Past Featured Stories

Rachel’s Story

While contemplating a second Advanced Maternal Age pregnancy, Rachel from California found our work and shared some of her story.

mom and tyler 7.5 M

Rachel and Her Son Tyler

We conceived Tyler shortly after my 37th birthday. We got engaged on my birthday and decided to try to get pregnant right away not knowing how long it would take me. I got my IUD out on December 21st. We went on a trip to Thailand leaving December 29th returning mid January. I knew while we were there that I got pregnant. I could feel it, I can’t explain, but I knew.Tyler was due October 2nd and he was born on September 26th, 2013. I had a great pregnancy, I worked out almost every day and stayed healthy.I did have one scary trip to the hospital. Right after my wedding, which was during a heat wave last summer, I had a small gush of blood come out after standing up. We spent the night in the hospital and everything was fine. They told me to take it easy. I think I was over active and the wedding stress didn’t help!During labor my anesthesiologist said I was one of the healthiest women he had seen.

It was a vaginal birth. Postpartum wasn’t fun, but I’m sure that’s the case with everyone.

I know when I was looking around for “advanced maternal age” pregnancies, there was a lot of negative information out there regarding how long it would take and the increased risks of genetic problems, etc. I’m happy to share news that it can also happen really fast without any complications!

happy 8 month old

A happy 8 month old

We are going to start trying for our second sometime after Tyler’s 1st birthday. Even after knowing how easy it was for me the first time, I still worry about the second. I know you should wait at least 18 months between pregnancies (that’s what I read) but because of my age, I think we will try sooner.

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

Stephanie’s Story of Birth on Two Continents

Stephanie's exercising

Exercising while pregnant in Europe


Stephanie shares her unique story of motherhood. Stephanie is not only an advanced maternal age mother of two, but also a reverend and a doula in Austin, Texas. Founder Sharon had the pleasure of meeting her in person.  

I gave birth to my children at age 36 and 38, and it wasn’t until halfway through my second pregnancy that I experienced a health professional treating me differently because of my “advanced maternal age.”  This is because I did not go the traditional OB route of care.  I chose to birth my babies at home, under the care of a midwife.

 

My first pregnancy and birth happened while I was living in the Netherlands, where my husband and I were pursuing master’s degrees.  The Dutch generally have a very different view of birth than Americans.  They see birth as a normal event.  Painful? Yes.  Inherently dangerous? No.  In the Netherlands, student OBs must first train with midwives to learn about normal birth before they go on to study its possible complications.  Midwives attend most births there (since most births are uncomplicated), and the parents-to-be have the choice of giving birth in the hospital or at home (about 20% of Dutch births are home births).

midwife at home

Stephanie’s dutch midwife weighing her baby

I was all set to give birth in a Dutch hospital, until I realized, at about month 8 of my pregnancy, that I would be a lot more comfortable at home.  I knew I didn’t want to use drugs for pain relief, and, after getting loads of encouragement both from my midwives and from my prenatal yoga class, I had become more and more confident in my body’s ability to give birth.  I continued to walk and ride my bicycle right up until I went into labor. 

In short, I had adopted the Dutch view of pregnancy and birth as normal.  

However, I was sensible enough to realize that I my family back in the States had not been on the same journey that my husband and I had, so we chose not to tell them about our change of plans.  My dear mother arrived about a week before my due date, and we had every intention of sitting down over dinner the evening of her arrival and talking her through our homebirth plan.  Only…my water broke on our walk back from the grocery store.  I had no contractions at first, so we calmly informed my mother of our intention of staying put and called the midwife.  My mother was totally supportive, as I knew she would be.  The midwife came by and advised me to go to bed and get some sleep—contractions would likely start in the night, and there would be plenty of time for activity tomorrow.  She did not do a vaginal exam, because she did not want to risk infection.
In fact, during my entire pregnancy, I had not had any vaginal exams.  Nor did I ever pee in a cup.  I had never set foot on a scale, either.   At every appointment, the midwives had checked my blood pressure, palpated my belly, and checked the baby’s heart using a hand-held doppler.  

