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It was not a straight path to motherhood for Dr. Mariana Dangiolo, a physician at UCF Health and Assistant Professor at the College of Medicine. When she entered her 40s, she knew that chances of her and her husband of 10 years conceiving were diminishing as the years went by.

“As a doctor, it was even more stressful for me because I knew that with every passing year, chances were less and less likely that I would get pregnant.”

Eventually, the couple turned to IVF treatments in hope of conceiving.

“It was an emotional time in our lives,” she said.  “I knew I was risking my life with each surgery I needed along the way. With every failed IVF, I tried not to lose hope. But it was hard. And the stress impacted our lives.”

On what was going to be the couple’s last try at IVF, she got pregnant– with twins!

“When we had our first ultrasound and we saw two hearts beating side by side, I burst into tears of happiness, as my doctor said, ‘It’s been a long road for you Mariana, this is a day to celebrate!’”

Eventually, Dr. Dangiolo had to leave work due to the high risk of her pregnancy- something that was very hard for her to do.

“Having to leave the practice early due to a high-risk pregnancy worried me a lot. I was concerned about my patients and how this could affect the continuity and quality of their care. Of course, our UCF Health medical team provided them with excellent care as they patiently waited for my return!”

Dr. Dangiolo thinks that being a geriatrician has shaped her outlook on life. Not that life is short, but that a full life is one with rich life experiences- both the good, and the bad.

“Seeing my patients with so many life experiences and accomplishments has inspired me to never give up and keep dreaming,” Dr. Dangiolo said.

On December 7, John and Marie were born. Both healthy and with reddish hair and blue eyes – just like their dad.

dangiolo twins
Marie and John

“It’s a different experience, having babies in your 40s, but here I am,” she said.

While she sees more similarities than differences in parents of all ages, Dr. Dangiolo says there are definite advantages to having kids later in life. “As parents, we all share in the same joys and feelings of being overwhelmed at times. In our 40s, we have the advantage of having accumulated a lot of life experiences. I also think we are more realistic about parenting after watching challenges our friends and family have faced.”

Looking back, she says the long and challenging journey made her marriage stronger and she credits her husband with helping her through it. As she prepares to spend her first Mother’s Day with her family, Dr. Dangiolo says that the day is not one we should reserve for honoring the women who have children, but for all women – no matter where they are in their journey of motherhood.

“There are many different stages of motherhood that should be celebrated. Whether you have children, lost a child, or are still hoping for a child. It’s a journey, and anyone brave enough to start on that journey deserves support and gratitude.”


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