How Old Is Too Old for Motherhood?

70-year-old Romanian woman pushes the envelope for elderly motherhood.

ByABC News
June 4, 2008, 9:41 AM

June 4, 2008— -- So, how do you feel when you see this picture of the "world's oldest mom," 70-year-old Adriana Iliescu?

Do you get all warm inside, or are you appalled? And do you believe it is medical progress to allow women to give birth long after they've become pensioners?

Wrinkly Iliescu became the world's oldest mother when she gave birth to baby Eliza Maria Bogdana three years ago, following a pregnancy aided by in-vitro fertilization. Iliescu was 66 years and 230 days old when Eliza was born. Hers is just one the latest headlines in a contemporary trend toward late motherhood.

Romanian media have called the birth a "medical breakthrough." But the reality of the baby's life takes place in a tiny gloomy Bucharest apartment, which looks like it got its last coat of paint before Nicolae Ceausescu fell in 1990.

Iliescu was in the Guinness Book of Records for being the oldest woman to give birth until Spanish record-breaking Carmela Bousada delivered twins in December 2006, at the age of 66 years and 358 days.

Seeing the young face of toddler Eliza mirrored in her mother's aged visage is unsettling. Last-gasp motherhood may be good for now, for Iliescu, but what about the longer-term interests of the child? Who will take care of her later on, and what will be the psychological burdens to come?

Iliescu, who lectures on Romanian literature at Hyperion, a private university in Bucharest, says in a telephone interview that she believes she has now fulfilled her mission in life, and that no sacrifice was too great for such a goal. Her late baby comes after two abortion-ended pregnancies when she was both younger and married. She takes pride in saying her daughter has inherited her sense of spirituality and love for literature and art.

"Eliza loves books, refuses to go to sleep without me reading a bedtime story to her," she says. "Because she is so full of energy and is running all the time around the house I cool her down by giving her water colors to paint. She loves it."