No age limit on happiness

It’s becoming ever more common for women in their mid to late 40s to give birth in Belarus
It’s becoming ever more common for women in their mid to late 40s to give birth in Belarus. Meanwhile, in India, a 70 year old recently became a mother. Minsker Tatiana Korotkaya holds the record in Belarus, having her first children, twins, at the age of 54. Now, aged 57, her sons — Adam and Anton — are three. We visited this unusual family to learn more.

Tatiana Korotkaya with her sons: Adam and Anton. Photo: Tatiana Stolyarova

I originally met Tatiana almost immediately after she’d given birth to her sons, being among the first to interview her. She was, naturally, inundated by the media, and had little idea of how to deflect unwanted attention. I remember being shocked on entering her flat, as it was virtually empty. There were only two cradles in the room. Before her children’s birth, Tatiana had been saving to pay for IVF ($8,000) and had been obliged to sell her furniture. She slept on a simple mattress.

On this visit, I hardly recognised the rooms, which are all neat and comfortable. Tatiana is more financially secure these days.

Adam and Anton looked at me curiously before hurrying away to play. Anton loves running about, while Adam is more inclined to stay close to his mother, seeking her embraces. Tatiana tells us, “When I go shopping, Anton tends to disappear, being more like a small helicopter than a boy, while Adam holds my hand all the time.”

Even before their birth, the boys demonstrated their character: Anton kicked persistently, as if communicating by Morse Code, while Adam lay still. Tatiana was quite worried at the time.

It was a long journey to motherhood, as Tatiana admits. At 50, she was unmarried, but yearned for children, and took the hard decision to ‘go it alone’, turning to IVF. She eventually gave birth to her boys at Minsk’s Mother and Child Scientific-Practical Centre.

She sighs, “I would have loved for my sons to have a father but I haven’t been able to find someone I’d like to marry. As a young girl, I had enough suitors, but believed that there was plenty of time for love. I concentrated on my career, although I knew that I did want a family of my own one day. I’m convinced now that it’s better not to wait. I’ll encourage my boys to marry young rather than waiting for the perfect match to come along. They should begin their path in life as soon as possible.”

Tatiana remembers being inspired by a television programme about a woman who gave birth after 50, using IVF. She knew that the chances were slim, and that she wouldn’t be eligible for state treatment in Belarus, so she went to Ukraine. Her first try failed but she wasn’t deterred. “I decided to make four attempts. I had enough savings for two and planned a loan for the remainder,” she admits. She made several trips to Ukraine, sharing her plans with nobody. There were problems at work but Tatiana never gave up. Eventually, she clutched a pregnancy test which showed she’d been successful. She recalls crying, “Two strips, two strips!” as tears flowed down her cheeks. She took three more control tests, being afraid that it was a mistake.

She had a difficult pregnancy, needing to take drugs, which she injected in the bathroom at work. Once she’d given birth, the challenge really began, as she had no husband or parents to help. “I was beyond tired, without strength even to put myself to bed. The little ones have the energy to run all day long. Other mothers in the playground chat or relax, but I’m always busy. Most errands, including shopping, I do with the children,” she admits. Her boys pull on her hands as she speaks to me.

I feel obliged to ask if she’s worried that her children will wonder at her being so much older than other mothers in the years to come. She replies, “I’m getting ready for that time, which may come when they go to school. I’ll try to dress like other mothers, and hope to live until I’m 90! When I look in the mirror sometimes, I realise that time can be cruel. Truly, I don’t have time to look after my appearance; my hair colour needs some attention.”

Tatiana is often addressed as ‘granny’ on the street, with passersby assuming that she’s out with her grandsons. She tries to assert her role as ‘mother’, saying that she feels more like 45 than 57, having been ‘energised’ by the children.

The boys take out a notebook and pencils: they are too small but are already exploring the alphabet. “Car,” says Adam, poking a picture with his small finger. “Cat,” says Anton. “My sons love cartoons and there are so many, including educational,” Tatiana smiles, hugging her boys. “They’re helping Anton learn to speak correctly.”

“Do you ever regret taking this decision, which turned your life upside down?” I ask. “Sometimes,” she replies, with honesty. “I think about it and there have been times when I’ve wanted to cry. However, Anton then comes and presses his cheek to mine, and my heart leaps. Or Anton says something funny, and I start laughing. I can’t bear to imagine my life without them. It would be so empty.”

By Tatiana Azanovich
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