Ageism and Pregnancy | What is a Geriatric Pregnancy? | MomCave LIVE
Jen: Okay, well, welcome to “MomCave Live” where we may have lost our minds but we haven’t lost our senses of humor. I’m Jen, it’s been a few weeks because it’s summer and kids are not in school and it’s insane chaos at my house, but I’m happy to be back. And we are also broadcasting on Instagram, sort of, kind of, live Instagram people. We’ll get the edited version later. So we have a very, very exciting guest this time. Somebody I’ve been wanting to talk to for a while. And, yeah, this is Dr. Frieda Birnbaum, Ph.D. She’s going to talk to us about geriatric pregnancy. You might be the first Ph.D. to ever be on “MomCave Live.”
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: Really? See that. Thank you.
Ageism and Pregnancy | What is a Geriatric Pregnancy? | MomCave LIVE with Dr. Frieda Birnbaum
Oldest Woman To Have Twins In The US
Jen: The most important reason that we have Dr. Frieda here today is she has the distinction of being the oldest woman to ever have had twins in the United States.
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: I am. I am that old. Can you believe that? Amazing, I’m the old lady.
Jen: It’s all relative, first of all. I feel very much like an old lady right now.
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: You don’t look it.
What Is Geriatric Pregnancy?
Jen: Thank you. You’re very kind, but as I said, it’s all relative and I thought it would be interesting to talk to you because you’ve had this amazing experience, but also because so many of the people who follow along here on MomCave are having their first child or have had their first child and might have been shocked and horrified when they noticed on their medical records that the doctors wrote “geriatric pregnancy.” I certainly wasn’t warned that it was gonna be called a geriatric pregnancy. Yeah. So as a doctor, Dr. Frieda, what makes it a geriatric pregnancy?
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: Well, that name is very offsetting.
Jen: It is.
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: Let’s talk about age and ageism for a minute because it’s a huge factor with women today. When they were writing about me or on these shows all over the place, somebody actually came from Germany to interview me and I opened the door and he says to me, “Where’s the old lady?” And I said to him, “I guess I’m the old lady, that’s me.”
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: So, it’s a perception. And I was quoted in “Newsweek” as saying that “Ageism needs to be redefined,” because really, society needs to catch up with what age means today. And as women tell the truth about their age, then we’ll have a better concept of what age is and less ageism. The world, actually. I had messages from around the world, was shocked at my age, but I was really more shocked at how the world saw my age and ageism because I’ll tell you, and get ready for this one, I mean, 60 was more exciting than ever in my time. I had the feeling of passion and lust for life at 60 that I didn’t have before. So who’s to say what that’s supposed to mean?
And we’re 15 years into that phase of 60. My son that just helped me with this show, because I’m horrible with this stuff, came down and helped me. But here I am 15 years later, and I’m still the oldest and the life that you live has to be genuine to who you are. Now, of course, we have to talk about things in practical terms, living longer, having, not patients, those aren’t my patients, but having relatives or parents that lived longer, you have to take that into consideration. So you have to be there for your children into adulthood. That’s a big thing, and I’m gonna say a few things and I’ll let you ask me questions.
Not Too Old to Have a Baby – Medical Ageism
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: But you know what I did get around the world was the question was, I don’t feel I’m too old anymore to have a new relationship. I don’t feel I’m too old anymore to move, have a new career, or feel young. And I think that’s the message I gave. I wasn’t going to tell my age, most women over 50 do not tell their age with their pregnancies, because of ageism, but then again, and then I’ll let you talk, the number 6-0 hit a nerve. Or if I was 55, 57. People, Joan Lunden, twice twins at the end of her fifties. So yes, that’s what really made the difference.
And then I went to in vitro, which is how I did this. And I was a little bit, a couple of months, too old for and I started at 55, by the way, too old for them. The end line was 55. So there you go again, age and ageism is changing as we’re talking and you’re going to ask me, people are getting married later and having children later, and what age means later, my mother at 40 had a miscarriage on purpose because she was an old lady at that time. So age is constantly changing. Talk because I’ll talk forever. Go.
