Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Motherhood at all costs?

A very sad and disturbing programme was aired on Britain’s Channel 4 television last week. The title of the programme was ‘The World’s Oldest Mums’, and it gave the stories of three women who gave birth and one woman who was prepared to go to any lengths to give birth to a baby. What made these women unusual was the fact that all four of them were far beyond the natural age at which a woman gives birth. One of the women, an Englishwoman, was determined – at the age of 72 – to bear a child (whose parents would be unknown) through IVF. She felt that the time was now ‘right’ for her to do so, and although she found it difficult to walk, and her house did not appear to be the ideal place in which to raise a child, nevertheless she relentlessly (and unsuccessfully) pursued her wish in various fertility clinics (both in the UK and abroad).

A second woman, a 70-year-old Indian, bore a child (whose father, it appeared, was the husband of the woman), again through IVF. It seems that in the area of India in which the woman lives, not to have given birth to a child is looked upon as a stigma. As a result, a childless woman would go to any length, even to the extent of selling the family cattle, in order to avail of the IVF services being made available.

The third woman, from Spain, had looked after her 101-year-old mother until her death, and then decided that she wanted, at the age of 69, to fulfil her wish of giving birth. Again, with the assistance of IVF, the woman bore twin boys (father and mother unknown). She was obviously genuinely devoted to the two beautiful little boys, but as time passed she found it more and more difficult to care for them. Eventually, when the children were about two years old she died of cancer, and her brother took over their care.

Finally, an American woman (age unstated, but who was obviously long past the normal child-bearing age), following IVF, gave birth to twin girls, whose father was her second husband. The girls were now in their teens, and although it hadn’t bothered them unduly up to now, they always realised that their ‘Mom’ appeared to be somewhat older than the mothers of their peers.

A newspaper ‘promo’ for the programme ends with this question: And, what about the rights of the unborn child?