‘Life Coach’ Becomes Oldest American to Have Twins

Aleta St. James holds her newborn twins, Gian, right, and Francesca, during a news conference at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Times Staff Writer

A “life coach” and motivational speaker who turns 57 on Friday has apparently become the oldest American to give birth to twins.

The boy and girl, Francesca and Gian, were born to Aleta St. James on Tuesday by Caesarean section. They were conceived through in vitro fertilization using donor eggs.

“I’m holding up pretty good, really good,” she said by telephone from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where the three remained today, surrounded by friends, family and the media.

St. James cast aside the idea that she might be too old to begin raising two children, and said many people have noted that she’ll be well into her 70s when they graduate from high school.

Her grandmother, she said, gave birth to her mother at 53, and her mother now is in her 80s. St. James’ sister, Maria Sliwa, this morning described the new mother as “extraordinarily physically strong and healthy” and “very, very nurturing.”

“My mind, body and spirit are in alignment with each other,” St. James said. “The excitement of having young children is definitely going to keep me young.”

But why did she wait, giving birth decades after most women?

“Because it wasn’t the right time, and I wasn’t in the right situation,” she said.

“I hit a certain age, two years ago. Before, I was trying to do it naturally,” and then she realized she was facing her window of opportunity and turned to other methods, she said.

The single mother said she has the financial means to care for the twins, and has relatives and friends willing to help.

St. James — who does “emotional healing work” and helped her brother, Curtis Sliwa, found the anti-crime group Guardian Angels in the 1970s — intends to take two or three months off and then resume work on a book and on seminars she gives.

St. James does not worry, she said, about leaving her children orphans.

“Let’s say I live to 87. That’s a strong connection, a strong foundation,” she said, adding: “But I’m planning to live to 100 … and vitally.”

While the twins’ birth may challenge people’s views about the age limits for motherhood, it was unusual but “not really groundbreaking scientifically,” said Dr. Richard Paulson, chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. His work has focused on women over 50.

Still, he said, it’s exciting because it raises public consciousness about age and pregnancy. Age alone should not be the decisive factor in whether to get pregnant, Paulson said.

While a woman’s eggs become less able to meet the demanding process of pregnancy, he said, the rest of her reproductive tract may function well.

And the situation is changing rapidly. As recently as 1991, he said, his clinic would not treat women over 40.

The oldest American to give birth is Arceli Keh, of California, who had a daughter in 1996 when she was 63. In 2002, Marilyn Nolen, a former U.S. Olympic athlete, gave birth to twins at 55. In 1998, Lin Fu-mei of Taiwan, whose age was reported as 58 or 59, gave birth to two daughters.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 263 children were born to women ages 50 to 54 in 2002.

Associated Press contributed to this report.