Janet Jackson had her first baby at age 50
There is a small, growing trend of women becoming mothers at 50 and older
Report: An average of 13 children were born every week to women 50-plus in 2013
Janet Jackson might be the most famous symbol of a growing trend: the 50-year-old mom.
The superstar has given birth to her first child at age 50, People magazine confirmed.
“We thank God for our blessing,” she told People when she confirmed the pregnancy.
The singer/songwriter announced to fans in a video on Twitter in April that she would be delaying the second leg of her “Unbreakable” world tour because she and her husband, Qatari billionaire Wissam Al Mana, were focused on family planning.
“I thought it was important that you be the first to know. My husband and I are planning our family, so I’m going to have to delay the tour,” she said with a smile. “Please, if you can try and understand that it’s important that I do this now. I have to rest up, doctor’s orders. But I have not forgotten about you. I will continue the tour as soon as I possibly can.”
Jackson follows in the footsteps of other mothers, such as singer Sophie B. Hawkins, who already had a young son and decided to have another baby at 50. She admitted that her age made her think more than twice about the humongous and life-changing step.
“I went through waking up crying and saying, ‘Am I too old? Will I suddenly at 51 have my knees give out?’ ” Hawkins, who used a sperm donor and was implanted with her own frozen embryo, told People in 2015.
“Now I don’t have any of those fears because I feel healthy and strong. I’m also setting up a good net of support, and that’s the key to anybody having a child.”
Jackson and Hawkins are part of a small but growing trend of women doing what was unthinkable only a few decades ago: becoming moms at 50 and beyond, according to a recent story in AARP The Magazine.
In 2013, an average of 13 children were born every week to mothers 50 years and older, the magazine reported. In 2012, women 50 and older had 600 babies, up from 144 births in 1997, based on numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And those numbers don’t take into account the women who become mothers through adoption or surrogacy, women like Deborah, who had a child “close to 50,” she says. She used a surrogate after she learned through in vitro fertilization that she could get pregnant but could not carry a child to term.
A few years later, Deborah, who wanted to use only her first name for this article, had another child after her surrogate offered to carry and deliver a second baby for her and her husband.
“That was the best decision we made, or she helped us make … because I do think that it’s a bit of a burden on an only child to have an older parent,” she said.
’Sometimes they think I’m the grandma’
Deborah, who now has two girls 9 and 13, says she’s never felt judged or even singled out for her unconventional path. Part of the reason for that, she suggests, is that she’s raising her children in the New York area, where midlife mothering is fairly common.
“I think when my kids were little, like when I was in the nursery school crowd, I don’t even think I was the oldest parent,” she said. “I mean, if you go to other parts of the country, sometimes they think I’m the grandma.”
Cyma Shapiro, who adopted a child from Russia at 46 and another at 48 and has adult stepchildren, hasn’t gotten the “Are you the grandmother?” reaction. But she knows plenty of women, many of whom write for her blog MotheringintheMiddle.com, who have heard that and then some about their decision to enter motherhood in their late 40s, 50s and even 60s.
“They get … ‘Could you really have had this kid?’ and ‘Why did you adopt at such an old age?’ and ‘If you had him yourself, how did you get there?’ ”
After DeAnna Scott, who had twins through surrogacy at 46, was featured in a newspaper article a few years ago, most of the comments were not exactly supportive, she said.
“A lot of feedback to that article was … ‘You people are selfish’ and ‘How could you do this?’ and I didn’t read the rest,” said Scott, a contract manager and photographer who lives in Ventura, California.
“Personally, I don’t think anyone around me would really have the guts to say that to me.”
Frieda Birnbaum of Saddle River, New Jersey, definitely heard it all after her decision to have twins at age 60 became front page news around the world. (She had a child at 53 and has two grown children, all with the same husband.)
“I wanted to have twins, they (said), to look younger, to make a movie or to write a book,” said Birnbaum, a research psychologist who appears regularly on nationally syndicated radio programs.
“I don’t think so. Taking progesterone shots is not really something that I would risk my life for a book for. … I did it because my husband wanted to try.”
No one ever questioned her husband about the decision; it’s part of the double standard that midlife mothers face, said Birnbaum.
“I was on a (radio) show with Rod Stewart, who just had a child … they didn’t speak about him having a child. It wasn’t a matter of discussion at all.” (Stewart’s seventh child was born when he was 60 and his eighth at 66.)