Today this morning featured Bhateri Devi, a 66-year-old woman from Hisar, India who just became a first-time mom. Cue the judgment!
Obviously Devi's case and those of other very old moms aren't without their problems. KHQ implies that that Devi's recovering especially slowly from the birth of her triplets due to her age. Another older mother, 72-year-old Rajo Devi Lohan (who breastfeeds in the clip above), is reportedly dying after delivery ruptured her uterus. But for some reason, all the debate around these sometimes risky pregnancies has focused on judgment of the mom's motivations — or even their mental health. Bridget Jean of MomLogic writes,
I know that having a child and becoming a parent is a precious and priceless gift. But at the age of 66 years old, WHY? What are the chances of watching your precious children grow up, graduate high school, get married and have children of their own. Isn't having a child at such an age, SELFISH?
I'm a young mother, almost 35, and on certain days I have a hard time keeping up with my children, family and all of the activities that come along with being a wife and parent. How on earth can they manage?
The idea that giving birth in advanced age (or even having fertility treatments at all) is selfish is a common refrain. And while it makes sense for older moms to consider whether they'll be able to be active parents, Jean's second paragraph has a disturbing subtext — she's a fit mother, older women are not. Way more disturbing, though, is Fox News's suggestion that older women who want to have children are probably senile:
Besides physical complications, another concern is the soundness of mind at the advanced ages of these women, as well as their ability to rationally think through her feelings of wanting to be a mother.
"If this doctor doesn't have convincing data on hand that these women are competent to make medical decisions, then him impregnating them artificially should be viewed as an assault and treated criminally," [psychiatrist Dr. Keith] Ablow said.
Older people are typically allowed to make medical decisions for themselves unless that right is specifically transferred, and the idea that women should have to take a test to determine if they're too batty to have a baby is pretty insulting. It might be worthwhile to take a look at the stigma that can influence older women to have kids — Devi says she and her husband faced mockery for their childlessness, and Lohan's doctor offers this disturbing pronouncement: "Even though Rajo's health is deteriorating, at least she will die in peace. She does not have to face the stigma of being barren." And while women do need scrupulous doctors who can determine if their bodies can handle pregnancy and delivery, they don't need laypeople second-guessing their morals and their sanity.