Streams

Parents of a Certain Age

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lisa Miller talks about the rising age of motherhood and looks at whether women in their late 40s and 50s are too old to get pregnant. Her article “Parents of a Certain Age” appears in the October 3 issue of New York magazine. Lisa Miller is a contributing editor at New York magazine, the author of Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife, and writes about religion for the Washington Post.

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Lisa Miller
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Comments [71]

Lopate Producers

Sorry for the delay. The audio is now available.

Sep. 29 2011 03:58 PM
P

Please upload audio. Thanks.

Sep. 29 2011 12:52 AM
M from NY

Why isn't the audio available for this segment?

Sep. 28 2011 12:29 PM
B.L.Z. from Hell on Earth a.k.a. America

Only in this idiotic country are people so concerned and obsessed with age and what other people are doing with their lives! It's utterly ridiculous and NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!

Leave each other alone. And mind your own business. How about that?

Sep. 28 2011 01:56 AM
LOULOU from USA

I am an older mother that has had 4 natural pregnancies between 38 - 45. I am amazed at how aged people think most women are at this age. My mother had me at 45. She is still alive. I don't remember ever being embarrassed by my parents b/c of their age. Other reasons for sure.
Anyway the studies indicate that women who get pregnant naturally at an advanced age are most likely aging slower than most of the population. I guess we will have to wait and see if that is true. All you ladies having babies later in life (no matter how you did it) just love them and they will be fine. Good Luck !

Sep. 27 2011 10:36 PM
beth mcgarr hagan

This hit a nerve. My dad was 47 and mom 43 when I was born. I'll be 54 in November. When I was born I had 4 older siblings, the youngest is 9 years older than me.I was raised as an only child for the most part. My mother developed Alzheimer's when I was 23. During her disease, many times,she told me she wanted to abort me and was disappointed she hadn't. My mother lived for 20 more years. Being the youngest in my family, I took on the earlier burden of my mother's care. I had three children within 3 years. It was a juggle. My father had congestive heart failure and was legally blind. My older sister took on my parents' care when she moved closer home.
My thought is not to have a child too old. It's a hardship and then they are gone too early in your life.

Sep. 27 2011 09:25 PM
VanessaR from New York

Amazing how vastly different were the experiences of Riotsquirrl, whose older parents raising her seemed to inspire her, and Tag of NJ, whose being raised by older parents has left him bitter and angry and judgmental.

As for Tag's assumption that children of young people are similarly damaged, I know personally many people born to very young people, and Tag's view is just not valid. (Also, I have a family member who works with teen moms, and while everyone can agree this is not the ideal, I find the stories of these young women incredibly inspiring--and I hope that their children will be inspired the way Riotsquirrl above was inspired by her older parents.)

As for the comment Tag makes regarding some sort of (government?) law regulating childbearing, and his very skewed views of what parenting is about, it causes me to have a huge feeling of compassion for what seems to have been the kind of upbringing that really doesn't have anything to do with age. I wish Tag peace in his heart someday about his origins and his present-day life.

Sep. 27 2011 07:21 PM
Riotsquirrl from Northern Virginia

Oh, honestly, some of us actually *are* the children of older parents. My dad was 51 when I was born and my mom was 39 (obviously, natural conception). Then they had my younger sister at, I guess, 53 and 41. All the stuff the article talks about with children being terrified their parents will die? I don't see how that happened unless someone went out of their way to inculcate this anxiety in the kids. I was actually grown up before I thought about the fact that they were more likely to die before my peers' parents. And they were far more active than many of my friends' parents, who mostly seemed to sit around the house smoking and watching TV. It's not 1907. My dad lived till I was 32 and my mom till I was 39. That's early by today's standards, but no previous generation's.

If my parents gave a lot of thought to being older parents, they never showed it. That's probably because much of the public believes there's something inherently "natural" about having a small number of kids while young and then not having anymore when that's a model made possible in the second half of the twentieth century by birth control, while they never had such expectations. I had my kids when I was almost 49 with help from medical technology. Leave us older parents alone -- it's none of your d***ed business.

