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ART in America

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Friday, November 09, 2007 | 0 comments

In the Old Testament, Abraham's wife, Sarah, foremother of a people, was initially unable to conceive a child. Despite harmonious marital relations, she bled every month and her belly failed to swell. Longing for a son, she did what any resourceful wife of her day would have done: she dispatched her husband to her maidservant, Hagar. The plan worked, but Hagar, having succeeded where Sarah had failed, lost respect for her barren mistress. Sarah, in turn, began to treat her harshly, making her fetch extra water and denying her seconds of stew. It was an unpleasant situation for everyone--with the possible exception of Abraham.

Hagar bore a son, Ishmael, on Sarah's behalf. Fourteen years later, though, God stepped in. He blessed Sarah -- by then wizened and post-postmenopausal -- with a child by blood, Isaac. "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would suckle children!" marveled the triumphal nonagenarian. "Yet I have borne a son in his old age." Eventually she instructed Abraham to cast Hagar and Ishmael out into the desert.

Had Sarah lived in the twenty-first century, she would have had a menu of options to consider before resorting to concubine recruitment. She could have tried fertility drugs, a few rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) or a trick called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) to escort Abraham's seed to its destination. If all that failed, she could have had eggs extracted from Hagar or taken her pick among strangers with higher SAT scores. There likely would have been no need to wait until her 90s to bear a child -- although if she were to give birth at that age, she would have had no shortage of company in the never-ending tabloid contest for World's Oldest Mother.

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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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