The Male Biological Clock Also Ticks

24 Apr 2012 --- Portrait of mature black American man. --- Image by © Hero Images/Corbis

It is a thing of pride for the typical African man to tell anyone who cares to listen to that till death, he will always be fertile and able to have a child at any age, if he so wishes. And you know what, he is very correct, unlike women, whose egg reserve diminish with age, men produce semen throughout life. However, the quality of the semen and its components at any age affects the child it produces.

Older fathers, it turns out, can present as many medical problems as older mothers—more in fact. For babies born to older mothers, the concerns include Down syndrome and other genetic disorders, the list of conditions older fathers bring to the table turns out to be far longer. Some few years back, a study in Nature found that rates of autism and schizophrenia rise sharply in the babies of older dads, with the risk doubling every 16.5 years of paternal age; so a man at 36 years of age is more likely to have a child suffering from autism and schizophrenia than a man of 20.

Another study, also in Nature, found something similar for autism, beginning when a man is just 35—the same  age at which women  trying to conceive are tagged with all sorts of medical labels likes advanced maternal age, Older mom, Older Primigravida and all the sorts. Yet another paper in the American Journal of Men’s Health linked paternal age to preterm birth and low birth weight, and others have found connections to cleft lip and certain cancers.  While, that can certainly scare men into having babies earlier, it just shows that being fertile throughout life also come with its downside.

That was the story of Raphael and his wife of 22 years. By the seventh year into their marriage, they were done with child bearing and were settling down to enjoying and raising their family. They did that for over a decade, their kids were in the boarding school, and their home was fine, until Madam woke up one morning and complained of all sorts of symptoms.

Thinking nothing of it, Raphael suggested his wife to go the hospital after work, if she can wait, or call her office and tell them, she was not feeling okay, so, she could go to the hospital and off, he went to work. However, the news he came back to hear was unexpected. His wife was pregnant! He was truly blindsided, no, both of them were blindsided by this pregnancy news. No, they were on family planning injections.

“Pregnant???” Raphael asked his wife again to be sure. She produced the pregnancy result sheet and handed it to him. He read it, rubbed his eyes and read again, nothing had changed, the blood test that had been done on his wife said, she was 2 months pregnant. He sat down and loosened his tie, removed his shirt and sprawled out on their bed, the same bed where that child had been conceived.

He thought about his age, 55, how was he going to start dealing with a new born baby in the house. His wife is 49 years old, closer to menopause than years before, yet they were going to become new parents.  It was a bit too much to swallow.  In the end, he got up and found his wife at the edge of the bed, where she still sat, pulling her close, he wrapped her in his arms and brought her to lie down beside him on the bed. They did not say anything to each other; they just stayed put until it was time to eat their dinner, which turned out to be a very quiet meal, very unusual for a couple used to catching up on each other’s day.  Their prayer that night was a heavy with unspoken words, perfunctory at best.

They went to bed that night heavy but morning brought with it illumination. Raphael woke up determined to see the doctor together with his wife that morning. When he told her that they were going to the doctor’s office that morning, she was surprised but persuaded him to postpone it until her next ante natal clinic visit.

Although he agreed, he set out to find out all there was to know about having babies later in life. And he stumbled on all these studies that literally put the fear of God in him. He was scared of what the combination of their ages would have on the baby. They really should not be having babies at this age anyway; they had no business making any more babies at their age.

However, he still prayed that the doctor would not have such dreary news about older parenthood. But he did, the doctor after congratulating him on the pregnancy started to parrot the different conditions their age had predisposed their unborn child to. The more, he mentioned, the more Raphael sunk into his seat and prayed the man would shut up and stop scaring his wife, similar to the way he was scaring him with all the statistics and studies. Raphael only perked up, when he mentioned doing some tests to determine if their baby was likely to have any of these conditions.

At the appropriate time, they underwent the tests and it all came out well. The amniocentesis showed the baby was doing fine and growing well for its age. Meanwhile, the couples have turned prayer warriors, no more perfunctory prayers, they prayed like their lives depended on it. Which indeed it does,  because, should the baby suffer from any of the conditions mentioned by science as afflicting babies born to older parents, they were bound to be the one caring for a child in their old age.

So, they prayed binding and casting any condition that wants to afflict their child. They reminded God that Abraham and Sarah had Isaac in their very late 90s, Zechariah and Elizabeth, they gave examples and held on to His Word that their child would not be part of the statistics.

We join them in praying too that they will have a healthy baby as Raphael’s wife is actually breezing through the pregnancy for a woman her age, just the usual tiredness and best of all, their kids absolutely loved the prospect of a new sibling. They had been afraid that the children would have been grossed out by their Mom getting pregnant, but no, they were very fine with it.

They are expecting that same unexpected blessings will prevail throughout, which we absolutely say amen to.

Baby dust to all!!!





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