Twice they pricked my finger, to check for gestational diabetes, and something else I can’t remember.  That was it.[/pullquote]

So, after the midwife left, we all settled in to bed.  I was having a few mild contractions, similar to menstrual cramps.  My husband was reading aloud to me, when all of a sudden it was like someone hit a switch.  I jumped up out of bed with contractions that were very intense and maybe a minute apart.  After about 20 minutes of this, I insisted that my husband call the midwife and insist that she come over right away.  She came, checked my cervix and found that I was 9cm dilated!  I’ve never seen anyone move so fast!  From the start of those crazy contractions to finish, my labor was 3 hours.
People will sometimes say that I am lucky to have had such a fast labor, but I’m not so sure.  I have almost no memory of it, only sensory impressions.  I somehow managed not to panic.
I credit that to the very high level of confidence I had in the birth process, as well as the calm and capable people—my husband and mother, my midwife and her assistant—who surrounded me and supported me.   After my daughter was born, the midwife and her assistant cleaned up, tucked us all in bed, and left.  To me, this is one of the best parts of home birth: sleeping in your own bed afterward.  The next day (and for a week afterward), a postpartum doula came to care for us.  The midwives came and checked on me a couple of times, as well.  
None of this cost me a dime.  My insurance (which ran me about 50 bucks a month) covered everything, including the postpartum doula.

Shortly after we returned to the U.S., I became pregnant again.  I knew that after enjoying such supportive, nurturing and hands-off care, I would not be able to use an OB and give birth in a hospital here.  I found a wonderful midwife (whom my insurance actually covered!) and prepared for my son’s peaceful birth at home.  I was surprised at the number of interventions my midwife here used prenatally, including urine tests at every visit, glucose screening, and at least one vaginal exam, but I went along.  She also sent me for a 20-week ultrasound at another office.

This was where I encountered my one and only experience of being treated differently as AMA. 

Because I was over 35, they told me at the front desk that I would need to undergo genetic counseling for all the things that could possibly be wrong with my baby before they even did the ultrasound exam.  I found this completely ludicrous.  How could they have any idea about my baby’s health without even looking?  I asked whether I could decline this, and the clerk grudgingly handed me a waiver to sign. Everything was, in fact, normal, and 21 weeks later I gave birth to my 9lb 4oz baby boy, at home, after another superfast birth—which I was at least prepared for this time!  
Baby Dory

Baby Dory

 

Sharing Our Perspectives: Emily’s Feedback

Emily is a 52-year-old woman who is pregnant for the first time and used donor egg IVF to conceive. She wrote us recently and we are hoping to hear more of her story. Her baby is due in August 2014.

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?

Emily:  I expected this, as I started trying in my 40s. Now, 5 months pregnant for the first time at age 52 via donor eggs, the old age factor is par for the course.

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

Emily: It’s exciting, but also scary. I have told very few people, only a few friends. I still have not told my own mother, as I fear her reaction will contain no small amount of negativity. I do not want to have to defend my position. At the same time I am somewhat embarrassed to be so old and pregnant. Publicly I will be proud, but I do feel isolated. Thankfully I have a very supportive partner.

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

Dawn’s Journey to Motherhood

Dawn an Ava

Dawn and Ava

Growing up in California, I had a really strong love and connections with my mother and grandmothers. My mother was also a stay at home mom and was able to guide me through the milestones in my life. Our family dynamic always resonated with me and was confirmed when I worked as a nanny while attending UC-Berkeley. I observed the routine and requirements of proper care for children while providing respite to a professional couple who had three kids.  This daily hands-on interaction provided clarity for me as I realized that I didn’t want that model, but preferred the traditional arrangement of a stay home parent, as I was raised. When I met my future husband at 26, he agreed with this idea. Even though Dave and I had a short courtship, this was one of the serious topics we explored and confirmed before we got engaged.  We eventually moved to Dallas from California so that we could live on one income and purchase a home.

I believed that we were headed for parenting in our early thirties, based on getting married at age 26 and compromising with him that we would give ourselves 3 to 5 years to strengthen our relationship, travel and indulge in many activities that are more difficult to manage once children are in the picture.

