This mother was determined to not let age stop her from achieving her dream of having a third child after she had already lost her youngest daughter to a brain tumor.
Barbara Higgins, of Concord, New Hampshire, is not new to making new records. When she was studying at Concord High School, she was the state's first female athlete to run an entire mile in less than five minutes, according to Concord Monitor. And now, she's broken another state record - of becoming the oldest woman to have a natural pregnancy and birthing at the age of 57. On March 20, 2021, the quinquagenarian delivered a healthy baby boy named Jack. "I had a cup of coffee, had a baby and had lunch," she told Good Morning America. "It was my quickest labor ever."
But her story is made more special by the emotional journey she took to get her baby son. Barbara is a physical education teacher and former competitive runner married to Kenny Banzhoff, 65. Together they already had two children, Molly and Gracie. However, they faced immense grief when Molly, their youngest daughter, lost the battle against an undiagnosed brain tumor in 2016 when she was just 13.
However, not long after Molly's death, Barbara told Good Morning America that she started dreaming of having a third child. "The connection between Molly's death and Jack's arrival are definitely there, but it was never this obvious, well, Molly has died so I need to have a baby," she said. "It was just this dream that I started having." At the time, the mother was already 53, well past what is usually considered to be a woman's prime maternal age. For a few years, Barbara continued having this dream but it wasn't until 2018 that it came to fruition. "I thought, 'Well, I'm going to do what it tells me,'" she recalled. "I'm going to go the doctor and have bloodwork and see where this will or won't take me."
She, along with her very supportive husband, underwent a number of mental and physical tests to see if she could handle going through pregnancy and childbirth at her age. "It was not a quick process and that was also reassuring to us," she said. "Everything that went well made us think, okay, this is a decision that could work." In the end, it was also her healthy lifestyle that paved the way for her pregnancy.
How absolutely beautiful!! If you can do it and want it go for it! I would if I could! It would be such a blessing!— Kathy Gerard (@KGerard63) March 28, 2021
Barbara Higgins gives birth at 57: New Hampshire woman becomes oldest in the state to give birth - The Washington Post https://t.co/CH9L4QqeVL
“She exercises like someone who is in her 30s, in my opinion,” said Barbara's OBGYN, Dr. Ashish Chaudhari, of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Concord. "Patients who were exercising before pregnancy can continue to do safely in pregnancy and that can result in a more healthy pregnancy with favorable outcomes for mother and baby.” But all this testing did more than just prepare the 57-year-old for having a baby - it helped her doctors diagnose the three tumors they found in her brain which were successfully removed later. "I never would have found those tumors if I wasn't trying to have a child, so I look at Jack sometimes as my little lifesaver," she said.
With the help of Dr. Vito Cardone, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist in Stoneham, Massachusetts, Barbara soon became pregnant through IVF treatments. Explaining the process, Dr. Cardone said, "Unfortunately a lot of centers have age limits on who they will help for fertility. In my opinion, you need to look at each individual as an individual. You can see that she [Barbara] is the type of woman that trains and is in a great shape, much better than many people I work with who are 25 or 30 years old. And she knows what she's getting into and [knows] that she really desires a child."
Meet the 57-year-old woman who gave birth (and her baby) https://t.co/3qzKxrvOMy— Todd cusuman (@toddcusuman) March 27, 2021
The 57-year-old mother-of-two also addressed her advanced age and how it would affect her and her husband while raising Jack. "I [thought] to myself, 'No one really knows what's going to happen to them,'" she said. "I lost a child. I did not wake up on May 1, 2016, and think Molly would die, and she did." She also brought up how different Jack would be brought up compared to his older sisters. "When Molly died, Kenny couldn’t believe the number of things he had missed because they would come up in memories or pictures and he’d say, ‘Well, where was I?,’ and I’d say, ‘You were working,'" Barbara recalled. "Because in a typical life, you get married, buy a house, start a job and have a kid all in like a five-year period. All of those things are ridiculously stressful and to be good at one thing, you have to sacrifice the other," she said. "Now, at our age, we've done all of those things."
"We beat the odds," Kenny said to Today. "I'm so proud of her." "It's just us and Jack and our day-to-day life. So far so good," Barbara added. "Who knows how I'll be in 10 years, but who knows how you'll be in 10 years? That isn't something that anyone can predict, and why should Jack not get to be alive just because I'm old?" Well, looks like the Higgins family is in for a ride! Here's to their happiness and long lives.
Cover image source: Youtube | Good Morning America