57-Year-Old Gives Birth to Baby Boy After Losing Her Teen Daughter to a Brain Tumor: 'I Knew I Could Do It'

Barbara Higgins welcomed a son through IVF when she was 57 after tragically losing her daughter. The New Hampshire mom talks about her experience and her advice to others thinking about doing IVF at an older age.

Several years ago, Barbara Higgins and her husband Kenny Banzhoff were raising their two daughters: 15-year-old, Gracie, and 13-year-old, Molly. But in 2016, tragedy struck when Molly passed away due to an undiagnosed brain tumor. Soon thereafter, Higgins, a New Hampshire-based teacher, began having dreams that she didn't initially tell anyone about, attributing them to the grieving process. The dreams, which occurred consistently, centered around her having another baby.

After tuning into her intuition, Higgins started consultations with IVF clinics to see if it would be possible to conceive at her age. At the time, Higgins was 53. "Oftentimes, medicine can be so factual that we lose sight of the intuition," shares Higgins. "When people say, 'How could you do it?' Because I could do it—and I knew I could do it."

When Higgins shared her thoughts with Banzhoff, he initially thought, "This can't be possible." He adds, "I thought about it for a minute, and just went, 'Well, I don't know if this can happen, but let's see what happens.'"

Higgins' OB was supportive, but most fertility clinics won't accept new patients over age 50. Yet, Higgins believed that her physical fitness, which she attributes to a consistent, daily workout regimen and running, as well as a focus on mobility and core strength, would make it possible for her to have a healthy pregnancy.

Eventually, she was referred to a specialist in advanced maternal age pregnancy. Along the way, Higgins even underwent an MRI, which revealed she had three brain tumors. Thankfully, they were benign and were removed in January 2019. After that, the determined mom decided to continue the IVF process.

About a year after that, at age 57, Higgins' second IVF attempt was a success. At 13 to 14 weeks along, she finally shared the news with Gracie. "It was really hard for her—she felt like she'd been left out," recalls Higgins.

Eventually, the teen came around, understanding "the big picture" of what Higgins wanted for their family.

Meanwhile, throughout her pregnancy, Higgins was undergoing every test possible. None of the doctors she saw had ever treated a 57-year-old pregnant woman, and the computers even kicked forms back, assuming the health care providers had input the wrong age.

"What's so big about having a baby at 57?" asks Higgins. "The big thing is it doesn't happen very much."

In March 2021, at 37 weeks along, Higgins was induced and quickly gave birth to a healthy baby boy whom she and Banzhoff named Jack.

Even months later, Higgins would wake up in the night, look at her son, and think, "Oh my God, it worked! I have a baby."

Gracie, then 20, also bonded with her baby brother immediately. "Those two have a connection," notes Higgins. "We have this multigenerational family, even though it's a mother and father raising two children."

Looking back, Higgins says that her biggest advice for a woman of advanced maternal age, like herself, contemplating the IVF process is to take the first step and also do a little research. "Find a facility that deals with older women," she advises. "You might have to knock on a lot of doors."

The proud mom acknowledges that it's easy to find yourself ruminating and worrying and to let that get in the way of making your baby dream a reality. But she recommends detaching yourself from ongoing worries or "extraneous chatter," taking a step back, and making the phone call. After all, trusting yourself, as Higgins did, could lead to a joyful new chapter.

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