The discouragement began at the onset. I was very aware of the statistics on getting pregnant after 40, and even more aware of the potential complications that could arise if I did manage to get pregnant. These are the undeniable facts. I went into the process with open eyes, and my husband and I told no one of our plan to have a baby. My regular physician, a female doctor, had some harsh words for me. Along with the usual medical statistics that I already was aware of, she also injected her own failed attempts to have a third child with her husband after she turned thirty-eight. She suggested I see a fertility expert immediately. I left feeling more embarrassed than discouraged, as if my wanting a child were a ridiculous desire at my age. After three anxious-ridden months waiting to see a fertility specialist, and the entire length of time my husband and I had been trying to get pregnant, immediate treatment was suggested. Immediate treatment? Was trying to get pregnant later in life a disease? Preliminary tests suggested that I was a good candidate to become pregnant. My FSH levels were low, my ovaries were producing egg follicles, but even in meting out this good news, the specialist tempered the results with caution. He suggested taking a fertility enhancing drug as soon as I start my next menstrual cycle, which was another three weeks away.
During those three weeks of waiting, I found myself getting angry every time I thought about the situation. My husband and I never shared our desire to have a baby together with anyone. I felt awkward telling my doctor I wanted to become a parent at “my age.” I expected disappointment, rather than feeling excitedly hopeful. Was this really because of medical statistics, or was it more to do with the way society views older women? Was I conditioned by society to believe these views?! Even though the average age of first births has significantly gone up in the United States in the last three decades, it still hovers around the twenty-five year old mark. While celebrities may have helped adjust society’s view on becoming pregnant after thirty-five, there still remains a significant opinion of women having children later in life. Accepting the known medical facts of getting pregnant in your forties is one thing, but facing a skeptical crowd is another.
Walking through my garden on a late August morning, I decided I could either, believe the naysayers and let them get me down, or I could take a deep breath and call upon the wisdom and strength I have gained in my forty-two years as a woman. I was in the best shape of my life, happy, financially prepared, and able to deal with challenges that arise in life much better than I would have been able to do in my twenties. While there was a possibility I may not become pregnant, I needed to believe what I wanted was right. I also needed to respectfully dismiss the beliefs that others held, because they were not my opinions. After forty-two years of worrying what others might think, it was about time I gave up on that one. I confidently went inside and called my best friend to tell her of my plans. Without a single inflection of skepticism or doubt in her voice, she began squealing with joy into the phone.
It was the middle of September when I called the fertility specialist to tell him I was not going to come in to start treatment. My period never came. I was pregnant.
I had an embarrassingly easy pregnancy. I never suffered from morning sickness, my health was superb, I gained the exact amount of weight suggested for my height and body type, and I had more energy than before I became pregnant. The hardest part of my pregnancy was to constantly remind myself it did not matter what other people thought. There were many people who felt it necessary to comment on my age. During my fifth month, while shopping for a larger and lacier bra, a very young salesclerk directly asked me how old I was. For a second my confidence wavered, and I considered subtracting a few years, but I cleared my throat and loudly proclaimed my age. She reacted with raised eyebrows while stuffing my purchase into a tiny pink bag.
I loved being pregnant. I loved the way my body looked, and as the vanity of youth was long over with, I never worried about gaining weight. I loved singing songs from the old school station to my unborn baby while driving. I loved having a happy experience of being a beautiful, mature pregnant woman, and catching a glimpse of my tiny crow’s feet in a store window from smiling so much. A key to my happiness was to focus on the important factors that mattered to me:
- My baby and I are healthy. There were many young women in my OB’s office that were experiencing complications and dealing with poor health issues. I was so grateful that both of us were doing so well.
- I love my life. I was happy to have had a full life before my baby was born. I sowed my wild oats, I was happy with my work, I had wonderful friends, and even though it took me until I was forty, I met a man I felt right having a child with.
- I am prepared. I graduated with a degree in early childhood development, I was happy in my own life, I worked as an elementary school teacher where I learned how see children as people with valuable things to say, I felt more mentally equipped to handle the pressures of parenthood than I would have been in my twenties, and even in my early thirties. I had also become much more patient over the years.
- The people I love support me. No matter how confident you are, being able to share the joys, and also the sorrows that occur in life with people you trust is one of the most important things you can have. My best friend proved that to me, and I am eternally grateful. I found an OB that only commented on my age when it was related to the health of my baby. She suggested I could have some preliminary tests at 16 weeks to confirm everything was fine, but only if I wanted to.
- I believe in this. Whatever it is you choose do, believe in it with all your heart. Doubt allows those with raised eyebrows to erode your confidence. I had to look hard into my own beliefs to figure out why I was so angry and anxious in those initial pre-pregnancy days. Once I released myself from those conditioned views, I attracted people around me that were happy, adventurous, and respected every aspect of life.