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A World Of Infinite Choice? Not For Women

Is It Fair To A Newborn To Have A Mother In Her 60s?

A woman’s body is not her own. Not really.

Of late, viagra 60mg there’s been a steady stream of confusing messages for women. In May 2015, Haya Shahar of Israel, who had struggled with infertility right through her forty-six years of marriage, gave birth to a baby boy at the age of 65. May, it seems, was a month for spectacular maternal triumphs as 65-year-old German primary school teacher Anna Raunigk, already a mother of thirteen, gave birth to quadruplets. But May was also the month Geeta Nargund, a leading fertility expert at Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) wagged her finger at women for putting off having babies until past thirty and consequently suffering through expensive and often futile in-vitro fertilization.

More confusing messages followed with Chelsea Hottovy’s article in Time magazine (10 June), ‘Why I don’t want to have children,’ (quote: “I don’t want to worry about diaper rash and ‘tummy time’ and I don’t want to know what colic is”). Hottovy at 28 has already had her tubes tied and now probably wishes she had been tongue-tied, given the abuse she has received from that bastion of informed opinion—the social media—with people assuring her that she won’t be truly happy unless she has a child.

A world of infinite choice? Not for women. To Geeta Nargund, who presumes women are putting off having babies until their thirties, the question is: who are these women? Why hasn’t Nargund or anyone else ever directed their ‘baby advice’ at men? A lot of women in their twenties want to have children but where are the men wanting to commit to stable, long-term relationships? Men aren’t pressured into compromising their careers or clamping down on promiscuity until their hair begins to thin, their gut begins to expand and their virility dampens.

In the UK, the mean age at marriage is thirty-three years for a man. And 67 percent of babies born to fathers under the age of thirty were by men who were not married. By contrast, over 68 percent of children born to men over thirty were by married fathers.  Marriage and possibly commitment is something that becomes important to men much later. These trends may reflect European societies but other metropolitan populations are not too far off from conforming to them. Almost everywhere the trend of delaying marriage is catching on. In India, the increase in age at marriage has been the greatest in Goa.

The cultivated image of a young woman callously climbing the corporate ladder, partying, travelling and shopping at the expense of her ageing eggs, is unfair. The prerogative to propose marriage still belongs to a man. Men should be held as accountable for hurrying along procreation as women. Holding women solely responsible, implies they are free to have children on their own, but how supportive is society of women who make that choice?

As women, given the trend of late marriage and declining fertility, we can only celebrate the advances made in assisted reproductive technology (ART). Elisabeth Richards, author of Motherhood; Rescheduled, argues that women should never have an age limit on fertility treatment. Freezing of eggs and donor eggs now makes it technically possible to have children into your fifties and sixties (the egg is usually that of a donor is such cases). But while we can all talk sagely about a woman’s reproductive rights, does a child not have rights as well? We wouldn’t encourage pubescent girls to have children, nor women struggling with disabilities or addictions. We wouldn’t even encourage women with financial problems to have more children than they can afford. So why isn’t there a more robust discussion on the ethics of fertility clinics willing to impregnate elderly women?

Some countries like Japan have placed an age cap on artificially assisted reproduction with fifty to fifty-five being the cut-off. In India, a seventy-year-old woman gave birth in 2008 through fertility treatment. Children have a right to their parents’ energy, they have a right not to be abandoned by death and they have a right not to be impaired by disability. Society puts undue pressure on women to become mothers and that’s partly the reason why women are pursuing motherhood well past menopause at great risk to their bodies. Perhaps the more sensible thing is not to make women feel like utter failures if they don’t have children.

Childlessness is not always a choice and neither is motherhood. It’s what happens to women’s bodies as a consequence of various circumstances and emotions—love, lust, duty, obligation, fertility, infertility, committed partners or non-committal ones. As such, we don’t have as many choices as it seems. Our bodies are not our own, they never will be; they work in partnership, they bear responsibilities, they create whole worlds. And women don’t need any more guilt or pressure on account of this, than what they already endure.

Selma Carvalho is a columnist and author of ‘A Railway Runs Through: Goans of British East Africa, 1865-1980’. Between 2011-2014, she headed the Oral Histories of British- Goans project.