Sharing Our Perspectives: Feedback from Shelley

 After being referred by a friend, Shelley wrote us and shared her feedback.

Sharon:  How did you react to getting the Advanced Maternal Age stamp on your medical chart (or having that label applied to you) What did it mean to you–if anything?

Shelley:  Finally found the love of life (and honestly wouldn’t have been as good a mother if I were younger…) and finding out I was flagged advanced maternal age definitely burst my excited bubble. Made us worry about our unborn children needlessly.

Sharon: Do you identify yourself as an “Older Mom”? If yes, what does that mean to you? If not, tell us about that!

Shelley: Yes, I’ll be 60 before my oldest graduates college. I worry that he’ll worry about us needlessly.

Share your thoughts – we’d love to hear from you

Doulas in the Hospital

We have begun a new column where our readers can write in with their questions. We’ll field the questions to one or more experts in the subject and post the responses typically within 2 weeks. Write Us with Your Question!

Shelley Scotka

Shelley Scotka, Birth Doula and Childbirth Educator


Our expert for this question below is Shelley Scotka, an experienced doula and childbirth instructor in Austin, Texas.  Shelley is a mom of two and has been helping women and their partners since 1995. Read more about Shelley here.

Q: How does a doula work with my physician and the nurses in the hospital where I am delivering?

A:  A birth doula works alongside medical care providers but does not provide medical care. Instead, a doula provides emotional, physical and informational support for the laboring woman and her partner. Medical care providers, including your doctor and labor nurses, are really “lifeguards” who oversee the safety of the mother and baby. A doula is there to offer continuous support, to make sure the woman feels cared for, safe and respected. A doula listens and reassures, offers suggestions for positioning and comfort, uses touch and massage, and encourages communication between a woman and her medical care providers. After the baby is born, a doula stays in touch with the family and offers additional support with breastfeeding, newborn care, and making sure the family transitions well during postpartum.

 

We’d love to see your question. Write Us!

The Birth of an Idea to 100 Articles

Many of us are inspired to begin businesses when we have children due to our new life perspectives and experiences.

75 weeks ago, in the Spring of 2012 I gave birth to an idea that has grown to over a hundred articles and contributors.

As some of you may know, at age 40 my life changed with the birth of my first son and by age 44, life looked completely different with two more children (a girl and a boy) in our family. I had been part of a childless couple for many years so one might say the change was drastic. Along the four-year journey I took some time to reflect. In my midlife, I’ve learned to better trust my intuition more than any other time in my life. 

Over and over I reminded myself that when I am positive and optimistic, great things happen.

During my first pregnancy, a traditionally trained obstetrician overtly gave me the “advanced maternal age” stamp. Somehow she felt compelled to share general risk statistics with me at each prenatal visit though they were at complete odds with my health and medical history; she had been my gynecologist for over 10 years.

If I listened to her, I certainly would have developed a stress-induced condition. Instead, I was empowered to overcome any barrier that came my way.

How could I improve the odds of not developing one of many conditions that rise with pregnancy after 35 such as hypertension or gestational diabetes?

  • I took care of myself with ample sleep, water, a healthy diet and exercise, including brisk walking, swimming and yoga.
  • Being older meant that I knew myself better and was more resourceful and determined to be healthy.

I felt compelled to tell people that I was 40 and having my first child. Once born, I showed him off, raved about his APGAR scores, our glowing health, and told a story of risk factors unfulfilled.

By age 43 I was pregnant with my second son (surprise!) and wanted the same healthy outcome. I the challenges were greater. This time, our first son was 3 years old and we cared for an infant girl who we were fostering and trying to adopt. I had founded one business and was recruited to help start a second one that same year. Wow, what a busy time it was!

Again, I surrounded myself resources, more than the first time, including a very supportive team of an OB, midwife, massage therapist, doctor of oriental medicine (for acupuncture) and a prenatal yoga instructor.

With another healthy outcome under my belt just one month shy of my 44th birthday, I was proud of myself, my bundle of joy, and even more vocal.

