A psychotherapist, radio and TV analyst, and the daughter of Holocaust survivors, Dr. Birnbaum said that she spent the early part of her life protecting her parents from the discrimination suffered by new Jewish immigrants. Years later, after confronting challenges in her own professional and personal journey, she became a news item herself.
Giving birth to twin boys eight years ago — she was 60 at the time — Dr. Birnbaum appeared on Oprah and 20/20 to discuss her experience as the oldest woman in the United States to give birth to twins.
And that, of course, brings its own challenges, she said, “but the downside had nothing to do with age. It has to do with the activities of twin boys. One moment they love each other; the next minute they’re killing each other.”
Dr. Birnbaum will hold a book signing in Ridgewood on Sunday to discuss her new book, “Life Begins at 60: A New View on Motherhood, Marriage, and Reinventing Ourselves.” (The talk will be taped for television.) Men and women’s aging is “perceived differently,” she said. “When men have children later in life, they’re considered virile. When women do that, unless they’re celebrities, they are considered crazy.” Still, she noted, women live longer than men.
Called upon by the media frequently to talk about current issues — she has appeared on PIX 11 “talking about what is trending, or depression, or politics; on WNBC, talking about politics; and on Fox 5, speaking about New Year’s resolutions and events in our lives” — Dr. Birnbaum said in a television interview, “I may have been the oldest person to give birth to twins in the United States, but I am of course not the first person in history to experience a profound sense of reinvigoration when society was telling me to slow down and sit quietly in the background.
“Age has to be redefined,” she said. “Life continues on and we must continue to see ourselves in a way where age will not define us. We will be who we are as the essence of our passions, productivity, and the feeling that we can make a difference.” If this necessitates a second career or even a fundamental life change, so be it. “It is more important to identify ourselves…and have permission to do what we want to do.” While her own experience involved giving birth, “I tell other women, do what you want. It’s not about having children but listening to what you need to do. That’s something personal.”
“Don’t fear getting older,” she tells women. She said she feels reinvigorated, and has developed even stronger passions than she had before. She wrote the book, she said, as a result “of my progression in life. My story is about what happens when you get older. The messages we are given are not right. The new message is, we’re younger, living longer, and can start a second career. These should be our peak years. The theme of aging has to be revised.”
This message has struck a chord among younger women, she said. “They appreciate the fact that aging does not have to be a fearful experience. They can look forward to vitality and youth in later years.”
Pointing out that some men become depressed when they retire, she said, “to live is to feel productive. We just have to identify changes.” In redefining our lifestyles, we may even have an advantage. For example, if we do choose to pursue a second career, “it’s not a dress rehearsal. Pick something that identifies who you’ve become and who you are.”
Who: Dr. Frieda Birnbaum
What: Will speak and sign her book, “Life Begins at 60: A New View on Motherhood, Marriage, and Reinventing Ourselves” (Skyhorse Publishing, May 2016)
When: On Sunday, June 26, at 2 p.m.
Where: Bookends, 211 East Ridgewood Ave., in Ridgewood