Donna’s Story on Finding Support and Resources

Donna and Her Husband Ken

Donna and Her Husband Ken

I was born in Seoul, South Korea and am the older of two children. My father was in the U.S. Air Force and we moved quite frequently when I was a child. My mother was a stay- at-home mom who raised us lovingly. We never went to daycare or had babysitters. I remember my mother being a very nurturing, hard working and giving women. She always provided the stability and comfort through our ever-changing lifestyle as a military family. She taught me to be strong and overcome obstacles. I was a very shy child and the constant moves and new schools all seemed very intimidating I recall.

When I was 14 we moved to Sembach A.F.B. in Germany. It was a big challenge to move during my teenage years, let alone to a different country. Attending a military school with other teens who also spent their lives moving frequently brought comfort and I settled in with a whole new set of friends. It was exciting to be able to travel with my family to different countries and also take field trips to places like France for the day. It was all an experience I wouldn’t have traded for the world!

My grandfather fell ill so we got transferred back to McGuire A.F.B. in New Jersey, where I finished my last two years of high school. I graduated high school at the age of 17 with no real college plans. I did have a desire and dreamed of working in the travel industry and was working on inquiring with a travel business school in Florida. Something about moving and traveling excited me and I yearned to follow a path where I could work and travel for a living. While my family researched schools in Florida my father got emergency transfer orders to Hawaii. I dropped my plans of going off to school and followed my family to Hawaii. How could I turn down an opportunity to live in paradise?

In Hawaii I attended a private college and majored in Business Management for the Travel Industry, but I left to work for a pediatric dental office. When I was 20 I married my first husband who was in the U.S. Coast Guard. He was 21. He transferred to Houston, Texas, where we lived for seven years. I worked and went back to college. We never really discussed having a family immediately, but talked about it as something we would want in the future. We were in no hurry. I was working 40 hours a week in a busy periodontics office. Constantly learning on the job and attending college in the evenings left me little time to slow down and talk about children.

I was also not particularly interested in being pregnant. I was always afraid of having a baby and of all the changes that would take place in my body.

I even mentioned to my husband that I would have preferred to adopt a child and give a child in need a good home. That was always something I held dear to my heart. At the time my husband also kept an open mind. However, after many years of soul searching and drifting apart, I decided to end my marriage and move to Temple, Texas where I had been accepted into a dental hygiene program.

Audio FileOn Fear 

I desired to have a family someday and hoped to meet someone who wanted the same things in life. When dating I knew exactly what I wanted and pictured a family with children. I dated only a few people seriously but no one I met had the same expectations and dreams.

When I was in my early thirties I met Ken, the man who would become my husband.

I remember discussing future dreams with him from the very beginning. I didn’t want to waste his time nor mine if our dreams didn’t match.

It was comforting to hear that he wished for the same things. He wanted a partner in life and a family with children. We dated for five years, but then separated for two years. He later realized that he wanted me back in his life and expressed his wishes to have me as his wife and start a family. We started dating again and in 2009 we were married. He was 41 and I was 39. We knew we would need to start trying for a baby soon in order to have one.

I read so much information on the Internet and became quite educated on how challenging it would be for me to conceive at this age. It was overwhelming and discouraging. We had just begun seeing a fertility doctor when I found out I was pregnant. I was overjoyed to have become pregnant naturally after just 6 months of trying. When I was told over the phone that my pregnancy was not viable, I was heartbroken. Not long after that I had a miscarriage. The term “not viable” was confusing and frustrating.

It was difficult to hear from a doctor that the risk statistics for women at age 39 were higher. The research and numbers did not sound positive. My doctor suggested that donor egg options had better statistics in achieving a successful pregnancy at my age. My doctor also suggested transfer of at least three embryos with my own eggs if we decided to do IVF. While going through testing with the fertility doctor we conceived our son on our own. Thankfully we did not need the help of our fertility doctor. [Read more…]

Nora’s Contented Heart

In September, the Project began to capture longer, more in-depth stories of Advanced Maternal Age Mothers. We asked each woman to share her life-line, a chronological depiction of her life to date, noting major milestones and how she felt at each in writing. Then we heard their stories in person. Our researchers asked a few questions, but really listened. Some of the most important comments are captured in the audio clips of these session. Our compilation of their story is this narrative.



Here is the narrative, which we call Nora’s Contented Heart 

Growing up the oldest of four, I naturally filled the mother and teacher role. My parents always said that I had a nurturing heart. I love working with kids and I always knew I wanted to be a mom. But for me, the timing was not mine – it was God’s, I believe. I went to college 1,200 miles away from home, which allowed me to take on new challenges and see how I was going to make a difference. When I graduated from college I went into social work. Working in L.A.’s child protective services agency was a challenging experience. Right away I thought, “you know what…this is just too hard. I can’t do this.” It was just overwhelming. I wanted to adopt every child and be the peacemaker and fix everything. I couldn’t do that. Soon I discovered that my heart was in teaching. I earned a Masters degree in education and have since taught, primarily first and second grades, for 20 years. 

My life involved working and enjoying time with my family. It wasn’t until my nieces and nephew started getting older and my friends were starting families that I began to think that I might be missing something. 

