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HEALTH

Spain’s 64-year-old mom: “It’s been worth it. The twins are a miracle”

Case sparks debate over fertility treatment age limits and whether Mauricia Ibánez is fit to be a parent

Three weeks old, Gabriel and his twin sister María de la Cruz are sleeping peacefully in their cots in a private hospital while their mother, 64-year-old Mauricia Ibáñez, looks on. “It’s been worth it,” she says. “The mistakes, the anger, the uncertainty… They are a gift. They’re a miracle.”

Mauricia Ibáñez, aged 64, with her twins.

Ibáñez gave birth to the twins on February 14 following fertility treatment in the United States. She already has a daughter, but that first-born child was taken into custody by the regional government of Castilla y León in 2014, on the grounds that she was not being properly cared for by her mother. 

The news of these latest births has sparked widespread debate in Spain, with opinion divided over the scientific achievement in allowing a woman of this age to be a mother, and those who say allowing her to do so is irresponsible.

Do I think they could be orphaned? Yes, but I don’t want to think about it

Mauricia Ibáñez

Ibáñez had to travel to the United States four times over the course of 18 months to receive her fertility treatment. “I had to go abroad, to a country where clinics do not impose an age limit,” she explains.

“I decided to become a mother because the experience of having Blanca, my first child, was fantastic: I asked myself if I could really have another. I’m not worried at all about my age. I am old, but it has been possible for me to get pregnant: science and medicine are the last opportunity we older people have,” she concludes.

Ibáñez says she has felt “judged” by many people for “some years now,” but that she doesn’t care and is focused on her two children. “Do I think they could be orphaned? Yes, but I don’t want to think about it. If I had thought about it, then perhaps I wouldn’t have made the decision,” she says.

A former Foreign Ministry civil servant, Ibáñez says she left having children late because of her work. “I traveled a lot, and was always being sent abroad,” she explains, adding that she finally decided she wanted to start a family a decade ago, by which time she had been given early retirement after suffering from a paranoid personality disorder.

I had to go abroad to a country where there are no age limits on fertility treatment

Her sister tried to get the courts to declare her “fully incapable” so that her passport could be withdrawn, preventing her from traveling abroad to undergo fertility treatment, but the judge refused after psychologists testified that her condition did not prevent her from “looking after herself or a child.”

Her first child, Blanca, was born in 2011 and lived with her in the small village of Palacios de la Sierra, some 70 kilometers south of the city of Burgos, in northern Spain. But the girl was taken into care after social workers described the living conditions in Ibáñez’s house as unhygienic, concluding that the child was isolated and not being cared for properly.

“Abandoned? I was with her all the time. We were inseparable,” she insists, denying the accusations and adding that she didn’t send the child to school at the age of three because she was not legally obliged to under Spanish law until the age of six.

Following the decision of the regional government, the mayor of Palacios intervened and sent a letter to the authorities saying that Ibánez had the family support she needed in the village to look after her daughter. But the child was eventually handed over to a relative of Ibáñez who lives in Canada.

It was terrible. Four members of the Civil Guard turned up and they snatched my daughter out of my arms

“It was terrible. Four members of the Civil Guard turned up and they snatched her out of my arms. They shouldn’t be allowed to come into your house and take away your children like that: either you do what social services say or they take your daughter away,” she says.

Is she now worried that the authorities could take away Gabriel and María de la Cruz?

“Of course I am worried that they could take my children away. They are so defenseless, so small and delicate. I am a little bit afraid for them. I just ask God to prevent them falling into the hands of the social services,” she says.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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