Since 1998, 44-year-old Doreen Mueller, from Oakton, has had two major heart attacks and three minor heart attacks.
And, since August 15, 2001, she has also had two twin girls: Mardy and Nixon.
"They're like night and day," Mueller said. "Nixon is just like my husband, all laid back, like, 'pass me another beer, dude.' But Mardy is like me. The barometric pressure could fall and she goes crazy."
Having children at Mueller's age, and with her medical complications, was no easy task. She first got pregnant in October 1998, through the Walter Reed military hospital. She lost those twins, and when she reapplied to the Walter Reed program, they said no.
"It was like getting cut from sorority rush. I had spent my whole 20s and 30s working hard, making a nice lifestyle so I could have kids," Mueller said.
"Then they were going to say no."
So in 1999 a sister-in-law referred Mueller to fertility doctor Pierre Asmar.
The doctor helped Mueller get pregnant with twins in November 1999, but in January of 2000 one twin "vanished," dying in the womb. In March 2000 Mueller's water broke, and the other twin started to descend prematurely.
Mueller was suspended upside down for four weeks, to keep her from giving birth. During those four weeks the fetus was not being nourished by amniotic fluid and in April, when Doreen was 23 weeks along, her son was born. He did not last long, though, and in the summer of 2000 Doreen started preparations for another birth attempt. After she became pregnant with Mardy and Nixon later that year, Mueller was never especially scared or nervous about the outcome.
"So many bad things had happened the first couple of times, I was like, What else could happen?" she said.
<mh>Crowd at Delivery
<bt>When Mueller gave birth to the twin girls, she said around 30 people were in the delivery room. Many in the assembled crowd were doctors, eager to witness her unusual, high-risk pregnancy. Thankfully, there were no complications with the delivery.
"When I had them, it was like, I cant believe I did this," Mueller said.
Mueller's doctors have said that stress and family genetics — her grandfather, her brother and an uncle all died of heart attacks— have been the main contributors to her heart problems.
"Because I was in such good shape, I never dreamed I would be the one with the heart condition," Mueller said. "I had always had good cholesterol levels."
Mueller still works as a vice president with NCR, a company that makes ATM machines and cash registers. She is willing to talk about her struggle getting pregnant, and she says people are surprised she is able to treat the situation so casually.
"People are amazed," she said. "They say I'm so calm when I talk about it. But I think when you go to the depths I've been to and then you end up with kids, you tend to focus on the positive."
<bt>Asmar, who has offices in Annandale, Reston, Leesburg and Hagerstown, Md., specializes in infertility and reproductive endocrinology. He started practicing in 1975. He got into fertility medicine because of a fascination with "the start of life, how eggs and sperm lead to babies." He also wanted to be able to help couples who were having trouble conceiving.
Asmar said both Doreen's age and her heart attacks made a pregnancy more complicated.
"The older the eggs, the harder it is to conceive," He said. "Doreen also had two major heart attacks. So that increased the risk that she may have a heart attack during labor."
But even though there were risks, Asmar said the determination displayed by Mueller and her husband, Ted Kramer, transferred to Asmar.
"It was a small risk. A safe risk. And if you weigh the benefit against the risk, the benefit far outweighs the risk. Just look at the benefit," Asmar said, referring to Muellers babies.
After meeting Mueller, Asmar will never rule out the possibility that a couple can get pregnant. But, he said, couples have to be realistic when they come to him.
"You can't take eggs out of a 50 year old," Asmar said. "It's not going to work."
Mueller would encourage a woman in her situation to attempt a pregnancy, depending on the support displayed by family and friends.
"Unless you have a very strong support system and you can deal with the worst circumstances, I would say don't do it," Mueller said.
And in the future, Mueller may try to become a mother once again.
"Id love to have a little boy," she said.