Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Over the Hill

If you want to feel great about how gracefully you are aging; if you want to believe that there is nothing scary or old about getting closer to 40 with every birthday; if you want to be able to live on less than 10 hours of sleep a night without turning into the Wicked Witch of the East, I highly recommend that you reconsider having a baby after you've turned 35.

I'm not saying that I would have done it differently, but I was unprepared for being treated like a senior citizen by my doctor's office. I should have seen it coming; certainly I've read all the pregnancy books several times over (during my first 3 pregnancies--I'm not even sure where they are now). I knew that having a baby after 35 pushed you into the high risk category. But somehow I thought that number just meant that the farther past 35 a woman was, the more . . . what? More likely yukky things can happen to you like gestational diabetes, preenclampsia, and a ridiculously huge belly compared to the 24 year olds!

I started catching on when I called my doctor's office to set up my first prenatal appointment. Not only do I abhor making phone calls that involve committing to something else on the calendar, but I also didn't want this pregnancy to seem like it was taking forever, so I didn't get around to calling them until I was 8 weeks pregnant. Okay, 8 1/2 weeks. But since I have typically not been seen until 11 or 12 weeks, I wasn't concerned.

The girl on the other end of the phone practically went into hysterics. Apparently since I was now of "Advanced Maternal Age," they wanted to see me much earlier. At 8 1/2 weeks, in fact. Did I expect them to fit me in that day or something? I assured her that I did not and that I had no desire to put their office into a tailspin with the terrible news of my pregnancy.

After talking her down off the ledge, I figured out that this very important appointment that HAD to be done at 8 1/2 weeks if we wanted to avoid a nuclear holocaust was an appointment with the geneticist. Basically, it is standard procedure to check for all sorts of genetic abnormalities at this time, just in case. I knew that just in case meant just in case I wanted to terminate the pregnancy, so I assured her that I didn't need to have this particular test-- that we would not be taking any action in the event of a genetic abnormality anyway, so why waste everybody's time?

Although my doctor continues to act as cool as a cucumber about the entire thing, the rest of his staff continue to try to force extra testing on me, all the while shaking their heads and wondering why anyone would take such crazy risks, especially when we already have four kids at home.

The real reason that I think it stinks to be pregnant and 35? There are exactly 8 women in my ward (congregation) who are pregnant this spring. One of them is due long past me, also with her 5th. The others? They are all young, cute, petite 20-somethings having their first or second baby. They look adorable, radiant, and tiny with a little baby bump. I'm sure they won't agree, but they do. Oh yeah, and they are mostly due BEFORE me--but you'd never guess it in a line-up!

But at the same time, it struck me the other day how blessed I am to be taking part with Heavenly Father in the creation of one of His children; that it is a great privilege to sacrifice my comforts to give life and a family and opportunity to a sweet little girl who will call me Mommy.

Yes, motherhood (and pregnancy) requires lots of work, sacrifice, and sleep-deprivation, often with little thanks. But it is all worth it. It is a HUGE part of why we are here and of how He intends to help us become like Him. And in spite of the aches, pains, nausea, fatigue, extra tests, and looks of shock on people's faces when they realize that I'm pregnant AGAIN, I wouldn't change it for the world.


Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

This is so funny, Michal. My kids always test positive for that one AFP test (for Downs) and then they make me do all the genetic counseling and stuff. They warn me about all the possible doom, and then my kids turn out just fine. IF I ever get pregnant again, I'm not even going to go past the initial blood draw. If it comes back positive, I'll say, "thanks, I'll keep that in mind." Of course, now that I'm 36, I'm sure the army of staff and ninjas will try to convince me that I MUST or else I could lose my AARP membership.

Lisa said...

I join you in the craziness of pregnancy at or after 35. My first three kids are each two years apart. Four miscarriages and five years later I had Eli. He's a dream. We always wanted five kids and felt good about having another close together. These two will be less than two years apart. I was already high risk (this being my 10th pregnancy) and now I am OLD (aka extra high risk). It makes for lots of interesting visits with the doctor. I feel your pain. . . and joy. :)

Yvonne said...

