Because of that whole wedding + tenure thing I'm behind in my reading, but I just got around to Lisa Miller's "Parents of a Certain Age" from New York magazine a couple of weeks back. It's a troubling article, and one I haven't seen discussed around my usual haunts on the internet.
Miller's article examines the apparently growing phenomenon of older parents: women (and men, too, but it's the women who come in for most of the scrutiny) who are starting families in their late 40s and even 50s. The article's major flaw is that it talks about all older-parents-with-young-children as if they're in the same category, and they're decidedly not; one couple she profiles adopted children from Guatemala and Vietnam when they were in their mid-fifties--after raising biological children of their own. But most of the parents she's looking at are first-time parents who seem determined to have children semi-naturally, i.e., with the woman going through labor, even if the eggs are not her own and even if she has had to be medically brought out of menopause in order to get pregnant in the first place.
Now, first-time parents whose ages hover around 40 are commonplace in academia, and if Cosimo and I have kids we'll surely join their number (given that he's already in his early 40s and I'll be 37 in February and the child-having discussion is definitively tabled until we're in the same place full-time). Contrary to the seven billion articles that get written about declining fertility and how if you wait too long, you'll be sorry!, I don't think that pushing parenthood back is a sad state of affairs, either for individual women or for Women As a Whole. People who put off pregnancy are, I assume, making a conscious decision and understand the trade-offs, and those who want kids can always have children in their lives even if they can't conceive: they can adopt, they can be foster parents, they can serve as doting aunts or uncles or second parents to kids in their neighborhood or whatever. There will always be children desperate for adult love and support.
But although I absolutely do not think that it is selfish or narcissistic to decide in one's 40s or even 50s that one wants to be a parent (or at any rate, it's no more likely to be a sign of narcissicism than wanting children in one's 20s or 30s is), I confess that I don't get the desire to have one's own biological children at all costs (I understand it as a strong preference, sure, but not as a need)--and I definitely do not understand the desire to go through pregnancy for its own sake. So I see a real difference between people in their late forties/fifties who either are lucky to get pregnant naturally, or who adopt, and those people who, because it makes them feel young and bogusly fertile and more like "real" mothers, go to great expense and incur quite extreme health risks in order to carry a child--a child not necessarily sharing any of their genetic material--to term.
Maybe I'm just lazy and risk averse? But if I were to decide, around age 45, that I had the energy to chase small children around for the next decade or two, you'd better believe I wouldn't be putting myself through an exhausting and dangerous nine months of pregnancy first.