“60-year-old woman gives birth when husband saw the girl he decided to do this. Imagine trying to get pregnant for almost four decades to then finally succeed at the age of 60. This is what Atifa Liayek experienced when she had her daughter Alina, making her the second oldest woman in Serbia to give birth. Unfortunately, the Serbian woman did not only face a miracle but also a devastating blow. You will not believe what her husband decided to do when he saw the girl.
This is Atifa Liayek. In 2017, she became the second oldest woman in Serbia to give birth when she had her daughter Alina. But what her husband did next, she did not see coming.
Atifa had been dreaming of starting her own little family ever since she was young, and together with her husband Serif Nukich, she had been attempting to get pregnant for several decades. Luck was not on their side, however, and Atifa’s belly never got bigger. Finally, the couple decided to opt for IVF treatments. They had been trying this for over a decade, but it seemed to be to no avail. Atifa was slowly starting to lose hope, and she was preparing herself to put her lifelong dream to rest. But then she finally became pregnant after their fifth attempt.
“The moment I was able to get pregnant and have a baby, I knew it would be a big risk in my age. But my only wish in life was to have a child, and it finally came true,” the Serbian native recalls.
Modern medicine is currently allowing couples to have children far later in life than ever before. But the question remains: How far can fertility really be extended, and how high or low are the chances that a healthy baby will be born? After all, it’s not a secret that there is a progressive and largely irreversible decline in female fertility from the age of 35 onwards. Of course, men also experience a decline in their baby-making ability as they age, but this decline tends to start later, around the age of 40, and it occurs much more slowly than in women.
For decades, scientists have associated the decline in female fertility with the age-related decrease in the number of eggs in a woman’s ovaries. Unlike men, whose reproductive organs produce millions of fresh sperm on a daily basis, women are born with all the eggs that they will ever possess, and this number steadily declines each year. But female fertility isn’t just about the quantity of eggs; quality matters too. And while the woman’s egg count declines over the years, so does the quality of the chromosomes and the DNA contained within each egg.
The same can be said of sperm quality. The sperm of older men carry more mutations in their DNA, for example, and older fathers also pass on more mutations to their children than mothers do from their eggs. This means that the older someone is, the higher the chances are of having a complicated pregnancy.
For a woman in her 20s, a quarter of her eggs tend to show chromosomal abnormalities, but this increases up to 40 percent for a woman between 30 and 35. From there on, it keeps going up exponentially, and beyond the age of 35, the frequency of these chromosomally abnormal eggs increases by 0.5 percent per month.
This means that a woman in her early 40s will have up to three-quarters of eggs with chromosomal abnormalities. The level of chromosomal abnormalities is also higher in teenage women, by the way, and plenty of studies have shown that the peak fertility seems to be situated in the mid-20s.
What are chromosomes, you may wonder? Well, chromosomes are bundles of tightly coiled DNA that hold the genetic information needed for an organism to develop. When a woman has chromosomal abnormalities in her eggs, it does not necessarily mean she is infertile, but it does make it much more likely that she’ll produce eggs that won’t produce a viable baby.
An egg with broken damage or even too many or too few chromosomes will often fail to develop properly. In some cases, a baby can still be born with chromosomal abnormalities, as happens with Down syndrome. But most chromosomal abnormalities tend to be lethal to the young embryo.
Knowing all of this, it is quite clear that the odds were not in Atifa’s favor. But despite her age, Alina was luckily brought into the world completely healthy. The only problem she did what all healthy babies tend to do: she cried. And this did not please her dad at all.
And although Atifa felt blessed after the arrival of her baby, her husband Serif did not share her feelings of happiness. In fact, hearing the little girl scream in the maternity ward was enough for him to change his mind. After seeing the baby girl, he decided to leave his wife there and then, on the very same day she had just given birth. The 68-year-old man was worried the newborn would keep him up at night, and he feared that living with a baby would damage his health at his age.
“Above all, I am a sick man. I am 68 years old, I am diabetic, and I have a weak heart. It is not easy to sleep all night and listen to your baby’s cries,” he tried to explain. “It is hard for me. I have no pension.”
When asked about abandoning his wife and child, Serif said, “She got what she wanted, now she was happy.” The 68-year-old has four children from a previous marriage and claims to have been opposed to Atifa having a child at the beginning, but that he later reluctantly went along with it.
Atifa’s pregnancy was considered to be a high-risk one, but during the three months leading up to giving birth, she was kept in the hospital so that the doctors could monitor her.
“I opposed it because the risk is great, but I relented seeing her great courage,” Serif explained. But as Atifa held Alina in her arms for the first time, he finally decided he did not want to be with his new family after all.
Atifa is believed to have become pregnant through an anonymous sperm donor, and little Alina will not even have Serif’s last name as he refused to have her legally registered as his daughter. And Serif, well, he said he is likely to move to Turkey, where he has another family.
That must have been hard for Atifa. The 60-year-old mom has very little money, and she also has several health problems, such as high blood pressure. But she says she will raise Alina alone, regardless. Despite being a cousin of Rasim Liayek, the Minister of Trade and Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia, she says she had no support but that she is determined to give little Alina the best life possible.
“I worked in a textile plant, and yet I have no money. I do not have any other income or relatives who might help me,” she said. “I know it will not be easy because I will have to look for better accommodation, and it all costs a lot. Nevertheless, I believe that good people will help me.”
Barbara Higgins and Kenny Banjoff are another example of parents defying the odds when it comes to getting pregnant. Barbara, at 57, and Kenny, at 65, welcomed a baby boy, Jack, into their lives. This was their third child, but some
years earlier, the couple had tragically lost their 13-year-old daughter, Molly, to an undiagnosed brain tumor.
Barbara’s dream of having another child persisted, and after finding an IVF clinic willing to treat her at her age, she moved forward with the plan. Her pregnancy went smoothly, partly due to her active lifestyle, which included weight training and CrossFit workouts.
Barbara’s age didn’t deter her; she believed that nobody could predict the future and that Jack deserved a chance at life, regardless of her age. Both she and Kenny adapted to life as parents in their 50s and 60s, challenging societal expectations and embracing their new adventure.