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!

[Read more…]

An Interview: Jeany’s* Story

 

Co-founder Sharon Interviewed Jeany about Her Story.


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

 

Jeany: My family includes me, my husband Donald, and our 1-year-old biological son named Donel. My husband has two children from a former relationship, a son aged 19 and a daughter aged 12, who do not live in our home.

 

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

Jeany: When I was 34 we started to try to conceive. I had married at age 31. My husband is 8 years older than me and he had a preference not to be changing diapers at age 50. He had been through that with his other children, my step-children. We had no idea how long it would take for me to get pregnant. I knew that my age might be a factor.

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

Jeany:  I worked hard to get my Ph.D. in psychology when I was 28 and launched my career in my hometown of Washington, D.C, working with children enrolled in special education programs ranging from newborns through 21 years of age. I moved to Texas and found myself working at the Texas Youth Commission, counseling troubled kids, many of whom had records of violent criminal behavior. While working with these challenging cases, I had no desire to have children of my own. My work seemed to deter me from having children earlier, plus I wanted to be in a stable relationship.

Sharon: Why did you decide to have a child?

 

Jeany:  We were ready as a couple plus I had a new job, which I currently hold, training foster parents on issues around children’s mental health and supporting those with trauma. I cover a wide range of topics in my courses for foster parents. Someday I might seek to foster and adopt a child as well, though I would wait until my son is around 4 years of age. My father is a retired social worker who worked with foster children, many of whom I got to meet and play with in my childhood.


Sharon: Describe any of the challenges you may have encountered along the way.

 

Jeany: I was first pregnant in April 2009 and it was just a few weeks until I miscarried. Though an early loss, it was painful and caused some depression for me. I was determined to try again and had Donald’s support; however, his work then and now takes him to the Middle East regularly. We worked hard to time his vacations around my ovulation cycle, but that wasn’t always easy! On at least one occasion, he changed his schedule to be home for us to try to conceive.

Sharon: Please share your feelings from that process: getting AMA label, experiences with medical professionals, etc.

 

Jeany: When we conceived Donel in August 2010, I knew that there were additional risks around an advanced maternal age birth. I proactively took a number of measures while trying to conceive, including losing weight and exercising. I did yoga, took herbs and got some chiropractic care to improve my body’s alignment. I really took care of myself and was prepared. Our family of medical doctors were a bit skeptical, but I don’t regret taking these measures to be healthy.

The biggest challenge we faced was my preeclampsia diagnosis, which I sense may have been caused by my age. It was disappointing and made us change our birth plans from seeking natural childbirth in a birthing center to having Donel delivered in a hospital by an OB. Then, when in labor Donel’s heart rate slowed and I suddenly needed an emergency c-section. This was a big disappointment!

Sharon: Looking back on the process…do you see things differently? Is there anything you would do differently? Have your feelings changed? If so, how?


Jeany: 
I was able to deal with my early fears about having a child, removing the perceptions I had in my early career from working with troubled youth.

I had self doubt after the c-section and blamed my age. It had been my dream to have natural childbirth. I wonder if preeclampsia would have been my diagnosis at an earlier age?

Sharon:  Thinking back, do you feel good about your choice or are there things that you regret?

Jeany: I regret that I might not be able to have another child. It’s uncertain how much support I’ll receive from my husband to conceive again, or to foster and adopt. We’re talking about it now.I did it the best way for me, in terms of waiting to be married, being well into my career and certainly past my fears about the troubled children I counseled early on.


Sharon: Now that your child is 1-year old, what has been your experience as a parent? How might this be reflective of your maturity or other factors?

Jeany: My son is a delight and like all toddlers, can be quite challenging at the same time. Some days when my husband is traveling, it can be trying caring for a 1-year-old on my own. Once he’s in bed and I have time to rest and reflect and then realize that he is a true blessing. There are many women that cannot have children and I am truly happy with my choices.

Thank you for interviewing me and may I encourage other women of color to be a part of your project?

Sharon: Absolutely. We encourage this and thank you Jeany!

Jeany* was a first-time mother at age 36 and has a background in counseling psychology and works with foster families and children. She asked to be interviewed for The Advanced Maternal Age Project, which we did by phone on May 24, 2012.

Share your story.

Kim’s Story

Like most girls, I wanted to have children.  In my twenties, I thought that someday I would have four.   Something got in the way-no husband.  I knew that I didn’t want to parent alone, so I held out for Mr. Right.  Well, it took me a while to find him.  At one point in my early 30’s, my mother had actually mentioned that I just go get pregnant (MOM!!!) without getting married because I was getting up there in age. I started dating my husband (Jason) when I was 34 and we married when I was 36.  Because of “my age” we started officially trying soon after we returned from our honeymoon.  I’m pretty sure my mother expected me to come home from our honeymoon pregnant.  She had actually expressed this thought out loud to some of my co-workers shortly after the wedding!

And so it began. In Novemeber 2006 I went off the pill, saw my OB/GYN for a checkup, and started on prenatal vitamins.  I really didn’t expect to have any problems conceiving.  In fact, a few friends had told me that they had conceived within months of going off the pill.  Needless to say, I was disappointed when this didn’t happen to me.  After six months of trying, I went back to my doctor.  She suggested we do some tests because of my age.  My age? I thought I was young! I felt young, I was healthy, no major health issues.

So the tests began.  Not just for me but for Jason, too.  Lucky for me he didn’t object to it and he was supportive of all I would need to go through.  His sperm counts were “perfect”………..whew!  Then I went into surgery for a D&C just to check things out. All good there, too!  My doctor thought for sure I’d get pregnant, but I didn’t.  Next, I had a Fallopian tube study– again all good.