When contemplating how many children we wanted when that time arrived we were aiming for one biological child and likely adopting as well.  I had always considered adoption as a possibility since my best friend is adopted and I felt that I had a heart for this way of family building so long as I could experience pregnancy, and share that with my grandmothers and my mother as I had been dreaming of since I was a small child. When our 5-year anniversary approached my husband started having ambivalence. It stemmed from his fears of being an inferior father after he had a poor upbringing. I eventually pacified his fears and we tried conceiving for about 2 years without success.Audio File

At age 35 we relocated to Austin and I visited a doctor who found out immediately that I had a blockage in my fallopian tubes and my husband found out previously, as well, that he had infertility issues. The only route we could take to conceive at this point was through IVF. When our first IVF did not result in pregnancy nor yield any viable frozen embryos I was pretty devastated, but remained optimistic that the second time would be the charm.  Literally, I believed that failure was NOT an option.  Like so many other couples, we had a difficult time with the clinical and dehumanizing aspects of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), but I trusted the experts and we tried again.  When our second round was not successful, we knew that, for financial reasons, we needed a guaranteed positive outcome, so we ended treatment and began to explore the path to parenting through adoption.

At every turn, I was the driving force and motivation behind the effort to overcome our hurdles and create a family.

I grieved the loss of having my own genetic child and began to focus exclusively on the path to parenting that adoption provides. This was at times rather overwhelming after having educated myself on the intricacies of assisted reproductive technology, but now I was the family expert on these alternatives and was researching and learning and became actively involved in the adoption community to better understand our options.

Adoption wasn’t our first choice but it turned out to be our best choice, though it was not without its own opportunities for resilience, which is how I have come to view the tougher moments.  

Expressing to an unknown birth mother what you hope to give her child if you are chosen to parent is a dream and a nightmare all at once.  Everything seems to rest upon each word one utters, or writes, each photo selected, every nuance being the potentially defining moment when one is either chosen or rejected.  After the seemingly relentless pressure of IVF, this was yet another gauntlet of emotion, but with the support I found at Adoption Knowledge Affiliates, as well as the education around the lifelong issues of this journey, I felt that I had found my calling as a mother.  I was and still am so moved by the gifts of adoption, and the unique ways in which all members of the triad are connected by both loss and love.  When we were matched with a young expectant mother in Corpus Christi. I thought we had found our miracle.  As it turned out, months of relationship building and my assistance as her birth coach during her C-section was a gift to her, as it strengthened her for the decision to parent her baby rather than placing him with us.

With that devastating surprise came a huge blow, as I doubted myself and my husband became somewhat embittered toward the prospect and I now had to manage his disillusionment along with my own depression. This helped after a few potential matches went awry. Thankfully, I learned that I could dig deeper than I ever had imagined I could, and I eventually accepted reality with a peaceful heart convinced that we were, with each twist and turn, one step closer to our baby.

That turned out to be true once we found the next birth parents who were considering placing their unborn daughter for adoption in the same year as they had a daughter graduating high school with a son expected to follow her to college in the following year. They were preparing to become grandparents, not preparing for the joys of diapering and sleeplessness of parenting an infant, as they also were providing care to a disabled parent and dealing with physical and financial limitations of their own.Audio File

We met two months prior to the baby’s due date and built a wonderful relationship centered on trust, but also with the awareness that due to their ages being parallel to ours, we had to resolve some of the typical concerns with “geriatric pregnancy” that would have been likely for us had we conceived a biological child.  We were all rewarded with the birth of a beautiful, healthy and perfect baby girl on June 13, 2006, who arrived ten days early so that her adoptive father could experience his first Father’s Day with a newborn.  I was invited to be in the delivery room when my daughter was born and was a witness to this transcendent moment as I held hands with her maternal aunt and her sister, each of us expressing our elation through tears, though for all there was also the heightened calibration of anxiety over the impending moment of transfer from one family to another.

 This is the explicit loss and transformation that cannot be erased for an adopted person.  They are beloved by two families, connecting hearts which adoption unites while all experience a separateness that remains, a yearning for wholeness, which is at a primal level.

My awareness of this fact and acknowledgement of it has shaped my sensitivity to my daughter’s most basic vulnerability as well as requiring of me to reach beyond my own expectations and my childhood dreams of motherhood to embrace the love I have been blessed with in the form of my adopted daughter.  I never doubted I could love her, but I never realized that I would also love her birth mother and her biological family so deeply and wish for their healing with every bone in my body.  Honoring them through our open adoption has been another path to growth for me, not only personally, but professionally, as have devoted more and more time to Adoption Knowledge Affiliates (AKA).Audio File

Ava and her family of origin continue to inspire my desire to give back to other adoptive parents, to birth families, and to adopted people whose journeys toward wholeness and authenticity are fraught with myth and misinformation and secrets.  Beyond the typical victories and moments of jubilation that I am so honored to participate in with my beautiful Ava Marie Margot Scott, whom we named on the third day of her life when she came home with us from the hospital, my all-time favorite moment, closely followed by the day the court recognized our family as legally permanent, though I still wish that her birth record reflected her truth, which is that it include her birth parents name rather than being amended.  The lies imposed upon adopted individuals bother me, and I hope that through my work with AKA and that of others we will have more openness in records, more freedom to heal and to cherish and value authenticity.

