Reproductive technology accounts for the sharp rise in the numbers. Women over 45 who want to carry their own babies most often use donor eggs, though egg freezing, a more cutting-edge method, offers early adopters another option, a kind of reproductive DVR for circumventing the inflexible and often inconvenient schedules handed down by Mother Nature. (Save your shows, and watch them when you have time; put your own eggs on ice, and wait for Mr. Right.) Egg freezing now gets write-ups not just in medical journals but also in Vogue, where a long feature on the technology appeared this past May between articles on avant-garde gastronomy and the fashionable art of mismatching patterns.
But just as important as those medical advances is a baby-crazed, youth-crazed culture that encourages 50-year-olds to envision themselves changing diapers when a decade ago they might have been content to calculate the future returns on their 401(k)s. Nothing—not a sports car, not a genius dye job—says “I’m young” like a baby on your hip. “He’s given the house a renewed spirit and purpose,” John Travolta told People magazine earlier this year about his new son, Benjamin. Travolta is 57. His wife, Kelly Preston, is 48.
Born before the Stonewall riots, gay men in their fifties never expected to be invited into the ranks of the conventionally domesticated. But thanks to decades of activism, they too have the option of choosing a very traditional path: first love, then marriage, then that backbreaking baby carriage. They realize “that they can have what they always thought they couldn’t have,” says John Weltman, founder and president of Circle Surrogacy, a Boston agency that matches prospective parents with surrogate mothers. “They’re seeing it happen.”