[Read more…]

Austin American-Statesman Features Austin Mom Creates Site for Older Mothers

logo_AustinAmericanStatesmanThis in-depth article appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on Saturday, August 17th on the first page of the Life section (page E1 and E6). The Statesman publishes an excerpt online for non-subscribers. Here is the full story written by Raising Austin columnist and mom Nicole Villapando with photography by Rodolfo Gonzales, who were a pleasure to work with! (Photos will be added once we receive permission to post them.)

BY NICOLE VILLALPANDO
RAISING AUSTIN

Austin mom creates site for older mothers

Sharon Munroe got tired of going to the obstetrician and getting the doom-and-gloom forecast for her pregnancy. She was 40 years old and wanted this baby who came at the right time in her life to be celebrated. All of the books and materials she was reading also were very negative.

She decided to switch obstetricians, and the germ of an idea began to form. There had to be a place where women of an “advanced maternal age” — that’s what doctors call pregnant women ages 35 and older — could find resources and read stories of other women who were pregnant or had children when they were 35 or older.

Last year, she started the Advanced Maternal Age Project, a website —advancedmaternalage.org — that delivers the things she wanted when she was pregnant with her son Patrick, who is now 5. Munroe is a market researcher by training and also owns local children’s store Little Green Beans.

On the site, Munroe features the stories of more than 30 women. She will be holding a workshop in September to help 12 more women write and share their stories.

The women talk about fertility treatments, birthing plans and delivery choices, pregnancy complications, and life as a new mom. “Women want to share their stories,” Munroe says. “It’s what we do.”

One of the great things about Austin, Munroe says, is the resources that are available to pregnant women, from traditional treatments to holistic methods. The site tries to emphasize the variety of what’s out there. “We don’t pass judgment,” she says. “What works for me might not work for you.”

The site does include a disclaimer that it is providing general information and does not take the place of a doctor’s advice, but Munroe also uses resources from the medical community, including her own fertility specialist, Dr. Natalie Burger of Texas Fertility Center.

The website and Burger do not ignore that age is a factor in fertility and pregnancy, but they try to be both realistic and positive.

“It’s incredibly important for women who are challenged by all the negative message in the media and elsewhere to have a place to receive positive messages about being a mature mother,” Burger says.

Burger sees these mothers as more financially and emotionally settled. “They are ready to be in a position to sacrifice time to create a family and not feel they missed out on things,” she says.

Munroe has been through many of the things older mothers might experience: fertility treatments, in-vitro fertilization with donor eggs, and miscarriages. After Patrick came 3-year-old Jasmine, whom she and husband, Seamus, fostered and then adopted, followed by son Shannon, who is almost 2 and (surprise, surprise) was conceived naturally after they had stopped doing fertility treatments.

As a 45-year-old mother with three children 5 and younger, Munroe does notice the differences between herself and the younger mothers at her children’s preschool.

The common denominator, she says, is the younger moms have more energy. She does what everyone tells you to do: She sleeps when her children sleep. And if that means that on some nights Munroe is in bed by 8:30, then that is what she needs to do, she says. She also eats healthfully and gets exercise.

Many of the older mothers do talk to her about their mortality. “They want to see kids graduate college and get married. They want to see their grandchildren,” she says. “A few regret missing time with kids.”

Munroe wants older mothers to not be afraid of the “high risk” label that gets put on all their charts. “You can go through the testing, but you don’t have to go through nine months of fear,” she says.

Burger recommends advancedmaternalage.org to all of her patients who fit the demographic.

“Patients are so excited that there is a resource for them,” Burger says. “It’s nice to hear other people are going through this.”

Storytelling workshop

Advancedmaternalage.org will host a workshop to help women who began a family at age 35 or older tell their stories. 10 a.m. Sept. 21. Location will be given upon registration. Free, but space is limited. Register at advancedmaternalage.org. For more information, contact info@advancdedmaternalage.org or call 512-666-7621.

PHOTO by RODOLFO GONZALEZ

Sharon Munroe, 45, plays with her son 23-month-old son, Shannon, at her home. Munroe has started a website to help women who are 35 and older who are pregnant.

