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KOLHAPUR, India — Four years ago, when she was expecting her first baby, Kisabai Biranje wanted desperately to be invisible. She tried for as long as she could to keep her pregnancy hidden behind the crumpled pleats of her floral printed cotton saris. But as the months passed, it became impossible to keep her bulging belly a secret.

Becoming a mother was Kisabai's greatest joy. But pregnancy in the sixth decade of her life was also her greatest shame. As her stomach began to show, it set off a trail of tarnishing gossip and innuendo in this agrarian town in India's western sugar belt: How did she get pregnant in her post-menopausal years? Was the egg her own? Was the sperm her husband's? Why would she want to become a mother at the age of a grandmother?

But her unremitting quest for motherhood, however risky -- or risqué -- at her age, kept her going. "We had nearly given up after more than two decades of marriage," explains Kisabai, who does not have a birth certificate, but says she was...