July 17, 2006 12:00 PM

Four years ago, when Lauren Cohen married Frank Garcia, a man roughly 20 years her junior, she worried about what would happen if she died first. Says Cohen: “I didn’t want him to be alone.” Not a problem these days. On May 22, at age 59, Cohen gave birth to Giselle and Gregory—making her the oldest American woman to bear twins. “I don’t feel like a record holder,” says the Paramus, N.J., attorney, who turns 60 in August. “Except for arthritis, I’m in excellent shape.”

The babies—delivered by C-section at 31 weeks and weighing a little over 3 lbs. each—are the result of Cohen’s improbable and, at times, harrowing road to AARP-aged motherhood. With a 27-year-old daughter from a prior marriage, she began her quest two years ago. After being turned down by several fertility specialists because of her age, Cohen conceived using donor eggs and gave birth to Raquel in December 2004. The following October the couple used extra embryos from that IVF treatment to conceive again.

Then, near disaster. Diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening condition called placenta percreta—in which the placenta pokes through the uterus—Cohen was taken to Manhattan’s New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia on March 28 for rest and observation. In the end, she required emergency surgery and 33 pints of blood. Beyond such biological risks, mothers in their 50s, says Dr. Steven Ory of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, face “concerns whether they will survive to the point that the child reaches adulthood.” Cohen, who lost both parents in her teens, understands. Yet she has no doubts. “Frank,” she says, “will be a nurturing, hands-on father.”

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