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In an ever-escalating media fascination with anomalies of maternal age, it seems India has been unofficially chosen to host the 2010 contest for the oldest lady with the most babies.
Of course, unlike the Olympics, there aren’t any nations noticeably jumping up and down screaming “Pick me! Pick me!” to get selected—mostly because it appears the gold medal comes with a pine box and a posthumous place in the Guinness book.
Last month, the New York Daily News (http://www NULL.nydailynews NULL.com/news/world/2010/06/14/2010-06-14_worlds_oldest_mother_72_is_dying__just_months_after_giving_birth NULL.html#ixzz0uFmNQxx3) seemed to chime in the victory cheer with: “Mama mia! Just 18 months after giving birth, the world’s ‘oldest mother’ is dying.”
You could almost sing along with the subtext to the tune of “Ding-dong, the witch is dead!”
It was a smug, self-satisfied reference to Rajo Devi Lohan (http://www NULL.dailymail NULL.co NULL.uk/news/worldnews/article-1286412/Worlds-oldest-mother-Rajo-Devi-Lohan-reveals-dying NULL.html), who was 70 years old when she gave birth to a daughter in Baddhu Patti, India, in 2008.
A member of the Fox News (http://www NULL.foxnews NULL.com/story/0,2933,594684,00 NULL.html) medical team now calls the decision to give Lohan IVF a “controversial question of ethics” and casts doubt upon her mental competence to make a medical choice about having a baby due to her age.
So, not only is she an old lady, she was probably senile too, according to Fox.
So, good morning, America!
Welcome to the latest Gong Show effort to sensationalize and stigmatize later life motherhood through a relentless quest for ‘world’s oldest mother’—so they can slap a self-righteous “I told you so” on the old lady’s death bed.
Moreover, while occurrences of genuinely “elderly” women giving birth are more anecdotal than mainstream, it gives them a sack of selfish feathers and a bucket of terminal tar to roll the rest of us in.
Isn’t it obvious? Women like Lohan of India, Lauren Cohen of the USA who birthed twins just before turning 60, or the UK’s Susan Tollefsen who had her daughter at 57—all of whom appeared on TLC’s Pregnant At 70 (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=2bjyW8B90Uo) last May—are the exceptions who prove the rule.
Trotting them out for public display on prime-time TV smacks of a circus freak show—placing them, as Captain Kirk once said (http://memory-alpha NULL.org/wiki/This_Side_of_Paradise_%28episode%29), “right next to the dog-faced boy!”
Such portrayals are nothing more than lurid entertainment intended to gratify viewers’ insatiable appetite for the grotesque—medical and social deviants at whom they can shake their heads disbelievingly, point and jeer, and (by contrast) enjoy of an inflated opinion of themselves.
In Pregnant At 70 (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=2bjyW8B90Uo), TLC ripped the disfiguring drama right out of the script of the 1980 film The Elephant Man (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=q2KEN8XBL00). (If you doubt the veracity of this statement, watch both trailers)
Then, in June 2010, CNN aired a piece (file:///C:/Users/Angel/Documents/FLower%20Power%20Mom%20Website/BLOGS/CNN%20Indian%20coverage%20http:/www NULL.cnn NULL.com/video/#/video/world/2010/06/22/pkg NULL.sidner NULL.triplets NULL.66 NULL.cnn?hpt=T2) about Bhateri Devi, a mother who—at age 66—gave birth to triplets after conceiving at the same fertility clinic in India as Lohan did.
What’s worse, it appears that—with Devi, and in the case of Lohan, along with another 70-year-old Indian mother who birthed twins in 2008—there are emergent cultural forces driving the IVF treatments that do not exist equally the West.
Devi’s 70-year-old farmer husband insisted on his patrilineal right, as dictated by culture, to heirs for his lands—much the same as the other fathers of elderly mothers in the same clinic.
After the Bhateri Devi received successful IVF with eggs from a youthful donor, I couldn’t shake the feeling that, in this case, “mom” wasn’t much more than a culturally approved incubator for a patriarch’s demand for immortality.
Their fertility doctor, Anurag Bishnoi, who boasts having provided fertility treatments to over 100 older couples—and was once considered controversial by the media at best—is now being openly vilified as if he’s running a fertility clinic for senior citizens or old age pensioners.
In the Fox feature, Dr. Bishnoi—who works at the National Fertility Center (http://nationalfertilitycentre NULL.com/) in Hisar—defended having given IVF to the now purportedly dying 72-year-old Lohan, arguing that there was no connection between her pregnancy and her ensuing illness.
Instead, according to Dr. Bishnoi, he had saved her from a fate actually worse than death:
“She does not have to face the stigma of being barren,” he was quoted as saying.
In the CNN segment (http://www NULL.cnn NULL.com/video/#/video/world/2010/06/22/pkg NULL.sidner NULL.triplets NULL.66 NULL.cnn?hpt=T2), he was also described as a doctor who “proudly displays articles written about his oldest patients,” and volleyed an accusation—thinly veiled as a question—that he might be ‘doing it for the publicity and taking a risk with a family.’
His countermeasure was simply to state that it’s very dangerous to fly in an airplane or ride a bike, but people take these risks—like them, older couples were simply trying to get to their ‘destination.’
“As a doctor, I can’t say ‘no,’” he told CNN, “if the patient is medically fit.”
But, fit or not, the rest of the world will still see her as Elephant Mom.
Notes for this blog:
Do you have a comment or a story idea? Email me: editor[at]flowerpowermom.com
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