I Was The Oldest Woman In America To Give Birth To Twins — But I’m Much More Than That

Photographed By Erin Yamagata.
Nine years ago, when I lay in a hospital bed preparing to give birth, all the major news outlets I could name were enthralled by the idea of reporting it. No wonder: I came with a superlative, a word ending in "-est." At 60, I was the oldest woman in America to give birth to twins. The birth went well, and my husband and I brought the boys home. The weeks that followed were full to the brim as I juggled the elation of holding babies with the chaos of changing two diapers simultaneously. Amid the newborns’ crying fits, giggles, and burps, something familiar replayed on a loop in my brain: people’s criticism. Labels were thrown my way. Particularly common was "old," which I never thought would be my identifying adjective. While I rested in the hospital post-birth, one visiting journalist had said, "I have come from Germany to see the Old Lady." "I am the Old Lady," I nodded. "Really?" he asked. "You look like you're in your 40s." I smiled at the compliment. But really, it felt odd to be labeled as Old. Because even after giving birth to twins at 60 years old, I didn’t feel old at all. In fact, I felt more energized about my life, more excited about the future, than ever before. But was the German journalist right? Was I really the Old Lady? In the years since that interview, as life went back to normal and I began the real work of raising my sons, I came to know beyond doubt that the label wouldn’t stick on me. I was over 60, true, but deep inside I felt alive, perhaps more so than ever: Yes, life was beginning, not just for my twins but also, in many respects, for me.

I was over 60, true, but deep inside I felt alive, perhaps more so than ever.

In the days and weeks leading up to the twins’ birth, my hospital clinic almost had to close because of all the calls, some from as far away as Nigeria, Germany, and Poland. My email inbox exploded. And typically, these messages were not wishing me good luck or saying "get well soon." Instead, people were expressing extreme concern over the welfare of my twins. It all felt surreal. Because even though my pregnancy had made international headlines, my story is not far-fetched — especially compared to that of my mother, who had four children during a long war, with food shortages and devastation all around. I had healthful meals, hospital care, and a prominent doctor. The twins would go home to a comfortable house, with two loving parents and three older siblings who would shower them with care and fulfill every material need. Yet so many were outraged, their focuses laser-tight on my perceived irresponsibility. It was all about tearing down the "grannymom." That label bugged me. There was something so demeaning about that title. It was like I was being told that was all I was. The truth is that even though I love my children infinitely, they do not define me as a person. The same can be said for the many clients I see through private practice, often women who want to be recognized for who they are deep inside. Our identities are who we are, not what we do for our children. Also, implicit in the "grannymom" nickname was a negative approach to aging. People were making fun of me for being old while doing something that younger women did. In some ways, it is still somewhat acceptable to discriminate against people, or at least make fun of them, for being "over the hill." Being over 60 — or 70, or 30, or 40 — is nothing to be ashamed of. Rather, it is something to be excited about. I decided to become a new mother at 60, and many people were shocked and outraged. But I also decided to reinvent myself as a media pundit, a public speaker, and a participant in my community. I ran around with my twins, but I also began a new life of my own — one I was determined to live on my own terms.

Excerpted from
LIFE BEGINS AT 60: A New View on Motherhood, Marriage, and Reinventing Ourselves.

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