More and more women are having babies when they are over the age of 40. For some, it is a choice, or a long awaited blessing after years of tying. For other women, it comes as a complete surprise. Either way, if you are over 40 and find yourself pregnant, know that you are in good company. I had my youngest child at age 45, and six year later, no one has called me his grandma by mistake. Not yet, anyway.
I thought that my days of childbearing were behind me. The youngest of my six older kids was 13, and while I had tried to produce a child for my second husband, the one pregnancy I had achieved ended in a miscarriage. We took no precautions, but no baby. I had completely given up and my life and mind were far, far away from trying to get pregnant. But, you know what they say…
I went in for a routine mammogram one morning, and I was all gowned up and ready to go when the tech arrived and began to asked me some questions. When was my last menstrual period? I told her it was a few days late, but that there was no way that I was pregnant, and to proceed. “Is there any chance that you could be pregnant?” she asked. I told her that there was, technically, but I wasn’t, and continued to urge her to get the show on the road. I told her that at my age, being a day or two late was not uncommon. That was my story, anyway, and I was sticking to it. She was also sticking to her story. No period, no mammogram. Period. She told me that she’d either see me in a week, or in nine months.
I went back to my workplace, and my coworkers wondered why I was back so soon. I explained what happened, and suddenly, the entire throng of women was certain that I was indeed pregnant. I suppose the excited speculation broke up the monotony of the day. It soon became apparent that they weren’t going to let up until I took a pregnancy test, and someone was nice enough to run out and fetch one for me. By that time, I was getting a little excited myself. I peed in the cup, the drops were dropped onto the test, and what do you know? I got two pink lines! I am not the jump up and down and scream type, but I jumped up and down and screamed for joy. The gallery waiting outside the bathroom got the their answer before I even came out. They won. I was pregnant.
Then I began to backtrack in my morning. When I had arrived at work, I had to enter the office of a woman who was a combination hippie/germophobe. Her morning ritual included eating raw garlic to ward off disease, and while I always found the stench of garlic breath in her office off putting, that morning, it had taken me three tries to get into her office without gagging. Classic morning sickness. How could I have forgotten that feeling? The next morning, I didn’t make it into her office. I barely made it to the toilet. Out of respect, she cut back on the garlic for the duration.
I’d like to be able to say that the rest of my pregnancy was a tiptoe through the tulips, but it wasn’t. My morning sickness turned into all day and all night sickness and that last for six months. I got a kidney stone and spent a week in the hospital. I was on and off bed rest for contractions many times, and after giving birth to six kids naturally, I ended up with a c-section after a natural labor and four hours of pushing. The kid’s head measured 15 whopping inches. But, I didn’t get gestational diabetes, or preeclampsia, or any of the other “over 40, elderly mother” diseases.
I declined an amniocentesis, but had the level 2 ultrasound, which showed a healthy baby at 20 weeks. I wasn’t too worried, and am glad for the choices that I made. Time and again during the pregnancy, I was asked if it was going to be my first baby. I always found that humorous, but at the same time, maybe it does speak to the fact that seeing a women who is over 40 and pregnant is not as uncommon as one might think.
If you find yourself pregnant and over the age of 40, take heart. Having a child in my mid-40’s has certainly kept me young. He has been a huge gift to me, and to my older kids, all adults now. I am a more patient parent than I was in my 20s and 30s. I think that I am a better parent now, all around. Of course, just like every pregnancy is different, so is every child, and so my son has had a lot to teach me, but that is a gift, too. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is to lighten up. It is a lesson we can all benefit from these days.