th 2018 at 4:34:25 PM

^That. Having a super-elderly father has different enough connotations (usually that he's a Dirty Old Man) that it should be considered a different trope.

May 10th 2018 at 3:45:24 AM

I'm wondering about cases where this is the side effect of a longer lifespan, whether natural or artificial. If, for example, Proportional Aging results in 50 being the woman's equivalent of 20, I don't think being technically over 50 should qualify for tardy childbearing.

May 10th 2018 at 7:41:38 AM

I think that opens the door to natter and justifying edits, with people arguing if they technically count. Once that door is opened then it inevitably leads to a trip to the TRS in a couple of years. Lets just make a bright line right from the start, and that solves a lot of the argy-bargy.

Jun 20th 2018 at 2:00:26 PM

Why not say that this trope only applies when the mother's age is remarkable or unnatural for her species? So if someone has a baby at 100 years old, it's not an example if they're a Long Lived species like an elf, a straight example if they're human, and a justified example if they've got some sort of Longevity Treatment or Fountain Of Youth that delays or reverses menopause. Sound fair?

Jun 21st 2018 at 8:20:43 AM

^Pretty much what I was thinking.

Literature:

  • Defied in The Laundry Series. Bob and his wife Mo initially decided against having children due to fact they might have to Mercy Kill them in the event of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. Towards the middle of the series, though, Bob says in moment of optimism that they could still try, and Mo points out among other things that he isn't the one "who'd have to go through a first pregnancy in his late thirties."

Jun 23rd 2018 at 11:12:55 AM

I'm gonna launch this soon. Aside from the indexes, are there things that I have to do yet before launching?

Jun 23rd 2018 at 12:32:23 PM

"a straight example if they're human over 70": is it supposed to be 50?

Jun 23rd 2018 at 1:26:43 PM

I notice that the Belgariad example was commented out. Wouldn't the trope apply to someone who is unnaturally long-lived relative to their species?

Jun 25th 2018 at 1:47:10 AM

^ I confused by your comment on the straight example.

Jun 25th 2018 at 11:22:35 AM

In Crusader Kings 2 women with the immortal trait are unaffected by age-related health and fertility conditions. This means that they can make babies despite being over 100 years old.

Jun 25th 2018 at 12:28:06 PM

^^ It was just a thought on how the trope would apply to people who are benefiting from various means of life extension. Seems like in those cases, a life-extended person having a child could be considered for inclusion based on (a) whether it's explained by how the life-extension treatment works, (b) whether it's seen as remarkable or unremarkable in the setting, or (c) whether it's unusual by real-world standards. So, for example:

  1. The Belgariad: Polgara can have a child at 3000 because she's one of five ageless Living Legend sorcerers and, for her, Immortality Begins At Twenty — Explained by her source of immortality, but remarkable for the setting.
  2. Jupiter Ascending: Seraphi Abrasax has a child at 85 000, thanks to a Fountain Of Youth treatment that's theoretically accessible to everyone but primarily the privilege of the elite (since it's expensive and you need regular touch-ups) — Explained by her source of immortality, mostly a sign of tremendous social privilege in the setting but people know exactly why it's possible.
  3. Honor Harrington: Honor's mother plans to have a child at 97 thanks to a near-universally used Longevity Treatment that drastically slows the aging process — Explained by the treatment, unremarkable in the setting (unless, perhaps, it's still seen as unusual to be having children at that age).
  4. Discworld: Witches tend to be long-lived and can have children late in life — No clear explanation, but not too remarkable in the setting.
  5. Discworld: Women in the Ramtops often have children into their fifties — No explanation, no source of longevity, but not seen as remarkable except by outsiders.
Personally, I'm in favour of including 1-3 as Justified Tropes and 4-5 as straight examples. On the other hand, I can see how it might not count as an Improbably Elderly Mother if it's not seen as such in the setting.

Jun 25th 2018 at 4:08:24 PM

We should probably nix actual examples from Real Life. Just state that it's happened rarely throughout history and is more common in the modern age due to advances in medical science.

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