By Jimmy Tomlin The High Point Enterprise, N.C.
About three months ago, Sallie Brown had a whopper of a fish dream.
"I dreamed that I caught a big ol' fish," the 56-year-old High Point woman recalls. "Well, usually when you dream about fish, I heard that means somebody's pregnant, so I was calling all around to my girlfriends trying to find out who it was. Nobody was pregnant."
Brown's 64-year-old husband, Charles, stifles a laugh at this point, and Sallie continues.
"Well," she says, pausing for effect, "come to find out, it was me. And when my girlfriends found out it was me, they all just had a ball laughing at me."
A 56-year-old woman -- and a grandmother, no less -- discovering she's pregnant is shocking enough, but there's more to the story.
Sallie didn't mention catching two fish in her dream, but her doctor says she may be carrying twins.
"He says I'm too huge -- I'm growing too fast -- for it to be just one baby," Sallie explains. "And we have two sets of twins in the family already, on my side of the family, so there's a history of twins."
While Sallie's pregnancy at 56 isn't unprecedented, it's certainly rare.
"This is a total aberration," says fertility specialist Dr. Jeff Deaton of Premier Fertility Center in High Point. Deaton is not Sallie's doctor, but agreed to offer the Enterprise some perspective on her pregnancy.
"As a fertility doctor, I don't want women in their 40s waiting till they're 50 and beyond to try to get pregnant," Deaton says.
"Most women lose all fertility by age 44 or 45. That obviously doesn't mean there's a zero-percent chance (of getting pregnant at such an advanced age), but this is highly, highly, highly unusual."
When a woman of Sallie's age does get pregnant, it's usually a woman who has been trying to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization, but not always.
The oldest mother to conceive naturally was a 59-year-old woman in the United Kingdom, according to Guinness World Records.
In Sallie's case, she says she conceived naturally. She wasn't trying to get pregnant -- she and Charles figured she was well past her childbearing years -- but she nonetheless considers her pregnancy a blessing from God.
So does Charles, who says he'd been praying for his wife to get pregnant for years.
"I sure was," he says with a grin. "I always wanted a kid by her, but I thought it was kind of scary, because I don't want nothing to happen to her having a child. So I said, 'Well, whatever the Lord gives me, I'll accept it.' So we're just working at our jobs, and all of a sudden, boom! But we didn't try to get pregnant -- it just happened. I just said, 'Wow, God is good.'"
Sallie's projected due date is around late December, she says.
Sallie had a baby girl when she was 15, long before she and Charles married; that baby was from a previous relationship.
She got pregnant once by Charles about a dozen years ago, but it was an ectopic pregnancy -- one that occurs outside the womb -- and she lost the baby.
After that, she says, the couple resigned themselves to the probability they would never have a baby together.
Meanwhile, they took in and eventually adopted Sallie's grandson, Henry, who is now 9.
They even joined a local support group called Grandparents Raising Grandchildren of Guilford County. They later adopted two more children -- Gabriel, now 14, and his sister Jecoliah, 7.
Nonetheless, nothing could've prepared them for the news they received in May, during Sallie's annual physical.
"I told my doctor I was concerned because I was putting on a little weight," Sallie recalls. "He said he would have to do a pregnancy test, because he didn't want to give me any new medications if I was pregnant."
Sallie rolled her eyes, but reluctantly agreed to do as her doctor had asked. A few minutes later, he returned with the stunning news.
"I liked to fainted right there in the doctor's office," Sallie says. "I was so overwhelmed. I said, 'Me? Pregnant?' I couldn't believe it -- it really threw me for a loop."
Then came the news that Sallie could be carrying twins. She says she weighed about 170 pounds before getting pregnant, but her weight had increased to nearly 210 pounds earlier this month.
Reaction from family, friends and co-workers has been predictable. Charles had a hard time convincing his co-workers at Flowers Baking Co. in Jamestown that his wife had, well, a bun in the oven.
"They didn't believe me," he says. "They said, 'Get out of here, Brown! You're too old! You ain't having no kid!'"
Thus far, Sallie has had an uneventful pregnancy, if there is such a thing for a 56-year-old woman. She feels good and hasn't had any complications. She's just been trying to take it easy, drink lots of water and eat as healthy as she can.
Sallie knows, however, that hers is a high-risk pregnancy because of her age. Some doctors use the term "geriatric pregnancy" for any expectant mother 35 or older, and she's two decades older than that.
"A higher incidence of birth defects comes with (a geriatric pregnancy), regardless of how healthy the woman is," says Dr. Curt Jacobs, a High Point obstetrician. Like Deaton, he is not Sallie's doctor, but agreed to make some general comments about pregnancy in older women.
"The incidence of maternal and fetal complications goes up, such as ectopic pregnancy and congenital malformations," Jacobs continues. "The main issues for the woman are high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. ... Mortality is an issue, too. Maternal mortality in the United States is quite low, but in women over 40, it's fivefold higher -- 46 per hundred thousand vs. nine per hundred thousand."
Sallie knows the risks, but she's trying not to worry too much.
"I've prayed about it, and I'm just looking to God to take care of me," she says. "I didn't want to be all nervous and worried about it -- I just feel that it's going to be a successful pregnancy."
The Browns say if they have a boy, they'll name him Julius, after Sallie's uncle who recently died.
And if it's a girl, they plan to name her Miracle -- for obvious reasons.