I began telling Ava our story and acknowledged her experience that very night as I rocked her, trying to soothe her soul as she missed her other mother’s smell, heartbeat and voice.  I shared welcoming her with simultaneously grieving with her our complex past.  As I put words and tears to the beauty of our finding one another just as we were meant to do, not a moment too soon nor too late, I began real steps toward practical parenting.  Ava now, at age 7, retells her own birth tale and relishes as well as embellishes events in the timeline as she has been empowered to do with honesty and whimsy as we talk about what we wished for and what we received, comparing and appreciating how special and lucky we feel to be a part of each other’s lives.  She is my guide and I am hers.  My little bird has powerful wings…one from each of her mothers.

Mother and Daughter

Mother and Daughter

 

Erin’s Story of Motherhood at Age 46

Erin, Jorge and Kiera

Erin, Jorge and Kiera

During my twenties, my focus was more introspective. I finished college in my early twenties and spent time on gaining work success. At 26, I became very unhappy at my work and decided I wanted to travel abroad. I sold nearly everything I owned, paid off my credit cards, and saved money. It took a couple of months to prepare and that allowed me to plan my itinerary. My destination was Seville, Spain where I spent two consecutive summers. I found work through a Peace-Corps type organization where I worked on an archeological dig, an excavation of a Roman ruin called Italica. Being able to live in that beautiful city and be immersed in the culture had a long-lasting impact on me. Everyone was really kind and valued the quality of life over work or money. I fell in love with the culture so much and have traveled to Europe quite a few times that those experiences inspired me to become a travel agent.

In my early thirties is when I began my first serious relationship. We ended up getting married when I was 35. Unfortunately, we drifted apart and having children was not on his agenda. . I had married my ex because I felt the clock ticking and thought he wanted a family too. He didn’t want to have kids with me, because he wasn’t sure I was “the one”. Obviously, I was not and he has since had 2 kids. After my divorce I thought I wasn’t going to have a chance to have children so I looked into adoption on my own.

During this process I began a new relationship with a wonderful man and we “accidentally” got pregnant. We were both thrilled. I went to the doctor in order to get the recommended CVS (genetic) test and before the doctor even did the test, he could tell something was wrong with the fetus from the ultrasound. He sat me down and told me that the fetus had a brain deformity and would not survive weeks, let alone come to term. The news was devastating and I decided to terminate the pregnancy instead of waiting to miscarry. Our relationship eventually ended a year later, unrelated to the loss of the baby.

Not long after my relationship ended I went out with a man I knew from work and knew after the first date that he was the one. That is my husband Jorge. When I was 45 and 7.5 months pregnant and we got married. During the early stages of my pregnancy I had fears about the health of my child. Fortunately though, the CVS testing came out well and my baby girl was healthy.

The pregnancy itself was relatively easy. Since I didn’t have any complications I was able to work until the birth. Every time I went to visit my obstetrician she would be amazed that at my age I was having a “textbook” easy pregnancy and walking around in high heels. She was non-judgmental and encouraging. My family and friends were also My family and friends were also really supportive and happy for me.

Audio File

My family and friends were also really supportive and happy for me. They were responsible for creating a positive environment.

A lot of my friends are 5-10 years younger than me and also having children so I had a network of women friends to connect with and share information with

Audio File

I had my daughter, Kiera, 10 days early and with no complications. At the age of 46 I finally had the family I always wanted and for a long time didn’t know if I would get. I was lucky to find the one.

Audio File


When I was 48 my husband considered having another child and I still contemplate adoption. I felt at that point trying to conceive another child would be playing with fire. I know that whether or not we will have another child in our lives, I look forward to the future and I feel so lucky to have Kiera and Jorge in my life.

Erin and Her Family

Erin and Her Family

 

Sharing Our Perspectives: Christine’s Feedback

Lydia

Lydia, who is 7-weeks old now and doing great.

