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Caroline Farrow: IVF triplet mum Sharon, aged 55, tells you all that’s wrong with modern Britain


Most women somewhere between the ages of 35 and 50 probably wouldn’t think of the word ‘elderly’ in relation to themselves, but as I discovered to my mortification when pregnant with my third child at the age of 36, that was exactly how I was considered by the medical profession. Elderly.

‘At least you’re not over 45’, laughed the midwife, when I wailed in dismay at those terrible words being scribbled at the top of my notes, ‘then we’d be calling you geriatric, and we’re seeing more and more of those these days’.

I’ve got a few years to go before I am considered geriatric in obstetric terms and while it’s discomforting to be considered as either elderly or geriatric, there is actually a good reason for this. Pregnancies and births that occur towards the end of a woman’s years of fertility do statistically pose a greater risk to mother and child alike. That’s not an argument against having children later on in life, it’s just something that women need to factor in, if they are planning to delay having children until this stage. Pregnancy will be harder to achieve and the risk of miscarriage or complications increase with age.

For every woman there comes a time when she has to reconcile herself with the fact that nature has determined that her baby-making days are behind her. Or that, at least used to be the case, but as Sharon Cutts, a 55 year-old grandmother from Lincolnshire will tell you, age should no longer be a barrier. If you want something, even if it is biologically impossible to achieve naturally, then you should be able to have it and fulfill your dreams, even if it costs everyone else an arm and a leg. Who cares if Mother Nature won’t allow you to have any more children – she must be forced to comply!

Mrs Cutts exemplifies pretty much everything that’s wrong in twenty-first century Britain. She decides that her desire to have children with her boyfriend who is fifteen years younger than herself, supercedes any other practical, ethical or moral considerations. Call me old-fashioned, but if you are going to make an conscious decision to attempt to conceive children, then those children deserve to be born into a relationship which is as stable and secure as possible, not only romantically but also in legal and financial terms. So perhaps Mrs Cutts ought to have thought about doing things in the right order – namely getting married first!

But then again, Sharon Cutts doesn’t seem to be that bothered about whether or not she can financially provide for the triplets that she conceived using another woman’s eggs. She took out loans of £15,000 to cover the cost of treatment. ‘I want, I get’ seems to be her motto – buy now, pay later, or better still, outsource the bill to someone else, no doubt the child benefit and tax credits will cover the loan repayments. Or perhaps she was banking or a quid or two from the inevitable media interest, having bought into the current notion that we can all be famous and earn money for doing nothing.

Never mind that the NHS won’t offer the treatment to women over the age of 42 for ethical reasons, let’s borrow the money and go abroad to find someone who’ll do the procedure no questions asked. The NHS turned down Sharon Cutts for good reason – at her age, it had a less than 1.9 per cent chance of working and there are much better uses of money than spending it helping a post-menopausal woman conceive, particularly when she already has four children!

As it was, Mrs Cutt’s self-indulgence hasn’t come without cost to our over-burdened NHS, her risky multiple pregnancy, necessitated an expensive eleven week stay in hospital followed by a caesarian section, all for a treatment which was neither medically necessary nor advisable. No-one begrudges pregnant women or those with complicated pregnancies the specialist care that they need, but with maternity services already stretched to breaking point, actively contriving to achieve a pregnancy which you know is likely to take up a good portion of highly-specialised care, requiring several specialised professionals, medical equipment and medication, is questionable.

Selfish irresponsibility is the hallmark of this entire situation – from borrowing money to conceive not one, but three children, conceiving children that are not biologically hers (raising issues for these donor-conceived children later on in life) and a woman putting herself in a situation where she is going to be the mother of three teenagers at the same time as drawing her old-age pension. These three children are being born to a mother to whom they are not genetically related, who could not be bothered to get married to their biological father and who will be raising them as she approaches old age. They will also have nieces and nephews who are older than themselves and at a time they should be focusing upon university, they could well instead be needing to think about care for their mother.

And if you weren’t already convinced that Mrs Cutts’ situation wasn’t all about her, she disclosed that she self-administered dangerous and expensive botox treatments to herself on the sly when in hospital, treatments which are not advised in pregnancy due to potential risks to the unborn children, in order that she did not look like an older mother. She also ensured that she had hair extensions, so that she could look her best.

At a time when most mothers are anxiously worrying about the health of their little ones and carefully budgeting in order to be able to provide for their children, the indebted Mrs Cutts, decides that any surplus money is best spent on her personal appearance.

That’s some mid-life crisis; it would be laughable if there weren’t three vulnerable kids involved. But what can you expect from a society that encourages a consumer approach towards children? They are just something else that people should be able to buy or treat themselves to, in order to make themselves feel better. I suspect Sharon Cutts will, unfortunately, not be the last.

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Caroline Farrow
Caroline Farrow
Columnist for the Catholic Universe

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