Jen: I love you. I love it because I don’t have to ask you so many questions because you’re answering everything. That’s great. I also feel that the human body hasn’t quite caught up with what the human mind is capable of, insofar as, everybody might wait longer to have kids now because we go to college and have a career, and then everything’s pushed, but our bodies are still becoming fertile at 12 years old and starting to become less fertile when we’re 30, and so if you’re ready to have kids and you’re 55 and 60, maybe you’re gonna have trouble. And that’s just like the sad reality of being a female at this time.
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: That’s true.
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: I had the advantage of having my eggs frozen but there’re different ways you can do this. They have this nuclear type of experience or whatever that they call it where you can actually take your own egg cells, put it in the middle, and then the nucleus is somebody else’s egg that’s more vital.
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: So that’s some of the latest things that are going on, so there are ways you could still have your own child and to carry your own child. Yes, so as we go on, women are capable of having their own children as well, ageism and all.
Jen: How did you have the foresight to know you should freeze your eggs?
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: I had a child at 53. And I froze my eggs at that time. And also the fact that women are freezing their eggs by 35 is the age that…
Jen: Right, they ingest.
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: But there are women who are freezing their eggs into their forties. And it’s also something that works. Now are frozen egg separate is different than a fertilized egg, a fertile egg, which means that the male and female donate equally to this procedure, and that’s when it does become much more viable. So for your listeners to know, there are so many technical ways of doing it. And then again, you can have a donor, you can have a donor sperm you choose.
I feel, I mean, although my husband was involved in this, you get to pick the perfect guy that you would like to have children with, his height, his looks, his intelligence, his character traits. Perfect. And so what’s the difference as far as I’m concerned? You don’t have a biological parent but you do have somebody that you feel is important to you or kindness or whatever that is. So there are so many different variations on this theme that make it your child. But even with adoption, it becomes your child.
Changing Family Dynamics
Jen: Of course.
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: You’re the one that’s raising and experiencing the life of this child.
Jen: Yeah. And did you consider adoption?
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: I did, and I went through the process of adoption feeling that why not help a child that’s in need? And we went through it. It was a very difficult, timely situation. And with all that, we weren’t getting the progress we were looking for. So we said, “We’re not going anywhere with this.” And what’s also interesting is that I’ve been interviewed. 20/20, Oprah Show called me, everybody, but nobody asked for my husband and he’s the one that wanted more children. And the people always feel it’s the woman. So things have changed, and men are more involved with family and being experienced in nurturing and all that stuff, so that’s the truth. That’s really what happened.
Ageism In The Adoption Process
Jen: Did you experience ageism in the adoption process too?
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: It’s interesting because they bring a social worker to your home. I’m sitting there watching her expression because I feel people should be horrified or fall over and say, “Are you kidding me? Forget about it. It’s over.” And she’s sitting there composed and I’m thinking, is she a great actress? Or what is this all about?
Jen: Yeah, she’s a poker face.
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: Yeah right, you know. But I feel that adoption is something that’s really necessary. And when people meet me… I started the process of wanting my 50, when I was 53 when I was 45, and I went to the doctor and I didn’t know I was gonna talk about this, but whatever. So I went to the doctor. You’re great. I talk about anything. So I went to the doctor and I said to him, “Am I too old?” So he said to me, “Well, do you feel young?” And I said, “No, my age.” He said, “No, if you have the energy, if you feel that you can go ahead and take care of these children appropriately and you know what to expect,” and the answer was yes.