I feel you sister! I was 36 when I had Ella and I got the same treatment. They acted as if I might give birth to a baby with three heads or something. I did my own research and discovered that many of the numbers are just off. The "increased risk" of having a baby with a genetic abnormality really has to do with a smaller pool of women having babies at our "advanced age" vs. the huge number of babies born to women in their 20's. Much of that data is VERY outdated and was collected in the 70's when women did NOT have babies in their 40's. If we looked at the stats in Hollywood alone, I am sure that we would see great odds in favor of having a "normal" baby when delivering at "advanced maternal age", most of the stars having babies are in their late 30's and early 40's. We need new data. We went to the geneticist too and declined additional tests such as the amnio and even the AFP (we had a false positive with Gavin and I swore I would never take that silly test again! We decided to wait and have the standard ultrasound and IF there was something of concern, we MIGHT proceed with more invasive testing. On our 20 week visit we had the ultrasound and they found a spot on the heart that they wanted to get a closer look at. I freaked out and started to worry about Down's, but then put my faith in the universe and went to the next ultrasound. They used a higher intensity scan (which gave us some GREAT shots of the baby) and saw, that it was... nothing. I then asked the Dr. to tell me the measurements of the nuchial folds and length of the forearm which I knew I could go and look up at home to see if they were normal. He knew what I was getting at, and told me that he could see nothing that indicated any problem with our baby and that he did not feel any other testing was in order. He and I were right, she is fine. Perfect in every way! Being more tired and not having as much elasticity in your skin are probably your highest risks. Keep praying, keep having faith and KEEP saying NO to the tests that you don't want. You and that girl are gonna be fine. You know, there are some advantages to being older when you have kids... I just can't remember what they are right now...when I do, I will get back to you!

Sea Star said...

I haven't hit the advanced Maternal Age issue yet but I am close. I do get the looks from people wondering why I am having yet another child. Especially with my genetic history. The doctors have been almost begging me to take more tests and get another ultrasound. I have told them it wouldn't make any difference. What ever God gives us we are going to take.

Hang in there. I think you are due a few weeks before me. I already look as pregnant or more pregnant than some of the first time moms are me. It is hard to take but it is worth it in the end.

Ashley said...

Michal, Michal, Michal...you are too hard on yourself. First of all, you look great. I am sure you are in better shape than I am, since I am just now getting into exercise again for the Feelin Fine challenge.

For the record, Megan is 30 and I am only a few months behind her. I know many think we look 18. When I go out in public, people look at me like I'm an unwed teen mom and having another one??? My friend told me when I have two babies running around to just tell the people giving me looks that I am the nanny! You get the looks either way.

So let's see if I am 29 having baby #2, at my current pace guess how old I would be having #5...35.

Kim said...

Although I appreciate being grouped with the 20 somethings, I am also a little too close to 30. And this is baby #3, thank you, and everyone close to me keeps making such wonderful comments as, "You're only half way through?" and, "Wow, you're really showing more this time, huh?" Yes, thank you.

As far as extra testing, I got dirty looks this time because I failed to get the blood test done by 20 weeks and really wasn't concerned enough about it. I basically said, "Oh well" when they asked how I could possibly not get it done. In fact, the nurse threw a little attitude and made the comment, "alright, I'll just have to put down here that you refused to have it done." Ha! Whatever. :)

Deep breaths my dear. Soon there will be a precious little girl to love and cuddle and all the nurses will say how cute she is and forget all about you, your age, and and "insane" drive to have more children. They don't know what they're missing with their tiny pre-35 families. : )

Cornfields, children and waterballet said...

Your post brought back many funny comments from doctors and staff. I was 30 having my first baby and 41 having my fourth. I was so blessed to have two doctors--Dr. Theuer and Dr. Kreiger, who let me just have a healthy, low-key and happy pregnancy!

I wouldn't do it anyother way. Being 46 and having a 6 year old is what is keeping me young. I love it!

