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The doomed, desperate bargain of Carmela Bousada

Maria del Carmen Bousada, who has just died of cancer at age 69, leaving two-year-old twin boys, was a woman possessed by a dream: bearing children of her own. Never mind that she had no job or husband when she sold her home at 66 to pay for treatments at California’s Pacific Fertility Center. And so what if the clinic had a cut-off age of 55? Bousada lied about her age, and presto—technology made her the world’s oldest mother. She told The Daily Mail, “Everyone has to have children at the right time for them. This was the right time for me.”Bousada

Such visions she spun at her modest home in Spain! A younger man to help her raise the kids, a few nips and tucks to freshen her face. Grandchildren someday. (Yes, you read that right.) How could she fail to reach a great age, since her mother had lived to 101? The babies were a few months old when the doctors found a tumour in her stomach.

There are people who read every story on Michael Jackson, whose delusions, excesses and bizarre preoccupations all bear the taint of tragedy: the lost childhood, the abusive father, the fans who by turns exalted and reviled him. I’ve read just about every story on Maria del Carmen Bousada (also known as Carmela), and in her desperation to sell her worldly goods for a bump I see another kind of tragedy: the continuing, age-old fixation on swelling breasts and belly as the essence of womanly fulfillment, overlaid by the modern notion that medical technology should vanquish time and give us shiny new selves. Michael Jackson wanted white skin and that prim little nose. Carmela Bousada wanted babies on the brink of old age.She realized her dream but what about theirs? Since when is toddlerhood “the right time” to be orphaned?

Bousada wasn’t alone. In the U.S., India, Britain and Romania, other women in their 50s and 60s have also found doctors to make them pregnant. If not for a tubal ligation in my 30s, I could be on the case myself. But I figure it’s one thing to wear ruffled white capri pants at my age, and quite another to be fighting morning sickness while contemplating dazed pre-dawn hours in the feeding chair.

With a sinking heart, I read the latest statements from the California Fertility Center. Director Dr. Vihen Sahakian laments Bousada’s lie. He says he feared “disaster” as soon as he learned of her deceit. (“We don’t ask for passport, obviously….We’re not detectives here.”) And he maintains that age 55 or 56 (do I detect a certain elasticity?) is a perfectly reasonable time to bear a child.

Click here to read my previously published essay on this subject, “Mommy’s too old.”  Every writer has favourites among her own pieces and this article from Chatelaine is one of mine. 


Posted by Rona

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