Sep. 27 2011 04:04 PM
tag from new jersey

I think having children before 25 or after 30 years of age for both men and women is a very mean, cruel, thing to do. I am a child of elderly parents (43 and 49 Years of age)
It is genetically, emotionally, and socially destructive to the child and parent from so many aspects, I would have to write a book to describe them. My life was destroyed from the very start. My parents are gone many years ago and I feel they would have to agree way back then and now. We should push for legislation to limit childbearing to 25 to 30 years of age or otherwise society will have to pay the ramifications. Stop using children as pawns for living your life . Find a useful purpose in life other than childrearing.

Sep. 27 2011 03:33 PM
Emily

@Laura: go to your gynecologist--or even better, a reproductive endocrinologist, who is much more knowledgeable in this field--and get a full fertility workup. It's not expensive or painful and doesn't take much time. You won't have a definitive answer about whether you're still fertile, but you'll have a lot more information than you have now. I also recommend buying a book like "Taking Charge of Your Fertility," which will show you how to track your cycle (which almost no one does unless they're trying to get pregnant--but it's useful for women of every age whether they're trying to get pregnant or not).

Sep. 27 2011 03:03 PM
Hank from Jersey City, NJ

The radio show dialogue has operated on monolithic terms in which dominant culture is the default, and in which dominant culture sees this raising kids as older parents as a trend.

Like many Black Americans, I had great parents and great grandparents/elders, all of them great parenting figures and equal partners in my upbringing, but as we recognize the unfortunate situation of disproportionate number of Black and Brown teens having kids, many of those teens’ children, have been raised wonderfully by “Older” parents. This isn’t a trend in the Black community.

Sep. 27 2011 02:55 PM

For me, all this business that Ms. Miller is defending is explained by the good old "Follow the money" note. There are money in the business of providing older, financially secure couples with a hope of having a child with their genes, that's why this business is having such fierce and devoted advocates as Ms. Miller. Can't imagine an article about teen moms and their struggles in the snobbish New Yorker magazine - the topic would be considered soooo out of fashion and taste...Well, yeah, it's hard to make money on young moms - nobody's going to pay for an article about them! And in Ms. Miller's case, there are clinics who prob. payed for their publicity, and there's a shock effect of the cover photo which would benefit the magazine. That explains why the problems of people who make less than 0.5% of the whole US population make it to the cover of the leading magazine and the leading radio station. Capitalism at its best.

Sep. 27 2011 02:34 PM
Lucie

I agree with restrictions on adoption, because I believe there is no entitlement to adopt a child.

Sep. 27 2011 02:25 PM
Jay from Long Island, NY

I called into the show, but didn't get a chance to speak on air. I have grown up as the only child of older parents and while I think that childhood are certainly worth consideration, I am finding that the issues in adulthood are even more difficult. As a young professional just out of graduate school in a tough economy, life is not so easy and I am certainly not in a great financial position. However, at the same time, age is taking a toll on my parents as they work well into retirement age. As medical issues are forcing my father to retire and I am still struggling to become financially secure, there is a real tug of war between navigating the issues of young adulthood. Issues of work and relationships often conflict with the urge to help my aging parents take care of their home and themselves. As their income shrinks and mine is not growing fast enough, I am left with difficult decisions about whether to leave my parents and move closer to my girlfriend and better jobs or stay and give them the help they need at the cost of my own financial and social happiness. All of these issues are certainly something that I consider when thinking about having children myself with my girlfriend.

Sep. 27 2011 02:14 PM
Jay from Long Island, NY

I called into the show, but didn't get a chance to speak on air. I have grown up as the only child of older parents and while I think that childhood are certainly worth consideration, I am finding that the issues in adulthood are even more difficult. As a young professional just out of graduate school in a tough economy, life is not so easy and I am certainly not in a great financial position. However, at the same time, age is taking a toll on my parents as they work well into retirement age. As medical issues are forcing my father to retire and I am still struggling to become financially secure, there is a real tug of war between navigating the issues of young adulthood. Issues of work and relationships often conflict with the urge to help my aging parents take care of their home and themselves. As their income shrinks and mine is not growing fast enough, I am left with difficult decisions about whether to leave my parents and move closer to my girlfriend and better jobs or stay and give them the help they need at the cost of my own financial and social happiness. All of these issues are certainly something that I consider when thinking about having children myself with my girlfriend.

Sep. 27 2011 02:14 PM
John A.

