A grandmother, aged 61, has given birth to her own grandson.

Kristine Casey is thought to be the oldest person in the state of Illinois, USA, to give birth.

She became a surrogate for her daughter, Sara Connell, who had tried unsuccessfully for years to have a baby.

A picture of an ostrich was all the inspiration she needed.

Connell and her husband, Bill, are the biological parents of the child Casey carried, which grew from an embryo created from the Chicago couple’s egg and sperm.

Crying and praying, Connell and her mother held hands as Finnean Lee Connell was delivered by cesarean section on Wednesday.

When the baby let out a cry, “I lost it,” said Connell, the first family member to hold him. The doctor who delivered Finnean said there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowded operating room.

“The surgery itself was uncomplicated, and the emotional context of this delivery was so profound,” said Susan Gerber, obstetrician and maternal-foetal medicine specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

According to state health department records, the oldest woman to give birth in Illinois was 58 when she had her baby in 2006. But data on births after 2008 are not yet available.

Childbirth remains a rare event for post-menopausal women, but the number of such births has risen in recent years because of wider use of in vitro fertilization and other technologies.

Older women face greater risks during pregnancy and delivery, and experts say many women would not make good candidates.

The Connells decided in 2004 to try to have a baby, but Sara, 35, soon discovered she wasn’t ovulating. After undergoing infertility treatment at the Reproductive Medicine Institute in Evanston, she got pregnant but delivered stillborn twins, and later she had a miscarriage.

Casey’s previous three pregnancies – her last was 30 years ago – went smoothly, resulting in three daughters. After she retired in 2007, she filled her time walking, meditating, taking classes and socializing with friends. But she felt she had a deeper calling.

“At the beginning of 2009 I decided for once in my life to take some time to think about my life and find something that seemed right for me, where there was no pressure to do a specific thing.”

During a visit to Chicago, Casey participated in a workshop led by Connell, a life coach, writer and lecturer on women’s empowerment. In one class exercise, Casey used pictures cut from a magazine to create a collage depicting a life’s goal. One picture grabbed her attention: an ostrich with an expression of wonder and joy.

She wanted to experience the exuberance captured in the picture. Around the same time, a friend mentioned a story she had read about a post-menopausal woman who gave birth. Casey later wrote a letter to the Connells offering to be Sara’s surrogate.