Christine from Florida found our site through a Google search for “Advanced Maternal Age.” Her doctor repeated it so much that she wanted to know what the big deal was. She felt the need to research possible risks etc. because he made it sound like a little bit of a “disability”.  She is 37.

I decided to wait to have children because I never felt I was quite ready due to problems in relationships and financial struggles. I didn’t feel it was fair to try to care for someone else when my life wasn’t quite on track. I struggled to pay bills and keep my head above water. I am not one who accepts charity and was adamant that I would not be on assistance.

Once I was married and had a good job it just happened to be later than anticipated. I was married with a good job and finally felt the time was right.
I thought it would happen quickly but we struggled a little to conceive. It took 7 months before we got that positive test. I had an uneventful 8 months. No symptoms- very little movement and a regular work routine.

I experienced minor bleeding at 31 weeks and was put on bedrest and disability. The next 3 weeks were uneventful. At 34 weeks I had a major bleed and pre-term labor. I had to deliver by emergency c-section. My daughter was born in respiratory distress and struggled to maintain normal functions for the first day.

After that she was a trooper and did everything she was supposed to do to get out of that NICU. She was there for two weeks. She is perfectly healthy now and has had no ill effects from her premature birth. I myself was born at 24 weeks gestation so her early arrival was sort of a family tradition.

Lydia is 7-weeks old now and is doing great! (Her photo is shown (right).)

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

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…]

Penny’s Story

Here is the narrative, which we call “Okay. Here’s a bottle. I’m going to sleep.”

Penny and Her Family

Penny and Her Family

Once I left for college I started my life anew. My grades improved drastically and I found value in building a career for myself. During this time having children never even crossed my mind. Looking back now I realize it was because I never had a maternal figure to look up to or learn from. Also, I surrounded myself with friends who were in relationships were the end goal was not marriage. 

Within my group of peers I was considered normal, throughout all my twenties, to not be married nor have children.

In my late twenties I began a serious relationship with an American who was getting his Ph.D at Melbourne University where I was in school. I moved to Chicago with him once he finished his degree and eventually the relationship dissolved. I stayed in America and in my early thirties met my future husband, Brian. The relationship I had with him was different from all the others. He came from a stable family and was well grounded. It wasn’t till I met him that I even thought of having children.  Before we got married I told him that I wanted to have children as soon as we were married due to my age and being a Type 1 diabetic. I needed to have this conversation because he was 6 years younger than me and I needed to know he was committed. He was more than happy to and after we got married we started growing our beautiful family. I gave birth to our first child, Chloe, at age 35. We were still living in Chicago and that was where I received my care.

My experience with my doctor could be best defined as clinical and non-attentive.

I noticed my AMA label and was just required to have weekly routine checkup appointments. My doctor did a poor job of communicating to me the developments of my pregnancy and my concerns with Type 1 diabetes. He didn’t feel the need to inform me because he felt I should just trust his decisions.

Audio File

 Penny Describes Her First Pre-Natal Experiences

As a result of this poor relationship, I experienced noticeable symptoms that were overlooked. During the third trimester, I was experiencing painful edema in my legs and while leaving my appointment a nurse pulled me aside and said I needed further testing. It turned out she saw that I had characteristic signs of preeclampsia and was the one to bring it to light. My experience after was mostly a blur.   I had gone from just going through the swing of things without explanation to being in a serious predicament. I received steroids to help develop my baby’s lungs so that I could give birth as soon as possible as to prevent me from having a stroke. I finally had the cesarean when Chloe was at 36 weeks gestation. She was kept in the NICU in order to monitor her lungs and her blood glucose level since I was a diabetic. I wasn’t able to see her until three days after giving birth and only saw instant photos (polaroids) from what Brian took.

Afterwards complications still arose. I ended up getting an infection from my cesarean and Chloe had an infection in her hand from the I.V. The damage to her hand was so severe that she almost needed plastic surgery. Thankfully both infections cleared without any permanent damage. This time was particularly tough for me though. I was only able to stay with her for 16 weeks and it was hard parting since we had both been through such an emotional ordeal. I really wasn’t ready to drop her off at daycare and start working again but I didn’t have a choice.

