India: At 72, New Mom Banks on ‘God’s Plan’ for IVF Baby

Soni Sangwan
2016.06.03
Amritsar, India
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160603-IN-ivf-parents-620.jpg Daljinder Kaur, 72, and her husband Mohinder Singh Gill, 79, hold their newborn son Armaan at their home in Amritsar, May 11, 2016.
AFP

More than six weeks have passed since a baby boy blessed the lives of Mohinder Singh Gill and his wife Daljinder Kaur, first-time parents who are in their 70s.

But visitors, including curious strangers, keep coming by to their home in the northwestern Indian state of Punjab to catch a glimpse of the newborn and his septuagenarian mother and father.

“Most parents have to wait for their children to grow up to make them famous. But our son has brought us fame right at birth,” Kaur joked as she glanced at the crowd of people inside her home in Amritsar city’s posh Ranjit Avenue locality.

On April 19, when Kaur gave birth at the age of 72, she possibly became the oldest woman in the world to have a baby through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Her case has spurred a debate among Indian medical experts on the ethics of reproducing beyond a certain age.

With her wispy grey hair, Kaur shrugged off her critics as she looked down at her newborn son, Armaan.

“I don’t want to think about all this. At this time, my focus is just our son,” Kaur told BenarNews. “This was God’s plan. So it is all up to him. Had things been in my hands, I would have had a kid long ago.”

But it wasn’t purely parental instinct that made Kaur and her husband Gill, 79, undergo IVF to have a baby, Gill told BenarNews.

One of the reasons they chose IVF after 46 years of marriage was to have an heir to stake a claim in his ancestral property, which is valued at $750,000.

“Since we had no children, my (late) father wanted to give my share of his ancestral property to my younger brother, who was only interested in selling it off. But I went to court and got a stay on the matter. But now, I have an heir, so the property will remain in the family,” Gill said.

‘Lives are complete’

Having spent the greater part of their married life in litigation, the couple said they had little time for anything else.

“Look at this house,” Gill said, pointing toward his sparsely furnished living room. “Before Armaan, we had nothing to look forward to. We didn’t even buy a sofa set in the 46 years we’ve been married. But now, we feel our lives are complete.”

Kaur said she came across the idea of using IVF to conceive a baby six years ago, while watching a television program that featured an Indian embryologist who had helped a 60-something woman give birth.

Within days, Kaur and Gill were on a train to the embryologist’s clinic in Hisar, Haryana state, about 327 km (203 miles) from Amritsar.

Dr. Anurag Bishnoi of the National fertility and Test Tube Baby Center initially refused to take up the couple’s case.

“At first, I tried to avoid the case because she [Kaur] looked very frail. [Subsequently] we made her undergo all the tests and once all the results were OK we went ahead [with the procedure],” Bishnoi told Agence France-Presse.

Kaur went through two cycles of unsuccessful IVF before finally conceiving in July 2015.

“The process was painful and tiresome. But I am happy it all worked out well,” she said.

Armaan, which means “desire” or “wish” in Hindi, was born at 37 weeks through a normal delivery and weighed a healthy 2 kg (4.4 pounds) at birth.

A month and a half since his birth, Kaur said she was still getting used to the baby’s erratic routine.

“At times, I am up for four hours in the middle of the night nursing him. It feels as if I am sleep-walking through my days and nights,” said Kaur who is nursing the infant.

Medical community divided

But while many see Kaur’s case as a medical marvel, it has attracted criticism from experts in medicine and lawmakers. Against this backdrop, a draft bill that recommends a cut-off age for couples opting for IVF has been stuck in the pipeline for years.

Dr. Sudha Prasad, chief of the gynecology department at New Delhi’s Maulana Azad Medical College, described Kaur’s case as a horrible situation.

“There are many implications of having a child. Are the parents capable of taking on the physical and emotional responsibility of bringing up another human being? That is one question,” Prasad told BenarNews.

“Pregnancy, even in normal cases when the mother is over 35 years of age can lead to high blood pressure, gestation diabetes, eclampsia. Government regulations do not even allow people over a certain age to adopt, and here they are putting a 72-year-old woman through childbirth,” the physician said.

Prasad, a member of the Indian Council for Medical Research Committee of Artificial Reproduction Treatment (ART), said she had recommended 45 as the age limit for using the IVF method for the ART Bill 2016, but eventually agreed to 50 as the cut-off age.

The bill, which has been in the draft stage for several years, is expected to be tabled for discussion in parliament this year.

A health ministry official who requested anonymity declined to give an estimate as to when the bill would be tabled, saying, “We are still studying the feasibility of the recommendations mentioned in the draft.”

Nanu Bhasin, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Women and Child Development, declined comment.

As for Kaur, she expressed her hopes for Armaan.

“God has given him to us. God will take care of everything,” she said.

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