A 67-year-old retired doctor from China’s Shangdong province gave birth to a baby girl last week, becoming the oldest known mother in China and technically violating the Communist country’s family planning laws.
The woman, identified in Chinese media only by her surname Tian, and her 68-year-old husband Huang Weiping already had two grown children and several grandchildren, the oldest being 18 years of age, when they decided to have a third child.
Tian reportedly administered traditional Chinese fertility treatments to herself but the birth was otherwise natural, impressing doctors who said she had the ovaries of a woman half her age. Tian suffered numerous complications during her pregnancy, including heart, liver, and kidney problems.
The baby was delivered at the same hospital where Tian worked as a doctor before retiring. The little girl’s name is “Tianci,” which means “gift from Heaven.”
The Chinese government may not see her as such a divine gift since the country’s infamous “One Child” population control laws were loosened some time ago to allow two children, but a third is still problematic. Limited exceptions are allowed, but Tian and her husband do not appear to qualify for any of them. They also ran into some trouble with the bureaucracy when they attempted to register their child because they lost their copy of their marriage certificate.
Huang believes the couple will avoid punishment because the maternity laws do not apply to women of Tian’s age.
“We didn’t mean to violate the law. I will put forward an administrative review or initiate a lawsuit if I am fined,” he said. The penalty for violating China’s maternity laws is usually a fine commensurate with the number of children the violators already have and the average income of the area where they live.
The Chinese government has lately been worried about demographic decline, which is difficult to reverse without a good number of families with three or more children. The Monday report in China’s state-run Global Times on Tian’s motherhood suggested officials are watching the reaction on social media before deciding on a course of action.
“Some internet users have congratulated the couple for the birth but others sympathized with their adult children, saying the newborn would likely burden them when the parents grew elderly and infirm,” the Global Times reported.
The Global Times claimed most Chinese Internet users are “unsympathetic” to the elderly couple but also allowed there is “heated debate” over whether they should be fined – a far more ambiguous reading of the “Chinese Internet’s” mood than Chinese media offers when the Communist Party has made up its mind on a subject.
On a more ominous note, the Global Times quoted a Shangdong official who said Tian and Huang’s fate would be decided after “checking information about the couple’s previous two children.” Those children are both in their forties now and reportedly disapproved of their parents having another baby. In fact, Tian was quoted saying her adult children threatened to cut all ties with her if she went ahead with the pregnancy.