Our Wish List for Healthcare Providers

Bill of Rights

Women who are 35 or better with their first pregnancy have some wishes to share with their healthcare providers, including obstetricians, midwives and nurses. We consider this to be a request, but candidly, it is almost a “bill of rights” that all pregnant women need to get these things for both support and comfort.

 

 

  1. Treat us as women first and patients only when we need medical attention and supervision. Women have been having babies for thousands of years. Many of our grandmothers had healthy children after age 35 and 40.
  2. Carefully review our medical histories before you discuss our risk factors. This is especially the case for those who have been seeing you for gynecological care for many years.
  3. Do not warn us of risk factors unless they are our personal medical problems. There is enough literature on high-risk pregnancies.
  4. Provide us with the option for tests and sonograms that are not routine for all pregnant women. We want the choice to have more or less prenatal care beyond the basics.
  5. Listen to our questions and present multiple points of view when possible, referring us to additional reading and resources where available.
  6. Share ideas and resources for any challenges we face, including those that complement the care you are providing.
  7. Comfort us and remind us that we are pregnant women, strong and capable no matter what barriers we face to a healthy pregnancy.

About Our Project’s Storyteller and Facilitator

Emily Harris, Professional Storyteller and Facilitator

Emily Harris, Professional Storyteller and Facilitator

We are thrilled to have Emily Harris as part of our Project. Here’s more about her background and experience.

Emily’s lifelong engagement in the creative process inspires her to infuse her workshops and storytelling programs with imagination, improvisation, and play. Schools, libraries, house of worship, casual dining restaurants, conference and community centers, and private functions appreciate her lighthearted approach.

Emily is a program facilitator for Truth Be Told in Austin, Texas – an organization providing transformational tools for incarcerated women through the arts of storytelling, speaking, writing, and movement.

She also teaches a 6 part seminar series on various applications of storytelling for SAGE (Seminars for Adult Growth and Enrichment), a program at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of the University of Texas at Austin. Formerly a resident of Clearwater, Florida, she was a faculty member of The Hoffman Performing Arts Institute of Ruth Eckerd Hall where she taught arts infused programming for grades K-12 and conducted workshops for their Creative Aging Initiative. Emily served on the Board of Directors of the Florida Storytelling Association and was Director of their Youthful Voices Program for 4 years. Through Girlstories of Powerstories Theatre of Tampa Bay, she helped adolescent girls find and give voice to their stories, thereby building critical life skills.As a member of an interfaith storytelling trio, Emily shares the beloved stories of the Jewish people with those not well acquainted with Judaism. It is her way to honor her heritage and encourage connection with those of other faiths.

Emily received her B.F.A. in Textile Design from the Rhode Island School of Design. She has been a weaver of tapestries and fabrics, and a designer of costumes, puppets, patchwork quilts and dolls. As a storyteller, she blends many of her artistic skills and interests into her eclectic programs.

 

Sharing Susanna’s Story

Twin GirlsI had the pleasure of interviewing Susanna* in person this month. I meet many people in the course of my work and family life but it struck me that this situation was unique and wonderful on many levels. Susanna is a mother of advanced maternal age, having birthed twin daughters a year ago after waiting to be in the right relationship. She is a medical sociologist and feels that our project is important. She showed me photos but asked for a bit of privacy, not sharing her own photo or full name.

Sharon: Tell me about your family and who is in it?

Susanna: My family includes my husband and our twin daughters.

Sharon:  At what age did you start trying to start a family?

Susanna: When I was 41.

Sharon: What life choices or circumstances led you to that point?

Susanna:  I was previously married at age 30 to a man I had been with throughout my twenties. While I tried to get pregnant during that marriage I was (thankfully) unable to, due to what I suspect was his fertility. (He refused to be tested.) We eventually divorced and I enrolled into graduate school to complete my doctorate.

Sharon: Why did you decide to have a child?

Susanna:  I always knew I wanted to experience pregnancy (physiologically) and motherhood at some point in my life; it was simply a matter of finding the right partner. Before I met my second husband (the father of my children), I had considered sperm donation and single motherhood.

[Read more…]

Sharing Our Perspectives: Feedback from Julianne

 

Julianne wrote us as she was expecting her first child at the age of 38. We can’t wait to hear the rest of her story!

