The ‘world’s oldest mum’ hit the headlines after giving birth to twins aged 73 in 2019.
But now Yerramatti Mangayamma is facing the rest of her days as a single mum after husband Raja, 84, died of a heart attack, leaving behind his wife and two 12-month-old daughters Rama Tulasi and Uma Tulasi.
“It makes me very emotional when I think of him gone,’ said Yerrametti, now 75, from Andhra Pradesh, Southern India.
“He only had 12 months with his girls, but at least he tasted the joy of fatherhood before he died.”
Throughout the early years of their marriage, Yerramatti and Raja tried everything they could to conceive, consulting a slew of specialists and experimenting with different medications, but nothing worked.
Then their battle came to a heartbreaking end when Yerramatti entered early menopause at 40.
“It was an awful time,” explained Yerramatti, who married farmer Raja in an arranged marriage in 1962.
“It felt like a door was shutting. We considered adoption, but in the end we didn’t go through with it.”
Adding to her pain, Yerramatti told how neighbours dubbed her ‘the childless lady’ and she would often catch relatives gossiping behind her back.
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The sense of grief and loss never her left her. Then, in the summer of 2018, when Yerramatti was 72, she heard that a woman in her 30s in her village had given birth to a baby after having IVF.
“I’d never heard of it and was desperate to find out more,” she said. “Knowing how much I’d wanted a child, she passed on the details of the clinic. I knew IVF would be tough, but I wanted to try.”
Yerramatti contacted Dr Umashankar Sanakkayala, from Ahalya Nursing Home, in in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, Southern India. And in November 2018 they met for the first time.
She continued: “The doctor carried out some tests to check my health and when they came back positive, he agreed to help me. I wept with joy.
“My pregnancy journey had been so negative up until this point, but receiving even the slightest positivity was overwhelming.”
Yerramatti and Raja paid 65,000 Indian rupees, (£660) from their savings for their first cycle of treatment. And as Yerramatti wasn’t producing any eggs, a donor egg was used and fertilised with Raja’s sperm.
Then in January 2019 they got the news they thought would never come – Dr Umashankar Sanakkayala confirmed Yerramatti had conceived, and after three months she found out she was having twins.
Rama Tulasi and Uma Tulasi were born by c-section on September 5, 2019, at Ahalya Nursing Home, and weighed just under 2kg each.
Yerramatti said: “Holding them for the first time was beautiful. We were kept in hospital for a couple of weeks so doctors could make sure the three of us were healthy, but thankfully we were then allowed home.
“At first it was hard. The doctor told me not to breastfeed, as it would put pressure on my body, so I used milk banks. The sleepless nights were relentless, but I found meditation helped.”
Dr Umashankar Sanakkayala, 46, from Ahalya Nursing Home, has made it his life’s work to provide those in need with access to IVF.
He said: “When I first opened my clinic I wanted to make IVF affordable for everyone, not just the rich. I wanted to help everyone have a family because in India, family is everything. And if people can’t afford it then we arrange financial help.”
However, he initially had no idea how old Yerramatti before he treated her.
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“I actually thought Yerramatti was in her 50s because many of the older generation in India don’t have birth certificates,” Dr Umashankar Sanakkayala explained.
“I only found out she was 73 when she was eight months pregnant and I was totally shocked. But she was very healthy.
“I only help women who pass their medical tests and she did. Thankfully she had a straight forward pregnancy and the birth was a magical moment. It was a very special day for us here when the twins were born.”
Sadly, Raja’s much yearned-for taste of fatherhood was to be short-lived, and he died last October aged 84.
Now forced to thinkabout her own death, Yerramatti has appointed a family member to take over the care of the girls when her time comes.
But for now, her overwhelming love for the children she thought she would never has is helping her get through her grief.
She said: “It’s tough without him, but my family and friends are close by, and I have savings to help me.
“I’m determined to be here to see my girls grow up, but I’ve chosen a family friend to raise them if anything happens to me.
“I’m just so thrilled I got to be a mum after all the years I spent heartbroken without children.”
What do you think about Yerramatti Mangayamma’s journey to parenthood? Have your say in the comments section below…