Is 61 too old to become a mother?

By Tracy Bowden

Shammi Pal was 61 when she gave birth to her daughter Angel, who is now seven months old.

Ms Pal claims that as an older mother she’s faced disapproval and feared her child would be taken away from her.

“They thought you could be sick in the head to be having a baby at this age, or really silly, or this could be the biggest crime you have ever done to have a baby at this age,” Ms Pal told 7.30.

“It is my body, it is my baby and I am quite capable of looking after this baby.

“I love my baby, I’d do anything for my baby.”

Asked what she’d say to people who think women her age shouldn’t have children, she said, “They are crazy”.

“They are not thinking right, because women at any age can have babies and this is proven by doctors around the world. And I think they should be given a chance.”

‘We were craving a child’

Ms Pal and her husband Lucas Arora didn’t meet until they were in their late 40s.

“We were a childless couple and we were craving a child,” she said.

“I loved everybody else’s children and I only prayed I get one for myself.”

The couple tried IVF programs in Australia, but at 52 Ms Pal was told she had reached the cut-off age.

An ad in an Indian newspaper led Ms Pal to a clinic in western India run by fertility specialist Dr Mehul Damani.

Dr Damani told 7.30 he is currently treating patients from 20 different countries and has successfully delivered babies to a number of women in their 60s.

“I think every lady in the world has a dream of having her own baby from her own body and that is what Shammi Pal wanted,” he said.


Ms Pal decided to have one last shot at motherhood with Dr Damani’s help. She didn’t see her age as a problem.

“I thought, ‘I am physically fit, I am healthy, I’m highly educated and I am capable, financially, mentally, bodily.’ I was all prepared for it.”

She conceived with a donor egg and sperm and returned to Australia to prepare for the birth of her baby.

‘You shouldn’t have a baby at this age’

At Melbourne’s Mercy Hospital she sensed the disapproval of medical staff, claiming she was told, “You shouldn’t have a baby at this age.”

She claims she was forced to have a caesarean section when she was desperate to attempt a natural birth.

“The doctor said, ‘We have to have the baby operated, otherwise I can’t give you a live baby,'” she said.

Angel was born on September 12 last year, but after the difficult birth Ms Pal said there were more problems ahead.

“I started to feel quite queer that something is going on and they are not letting me go near my baby,” she said.

“There were people marching in and out of my hospital room, social workers and all these other people.”

Authorities wanted to be sure Ms Pal was well enough and that she and her husband were both capable of looking after her baby.

“We were shocked. Everybody else has a baby and takes the baby home and brings the baby up the way they want to. Nobody gets told, ‘This is how you must do that and if you don’t we will take the baby to a foster home,'” she said.

“We are highly educated professionals, we are healthy, we are capable.”

Did she think medical staff had her and the baby’s best interests at heart?

“No, they were not worried about me at all,” she said.


‘I’ve been condemned’

Mercy Hospital told 7.30 its staff tailor their care for the individual needs of each patient, but due to patient privacy declined to respond to the family’s specific complaints.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services told 7.30, “child protection practitioners are obliged to assess and respond to all reports made about welfare concerns for children” and that, “the age of carers is not a factor”.

After a couple of long and difficult months, Ms Pal and her husband were able to take their daughter home.

Asked how she felt to be one of Australia’s oldest mothers, Ms Pal said things might be different elsewhere.

“To be honest, if I was one of the oldest mothers, say, for example in a country like India, I would have been given a bravery award,” she said.

“But here I’ve been condemned and looked at as the biggest mistake I have ever done. What have I done to deserve this? I’ve only become a mum.”

Australian Fertility Specialist Professor Michael Chapman does have concerns about women choosing to go overseas for IVF treatment.

“As a woman gets older there are medical risks for her, but also the concern about this child’s rearing,” Professor Chapman said.

“I do my best to dissuade people, but provided all the appropriate risk factors are taken into account, if people want to go overseas and utilise these services, so be it.”

Does Ms Pal think it’s unfair for Angel to have parents this age?

“Absolutely not. I think we are going to be the greatest parents and perhaps the best parents because we have got a miracle baby, don’t forget that.”

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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