Rajo Devi’s face is gaunt, her eyes deeply shadowed, and her hair is completely silver. She is 75-years-old, a native of India, and married to a man several years older than she is, named Bala Ram.
And between them, they have an adorable, lively child, whose black hair is cropped short and whose eyes are bright. Her name is Naveen, she wants to be a doctor when she grows up… and she is only five years of age.
Naveen is their only child. Rajo Devi, who is often called “the world’s oldest mom,” spent the majority of her married life being looked down upon because of her infertility. She married her husband at age 15, and the couple began trying to conceive right away.
The couple prayed to Hindu fertility gods and spent 40 years seeking medical help and advice, all to no avail. And then Rajo took on a second wife, Om Pati, who also happens to be Rajo’s sister, but she was unable to conceive, as well. And then, in 2007, way past the age that many would consider becoming pregnant, the couple heard about the Hisar National Fertility Clinic, which had gotten a 60-year-old woman pregnant with twins.
The couple took out a loan and mortgaged their crops in order to acquire the several thousand dollars they would need for fertility treatments — IVF, specifically. They went to one of about 2,000 unregulated fertility clinics in India that will provide IVF to older women.
Dr. Anurag Bishnoi at the National Fertility Centre said that he does occasionally turn patients away.
“We exclude hypertension, we exclude diabetes, any sort of long illness. If the female is physically fit, then only we take that patient,” he explained.
Rajo became pregnant after the couple’s second IVF attempt, using a donor egg rather than Rajo’s, as the health of the baby was likely to be much better with a younger egg being used. It was her husband who fertilized the egg, however. Rajo gave birth to their daughter Naveen via a c-section at age 70, becoming the world’s oldest mom.
But being the world’s oldest mom has a lot of concerns. At 75 years of age, Rajo cannot keep up with the demands of her 5-year-old daughter. And the problem goes deeper than just old age. The pregnancy and delivery of her daughter put a severe strain on her body; she is now bed-ridden, and not expected to live more than just a few more years.
During an initial interview with BBC News, the world’s oldest mom said that her life without a child was a “life in darkness. Only a child could bring light.”
She also said that the joy of having Naveen had made her live longer than she would have otherwise, and that she would live to see her married.
“The only reason I am still alive in spite of my illness is Naveen,” said the mom. “She is a gift to me from God and until I get her married I cannot afford to die. I will get her married when she turns 15-years-old, but until then I simply cannot die.”
But once the camera was turned off, it is reported that she admitted that having a child had been her husband’s choice, saying, “After all, it is a man’s world. Women here have no choices.”
For more on pregnancies that defied all odds, read about this one in 25 million pregnancy.