Hank, et al:
I've started to think that all popular publishing (magazines,bestsellers) today centers around the topic and title "Why what you're doing wrong is really Right" (in 300 pages). People (the buyers) like collecting talking points to defend their choices.

Sep. 27 2011 02:12 PM
VanessaR from New York

@ Amanda: My dad died of leukemia when I was 23 years old. It was obviously life-changing for me and my younger siblings. (My brother was 12.) It fascinates me that my brother grew to be such an empathic man and how his loss transformed him into a "teacher" at a young age. It was no surprise when he chose this as his profession.

You are correct that losing a parent very young is absoultely devastating (my dad was only 8 when his dad died when my grandfather was 48, and I grew up knowing the effect it had on my dad's family). My father was only a year older than his dad when he passed.

It is bittersweet for me to have had a child older than I had wished, and I naturally do worry about various issues. This does not make me a bad person or parent, though, as some here for some reason want to believe.

Sep. 27 2011 02:07 PM

I heard a fertility doctor describe his philosophy on age of potential mothers this way, "as a doctor, my job is to treat "disease" which is defined as an abnormal medical condition." Menopause is not an abnormal condition for women in their mid 40s and later. That is why the patients I treat fall into the normal range of childbearing years."

Sep. 27 2011 02:06 PM
Hank from Jersey City, NJ

The radio show dialogue has operated on monolithic terms in which dominant culture is the default, and in which dominant culture sees this raising kids as older parents as a trend.

Like many Black Americans, I had great parents and great grandparents/elders, all of them great parenting figures and equal partners in my upbringing, but as we recognize the unfortunate situation of disproportionate number of Black and Brown teens having kids, many of those teens’ children, have been raised wonderfully by “Older” parents. This isn’t a trend in the Black community.

Sep. 27 2011 02:04 PM
Allison from New York, NY

I have known plenty of people who lost their parents when they were relatively young (when they were in their teens and throughout their 20's) even though their parents had them at relatively young ages. It happens.

There are far more important issues to talk about when discussing what makes good parents than age.

Sep. 27 2011 02:04 PM

I think "yuk" about anyone -- regardless of age -- choosing to procreate in this overpopulated world with millions of children desperately in need of adoption. It is the ultimate act of selfishness and entitlement.

Sep. 27 2011 02:02 PM
VanessaR from New York

Foreign Policy magazine did a very good article called, "The Lie We Love," about how many myths about international adoption there are.

In case anyone is interested in reading about realities about international adoption, here is that article: http://www.utne.com/Politics/International-Adoption-Lies-Orphans-Myths.aspx

Sep. 27 2011 02:00 PM
Polli from Rumson

I had 6 children-all planned-the last at 41. I am definitely a happier parent now! I'm 58 and still teaching my children so many things. Including how to be a lifelong learner and an mature
athlete!

Sep. 27 2011 01:59 PM
Jim from NYC

What about studies that show children of older couples having more frequent incidents of Autism and other learning disorders?

Sep. 27 2011 01:58 PM
Evan

Ms. Miller, please stop with the throwing a ball and riding a bike comments. Don't dismiss those memories.

Sep. 27 2011 01:57 PM
Janet from New York

I just had my first baby at 33 and it is exhausting. Extremely rewarding, but exhausting. I cannot imagine starting a family in my late 40's or 50's. I imagine many of them can afford to hire help.

Sep. 27 2011 01:56 PM
Michelle from Brooklyn

I'm a 38 year old mom of a toddler and conflicted about having a 2nd child. I hate having to put off my career even longer but hate the thought of having an "only child" especially when he has no cousins.

Sep. 27 2011 01:56 PM
Sarah from Ridgewood

... not YET they are not proven. I am sure that someday there will be negative consequences to the massive hormone injections used to re-start menopause in post-menopausal women AND in the children that were borne of these artifically-induced pregnancies. Sorry for all the posts, I (like many apparently) feel really strongly about this.

Sep. 27 2011 01:54 PM
John A.

Another twig to throw on the fire:
Recent research (2010?) into breast cancer has shown that delay of childbirth suspends tissue development in a stage where if prolonged, probability of that (BC) also increases.
-
Just my luck. I think the research about the vitality of sperm and its result at 40 was released when I was 44 or somesuch.