My family has always encouraged me to go after what I wanted and to trust that things would work out. I longed to be married and to become a mother, but it wasn’t happening.  I thought that my shyness was the reason I wasn’t meeting anyone so no one wanted to date, much less marry me.  I hadn’t considered those to be big issues or disadvantages – I’d learned to deal with them. They were no big deal to me, but perhaps to others, they were. As much as I longed to be a mother, my greatest desire was to be married first. But I’m pretty shyI’m also blind in my left eye, which means I can’t drive. And I’ve learned to deal with that. It has always been important for me to be conscious of having a heart that was content with where I was and what I had. 

I continually reminded myself of all the good things in my life. Still the desire for my own family was always in my heart, and I trusted that it would happen. And it did.

Audio FileNora Talks about Her Contented Heart

It was not until November of 2010, that I met my beloved, DanI was 42 and he was 44 when we became serious and started talking about kids. I was always told I would have a hard time conceiving because I’ve always had irregular periodsI’m older and medical science tells us that pregnancy is risky after age 35. I was nervous knowing the health risks and the emotional stress of the possibility of not conceiving. We decided to put our future in God’s hands and married in October of 2011. We agreed that we’d give it a year and if it didn’t work, we would adopt. We were good with that. Two months later I conceived. However, I didn’t know I was pregnant for many weeks. I thought I was just sick. My husband had brought home a Christmas tree and I’m allergic to them. It was terrible. I was sneezing and coughing and just didn’t feel right. We got rid of the tree, but I still couldn’t shake it. I didn’t have any other symptoms and I didn’t even think about the fact that I might be pregnant. January came and I still wasn’t feeling better so I took a pregnancy test and it turned up negative. I began to think that something might really be wrong, so I went to my family obstetrician. He’s the only doctor that I see every year, and he’s delivered all of my nieces and nephew. He examined me and had me pee in a cup. When he returned he was very calm and quiet. 

He asked me to take a seat and then he announced that I was going to have a baby. I was shocked, amazed, scared, excited and so very happy!

Nora Describes Receiving the News.Audio File

Pregnancy was a wonderful journey. Even at 43, I was not considered high-risk by my doctor. My pregnancy was really easy and there were no complications other than daily morning sickness and the fact that I only gained eight pounds during the pregnancy. I couldn’t tolerate certain foods and smells and so I threw up. Every morning when I arrived at work I would start to notice all the different smells from the kids’ snacks, including their yogurt and Cheetos. Everything smelled so strong and I knew what was coming so I explained to the kids that it wasn’t about them, but they’d have to ask a buddy to help them open their snacks.

To ease the nausea I had lotion that I would rub on my hands. It also helped if I nibbled all day (small meals of mostly white foods like potatoes) or sucked on peppermints or lemon drops. I ate well, just not very much and I only gained eight pounds.

I’ve always been small and on the thinner side. My obstetrician was concerned because most women gain 20-30 pounds. He wanted me to eat a lot more. So I did, and I’d gain a half-pound or a pound. But the baby was growing and gaining the weight that he needed and I was not lethargic or anemic.

Audio FileNora discusses the suggestion of a C-Section


Stephen, our son was due on that Sunday. Nothing happened Sunday. Nothing happened Monday. My obstetrician said, “if you don’t have him by Thursday we’re going to induce. There’s no more room and he’s putting a lot of pressure down there, so we’ll just go ahead and help him out. He’s not going to grow any more and if he’s does it will just make it that much harder to deliver. My husband and I went to bed Monday night. Midnight arrived with the most excruciating pain that I’ve ever felt in my life. Contractions were coming at nine minutes apart and by 1 a.m. we were ready to go to the hospital. My labor was so fast. We made it just past the front door. And it was just too painful. I wanted to deliver naturally, but I also wanted the painkillers and I wanted them now. I told Dan that I couldn’t go. I wanted him to call an ambulance.

Dan is a nurse and he was very calm and confident. He told me that I could do it, that he wasn’t going to call an ambulance. He said “you’re going to be okay. We’re going to get in the car. I’m going to strap you in. You’re going to breathe. And we will be there in 20 minutes.” So, I took a deep breath and we got in the car and I just kept praying and shouting and arching my back and trying very hard not to push. By the time we arrived at the hospital contractions were two minutes apart. When we were inside I looked at the nurse and said, “I want the drugs.” The nurse looked at me and responded, “oh I’m sorry, we don’t have time for medicine. I need for you to hold these handles.” Then I gave four pushes. It was 29 minutes from the time I walked in the door, to the time my son was in my arms. That was so fast! Stephen was born on September 11th, 2012 at six pounds, 10 ounces, and 20 inches long. Recovery was really easy. I had a few stitches and was walking a few hours later.

Nora talks about resigning from workAudio File

When I went in December 2nd to tell my principal, I think that was the hardest thing for me to do. Other than giving birth, which was actually pretty easy. I was shaking, because a part of me was, I was closing that chapter and the identity of you’re a teacher, you’re a teacher, you’re a career woman and you’re independent. You have a home and you’ve done everything. You’ve done it. And I don’t have that any more.

Stephen brings us so much joy! He is our gift and our opportunity to impact others. We knew that I was going to stay home for as long as I could. Still giving my notice was the hardest thing to do. I was closing a chapter in my life and my identity of being a teacher and an independent career woman. But I feel good about my decision. Sometimes I miss the part of actually sitting and teaching the kids how to read, giving them the joy of writing, and watching them get excited about mastering the words. I loved that.)

Staying at home with Stephen is completely fulfilling. At times when I find myself missing teaching, I look at my son and smile – for he is mine to love, nurture and teach for a lifetime! 

Smiling Stephen