Birth at 52
Though the country singer had four children (now ranging in age from 21 to 33) with her first husband, singer Johnny Mosby, she longed to raise a child with husband No. 2, Donnie Mitchell, 46, a senior technical mechanic for Exxon, whom she married in 1977. Four years ago they adopted a newborn girl, Sydney, and it wasn't long before both began hankering to adopt another child. Late last year, though, she read about a process in which a female donor's egg is fertilized outside the womb then implanted in a recipient woman's uterus. The procedure, practiced by Dr. Mark Sauer of the University of Southern California, allows even postmenopausal women to become pregnant. Jonie decided she wasn't going to adopt a child, she was going to give birth to one.
After Jonie passed Sauer's battery of health tests—she agreed to pay the usual $10,000 fee (which included a $1,500 payment to the donor)—he gave her the go-ahead. A first attempt failed, but, says Jonie, "I wasn't disheartened." She forked over another $10,000, hooked up with another donor and, in July, had five embryos, fertilized with Donnie's sperm, inserted into her uterus. This time, one of the implantations took. "Then," said Donnie, "the fun began."
Twice a day for the first 100 days, he recalls, he and Sydney gave Jonie progesterone injections to help her uterus hold the fetus. After that, Jonie's body took over and maintained a glitch-free pregnancy. "Once I found the right muscles," she says of her easy delivery, "well, we just had us a baby."
There are, Jonie concedes, those who disapprove of her decision to give birth at 52. But she meets their frowns with a shrug. "I've always done things differently," she says. "If Social Security picks up the tab," she adds, poking fun at her advancing age, "I just might do it again."
KAREN S. SCHNEIDER
NANCY MATSUMOTO in Los Angeles