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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Four years ago, I met a man who fulfilled all my hopes and needs for a lifetime companion. We married a year later and have been happy in a new home and community. He's 48 and I am 40.

We've discussed starting a family. I have no children, but he has a 24-year-old son. We are both in excellent health and have discussed it with my ob-gyn, who sees us as capable of having a normal child. We are financially sound and would make loving parents.

My dilemma lies with the negative comments we are getting from our families. My mother says we'd be selfish to have children at such an advanced age. His mother says there would be only heartache for our children because we will be "elderly" by the time they reach 20.

My husband says the decision is ours, and we should be influenced only by what's in our hearts -- not what others say.

I have read about older couples who started families and had no regrets. I would like to hear from the children of older couples, children who were in high school when their parents were 60 and 70 years old. Do the children have any regrets? I don't want our children to feel cheated because we are older, or because we might not be able to do things with them that younger parents could do. If you would print this, it would help us make our decision to have a family or remain childless. -- TO BE OR NOT TO BE PARENTS IN TEXAS

DEAR "TO BE OR NOT TO BE": You have posed an interesting question, which can best be answered by children who have grown up in families with older parents. It's something that's becoming more commonplace with advances in the field of infertility medicine.

Although I'd be surprised if many of the offspring of older parents would bite the hands of the parents who birthed them, I'd be very interested in what they have to say. Readers?

DEAR ABBY: Marilyn Bozeman's letter regarding adopted children was so far off base it's almost laughable. I agree that labels are cruel, but adoptees don't search for their "real" parents because society has labeled them adoptees, or because their adoptive parents didn't raise them well or love them enough.

We search to find a genetic connection from our roots to the rest of the universe. Adoptive parents should educate themselves about the emotional impact adoption has on their child and be prepared to deal with those issues when they arise. Many excellent books are available, written by adoptees, birth mothers and adoptive parents.

Attitudes about adoption and the laws surrounding it have changed considerably from the '50s and '60s, but much more is needed. Human beings are the only species on Earth that willingly give away their offspring. It is a barbaric practice, equally as evil as abortion.

The bottom line: Men should do a better job of guarding their sperm because conception should never be an accident. -- STILL WOUNDED BY ADOPTION

DEAR WOUNDED: Although conception should never be an accident, it often is.

However, I cannot agree with your statement that adoption is a barbaric practice. I see adoption as an ideal solution to an urgent problem in which all of the involved individuals have an equal need for one another.

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