From the get-go, this documentary didn’t try to bias the viewer one way or another to answer the question its title posed; it’s a matter of subjective opinion, and you’ll never get a room full of people who all agree on the subject.
Many will think that becoming a mother at a time when – for some – the body is winding down and heading to God’s waiting room is inherently wrong. Others, and most likely of similar number, will say “Why not?” as long as mum and baby are healthy and the baby’s loved, who has the right to dictate a shelf life for that?
Yet others would perhaps suggest that young mothers die all the time – tragic accidents, cancers and a host of other causes of premature death – and nobody has a guaranteed life expectancy when handed a baby.
And others, and I class myself among this number, would say that there’s not a whole lot money can’t buy and the unscrupulous will always prey on the desperate.
That was what came across to me most forcefully in this film, certainly in regard to two of the older mothers we met; they had clearly been desperate to have babies and both were heading into pensionable age when they got them. And both had to search high and low for a doctor who preferred a big bank balance than a trouble free conscience.
One of these mums was Sue, who was 57 when she had her first child. She had to go to Russia to get fertility treatment – in the form of a donor egg since she was long past menopause – and her first two pregnancies ended in miscarriage.
It was thought her third had too, however, it turned out that Sue had been expecting twins but had miscarried one, leaving one baby that lay in her womb undiscovered until Sue was 29 weeks pregnant. That baby became Freya who is now 18 months old and a beautiful child.
However, now 60, Sue wants another baby. Will she get what she wants? If she’s got enough money she will.
We also met Lauren, a typical American who, at 58, had her second child – the first now a grown woman of 30 – and followed that baby with twins who are now three years old. Lauren’s husband is a relatively youthful 41, so at least if anything happens to Lauren, one might argue that the children’s father will still be around, hopefully.
And then there was Rajo Devi who lives in Haryana, India; she became the world’s oldest mother when she gave birth last November at the age of 70. Although she might be 72 according to her brother. Nobody actually seems to know for sure how old she is.
In a convoluted and very keep-it-in-the-family attempt to conceive a child, Rajo’s younger sister was roped in to provide a baby, but at the fertility clinic they visited, Rajo was deemed the most likely candidate to carry a child, and sure enough, she did.
Rajo’s culture often values a boy child above a girl, but when asked about that Rajo, with apparently no sense of the irony of her statement, replied, “We are content to accept whatever God gives us.”
But of course, if God had a hand in the whole affair, it was vicariously through modern medicine since his biological blueprints for us all dictate that when women become menopausal, the childbearing clock has reached its zenith and no more babies shall be issued forth. But again, money talks, and it’s a conversation that’s multi-lingual and crosses all cultures.
The NHS currently excludes any woman over 40 for fertility treatment, but private clinics in this country have a 50 year old cut-off point. However, we heard that Sue is about to be treated by a clinic in London and may well get her wish to become a mum again.
So, after all the ‘evidence’ was presented, did I – or you – have any clearer answer to the question, Too Old To Be A Mum? Well for me, the answer was never a question; I’ve always had a personal belief that bearing a child when over 50 is dangerous and long-term, irresponsible.
That said though, we are all of course living longer than we used to, so a woman of 50 giving birth is entitled to think she may get to 80, in which case, her baby will be 30 years old when mum dies.
I guess it’s all still rather hazy; if you said to me, “Well what about 51? Or 54?” I’d have to say, “Take it on merit”. Is the mum to be well? Will she have help? Is there someone to look after the child if mum dies?
But while there are grey areas – even for those of us with pretty staunch opinions on this subject – I really do think that having a baby at 70 is, to be blunt, gross. However, Rajo’s baby was born into a community and there will be no lack of care should Rajo die…
Let us know your opinions; I’d really like to hear them.