This is the first column in an occasional series that takes a look at how people live.
Frieda Birnbaum of Saddle River gave birth to twin boys at Hackensack University Medical Center on May ”. At 60, she was reportedly the oldest woman in the United States to have twins. Birnbaum, a psychologist, underwent in vitro fertilization at a clinic in South Africa that specializes in helping older women have children. She and her husband, Kenneth, an attorney, 63, also have three other children: a son, 33, a daughter, ‘9, and a 7-year-old boy. The Standard sat down with Birnbaum last week to learn more about her experience and what led her there.
Q. I think what everyone wants to know is: How are you and the babies doing?
Frieda Birnbaum shows off her twin babies, Josh and Jaret, with husband Ken and son Ari looking on. Photo by Jerry Szubin
A. The babies are doing spectacularly, I think. They’re ‘ months old now, but gestationally they’re really only one month. And I’m doing very well, too. I had a good pregnancy, very smooth. I was a little short of breath at the end, but that was all. I lost 45 pounds the first month after they were born, so now I’m thinner than I was before I started.
Q. You’ve been through pregnancy and birth three times before. Was the recovery from birth different this time around?
A. It actually was easier, because I lost the weight faster. And psychologically it was easier I knew what to expect, knew what was coming. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the lack of sleep. I wanted to have a caesarean because it was twins, but the recovery wasn’t bad at all.
Q. Whose idea was it to have a baby at your age?
A. My husband suggested it. We have a 7-year-old and we wanted a companion for him. I had originally wanted to adopt, but my husband said, let’s try it; if it doesn’t work, we can adopt.
Q. Did you decide to have a baby to prove that a 60-year-old can do it?
A. No, the age thing didn’t really come into it. I don’t feel that a certain age represents you you represent the age. If you see women my age these days, they have energy and vitality and they should have choices. I truly didn’t know it was such a big deal. I didn’t do it for the age reason or to prove anything.
Q. You’re a psychologist. Are you back at work, or are you planning to go back to work?
A. I am starting to get back to work, doing some research. I need to work to have that balance in my life. I always wanted to have a family but also to work and have another dimension to my life.
Q. Are you the primary caregiver or do you have help?
A. I have help. I have a nanny, who is a real blessing. Often she’s taking care of one of them and I have the other.
Q. You’ve been married for 38 years. Does your husband help out with the children?
A. He’s really involved. He talks about them with everyone sometimes inappropriately so!
Q. Did you have a bris for them?
A. Yes, we did, but the mohel wanted to wait until they gained weight since they were only 4 pounds, 11 ounces at birth, and they actually lost weight after they were born. We waited until they were 6 pounds each.
Q. How is this time around different from your previous experiences as a mother with a newborn?
A. It’s all been very elating, very positive. I didn’t have any postpartum depression. And, of course, the big difference is that there’s been all this media attention.
Q. You have a son, 33, and a daughter, ‘9, plus a 7-year-old. How do your older children feel about the new babies?
A. Well, my little boy is waiting for them to get old enough to play with; he’s eager for them to start to be more responsive. My older children said I was crazy in the beginning, but they’re coming around. They both come to visit and they see I’m happy and confident and still there for them, still listening to them.
Q. Do you have any regrets about giving birth at this age?
A. Not at all. I’m getting calls from around the world, thanking me for showing that it’s possible to do what I did, for helping women feel young and continue to live life. You can have children or grandchildren, you can be as young as you feel, you’re allowed to have choices.
Q. Is it fun to have the twins? Are you enjoying it?
A. I’m blessed to have wonderful children. If I didn’t have wonderful children, I wouldn’t have wanted to have more of them. I have great, devoted kids, and I appreciate them. I could be a grandmother, but I wouldn’t have wanted the kids to go home.