She devoted years to caring for her mother, who died at age 101. Then Maria del Carmen Bousada embarked on a quest to become a mom herself. She lied to a California fertility clinic to skirt its age limit, and later pointed to her mother’s longevity as a reason to expect she’d be around to care for her kids.
At age 66 she had twins, becoming the world’s oldest new mom — and raising questions about maternity so late in life. Now she is dead at age 69, leaving behind boys not yet 3.
Bousada’s brother told the Diario de Cadiz newspaper his sister died Saturday, though he did not disclose the cause. The newspaper said Bousada had been diagnosed with a tumor shortly after giving birth.
Shortly after her sons, Pau and Christian, were born in December 2006, Bousada reflected on her decision to deceive doctors in order to have a family.
“I think everyone should become a mother at the right time for them,” she told the British tabloid News of the World, which showed her beaming as she cradled her 1-month-old infants, both dressed in pale blue pajamas.
“Often circumstances put you between a rock and a hard place, and maybe things shouldn’t have been done in the way they were done, but that was the only way to achieve the thing I had always dreamed of, and I did it,” she said.
Beginning in 2005, Bousada underwent hormone treatments to reverse nearly 20 years of menopause and sold her house to pay for in vitro fertilization at the Pacific Fertility Clinic in Los Angeles.
Slender with dark brown hair, she told the clinic she was 55 — the facility’s maximum age for single women undergoing the procedure. When her sons were born in December 2006, Guinness World Records said she was the oldest woman on record to give birth.
Dr. Vicken Sahakian, director and owner of the clinic, said Bousada falsified her birth date on documents from Spain.
When he learned of the deception, “I figured something might happen and wind up being a disaster for these kids, and unfortunately I was right,” he told The Associated Press.
It’s easy for women to lie to their doctors, Sahakian said.
“We don’t ask for passports, obviously. When is the last time you went to a doctor and he asked you for a birth certificate? We’re not detectives here,” he said.
Sahakian said he implanted the Spanish woman with a younger woman’s eggs and donated sperm, using hormone therapy to “rejuvenate” her uterus after she had been in menopause for 18 years.
The hormone treatment lasted three weeks. Sahakian said he did not believe that increased the woman’s cancer risk.
“Nothing she did (to get pregnant) caused her illness,” he said.
The brother, Ricardo Bousada, told the Barcelona-based newspaper El Periodico de Catalunya that he had sold details of his sister’s death to an unidentified television program and the proceeds would go to looking after his sister’s twins.
Repeated calls to Ricardo Bousada’s residence in the southern province of Cadiz went unanswered Wednesday.
Another brother, Jose Luis Bousada, told the AP he was estranged from his siblings and read about his sister’s death in the newspaper.
Asked who might raise the children, he said he imagined arrangements had been made and “I suppose there will be no problem.”
Bousada had once said she would look for a younger man to help her raise them.
Women undergoing in vitro fertilization have their hormone systems manipulated by doctors, typically injecting themselves with hormones several times a day. The procedure increases the chance of a multiple birth, which heightens the risk of complications during pregnancy.
Bousada lived with her mother most of her life in Cadiz and worked in a department store before retiring. She decided to have children after her mother died in 2005 and initially kept her plan secret from her family.
She sold her house to raise $59,000 to pay for in vitro fertilization in Los Angeles, she told the News of the World.
Spanish law on assisted reproduction sets no age limit, but state-funded and private clinics have an informal agreement establishing 50 as the cutoff, based on recommendations from the scientific community, according to the Health Ministry.
There is no U.S. law regulating the age of in vitro candidates, but Sahakian said his clinic won’t take older women because “I would like the mother ... to basically survive until the kids reach 18.”
When Bousada told her relatives she was two months pregnant, they thought she was joking, she said.
“Yes, I am old of course, but if I live as long as my mom did, imagine, I could even have grandchildren,” she said after the birth.
Allan Pacey, secretary of the British Fertility Society, said the organization recommends that assisted conception generally not be provided to women beyond the natural age of menopause at about 50.
“The rationale ... is that nature didn’t design women to have assisted conception beyond the age of the natural menopause, he said. “Once you get into the mid-50s, I think nature is trying to tell us something.”
“I think many people would worry about providing fertility treatment to women in their 60s. I think as a general rule, to embark on pregnancy when you may not see your child go to university is potentially a very difficult situation.”
Adriana Iliescu, a Romanian who also gave birth at 66, although she was 130 days younger than Bousada, said she was pained to hear of the Spanish woman’s death and what it would mean for her sons.
“It is a great sadness when kids are orphans but civil society will help these children,” she told the AP.
She described her daughter Eliza, born in 2005, as “very energetic and spoiled. We dance and sing together.”
“I don’t feel I am getting old. My pregnancy kept me young,” Iliescu said.