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.

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