Just three days before her 57th birthday, a New York woman has given birth to twins. Aleta St. James welcomed little Francesca and Gian on Tuesday [11/9], when they were delivered by Caesarian section. They are her first children, and the unmarried St. James is believed to be the oldest woman in America ever to give birth to twins
Holding her two healthy babies during a news conference at New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center, Ms. St. James said there are advantages to giving birth after gaining maturity and building a career.
"My spiritual energy and my mental energy and my emotional energy are very balanced," she told a crowd of reporters. "It's taken me all these years to really get to that level. I said, 'Okay now I've done everything I wanted to do…and now I want to really give to children in the most loving, amazing way that I know I can.'"
Ms. St. James has been a successful motivational speaker. She gave birth at age 56 using a donor egg from a younger woman. The egg was then fertilized in a petri dish using donated sperm and placed in her uterus. "It is extremely rare that someone her age would actually have a baby…or have babies," said in vitro fertilization specialist Jane Miller, who supervised the process.
Dr. Miller also told the CBS television Early Show she was glad that donor eggs are becoming more popular. "Donor eggs are very currently recommended for women who are over 42 who are trying to conceive," she said. "But we use donor eggs for women in their 30s, too."
Women over the age of 40 who become pregnant run a greater risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney problems and premature births. But Dr. Miller said that, at age 56, Ms. St. James remained a good candidate for a healthy pregnancy because she was "medically sound and psychologically fit" and had "an excellent support system" around her.
At her news conference, the new mother agreed. "I have the most extraordinary support group," she said. "Amazing! I had 75 women at my shower. I have baby bouncers and swings and people signed up to do everything. And, you know, financially, I'm able to handle putting enough money behind care for the babies."
The support group includes an old friend--actor and director Art Cohan, who flew in from California to join Ms. St. James in the delivery room. "She said, ‘Can you come in?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely," he told NBC television. "I was there for the delivery, for the Caesarian, and saw the two kids come out. It was important for me to be with her. And she really wanted me there just to sort of give her that love and support."
Mr. Cohan said this case will not seem unusual 25 years from now.
Ms. St. James is not the oldest American to give birth. In 1996, a California woman delivered a girl at age 63. And more older women are becoming pregnant. According to U.S. government figures, 263 children were born during 2002 to American mothers in their 50s. Still, many infertility clinics will not treat women who are that old. And the ethics committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine has recommended that "postmenopausal pregnancy should be discouraged."
When little Gian and Francesca grow up and go off to college, their mother should be about 75. But Ms. St. James doesn’t believe that should be a problem. "I believe that I'm winding up…I'm not gonna wind down," she said as she held her newborns the day after they were born. "This is, like, the most amazing time of my entire life and I see myself being young and vital into my 70s, into my 80s."
Her record may be broken next month. A 59-year-old Georgia woman is set to deliver twins in late December. Frances Harris had her tubes tied 33 years ago and believed motherhood was no longer in her future. However, "they came untied," she said. The mother of five, grandmother of 14 and great-grandmother of six finally went to her physician after she began gaining weight and craving unusual foods. The doctor discovered she was four months pregnant.