Get Ready to Get Angry

August 17, 2008

Many of you have heard that the current world record-holder for oldest woman to become a mother (and oldest successful IVF patient) is a 70-year-old woman from India. Turns out she’s not entirely happy with the results of the IVF.

I expect that most or all of you who are reading this post will be outraged at the sexism, so I won’t get into that.

I also expect that most of you will have something to say about people who end up leaving their family destitute because they can’t afford the cost of IVF, when the whole point was to create an heir. Most of us can relate to the high cost of IVF, and many can relate to the need for sacrifice to deal with that cost, but I think few of us would go to such lengths, especially when we no longer have any earning potential.

Most of you may also be aghast that this couple would impose on their older children and on their community in all of the ways described.

But what really got to me was that the couple have no idea what IVF entailed, even after having gone through it.

The couple do not even understand the fertility procedures carried out to allow Omkari to give birth so long after going through the menopause.

It is likely donor eggs were used to allow her to carry a child, but the Panwars simply do not know what happened when they went to a fertility clinic in Meerut last year.

Most of us know entirely too much about the IVF process. All of us would be well aware of, and have a strong say in, the use of donor gametes. All of us, I hope, have enough of an understanding of basic human biology to understand why it is normally impossible make babies at the age of 70 and what interventions are necessary to circumvent biology.

I have several hypothetical questions (but feel free to offer speculations). These are genuine questions, not jibes. Okay, maybe some of them are also jibes.

  1. What if IVF #1 had not worked for them? They would be out of money, and still without an heir. What would they have done?
  2. Do their older daughters hate them? Or are they on board with the situation because they share the same cultural values?
  3. Will their newborn daughter hate them for calling her a “burden” on an international stage before she is two months old?
  4. Will their newborn son hate them for putting so much pressure on him? For loving him not because of who he is, but because of his sex?
  5. Given that they don’t even know whether a donor was used, they obviously had no say in the selection of the donor. Would they object if the donor came from a lower caste?
  6. In the U.S., there are consent processes for medical procedures that require that the patient (or another responsible party) has some understanding of what will occur as well as the risks. Do they not require consent in India? Or do they usually require it, except when someone is going to pay a large sum of money for an elective procedure?

I’m curious to hear what you think. DH got so mad when I showed him the article that he can’t carry on a discussion.


4 Responses to “Get Ready to Get Angry”

  1. Nity Says:

    All these are interesting points. I think it’s interesting that the article mentioned u/s screening to rule out a girl. Having been to India (and Pakistan), I can tell you first hand – most families DO NOT like having girls. It’s similar in China. It’s a burden. Plain and simple – dowry, lack of status, finding a husband, and the list could go on. I have friends working to try and get girls who were sold into the sex trade because there families couldn’t support them. Being a girl in those countries is very hard.

    We as westerners have difficulty understanding that concept. We are told everyone is equal. We find it demoralizing/upsetting that the mother would consider the girl ‘a burden’. I know A TON of people who would love to adopt that child from you and offer her a fabulous home where she will be well cared for and loved.

    Ok – I want to discuss more, but I have to go cook supper. I’m looking forward to other people’s comments. You definately hit a hot topic!!


  2. Murgdan Says:


  3. Helen Says:

    I am one of those that honestly doesn’t pay any mind to the age of the couples, or the details (including the man that gave birth). But this one did irk me. The couple clearly sacrificed everything to do something they had little information about. What infuriates me the most is the attitude towards the “burdensome” daughter. I accept the cultural differences and the stigma and financial burden attached to girls, but good grief, that poor baby.

  4. Katie Says:

    I heard something recently from a message board contact who had been undergoing IVF with his wife. This is in the UK, with very very rigorous informed consent procedures, and my understanding is that they are both educated (his board posts are certainly literate, if that’s any guide!).

    They are both fairly religious and he had no objection on those grounds to the procedures in IVF but she was under the impression that fertilisation would take place in her body, not outside. I have no idea how they could have let her get to that understanding, especially since it means she didn’t understand several other aspects of the procedure (egg retrieval, embryo transfer) as well as the actual fertilisation. I don’t know if they’d done IUI and she was just going through with “another procedure, whatever” blinkers on.

    But it happens, and she was halfway through the procedure when she realised this was something she didn’t feel comfortable with. My opinion is the doctors concerned didn’t think enough about whether she understood, as it’s easy to think that something that you do every day must be clear to other people.

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