When news broke that Janet Jackson and husband Wissam Al Mana had welcomed a healthy baby boy, I was delighted for them. Yet, despite the world's good wishes towards Janet, who reportedly "had a stress-free, healthy delivery", it was sad that most people seemed more concerned about her age.
There was barely a headline that didn't mention it, and some went even further. "Janet Jackson welcomes son at 50, but is that normal?" asked the ibtimes, as if she was some kind of freak. The Manchester Evening News explained "Why Janet Jackson is selfish to have a child at 50".
On Good Morning Britain, Piers Morgan implied Janet was too old to be a mother at 50, before admitting to co-host Susannah Reid he fathered his own daughter at 46 - but that was different because "I'm a man". Incredulous at his misogynistic hypocrisy, Reid asked "What, sorry? And that's different how?" A giggling Piers explained, "In a funny way, seeing an old man at the school gates no-one seems to mind. When women are 70, they're like why has granny come?"
When giving birth myself for the first time at 39, doctors already considered me an "elderly primigravida" (translation: old woman having first pregnancy). Yet despite the scare stories about fertility statistics for older women frequently bandied about by the Daily Mail, I was fortunate enough to conceive naturally and immediately. In fact, my second pregnancy and labour at 41 was even easier than my first. Sometimes, it's not about how old you are, it's how old you feel.
Dr. Jacques Moritz, an affiliate associate professor OB-GYN at Weill Cornell, agrees that - fertility aside - older mothers are more than capable of carrying babies, telling New York Magazine "physically, there is nothing wrong, and women even into their 50s and 60s can do it, as long as they are healthy."
Photo: Janet Jackson/Twitter
There are still those who say Janet Jackson is selfish, that at best she will live to see her son turn 30, and might not live to see her own grandchildren. Yet neither did my own father, aged just 21 when I was born, and who died at 38 from cancer caused by a rare autoimmune disorder. Even young parents cannot guarantee to outlive their children. None of us should be arrogant enough to assume we will live to the global average age of 71.
And what of 73 year old great-grandfather Mick Jagger, whose 29 year old partner Melanie Hamrick recently gave birth to his eighth child? Jagger is in incredible physical shape, performing for hours on stage with his relentless touring schedule. I'd wager he is much fitter than many new dads half his age. Granted, there has been criticism of the Rolling Stone too, but as a man he is also congratulated on his virility: "Mick Jagger (73) has had his 8th child with a woman 17 years younger than his 1st child. That's the most rock n roll thing I've ever heard" tweeted one fan.
Mick Jagger (73) has had his 8th child with a woman 17 years younger than his 1st child. That's the most rock n roll thing I've ever heard 😂— Andrew (@scotlandrew1) 8 December 2016
Interestingly, the female equivalent term for virility is almost unheard of. It is, in fact, muliebrity, and in Janet's case, it has been assumed she used IVF to conceive. The chances of a woman falling pregnant naturally at 50 are extremely slim. But for those who disapprove of a woman her age her trying to bypass nature, what then shall we tell young men with defective sperm? That they should be denied IVF because they could never have conceived naturally? How about women left infertile after cancer treatment? Should they be refused IVF because their cancer might one day return?
Perhaps Janet's critics should look at the circumstances in which they conceived their own children. How many of those people fell pregnant by accident, or were in a relationship which broke down after - or even before - the birth? How many were in dire straits financially, or lived in unsuitable housing? How many led unhealthy lifestyles? There is no 'perfect' set of circumstances in which to have a child.
Yet even if Janet Jackson had become pregnant in any or all of those circumstances, I would still defend her right to have a child at 50. Luckily, she is in a stable relationship, in seemingly good health and is financially secure. Her baby son Eissa is both wanted and loved.
So, congratulations Janet and Wissam. Your baby is beautiful. And that's all that needs to be said.