Thursday, September 19, 2013

My Geriatric Pregnancy

I must have deserved a medal the time that I decided to try and have a baby at age 44. Or I was crazy. Well, the medical profession seemed to think so.

According to statistics, I was lucky to get pregnant in the first place. Then, once I was pregnant, I was slapped with the most laughable of terms. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I make fun of the fact that an OB told me I was a “geriatric pregnancy”.

I switched to a midwife.

Even at the all-natural, crunchy birthing center where we had Claire, I was told to count on going passed my due date and to be ready to be induced because of my “Advance Maternal Age” (Ah, AMA…slightly better than being a geriatric, but not much).

I didn’t help my plight much by consulting Dr. Google for reassurance. He is the king of doom and
gloom. “Higher risk” usually starts the slew of statistics peppered through the information for moms-to-be of AMA. The worst of which is the word “stillbirth”.

In a sense, I don’t envy the position of those in the medical community though. They need to prepare women for possible outcomes. But there's a fine line between a gentle heads-up, and being just plain old scary. A lot of doctors (and midwives) seem to have this way about them that makes everything that comes out of their mouths seem like a foregone conclusion.

And, really, they have nothing to lose by scaring you. If they are right, they get to say “I told you so”. If they aren’t, they can say, “Well, thank your lucky stars you had a medical provider as excellent as me”.

I can place myself in the latter category. And I am thankful, very, very thankful. While I wouldn’t describe my pregnancy, labor and delivery as a bed of roses, I think it was a good one. No gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. I gained a normal amount of weight. I delivered Claire naturally two days before her due date. My labor was eight hours long from start to finish. I pushed four times, et voila!

Not bad for an old lady, eh?!

If I sound like I’m bragging, well, maybe, a little. But I’m also trying to illustrate a point…

Individuals make up statistics. Individuals are not statistics. Neither are babies.

One of the biggest challenges I faced trying to get pregnant and during my pregnancy was counteracting the negative voices that I heard. Dr. Doom and Gloom definitely set up camp in the back of my head.

He made me scared.

He put doubts in my head about our decision to try.

He made me feel isolated.

Not things that a woman (of any age) needs to feel the first time (or any time) she is pregnant.

Do I really deserve a medal? No. Really, all women who give birth deserve medals. What’s amazing to me is that this feat of daring athleticism happens every minute of every hour of every day!

So I’m qualifying the beginning statement of this post: I deserved a medal for having a baby at 44 in the face of the medical community’s dire predictions about the fate of my baby and me.

In case this statement sounds less than humble or I'm guilty of minimizing the decided risks of pregnancy, let me tell you that I'm being slightly tongue in cheek (slightly). I also know that nothing in life is guaranteed. I know that George and I are lucky and blessed that everything went down the way that it did. I know we could have just as easily been a statistic too.

But women like me deserve to have hope despite the odds. We deserve to be supported along an often daunting, lonely and unpredictable path. We deserve to remember that doctors aren't always right. They are not God, even though they sometimes like to pretend that they are.

Claire and I are living, breathing proof!

To this point, wanna know what I learned after my pregnancy? The statistic about how a woman’s fertility drops like a stone after 35 is based on French birth records from 1670-1830. Yes, you read that correctly. The author of this captivating and eye-opening Atlantic article goes on to say that  "surprisingly few well-designed studies of female age and natural fertility include women born in the 20th century".

Makes you wonder about all the other statistics as well, especially, given this country's stellar record of focusing research dollars on women’s health (dripping sarcasm here, in case you were wondering).

But, whatever the facts may be, I’m happy that I kept my eye on the prize and did my best to ignore Dr. Doom.

Claire is my prize. She is better than any medal!


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Photo Source: David Rosenbergy, Wikipedia Commons, this photo has been altered, which does not suggest that the licensor endorses me, this blog or its use.

Linking up with Finish The Sentence Friday. Come join in: "I deserve a medal for the time I..."

26 comments:

  1. You are one incredibly blessed momma and she is a blessed little girl. :)

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  2. Seriously your prize was definitely better then the medal, but I would still bestow that medal upon you Rachel. And seriously, not sure why the medical community has to make us women feel like after 35 years of age, we are less capable of having a healthy pregnancy. Thank you so much for sharing and for linking up with us again!

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  3. Yes, your prize is better than any medal. Thank you for telling me about that study. I had absolutely no idea, I just figured the all knowing medical world had used up-to-date statistics.

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  4. Good for you, Rachel! Maternity care in the US is pretty bad, but I'm not sure if many people realize that. Glad you found a good practice. Hats off to you!:)

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  5. I think there is a whole post in me somewhere about all the terrible medical terms that are applied to women, and our bodies: early pregnancy failure, lazy ovaries, incompetent uterus. Really? I think we could do better. Or at least put it in Latin so we didn't think about how they were referring to us. Thanks, Rachel, for a great post that puts this into perspective and reminds us that we are individuals, not statistics. And I had no idea about the post-35 data. So interesting.

