Friday, October 03, 2008


On the current episodes of Another World airing on the AOL/PGP Classic Soaps Channel, Clarice (Gail Brown) wants to have a baby with husband Larry. But she fears she's too old. So Clarice turns for advice to Ada (Constance Ford), who also had a child later in life.

Although soap characters' ages are notoriously hard to decipher (what with all the SORASing -- both up and down), at the time of this 1981 episode, actress Brown was probably about 42 years old (The National Organization of Mothers of Twins lists Brown as being the twin sister of actress Karen Black, so I am going off of Black's birth-date, being unable to track down Brown's). In our present days of celebrity moms like Geena Davis, Marcia Cross, Iman, Susan Sarandon, Marcia Gay Hayden, Nicole Kidman and Holly Hunter, 42 seems like prime childbearing years!

Heck, even in Bay City, 42 was hardly too old to have a baby. Ada gave birth to Nancy in 1974, when the actress portraying her was 51!

But, wait, there's more! Ada's oldest daughter, Rachel, gave birth to twins Cory and Elizabeth in 1997, when actress Victoria Wyndham was 52!

Clearly, as long as she stays in Bay City, Clarice has nothing to worry about in the too old to conceive department. (She would go on to give birth to her daughter, Jeanne, a year later.)

Currently, on Guiding Light, Reva, already the mother of four grown children (and a grandmother of a teen-ager) is expecting another baby with her new husband, Jeffrey. Actress Kim Zimmer is 53.

On Sunset Beach in 1998, mother and daughter, Olivia and Caitlin, were both pregnant at the same time by presumably the same man (all together now, ewww...; it turned out that Olivia had actually gotten pregnant by her husband and not by her young lover, who'd also gotten Olivia's daughter pregnant. But, still, ewww....). Actress Lesley Anne Down, who played the randy mama, was a youthful 44 when this storyline was playing out. Of course, to put it in perspective, five years later, when she joined the cast of B&B, Down's son was played by Jack Wagner, who, in real life, is only five years younger than Down. I love soap time.

Other elderly primigravida (the medical term for a pregnant woman over the age of 35) moms on soaps include:

* ATWT's Kim, who gave birth to Christopher in 1986, when actress Kathryn Hays was 53. (I suppose I could add Kim's arch rival, Susan, to this list, but since Alison was conceived using donor eggs and in-vitro, she doesn't qualify for the spontaneously pregnant category).

* AMC's Ruth Martin, who gave birth to Joey when actress Mary Fickett was 47.

* DOOL's Kayla, who recently gave birth to baby Joe when actress Mary Beth Evans was also 47.

There are countless other examples including my two favorites from primetime soaps: Anne Matheson (actress Michelle Phillips, then 46) on Knots Landing and Sable Colby (actress Stephanie Beacham, then a mere 42, but playing the mother of three children in their mid-20s) on the final episode of Dynasty, faking pregnancies to hold on to their respective men. Really? How exactly did they expect to pull that off?

So those are the soap statistics. How do they measure up to real life?

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, two-thirds of women over the age of forty have fertility problems and a five percent chance of conceiving. By 43, it's down to one or two percent.

What do you think, do storylines with older mothers conceiving spontaneously offer much needed hope to women in similar circumstances, or do they offer misinformation that fertility can be easily achieved at any age?

Is this an issue you would like to see soaps address more realistically?

Let us know in the Comments below!


Esther said...

Probably the most realistic (not that I wanted to see it) was GL's Holly, whose baby had Downs.

Eh, I'd prefer they didn't. Course, I'd also prefer they didn't rapidly age kids, which would keep 35 year-olds from becoming grandparents on soaps.

suburbandiva50 said...

i don't care who did it the deed! Its a stuip I storyline! The history is that Jeffery is Reva's daughter's ex-lover! Please! I will pass on this mess!