Sep. 27 2011 01:54 PM
SarahB from New York

It was not my choice at all to have a child at this time in my life. I had many miscarriages, starting when I was 28. It is a bittersweet blessing that I was finally able to have a child. Yes, my energy levels would have been much greater had my first babies survived. Still, my life experiences since then have given me many gifts that I hope to share with my child.

Sep. 27 2011 01:54 PM
Silvina Betzer

Lisa Miller is so intent in convincing everyone that older parents are better parents , I find it hard to believe that Leonard Lopate hasn't finished the program earlier than scheduled. Please, don't bring guests who have such tunnel vision opinions.
Lisa Miller is the worst guest ever!

Sep. 27 2011 01:54 PM
glork from Glen Ridge NJ

What rubblish. I had three in my early twenties, right out of college and two more in my late thirties and early forties. (2 marriages) My friends, who also had their children in their twenties are now mid fifties and free as birds, ready to embark on adventures, new careers, relationships travel, and they have some money etc. I am still schlepping teens to athletic and school events and will be working till I am 100 to pay for college. I will be too old and too worn out to experience grandchildren from my younger kids, especially if they post- pone childbearing, so I lose part of my life right there. To those who are having their first child late in life, it does present another difficulty when the child realizes that family was never a high priority for you/ them. But this trend seems to be the province of the very,very wealthy anyway.
Good luck to you- just do not make it an "only child" as I was, from older parents. The only thing lonelier than that upbringing is the orphan you become.

Sep. 27 2011 01:53 PM
zoe

I think older parents tend to be better parents.

Sep. 27 2011 01:52 PM
Cliff from Brooklyn

My wife and I were considering adopting from China but now they put restrictions on adoption for parents over 50. :-(

Sep. 27 2011 01:52 PM
Pamela Ecker from East Northport

Thanks for this show,
I'd like to point out the legacy of grandparents as the role of main caregivers and parental substitutes in economically challenged or, for instance, war torn areas. Having lived in tennessee for a bit we saw the very good side of older parents being grandparents raising children.

Also, I was put up for adoption as a baby because my parents thought they were too young to handle a child. Just the opposite.

Sep. 27 2011 01:51 PM
Frank Mullaney from New York City

No one is talking about the embarrassment that children feel when they have to explain that their "grandparents" are actually the mother and father. I have seen it and seen the negative effects on the child. If the mother made a decision to have career over motherhood, that is fine, but do not penalize the child because of it.

Sep. 27 2011 01:51 PM
Sarah from New York

The only downside I can see as the child of older parents who were also children of older parents is that I had no relationship with my grandparents, they died in their 90s before I was ten. I do not want that to be the same for my children, I want them to have a relationship with my parents but what happens if I also decide to wait until my late 30s/early 40s to have children?

Sep. 27 2011 01:51 PM
Mike from Brooklyn

A older woman considering pregnancy, who as mentioned is typically educated and financially stable, should be wise and experienced enough to know that battling evolution through medicine and risking complications such as down syndrome is reckless.

Pregnancy can be risky under other circumstances as well, but this demographic of motherhood is particular in that they have the opportunity to understand the statistics and therefore should be able to make a smarter decision.

Adopt. Foster.

Sep. 27 2011 01:51 PM
Evan

My issue with both men and women having children late in life. While you may have twins at 53, what's going to happen when those children are 18 or 25, and you're in your mid to late 70s? Are you going to be able to handle them? It's narcissistic to say, "well, I've had my fun, now I want a kid at 55," without considering what the effect is on the kid.

Plus, I'm disgusted by Ms. Miller's comment that kids who lose a parent deal better with life's problems. Great, so you're doing your kids a favor by leaving them parentless at a young age.

Sep. 27 2011 01:51 PM
sara

A child, more than all other gifts
That earth can offer to declining man,
Brings hope with it, and forward looking thoughts.

Wordsworth

Sep. 27 2011 01:50 PM
Amanda

Wow, guest is really good at justifying her decision. Children who lose a parent early cope better in life!

Sep. 27 2011 01:50 PM
LL from UWS

Crazy idea = only 2 parents raising children. Throughout the ages it wasn't the 'nuclear family' but the extended family raising children.
Seems much better having grandparents, aunts, uncles, older cousins, and even friends and neighbors helping to ease the burden on parents, no matter whether parents are young or old! Ditto housekeepers, maids, babysitters. It's too much for 2 parents to do.