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  6. YES. I was also in the "advanced maternal age" category. I had my son six weeks before turning 41. I was on bedrest. I was the case study at the hospital..."come, interns, look at this cervix." I made it and am now a mom. My son made it and is now a boy.
    I love this post hard and true. And much.

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  7. Fabulous, fabulous post. I had a homebirth for a lot of reasons, including the questionable statistics you cite- they are responsible for a lot of the unnecessary medical intervention that happens in the hospital birth system.

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  8. Not bad, not bad mama. I just went through all that with my best friend on the East coast because she was over the age of when she was having Cooper. So much drama. A relatively healthy woman over the age of having a baby and half of the population looks at you like your diseased! Crazy!

    ¤´¨)
    ¸.•*´
    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo
    Raising-Reagan.co

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  9. Your prize is definitely the best :)

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  10. Definitely no better prize!

    I was average age when I had my children, but had two high risk pregnancies and can completely empathise with the negativity you faced from your medical team - I appreciate we have to be made aware of risks, but no need to terrify.

    Kate x
    Kate at Home

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  11. I ADORE that picture of Claire. She is better than any medal, but I am giving you one for not punching Dr. Doom and Gloom in the nose.

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  12. Agreeing with Kerri! Dr. Doom definitely deserved a poke in the chops! And the medical world definitely needs to update. How many women in their fifties and SIXTIES (you heard me, sixties) are giving birth now? It makes you pause when you realize that when those statistics were compiled, the average life expectancy was somewhere in the fifties . . .

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  13. The medical community has been letting women down concerning proper treatment, statistics, medication, ect... since, well... the beginning! You have some sweet little buns to chase there....

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  14. Aw, look at that little cherub with her cute butt. :) A prize worth waiting for, indeed.

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  15. What a fabulous prize you received! Definitely better than any medal! :-)

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  16. I snorted when I read the source of those fertility stats- ha! And I say you definitely deserve the prize AND a medal. Wow, it sure it hard to pat ourselves on the back without feeling the need to add a disclaimer about being "lucky" isn't it? I totally feel that way, at least. I say you can be unequivocally proud of your bravery, perseverance, and trusting your own instincts. :) (And GAH- I left you out of the FTSF teaser Monday post bit. I suck. )

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  17. You GO, Mama! I had my last child at the age of 41.

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  18. Great post. I had my turned when I turned 40. We are now starting IVF again and I will be 44 in a few months and have been hearing all "stats" from my Dr. It would be nice if they also included all the stats of success at our age as well

    Irene

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  19. OMG, nudity in your blog?!?!?! I never thought I would see the day! :) I have to admit, I'm happy I never went through the whole female process of giving birth (or, any female process for that matter). I applaud you and agree that stats are only numbers that are put together by those that don't really know ... but can only guess. Btw, love the new simplistic look to your blog. It's great!

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  20. Right on sista! I was made to feel positively geriatric giving birth at 38!! So kudos to you showing them how it's done! And kudos on making the point about fertility... tie that in with the bit about statistics and it kind of blows up everything that doctors talk about when it comes to fertility, pregnancy and giving birth when you're not such a spring chicken as they'd like! Found this fab post via the Moms Who Write and Blog Pinterest board

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  21. My mom got pregnant with my youngest brother at 38 and I know she had so much fear her whole pregnancy because of her doctors (he is 19 now, and naturally nothing went wrong).

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  22. rachel, this fertility workshop i went to in woodstock talked about how we are prone to fear because of all this negative messaging that is out there. we have to listen to the 'ultimate mother' in all of us, because we are the ones who are in control. these statistics are totally misleading! there is a new book called 'expecting better' by an economist who delves into all these myths about pregnancy: don't drink wine, don't drink coffee, no sushi. her research shows that it's based on very bad data.

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  23. "Individuals make up statistics. Individuals are not statistics. Neither are babies." This is the key here. I had all 3 of mine AMA. 1st at 37; last at 43. As a Christian, my faith played a huge role in how I handled being "old" and pregnant. Congratulations on your Claire and thanks for the post!

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  24. 44 is nowhere near old to be having a baby! Most of the women I look after are in their late 30s / early 40s and see women in their 50s regularly :)

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  25. I think there’s nothing wrong about getting pregnant at the later age. For as long as you’re following a good prenatal routine, going on regular checkups, and eating a proper diet, you’re good to go. However, this can be truly risky. That’s why it’s best for the mother to take extra care of herself. And I’m glad that you didn’t have a hard time on your journey. Thanks for sharing!

    Sabrina Craig @ Medical Attorney

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  26. Great post! Having given birth at ages 42 and 44 to two healthy daughters, the information you shared is the main reason I started http://inseasonmom.org/ . First time moms over 35 are frighten by outdated statistics that do not consider their individual medical history or the Creator of the Universe!

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