- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 23, 2005

BUCHAREST, Romania — The 66-year-old Romanian who last week became the world’s oldest known woman to deliver a baby says two abortions in her 20s left her with a life of regret and a yearning for motherhood.

Adriana Iliescu, a professor of literature here at Romania’s largest private university, the Hyperion, gave birth to daughter Eliza Maria after undergoing fertility treatment.

Mrs. Iliescu, speaking from her bed at Panait Sarbu Hospital, called Eliza Maria a “gift from God.”

She had become pregnant twice in her early 20s during a failed four-year marriage, she said. She aborted both pregnancies, she said, because that was a routine method of birth control at the time in Romania under communist rule.

She spent most of the rest of her life wishing that she had a child, Mrs. Iliescu said.

“If there is anything I regret, it is those terminations, not having a baby now,” she said.

“Religion was not a big part of many people’s lives and I had never had any religious education. I believed the party line that a fetus is only considered life when it is older than three months. In those days, I would never have thought of a termination as murder, as I do now.”

Mrs. Iliescu gave birth Jan. 16, seven weeks early, after undergoing in-vitro fertilization, for which she paid about $3,900. She originally was carrying triplets, but one died at 10 weeks and another earlier this month. Her doctors decided to induce the delivery of her remaining child.

Eliza Maria weighed 3 pounds at birth and was being fed with a glucose solution in an incubator. She will not be moved until she gains at least another two pounds.

Mrs. Iliescu, resting in bed, spoke about the extraordinary joy she felt when she looked at her baby and touched her for the first time.

“It was the happiest in my life. She grabbed my finger with her tiny hand and held it. It was a gift from God.”

Mrs. Iliescu eventually will take her baby daughter home to a tiny, 10th-floor apartment in Bucharest, where she has lived alone. She intends to carry on working because her monthly income of $650 will fall to $65 if she retires and takes a pension.

Mrs. Iliescu, who continued marking exam papers while hospitalized, arranged for a nurse to become a nanny and help care for her daughter.

Disclosure of her personal circumstances renewed debate over the lack of checks carried out by medical staff. Save the Children Romania, an advocacy group, said doctors had “not given a single thought before the fertilization procedure to the baby — about where she will live and grow up.”

The group added: “Our vision, as well as the law, state clearly that the interests of the child take priority — and that the child should have a chance to grow up in a family that is able to take care of her and protect her until she reaches 18. This was not taken into account at all in this case.”

Mrs. Iliescu said, however, that she “discovered religion” after her marriage — she is Romanian Orthodox — and believed that, after decades of hoping for a child, her daughter’s arrival had divine sanction.

“During this time I never gave up my faith in God and in the power of trying to realize one’s dreams,” she said.

Her attempts to have a baby began in earnest in 1995 when, at age 57, she heard about the first in-vitro fertilization in Romania and visited Dr. Ioan Munteanu, the doctor in charge of the procedure, in the western town of Timisoara.

“She was more tenacious than any other person I’ve ever seen. She wanted more than anything to have a baby,” Dr. Munteanu said.

The procedure was successful, but when Mrs. Iliescu reached the fourth month, the embryo stopped developing and the pregnancy had to be terminated, Dr. Munteanu said.

Dr. Bogdan Marinescu, the Bucharest doctor who supervised Mrs. Iliescu’s successful pregnancy, said she was “in the right condition” to carry a child.

“From a biological point of view, Mrs. Iliescu proved that she could carry a pregnancy to term,” Dr. Marinescu said.

Romanian fertility clinics are bracing for a wave of applications. A spokesman at one clinic, in the Giulesti Maternity Hospital in Bucharest, said calls came in from Britain and Italy inquiring about treatment.

The arrival of Mrs. Iliescu’s baby is perhaps the most striking illustration of the acceleration of in-vitro fertilization treatments since 1978, when Louise Brown became the world’s first “test-tube baby” after a procedure at a clinic in Cambridgeshire, Britain.

The previous record for the oldest known mother was held by a woman in India who in 2003 had a child at the age of 65.

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