Ageism and Geriatric Pregnancies
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: So I felt I was too old and I wanted children, but then when people would know me, they would see I was absolutely not too old. And what’s interesting, is when I went to see my children in elementary school, the mothers, as you were saying, were older. They were in their forties or fifties with kids. So I didn’t really feel that I fit in either. So it does depend on the individual person, who you are, and how you look at life. Ageism is about perception. I mean, I’m in the media now, not because of the birth of these kids, but because most people don’t even know about it. And I don’t even talk about it. And I started my media as a media psychologist when I was 60. I mean right after I had the children. So, it does depend…
Screw Ageism… You Really Might Be Getting Better
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: …what your energy and what your motivation and what your needs are in life. So at 60, with my book, “Life Begins at 60,” life began in other ways for me at 60 that wouldn’t have before. Confidence also.
Jen: Speaking of your book, “Life Begins at 60,” a new view on motherhood, marriage, and reinventing ourselves. So you’re right, we didn’t talk about exactly what we were going to talk about, so this is very unstructured and casual. So you gave me an idea, which is, you said, “Well if you feel like you can, if you feel like you have the energy,” you seem to have a ton of energy and that’s something I never feel like I have enough of. Do you have any secrets?
Ageism As It Relates To Energy
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: I just washed the floor before we went on because I couldn’t get you on, and I had to get my son up and all that stuff. But I find that I like washing the floors and I find that the more you use, the more it gives you, this kind of if you sit too long, you know, can’t get up after a while, so that’s really what it’s all about to be able to be mainstream with having activities.
That’s what gives me a high to be able to write a book, to be able to go on this show, to be able to give a speech. And sometimes I say to myself, if they’re picking me up early in the morning to talk about, I’m talking about, kids that are aggressive and the media and TV and movies, does that promote aggression in children? And I get up in the morning and a car picks me up and I say, “What the hell am I doing this for? Who needs this? Why am I having to, why?
Your Message Is More Important Than Your Age
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: Why? Why? But then when I come back, I’m on such a high. It’s such a wonderful feeling. So when people say to you, “You did it already, you got your Ph.D., you got this award-winning speech. you did your books. What more do you want?” I want more. I don’t feel like I did it. I don’t feel like I have enough; I wanna give a message.
My podcast showcases people who have come from discrimination and racism, because that’s a big thing to me and how they achieved their successes from the hood to the CEO or whatever those titles are, because to me to be able to make progress (aren’t you glad you asked this?) to be able to make progress and contribute is what really gives life its full meaning. And that’s really, so your listeners out there, if you think you have too much, do more.
Jen: Well I usually do feel like I have too much and that’s something that I always struggle with but it’s a great parallel with parenting that you just said. In the moment, you’re like, why am I doing this? Why am I getting up at 3:00 AM to go on television? Why am I waking up in the middle of the night with this baby? But then you get such a high out of it. You get so much back that it gives you that oomph to go on and do more.
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: It’s so unconditional. Sometimes if I’m walking with my boys, who are almost six feet now, and I see a woman with a little baby or in the park, I saw a man with a little baby crying away and he looked upset. I did actually go up to him and say to him, “Don’t worry, these are fleeting moments. Believe it or not, it shall pass. And they’ll become like this. It was only yesterday.” And he looked at me like, quizzically, a little bit like, “Lady, get off my back” kind of deal.
Unconditional Gratitude and Love
But one day he’ll be feeling and seeing that because of these moments of saying, “Oh my God if I could just sleep, when is that gonna come?” It does come. And that’s why they have the word empty nest syndrome because that energy afterward is lacking. That’s not why you should have children, of course. But I am saying to you that this unconditional gratitude and love is an experience to have. It’s part of life, to be tortured in the middle of the night is part of life.
Jen: To be tortured is part of love. And it’s all worth it.
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: It’s all worth it. When you’re tortured, remember this, it’s all worth it.
Living A Geriatric Pregnancy
Jen: I wanted to ask you a little bit about who we talked about, the getting pregnant part, but being pregnant as a 60-year-old, how was that? Were you worried about things that could go wrong? Did you have to do anything special?
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: I was shocked. I was really shocked. With all my pregnancies, I always had a high, I hate to say this to you because I know your program a little bit, but I had a high. The endorphins were shooting out of me.
Jen: That’s great.