Julianne as an Expectant Mom

Julianne as an Expectant Mom

 

Q:  How did you react to getting the Advanced Maternal Age stamp on your medical chart (or having that label applied to you) What did it mean to you–if anything?

A:  I knew the risks and rewards before starting the whole process. I knew that it could be harder for me to get pregnant, and that kids of older parents are at greater risk for certain conditions. However I also knew that the time was right for my husband (currently 42) and myself (currently 38). We started trying a couple of years ago and I got pregnant within 4 months of discontinuing birth control. I then had a miscarriage at 8 weeks. I do think that this was meant to be because it put the pregnancy and our lives into a certain perspective and allowed us to know that this was truly what we wanted. The miscarriage itself was not traumatic to me, though sad. The aftermath of the miscarriage seemed to go on forever, the bleeding wouldn’t stop, the cramping was terrible. I don’t know if this was due to age or not but it did seem I had a harder time than other younger moms.

Then 9 months later I was pregnant again, and our baby is due in just a few days! I am very lucky compared to some of my friends who are trying very hard to get pregnant at our age and cannot. I also had a very easy pregnancy with next to no morning sickness.

We chose to wait until this time in our lives because we have a stable home, stable jobs, a clear idea of how we want to raise our child, self reliance (unfortunately not much of a support system: my husband only has an aging and infirm mother, and my family lives in another city), and self confidence in our values and our earning capabilities. We are smart and creative and plan to work hard to pass these characteristics on to our daughter. When we do the calculations and realize we’ll be retiring right as she goes to college, we get the willies a bit, and its a bit of a shock to think that if she waits as long as we did to have children, that we’ll be in our late 70’s/early 80’s. But medical science has gotten us this far, and the 40’s are the new 30’s right?

All we know is this was the right time for us and we couldn’t be more excited and ready for our baby to arrive.

Share your thoughts – we’d love to hear from you

Interview Conducted with Jim Bergamo of KVUE-TV in Austin in My Home

It was wonderful to be interviewed about the Advanced Maternal Age Project by such an experienced health reporter, Jim Bergamo.

Filmed at my home and with my kids, it was nothing like what I had experienced before.

Here’s the video and article that Jim wrote.

I’d love your feedback.

Best,
Sharon
founder

Dual Paths to Motherhood

Two Paths After experiencing secondary infertility, a diagnosis of not being able to get pregnant and stay pregnant for over six months at age 41, I felt I needed to take charge and gain back some control. Is this common? Likely and a topic for future research I believe.

In my experiences I’ve found that if I want something badly enough I will find a way to make it happen. Sometimes I find multiple ways to achieve results. It takes a bit of tenacity and confidence, I call it the dual (or multiple) path approach. 

Advanced maternal age women are likely to take this dual path.

 

It feels a bit crazy when one is in the midst of pursuing both paths, but it allows one to have a greater chance of success faster.

Reading Sharon Simons’ new book Mom at Last, I considered my own past and paths to adding to my family. Sharon S’s is also a story of advanced maternal age and included three rounds of IVF and adoption of two young boys from Siberia, Russia. It’s important writing and caused me to reflect on the choices I’ve made. Sensing that her third round of IVF might not be successful, she Googled “adoption” and quickly discovered the path she wanted, which was international adoption. This head start on her second plan, confidence and resources likely propelled her forward quickly. Her writing indicates she is glad with her choice.

In November 2009 after enduring a second miscarriage, my husband and I attended an information session for prospective foster and adoptive parents. While waiting to hear if we were to be accepted into the training program, we began our donor egg IVF paperwork and testing. We selected our donor. While waiting for her tests to be completed, we were selected to start our foster/adopt training in March. Daily hormone shots, paperwork and Saturday training classes filled my non-working hours in the Spring of 2010. Sometimes they were all consuming. I handled most of the work. I did not want end the year and turn 43 without some progress towards my goal, a sibling for my son.

While our procedure was not successful, we did receive our certification as foster and adoptive parents. Our first placement came seven weeks later and is now our adoptive daughter. Goal achieved.

Have you taken dual paths to motherhood? We’d love to hear your story.