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Age proves no birth barrier

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Wednesday, September 18, 2019 | 0 comments

Carolyn Pelcak gives birth at 55

ANAHEIM – To Carolyn Pelcak, age is just a state of mind.

When she wanted to have a child at 52 years old, friends and family said she was crazy.

But now that the 55-year-old waitress and lawyer has given birth Saturday to her second child, Alexandre, she counts herself among the oldest women in Orange County to have a baby.

And the single mom is loving every minute of it.

People say, 'Oh, you must be crazy. You're old enough to be a grandmother,' Pelcak said Thursday, cradling Alexandre against her chest in her Anaheim home. But the alternative is that these children wouldn't be born.

Pelcak always dreamed of having children. She married in 1987 when she was in her late 30s. She tried immediately to get pregnant but to no avail. In 1991, she and her husband decided to see a fertility specialist, first in Irvine and later in Glendale.

There, Dr. Charles March tried several times to artificially inseminate Pelcak, but it wasn't working. Her husband was giving up hope.

He said maybe we were too old, Pelcak said. But I wasn't prepared to let go of my passion. I'm not someone who gives up very easily.

Meanwhile, another dream was taking root. Pelcak wanted to be a lawyer. Her co-workers at Disneyland's exclusive Club 33, where she still works, were stunned. And her doctor said she couldn't have the baby and go to law school at the same time.

I just told him, 'I want to do both. I'm sure there's a way.'

March came up with a solution: harvest Pelcak's eggs, create embryos using her husband's sperm and freeze them until she finished law school.

And that's what she did. While her embryos sat in a bank at a hospital in Century City, Pelcak spent four years at Western State University College of Law in Fullerton.

Law school took its toll. Her marriage began to crumble while her medical bills soared. Pelcak estimates she spent more than $100,000 on fertility procedures.

After graduation, she worked to pay off her bills. She and her husband separated. But her dream of a family never died.

In 1998, after she passed the bar, Pelcak tried for a baby.

First, she miscarried. The second time, the procedure didn't take. Pelcak almost gave up, but her mother said the third time's a charm.

Thank God I listened, Pelcak said.

When a pregnant Pelcak walked into Dr. E. Michael Linzey's office at St. Joseph's Hospital in Orange, the doctor was doubtful.

I had trepidation about a 52-year-old woman having a baby, said Linzey, assistant medical director of the hospital's perinatal program.

But just by getting pregnant, Pelcak had already beaten the odds. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, success rates for assisted reproduction drop dramatically as women age. For women under 35, more than a third of procedures result in live births. By age 41 or 42, that number drops to 10 percent.

In 2001, she gave birth to daughter Natasja through in vitro fertilization.

Her first words to Linzey while she was on the operating table: Get ready, doc, I might have another.

And once again, she did in vitro fertilization and the baby was brought to term. But mom was beginning to show early signs of preeclampsia, a hypertensive condition which can lead to illness and death in mothers and newborns.

Six months before she got pregnant again, she told me she wanted to do this, Linzey said. I took a deep breath and said, 'Are you sure, Carolyn?' But knowing this patient, and from everything, I could see there was no reason not to go ahead with it, so we did.

As for societal criticism, Pelcak is getting her share. Complete strangers tell her they're appalled that she would do such a thing.

But Pelcak, who has a friend to help with childcare, doesn't mind. I put it in God's hands. If you're meant to be a mother, you will.

[Sorry, full article is no longer available online]

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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost our precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted there will be no more babies in our house.

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