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: I was a crazy lady happy. Remember everyone’s different. And I remember I was in the supermarket and I didn’t wanna lift a gallon of milk and I was embarrassed to tell the lady. The cashier said to me and this was when I was older with the twins, she said to me, “Honey, are you pregnant? Let me lift that for you.” And I was so insulted and so embarrassed. So yes, and she wasn’t shocked. So it’s interesting that you’re right, women are having children later. And I always looked a little younger than my age, so maybe she thought I was 50 or who knows whatever it was.
Develop Yourself Before Pregnancy
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: Women are getting pregnant later, and to go on to that segment, why are people having children later? Why is that the case? Because it’s becoming more of the norm and the reality is that women are getting more educated and they have careers now and they’re getting married later. So with all that, it makes sense to be able to develop who you are as a person first, because as you know when you’re home, and you’re saying this is what I strive for, to talk to my two-year-old, so you have that to come back to eventually. So that’s very important. And what I did was I stayed home and when my kids went to school, I had two sets. So it’s always about children first or career first, which one won? But the first set was that I had my children.
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: When they went back to school, I went back to school, and then I did it virtually so I wouldn’t have to physically be away. And I was accepted to Columbia University for my graduate school in psychology which was an honor and impossible to get into, but I quit for my children. So women have this ageism dilemma that men don’t have. I mean, women will move for a man if he has a changing career but I didn’t feel my husband was doing the same kind of job I would be doing. So we do have this conflict back and forth. And now as I’m older, or the oldest, and I had these kids, I had the luxury of not feeling that I was missing out on life. I already had my career. I was financially set.
An Argument Against Ageism With Regard To Parenting
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: And most of all, more than the money, was the time. Because time is your biggest asset. I had the time to enjoy my children and with everything, with any phase you are in your life, having children, the second part, is being able to enjoy each other because then what is it all about if you’re not with them? So you have to really rethink the way you’re structuring your life. But if you have to go to work to make the money, you shouldn’t feel guilty because my research has shown that those are the guiltiest women who have to work.
And it’s interesting because the women who have, I didn’t know I was gonna talk about this either, but the women who have, I don’t know where I’m going with this, but the women who have nannies are the least guilty. They’re going out, they’re exercising, they’re meeting their friends for lunch. Kids that come home, the nannies are there. So it’s all a perspective, but it’s the balance in life, and the love and the unconditional relationship you have with each other that children really do pick up on.
Living In The Moment
Jen: Yeah, living in the moment is something I struggle with all the time because before you know it, this moment is so past and you’re like, oh my God, I forgot about when they were that little. But I was so busy trying to make the money and keep the house clean and do all these other things that I wish I had spent more time just being.
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: It’s hard to remember that. But it’s also something that’s a beautiful feeling because when you look forward, you’ll know that you did all the right things and it’s going to show that the children that you’re raising, that’s the reward that you’ll have in the long run. So it’s a beautiful thing.
Life Begins At 60
Jen: The fact that you had your son setting up and being your tech person for this interview, just goes to show, see, he’s helpful. He’s proud of his mom and it’s worth it. I could talk to you forever, but it’s been like 20 minutes. We should do this again, and everyone should check out your book, “Life Begins at 60,” and your podcast. What’s your website, Dr. Frieda?
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: So it’s DrFrieda.com. Very simple. People can contact me if they want to. You are a delight. I just wanna tell you, we spoke nothing about what we were going to talk about. You are just a delight because you’re so easy and you go, I don’t know if you’re this way with everybody, but you just went with what I was saying. By the way, I thought it was longer so I’m sorry, I took up a lot of time talking about ageism and other stuff. I didn’t realize it because I knew you had other things but yes, you are very, very good at what you do, for sure.
Jen: Thank you. Well, MomCave is just sort of the virtual place for moms to hang out and talk and be casual and find out what we want to know.
Dr. Frieda Birnbaum: It’s great to have that resource. Thank you so much.
Jen: Yeah, it’s great that they have that. Check out Dr.Frieda!