Sep. 27 2011 01:49 PM
Donna

My mother gave birth to me at 45. I grew up in crown Heights where many parents were less than 20 years older than there kids I hated that my parents looked like my garandparents though now at almost 50 I have a 5 year old adopted son with my partner.I am having a wonderful time and I am not alone here in central Brooklyn, though I think a lot about my mortality.

Sep. 27 2011 01:49 PM
Sarah from Ridgewood

I agree with Kim from Montclair, and with Amanda.

Honestly, if you have the best interests of a child in mind, ADOPT one who needs help. Those who are calling these parents selfish -- it is because these parents are insisting on the primacy of their genetic material (even if they use donor eggs... there is still the male's sperm). Or some subjective experience that motherhood is somehow a divine and entitled experience.

Sep. 27 2011 01:49 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Women having babies in their 40s is nothing new. Women having their *first* babies in their 40s is what's new--but before reliable birth control was available, a child born then would have had 5 or 12 older siblings.

Sep. 27 2011 01:49 PM
Maureen from New York

Does it make sense when adoption agencies do not want me and my husband to participate in their programs because I am 46 and my husband is 69? They claim that if I were to adopt now by myself, that should not be a problem. But because I am married to an older man, that is a problem. Does that make sense to you?
Thanks.

Sep. 27 2011 01:47 PM
Barbara Conn from New York

I agree that in the raising of children, being older is not a negative quality.
However, the first duty of a parent is to bear as healthy a child as possible. I believe the risks in bearing a child after a certain age, are too great; there is a reason for menopause, beyond the impending death of the mother.

Sep. 27 2011 01:47 PM
Sarah from Ridgewood

I missed my fertility deadline and went down the path of looking into IVF and donor. Ultimately decided against artificially inducing babies into the world. There is a reason why nature works the way it does, and it is best left that way. If you want to care for and bring up a baby after menopause, adopt one of the millions of children who need good parents.

Sep. 27 2011 01:44 PM
John A.

Many of the people I know with superior vitality, genetic resistance to disease, etc. were born when their parents were very young, under 30 or 25. No straight 1:1 connection, it's a probability thing, but still, supported by the science. Male sperm as well as female egg are Both more likely to be damaged after 40.

Sep. 27 2011 01:44 PM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

This morning I heard an interview with Carla Bruni--she's expecting her second child and she's in her mid 40's.

The bottom line is you need to have money to have a kid. Kid's are expensive to raise--whatever the age.

Personally I would not want to have my daughter at this age--WAY to exhausting--I'm glad I had her in my very late 20's.

Sep. 27 2011 01:43 PM
Joan

Can she comment about being out of step with other family members, such as much older cousins, grandparents, etc.?

Sep. 27 2011 01:42 PM
VanessaR from New York

Oh, brother, here we go. All the folks who say, "just adopt" have obviously either not adopted themselves or adopted for the wrong reasons (quality programs will not accept potential parents who wish to "save" a child). Otherwise, they would know there is no such thing as "just" adopting.

I was in the adoption world. First, I was disqualified from China (I was on an antidepressant for six months a decade previously). China, btw, also disqualified folks of a certain BMI. My colleague's Chinese daughter languished for years there due to bureaucracy and politics.

Russia involved bribe after bribe of officials.

I turned to Guatemala. Was told of many orphans needing homes. I lost heart when Guatemala's program was pulled due to black market--STOLEN children being adopted out.

As well, human generativity being referred to as selfish really demonstrates a lack of understanding about what parenting is.

Sep. 27 2011 01:42 PM
Valerie Balakiryeva from Dunellen, NJ

I think that people are free to decide when to have children. But having an increasing number of older parents leads to a worrying shift in the American society - more and more people start to think that having a child before 27-30 is not normal. Society is condemning teen mothers, most of which are in perfect age for a child bearing from the nature point of view- 18-19 years old. Why does or society think that having children after 40 is somehow better than having them before 25?

