When I wrote my article 'Is 50 Too Old to Have a Baby?' for Huffington Post a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't expecting what would happen next. My piece had been inspired by the recently released statistics that the number of women giving birth over the age of fifty had more than doubled in the past five years. Two weeks later on my way to work I caught sight of a headline at the other end of the spectrum: 'Britain's Youngest Parents'. (A world exclusive courtesy of The Sun.)
Said parents have just had a baby girl. The mother is 12 and still in primary school (she was 11 when the baby was conceived and is five months younger than Britain's previous youngest mum). The father is 13. The couple are said to be 'totally in love' and have the lowest combined age of any British parents on record. So if 50 is too old to have a baby, is 12 too young?
I have to admit I recoil from imagining where and when it happened. Behind the scooter shed? In their bedroom over a childhood game of doctors and nurses gone wrong? Or, even worse, in their parents' bedroom? In fact, where were their parents? Ok, stop. It happened.
Hilary Pannack, Chief Executive of the teenage pregnancy charity, Straight Talking, has said that one of the reasons for the growing number of younger mothers is that girls are going into puberty earlier. Combined with the ever-increasing sexualisation of society - in which 'twerking' is a pantomime joke that children and their grandparents understand - where's it going to end?
Children shouldn't have children. Surely everyone agrees with that. It robs them of their own childhood and, although this young couple say now that they are 'totally in love', will they really stay together? Maybe aged 50 you don't have quite as much energy as you did at primary school or the same life expectancy but surely knowledge that comes with years lived on this planet is what a new generation needs most - parents who can support their children intellectually, emotionally and financially.
But the irony is that unlike Britain's growing group of 50-year old mothers, this 12-year old mother - 'Unknown of North London' - didn't need any medical help to conceive. I think I can venture confidently and say that unlike most 50+ mothers there were no donor eggs or IVF involved. So whilst it may seem 'unusual' to see a picture of child parents and their baby smiling into a camera from a hospital ward (their faces obscured, of course) it's certainly not 'unnatural'. And if nature says it's possible to have a baby at 12 whereas at 50 you can only do it with scientific intervention are we as human beings in any position to disagree?Suggest a correction