Monday, November 08, 2004

57-Year-Old to Give Birth to Twins

'I always knew I wanted children'
BY NICOLE BODE
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Monday, November 8th, 2004

Aleta St. James is expecting the best gift of her life for her 57th
birthday this week: newborn twins.

St. James, a motivational speaker and the eldest sister of Guardian Angels
leader Curtis Sliwa, is set to shatter conventional limitations of
childbirth tomorrow when she is slated to deliver a baby boy and girl at
Mount Sinai Hospital, just three days shy of her birthday.

That would make the Manhattan mom-to-be - who conceived through in-vitro
fertilization - the oldest American woman to give birth to twins.

"The reason that I wanted to carry these children rather than adopting
them is that I knew that I could give them - while they were in the uterus
- a tremendous amount of love, a tremendous amount of support. I wanted to
give them that start," St. James told the Daily News yesterday while lying
on her side on her king-size bed in her apartment.

"I don't think of myself with a number. I don't think, 'Oh, I'm going to
be 60.' I think, 'I'm going to take these kids to school,'" she added.

The single, first-time mom has wanted a child all her life - but said she
was always too busy with her career and traveling to slow down for
motherhood.

That all changed three years ago, when she started a grueling, $25,000
journey through fertility treatments, various medical procedures and
countless doctor visits.

After an unsuccessful attempt at getting pregnant naturally, she turned to
Mount Sinai gynecologist Dr. Jonathan Scher and Dr. Jane Miller, director
of the North Hudson IVF, a fertility clinic in New Jersey.

"Of course I had concerns," said Miller, who added that St. James is the
oldest patient she has ever worked with. "I am not an advocate of people
this age getting pregnant. Just because it could be done, doesn't mean it
should be done."

But Miller said St. James sailed over all the qualifying factors - stellar
health, financial stability and a huge social support network. St. James
was implanted with a donor egg that was fertilized by an ex-boyfriend.

Since discovering the good news of her pregnancy, St. James said her
nine-month experience has been surprisingly smooth - aside from a bout of
sciatica spurred by the extra 50 pounds loaded onto her petite frame.

She already has picked out names for her little ones - Francesca for her,
Gian for him. Her cozy West Side apartment is packed with baby toys, books
and clothes.

St. James gamely lumbered around her apartment yesterday, two days before
her scheduled C-section, stopping to catch her breath after just a few
steps between her couch and the nursery.

"I'm ready," she said with great determination, resting her swollen frame
against the living room wall.

And she has a band of supporters ready to lend a hand with the diapers,
feeding and the host of other trials set to come her way.

"I really can't think of anyone more capable of taking on that
responsibility to show other women who never thought that they could have
kids, it's all very possible," said Sliwa, a radio host. "She'll be a
great mother."

St. James said she's not frightened in the least of what the delivery will
bring - not even when she calculates that she'll turn 70 before her kids
start high school.

"When you're older, you have a lot of wisdom," she said. "What you lack in
energy, you make up for in wisdom."

Miracle procedure is not for all

The number of older women turning to in-vitro fertilization is on the rise
- but that doesn't make it safe for everyone, experts warn.

In the past two decades, the number of women older than 40 who are having
children has more than doubled, according to the National Center for
Health Statistics.

But having a child at an older age can increase odds of premature
delivery, gestational diabetes, hypertension and other problems, fertility
experts say.

The in-vitro fertilization process involves taking eggs from the mom-to-be
or an egg donor, stimulating them with hormones and combining them with
sperm in a petri dish.

The fertilized embryos then are transferred into the mother's uterus,
where, if all goes according to plan, they take hold. While older women
are more prone to medical problems, they also are more likely to seek
medical advice, noted Dr. Jane Miller, a fertility expert.

Moms who have broken age taboo:

Satyabhama Mahapatra of India gave birth to a boy in April 2003 at age 65.

Janet Bosher of Britain bore twins at age 58 in September 2002.

Barbara Brennan, 53, of Tennessee delivered twins as a surrogate mother
for her daughter in May 2004.