Sep. 27 2011 01:42 PM
Catherine from Manhattan

Miller's answer to the problem of aging/sick parents is completely false. She cites the age at which people die. The criticism is not necessarily that the older parent will die young (though that is a possibility) but that the parent will be sick throughout the child's childhood and the child will have to take care of his/her parent long before the parent actually dies. This is unfair to the child who spends teenhood and 20s in a caregiver role.

Sep. 27 2011 01:42 PM
Amanda

Ask anyone who lost a parent when they were young how they felt, then stop justifying the idea that "anyone might die!"

Sep. 27 2011 01:42 PM
A. Mayadas

We have gone from a 4 generation society to a 1 generation one. How does this affect the way these kids (adults) are raised in the long run. Where is their family support -- long term?

Sep. 27 2011 01:42 PM
Alistair Wallace from Inwood

It's interesting that your guest feels in some way like an outsider or a "freak" for being an older parent. I'm 34 and have a four year old son and I'm by far the youngest parent in my son's class. I feel like the odd duck; older parents seem now the norm.

Sep. 27 2011 01:41 PM
Kim from Montclair

A much more damaging thing for a child than too young parents is to be born to parents who do not want them. This crosses the age spectrum and makes age a moot point.

Sep. 27 2011 01:41 PM
Amanda

Please stop calling birth a miracle. It is completely explicable.

Sep. 27 2011 01:41 PM
Susan from Manhattan

The woman on the cover of the magazine looks closer to 70 than 50. I said "Yuk!" when I saw her even though I became a parent at 40.

Sep. 27 2011 01:40 PM
kb from new york

Hi Leonard, thanks for showcasing this issue. I think older parents can be great parents. However, what happens when the parents are aging and the child is dealing with "end of life issues" at a very young age? Dealing with aging parents is difficult enough when you are in your 40's or 50's, but I can't imagine experience those challenges when you are in your 20's and 30's becoming established.

Sep. 27 2011 01:40 PM
Lois from Manhattan

What about the child's subjective experience? Don't children of older parents often feel shame when they compare their parents to other childrens.

Sep. 27 2011 01:39 PM
Anne from Manhattan

I had my first child at 35, my second at 37. My brother, 7 years older than me had his at 25. I watch him now at 47 practically an empty nester with a little envy. He and his wife are really enjoying their lives while still young. I will be pushing 60 with kids in college. That said, I learned a lot from watching both their success and mistakes as parents.

Sep. 27 2011 01:39 PM
Rob from Bronx

On the whole, are women in their 40's having children without fertility treatments? (One of the things said about Jennifer Lopez or other celebrities having children late in life is that they are concealing the use of fertility treatments, and thus giving other 40-year-olds false hopes).

Sep. 27 2011 01:39 PM
rosalie from astoria

I think this is really an issue of sexism and not ageism. Men have been having children throughout their lives forever and it has never been an issue. Many of my friends in their early thirties are starting families with their husbands or partners in their late forties/early fifties. This is considered quite normal but when women try it...

Sep. 27 2011 01:37 PM
Katie from Newport RI

Can you please bring up the issue of the couple in Italy she was 50 something and he is 70 and the judge decided they were too old to raise the child and the child should be put up for adoption.

Sep. 27 2011 01:35 PM
Amanda

Could you be any MORE selfish?
Ethics? Whatever. Adopt a kid who needs you.

Sep. 27 2011 01:34 PM
Nicole from NJ

"Yuk" to old men too... equally gross.

Sep. 27 2011 01:34 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Ageism??? What about millions of years of nature???

What seems ALWAYS to be left out of the conversation is the energy required to raise a young child and the lower energy levels of older parents.

Also, the greater likelihood of parents succumbing to illness and disease.

To a certain extent, this isn't fair to the children.

And I think all of the things the guest mentioned are the appropriate roles of parents. Yes, throwing the ball AND teaching the kids to ride bikes as well as loving the child.

Sep. 27 2011 01:34 PM
James from Princeton NJ

We are the parents of a wonderful 5 year old son. Both my wife and I are in our 50's and though there are some challenges, the most difficult thing is changing our selfish ways and learning how to teach him and play as long as he does. Its great.

Sep. 27 2011 01:31 PM
Laura from ny

What is the easiest, cheapest way for a fortysomething woman with regular periods to tell if she is still fertile?

Sep. 27 2011 12:53 PM

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