In The World’s Most Extraordinary People, host Gabriel Weston explores the case of a woman who became pregnant with twins in two separate wombs. It’s just one of many amazing pregnancy and birth stories that will make your jaw drop, from age-defying mums to twins with different dads.
After 46 years of trying, a 72-year-old gives birth
Daljinder Kaur, 72, and her husband, Mohinder Singh Gill, 79, of Amritsar, India had tried unsuccessfully to fall pregnant during their 46-year marriage. Their disappointment had been compounded by the social stigma that can accompany being infertile in India.
When they were finally able to afford it, they embarked on a two-year treatment of IVF using donor eggs. It worked, and Kaur gave birth to a healthy son, Arman, in April 2016.
“God heard our prayers. My life feels complete now,” Kaur told Agence France-Presse. “I am looking after the baby all by myself. I feel so full of energy. My husband is also very caring and helps me as much as he can.”
Earlier this year, though, she admitted that caring for her young son was taking its toll.
“Since he’s been crawling, I’m on my hands and knees, and it’s hard,” she said. “My body can’t take it. It’s been harder than I thought.”
The woman who gave birth to twins with two fathers
Heteropaternal superfecundation. It sounds like something out of Mary Poppins but it’s actually the technical term for twins by two different fathers.
The phenomenon occurs when a woman has sex with two men during the same ovulation window. Bi-paternal twins are created when two eggs are released and each is fertilised by a different men’s sperm. (Sperm can survive in the reproductive tract for up to five days.)
Mia Washington of Texas found herself having a very awkward conversation with her partner, James Harrison, when he became suspicious that their twin boys, Justin and Jordan, born in 2008, didn’t look alike. A paternity test showed Harrison had only fathered Justin. Washington had no choice but to admit she had cheated on Harrison with another man.
"I was hurt, torn apart – didn't know what the next move was gonna be," Harrison told NBC News in 2009. Harrison decided to raise the twins and half brothers as his own. "I raised him [Justin] from a baby all the way to now. He knows me as his father, and I know him as my son."
Heteropaternal superfecundation is extremely rare. The Washington Post reported last year that there are less than 10 known cases in the world.
61-year-old granny gives birth to her grandson
Sara and Bill Connell of Chicago had been trying for years to have children. After IVF, they’d successfully fallen pregnant but suffered a heart-wrenching blow when Sara gave birth to stillborn twins at 22 weeks.
After struggling further with their fertility issues, Sara’s mum, Kristine Casey, offered to be a surrogate for her daughter. Incredibly, at 61 years old, she gave birth to her own grandson, Finnean Connell, in February 2011. Casey became the oldest woman in Illinois to give birth.
75-day upside down labour
You hear of long labours, but this is something else. In what was said to be a world record at the time, Polish woman Joanna Krzysztonek was in labour from late 2011 for 75 days. Yes, 75 days! And upside down!
When Krzysztonek went into labour with triplets at 21 weeks, one was born premature and sadly didn’t survive. With her other babies in danger, doctors medicated Krzysztonek to halt contractions and placed her in a bed tilted at a 30-degree angle, feet pointing upwards. The idea was that the elevation would help to prevent the contractions from starting up again, and there she stayed on complete bed rest for two-and-a-half months.
“I sighed with relief that there was a chance to keep the pregnancy and to give the babies a chance to be born successfully,” Krzysztonek told Reuters.
On 15 February 2012, she gave birth to a girl, Iga, and a boy, Ignacy. The Daily Mail reports that, not unsurprisingly, Krzysztonek struggled with her balance after all that time in the upside down position.
The black and white twins
Thought to be the first case of its kind in the UK, Libby Appleby, who is white, and her partner, Tafadzwa Madzimbamuto, who is black, found themselves the proud and very surprised parents of black and white twins despite the babies coming from the same egg.
During the pregnancy in 2014, Appleby and Madzimbamuto had been told the twins would look so similar it would be hard to tell them apart. But although genetically identical, when they were born, Amelia had brown eyes and dark skin, while Jasmine had blue eyes and fair skin.
"We put them next to each other in a cot and couldn't believe how different they were. Amelia was so much darker than Jasmine, they barely even looked related,” Appleby told The Telegraph. "Doctors told us the chances of conceiving mixed race twins are one in a million. We were thrilled they were so unique."
Watch The World’s Most Extraordinary People on Monday 6 November at 8:30pm on SBS.