Enjoy the pregnancy and by the way..I never went to the doctor earlier than 15 weeks. Ok, maybe with Colin...but he was the first.

April said...

I live too much of my life with "the grass is always greener" perspective, it's terrible! What I would do to be in your shoes having my 5th, most likely last, child! I wish I found some joy in the bearing.

You really do look fabulous and classy!

Code Yellow said...

I'm expecting my fourth one month before I turn 35 (and about a month after you're due), so I slipped under the Advance Maternal Age radar this one last time...:)

Very funny post. And don't worry - those twenty-year-olds will be feeling really old as soon as they aren't getting a full night's sleep for the next twenty years. :)

Tamara said...

I'm debating whether this post and all the comments is serving as good birth control to never have kids or to hurry up and pop as many out in the next three years as I can!
I have never felt that clock tick before and I certainly hope I never do! I just hope I will be fat and happy if I ever get the chance to have kids. For now, can I continue to live vicariously through your Old Mother Hubbard stories?

momof5 said...

I'm due with number 6 and I just went through all of the hullabaloo too about my AMA (Advanced Maternal Age). I can't believe we had the exact same experience. I didn't even call the Dr. until I was 11 weeks. They were shocked that I was so calm about calling so late. My appointment was set for the very next day! I also got asked if I was having my tubes tied immedietly after the birh! I was shocked.

Michal said...

steph,i always skip the AFP, having known too many people who agonized over false positives on that one. i figure that the lord will prepare us in other ways if our child has special needs--and so many of those don't show up on prenatal tests anyway.

juliana, i'm with you. my doctor has been offering to tie my tubes while he's in there (i have c-sections) for the past three kids. i don't think he means to be rude--he has four kids himself-- but i get tired of telling him no thanks.

tam, don't let me scare you off! it's all worth it, believe me. but it is different than it was my first time around at age 26. some of it may have to do with all the other kids i'm trying to keep up with and the fact that my body has been through this a few times now, but i'm sure that some of it is age-related. but they are worth it, these little gifts from god.

Stacey said...

I love reading your blog. I haven't commented much, but today I just had to. You are too funny. Try having the first baby at 35 and then going on to having 5with the last one coming when you're 43. I wasn't able to become preganant so they came to us through adoption. There are some perks to being older with younger children I have been mistaken for a much younger mommy. I do love that. I am exhausted and some of my oldest daughters friends ask about me as if I'm her grandma. :) It is harder keeping up with all the others when you are a little bit older. Hang in there!

An Ordinary Mom said...

Loved the part about you being a senior citizen :) !!

Although I am not 35, all of my pregnancies have been high risk so I think I have just gotten used to all the extra attention. But, with that said, I have never done any of the pre-screening testing for the very reasons you state.

Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy :) !!

Molly said...

I totally agree on it being worth every little bit of discomfort. Mommyhood is the best thing in the world!

Angela said...

Where have I been- I didn't know you were pregnant? Congrats. This is so exciting. I was right there with you on my 4th. Enjoy every second. My kids always tested for downs, and then they really give you the gloom and doom. They always came out alright!

When we tried to adopt our 5th (from China-after 2 years-we pulled the app) then I really felt like I got the crazy reactions. We went through a series of awkward moments.

Now I am 40 I really wish I had two more- but times up for me!

J and M said...

We're trying to get pregnant again, and my wife Marni will be 35 this year, so whatever. I guess it's good to know what we're in for from the crazies.
BTW, I love the interviews you did with Tamara. You'd make a fine journalist.

Jonathan Y

Sonja said...

Over the hill...hardly! But I do remember being preggers with #4 in a semi-student ward in Provo with TONS of "cute, little, first-timers." I felt like an old lady! I really did. It's not easy keeping up with the other kids while growing a new life inside you!

You have a fabulous perspective, however. And once again I come away feeling that your kids are so lucky to have you for their mom!

Anonymous said...

Michal, thanks for writing this post. I needed to hear this message today. --Kallie