We were now almost to September 2007. Why wasn’t I pregnant??? We had been trying for almost a year.

Did I mention that during this time period we had sold a house, built and moved into a new one, and I had lost my mother to cancer?  Stressed? YES! YES! YES!

In early October, I found out I was pregnant!!!  We were beyond ecstatic.  But it was early, and my levels were not very high.  Back to the doctor for more lab work the following week. My levels still low, but they put me on progesterone.  Another recheck in a few days.  By then I had started to bleed a little.  I miscarried.  I was upset of course, but it was early, and we hadn’t told anyone-so luckily I didn’t have to do go back and tell everyone that I wasn’t pregnant anymore.  We decided that in a couple of weeks we would take a little weekend trip to celebrate our first anniversary and get our minds off of it.  The next  month I went on Clomid to stimulate my ovaries.  It worked!!!  I became pregnant after one month!   But again the disappointment.  I miscarried at about six weeks.

So now I was worried.  The self doubt really came out.  It was all my fault, something was wrong with me.  Maybe God didn’t think I’d be a good mother.  I missed my mother.  Next, it was suggested that I see a fertility specialist.  It had been over a year of trying.

So I made an appointment.  I tried to relax but it was really consuming me.  Lucky for me I have a husband that was very supportive of me during all of this (and some really good girlfriends too!).  We went to our first appointment with a new Dr. in January 2008.  It was very overwhelming to say the least, even for people in the medical profession (my husband and I are both registered nurses).  We met with a nurse, nurse practitioner, someone from billing, and finally the doctor.  After talking with the billing/insurance lady we realized how money driven this practice was.  She suggested that we change our insurance because our current would cover IUI,  but if we needed IVF-the other insurance we could get through our employer would cover it.  We went through our health and pregnancy histories and treatment options were given to us.  More blood work for me to start off with.  They started off talking about ovulation stimulating drugs and quickly moved on to intrauterine insemination.  Within a few minutes they were talking about invitro and egg donors!  After all, are you ready for this ?……… I was over 35!  WAIT A MINUTE……..this was too fast for us.  We had been able to conceive, didn’t want someone else’s egg  (at least not yet) and we were nervous about the possibility of multiples.  Yes, I had wanted four children, but not at once–and that was years ago.  I had smartened up.

It was decided at that appointment that we would start off by trying some stimulating drugs.  Honestly, now it all seems like a blur.  We spent the next few months back and forth to the dr’s, giving me injections and having sex.  UGGHHH………it all became so tedious.  My husband and I had always had a great sex life, but now we were being told WHEN to have it.  Definitely a downer.  We would do a series of injections to stimulate my ovaries, have ultrasounds to confirm that an egg was there, then have sex on such and such a day–whether or not either of us were in the “mood”.  I’m pretty sure that there were a few times in that period when sex was the furthest thing from our minds.  I guess this went on for 3-4 months–nothing.  The next step was IUI.  But there was a chance of multiples with IUI, probably JUST twins though.  JUST TWINS!!!  I think Jason fell off his chair.   It was one thing to have twins naturally but …..
I have a few friends with twins, some via IUI or IVF and a couple naturally.  It’s hard.  I wasn’t so sure I could handle it.

It was now that we decided to take a break.  Not a break from our marriage but a break from all this craziness.  We felt like we weren’t us anymore.  My 38th birthday was coming up, and I just wanted to relax and celebrate it with Jason and a few friends.  There was an annual festival in our city that we always went to. Not that I consider myself a big drinker, but I did like to have a glass or two with dinner or on a night out.  I rarely drank during my treatments because I didn’t want to mess anything up.  So we celebrated with a few, three or four wine slushies.  I was feeling pretty good.

A few weeks later I was due for my period.  We had some decisions to make.  Would we continue our break?  Was it time to try IUI?  I was late but just a couple days.  But I was always on time, like clockwork.  The morning of day five or six, I decided to take a pregnancy test.  I’m not even sure I told Jason that I was going to.  It was a Thursday morning, June 26th to be exact.  I peed on the stick, got into the shower, and forgot about it.  As I was drying off, I glanced over at the stick.  THE LINE WAS REALLY BLUE!!!!!!!!!  I’m pretty sure I was jumping up and down at this point.  I wanted to scream out to Jason, but he had gotten up early that day to go to the gym before work.  The excitement was overwhelming.  Pretty soon I heard the garage door open.  The minute he saw me, he knew.  I was pregnant!

Later that day I went to the dr’s for an “official” test.  I was indeed pregnant.  At this point they scheduled me to come back in on Monday for repeat blood work. Yup, still pregnant.  Now for weekly blood work and ultrasounds.  I won’t say it was smooth sailing from then on.  I was leery.  I had miscarried twice before and knew it could happen again.  I had tested positive for an anti-platelet antibody, so they put me on Lovenox, a blood thinner.  That meant daily injections.  By week nine (I think) we saw the baby’s heart moving on the ultrasound.  I think it was then that I really started to believe it.

For the most part, I had a pretty routine pregnancy.  I did end up delivering via C-section, something I had really wanted to avoid. But I had a beautiful baby girl at 11:41 pm 2/24/2009, with my husband right there by my side. She amazes me everyday, and I feel so blessed to have her.

If there is one thing I can say it is to just try to relax.  Obviously physical reasons for infertility do need to be ruled out, but being yourself and enjoying your partner goes a long way too.  (and I’m pretty sure those wine slushies helped a little to relax me that night. I’m not exactly sure that’s the night we conceived but it’s pretty close.

Share your story.