Later on at age 40 I gave birth to my son Elliot. This pregnancy was definitely a different experience than my first pregnancy. Before I became pregnant with my son I attended a yoga class where there were other moms that described their pregnancies in passing. They reflected on their pregnancies with positive memories and support. It was then I realized what I had been missing. Since I was new to Austin, a friend from the class recommended a doctor that she had a great experience with. After meeting with him I knew he was just what I needed. He communicated well and helped me create a medical team to support me throughout my pregnancy. He recommended me to a specialist who helped plan my diet and keep my A1C in check.  Once the time for delivery came I had a planned cesarean and everything went smoothly. The only hiccup after was my son wasn’t able to breastfeed. When he was in the NICU to monitor his blood glucose he got used to the taste of formula. I tried everything to get him to feed and had to resort to using formula. The upside was that I could say to Brian “Okay. Here’s a bottle. I’m going to sleep.” 

I learned to roll with the punches though and let go of my ideal expectations of motherhood.

 

Audio FilePenny Talks about the Challenge of Breastfeeding

I have definitely been through my share of ordeals. I still have to manage my diabetes and get chronic fatigue from time to time. Anytime I need a break to rest Brian is always there to step in with bath time or mowing the yard. It is also hard to work full time as a social worker in a medical setting and not see my kids as often as I would want. We are working on are savings so that I can work just four days a week to stay home with the kids more. With all of life’s challenges, though, I have been very resilient and retained a positive spirit. What ultimately gets me through is the love for my family and the love the have for me.

Chloe and Elliott

Chloe and Elliott

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.

Nora

Nora

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

A Happiness Box for Kylie

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. Where additional resources were shared, we include them at the bottom of the story. Our compilation of their story is this narrative.

Kylie and Family

Kylie with Her Own Family

Here is the narrative, which we call A Happiness Box for Kylie.

During my childhood in Australia, my mother was the main emotional support for both my sister and me. She worked nights as a nurse and cared for us during the daytime. She had to work to help pay for hidden debt that came along with her marriage to my father and that was not a secret she kept from us. As a result, my mother absorbed a lot of stress and became the structural support for our family.

Watching this family dynamic shaped my views of being a parent to represent unhappiness, struggle, and settling for second best.

Throughout my childhood I was a high achiever in all academic areas. I received a lot of praise for my success and also pressure to become a doctor or a lawyer. My mother would always tell that there was plenty of time to have kids and that I needed to fulfill my potential.

A recurrent theme from my teachers and mom was to not settle for second best.

Watching my mother’s struggle and being pushed to having a career first ultimately led me to wait until I was 35 to get pregnant with my first child.

I began my university studies with the goal of becoming a lawyer. During my first year practicing law, I realized that being a lawyer wouldn’t lead me to a personally fulfilling career and I decided to leave. I instead became a teacher and found this path very rewarding. When I was 24 I ended up meeting my now-husband John in Japan where I was teaching overseas. He was from the U.S. and we had a long-distance relationship for a few years. During this time I wanted him to move to Australia and he wanted me to move to the U.S. In my late twenties I ended our relationship as I was tired of having a long-distance relationship and spent time teaching overseas in England and Canada.

The peak of my career occurred in my early thirties when I became an assistant principal at a primary school in Australia overseeing 2,500 children, 1200 in my own school and another 1,000+ were my cohort from feeder schools that I oversaw with my ESL/refugee team. During this time, as well, John and I got back together and he moved to Australia. When I was 35 we married. 

Having fulfilled my needs within my career and having a loving and stable partner by my side led me for the next step in my life and seeking to become a mother.

At the age of 36 I had my daughter Mia in Australia. The only complications I had during my first pregnancy were blood clots. I had to take blood thinners and I also took extra care of myself. I ate well, practiced yoga, aqua aerobics, aromatherapy, and acupuncture. (I still take blood-thinning medication.)

My experience with doctors and nurses was very positive. I was encouraged to write out my birth plan, a common exercise for Australian women, and felt that they were engaged in my pregnancy. I had a midwife during labor and delivery as well who was good for emotional support and acted as a voice for me when I was in pain. I also had support from my friends and family during pregnancy and beyond. For my baby shower my friends gave me a special gift, a happiness box. It contained pieces of paper that said what they liked about me and what I was good at. Also included were dried flowers, photos, and delicious candy. It was a source of comfort after Mia was born when I was up in the middle of the night and couldn’t call my friends or mom for a needed a pick me up. I had a friend that prepared a lot frozen meals too, which was especially helpful!

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