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

A Year of Gains and Losses

Big GainBy Sharon Munroe

Looking in the rear-view mirror, it’s easy to see that some of our best days are intermingled with those where we experienced significant challenges. 2009 was that period for me, a year filled with both significant gains in many areas and painful losses and dreams dashed.

 

In January 2009 my husband and I began trying to grow our family. Our son was a year old and we were feeling especially excited about his development. As parents we beamed with pride and a sense of accomplishment. As we were 41 (me) and 49 (him) at the time, we did not feel we had a lot of time to spare but we had no preconceived notion that conceiving another child would be challenging.

That month I did get pregnant and excitedly rushed to the OB’s office for an ultrasound at 5 weeks gestation. I went alone, confident that I knew what to expect. Imagine then the feeling that I (and some have you may have experienced), of hearing no heartbeat. The ultrasound technician, a caring woman and my long-time OB assured me that often the heartbeat is faint at five weeks. “Let’s re-check next week and hope for the best,” said Dr. B.

I was worried but optimistic. Just 13 months prior my baby boy was born without complications and I was very healthy. I felt terrific and ready to have a baby again. I returned to the ultrasound table exactly a week later to find more of the same. 

No heartbeat. The tiny vision inside was a group of cells that would not be growing a baby.

Worried about my work schedule that month and not having experienced a miscarriage, I scheduled a D & C. In hindsight, it was a pretty invasive procedure to remove the cells on my schedule versus waiting for them to come out on their own as often happens in similar circumstances. My biggest fear at the time was having potentially heavy, unexpected bleeding while on an airplane or in a client meeting. The outcome from the D & C and examination of the cells indicated that this was not meant to live. This event would not impede my ability to get pregnant again I was assured.

After this setback, I wondered if we could conceive again. If we could we would, my husband and I agreed. We went on with our daily lives. I achieved great accomplishments at work. I landed new clients and led meaningful work for my market research agency. I spent quality time with my husband and son, documenting his whole year in photos and scrapbook pages. Life was rich.

Family In IrelandThe Next Chapter

We planned a family trip on a large scale. My husband’s family and our little family of three, eight in total, would spend two summer weeks in Ireland. We would visit the family homestead and farm and tour Ireland’s scenic west coast and famed landmarks. During a spare few moments in those two busy weeks we conceived again. I was hopeful and thankful for the time away from the everyday. A positive home pregnancy test result came two days in a row.

This time I waited to return to the OB and waiting was hard. I always prefer to know the facts and quickly. At approximately 5 weeks, the harsh reality of what felt like a heavy period hit. I was visiting a college friend Lisa and her family in Chicago following a week of meetings with my work colleagues. Lisa was a good friend and had been a part of many happy times: we had a similar major and activities in school and many common friends and interests. A year behind me in school, she celebrated my college graduation. A few years later she went to graduate school at N.Y.U. when I lived just blocks away in the East Village of Manhattan and we saw each other frequently. She was a bridesmaid in my first wedding. It was good to see her and her growing family, meeting her husband and two young boys for the first time.

Lisa too had experienced miscarriage and knew what to do. She armed me with pads, comfort and reassurance. I wept behind sunglasses much of the way home on the plane.

These two losses in the same year were significant and with my 42nd birthday approaching that meant we had a lot more challenges than we expected and a lot less time. I was sad but not defeated

I knew the reality, egg quality is proven to decrease with age. Ovarian function is finite.  More and more, eggs are not viable.

A chance conversation with our son’s classmate’s mom, Dr. Natalie Burger would lead us down a different path, which I will cover in another story. Dr. Burger shares her expert voice with us next.

Carrie’s* Story

 

My journey began in my mid 30’s when I was single and had some painful female health challenges. I had to go through emergency surgery to remove a twisted ovary. The surgeon found that I had a number of uterine fibroids and referred me to a fertility specialist to try and repair my uterus, as I had hoped to ensure my future fertility. She did my surgery, and I really connected with her and knew that she would be my fertility doctor when the time was right. I eventually married and we went through clomid cycles and multiple IUI’s yet were unsuccessful, so we took a break. Infertility can be very hard on a marriage and ours was categorized as undiagnosed infertility, so we had no explanation which was frustrating. Eventually we decided to go the adoption route and also resumed fertility treatments, hoping to cover both bases and raise our odds.

We received the most incredible news of a positive pregnancy test and learned of a mother who wanted us to adopt her child all within a few days! We were so excited! Two babies at once was an unexpected yet welcome blessing! Hurricane Katrina hit the coast of Louisiana, and within that same week I miscarried our baby due to a tubal pregnancy.  Then the birth mother of the child changed her mind, deciding to keep her baby. I had several surgeries due to the miscarriage, and shortly afterwards my husband walked away from our marriage.  I learned much later that he had been seeing another woman while we were undergoing fertility treatments and going through our adoption process.  I was devastated, yet I still held on to the dream of Motherhood.

After the divorce was finalized, I resumed the adoption route only to find that single mothers have quite a challenge adopting American babies through our agencies. I was told that most American birth mothers don’t really want to give their children to another single mother to raise on their own, so I started exploring international adoption. All the while, I still had this deep ache in my heart to carry a child in my womb. I visited with international agencies and found a few countries that would allow single mothers to adopt. I narrowed it down to the country, chose a wonderful agency and invested a lot of time, money and emotions to the process. Over a year into waiting for my baby, I learned that the country I had chosen closed relations with the United States and we didn’t know when they would resume. At that point I began to wonder if perhaps I was supposed to take these doors closing as a sign that I should try to carry a child on my own.

I visited again with my Dr. and she gave me all of my options, offered her valuable insight, and I left her office with such hope in my heart. I will always treasure her wisdom. I went through tests and found that I was no longer fertile, which was such difficult news to hear. Yet she did assure me that I had a very high probability of getting pregnant through the donor program. I wanted to be a Mom more than anything on this earth and knew that if I was willing to adopt a baby then why not adopt an egg? If I am carrying then I can provide all the best health care and nutrition to my child during the pregnancy. While there was no 100% guarantee of a successful pregnancy, it did seem to be best option to increase my chances of parenting within a reasonable amount of time. All of the funds invested in international adoption were nonrefundable and yet in the end it was still less expensive to go through the donor IVF program than to adopt internationally. As a single mom, all of this information was important to consider.

I ended up choosing to go through the donor program and finalized on the donor after my first choice didn’t pass all of her lab tests.  I felt completely confident in my decision with this donor and have never looked back. I felt like I had a dream team of cheerleaders rooting for me. I had to administer all of my own shots going through the IVF procedure, and while that was not the most pleasant part of the process, I was able to do it. It is amazing what one can do when you keep your eyes focused on the goal. I went through one IVF cycle with my donor and was pregnant with twins. Twin pregnancy as a single woman was challenging for sure yet my OB/GYN said it was a textbook pregnancy.  There is no question that living alone carrying twins was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and yet also the most rewarding.  I have a wonderful family who supported me along the way.  My children were born at 38 weeks with healthy weights and no NICU was necessary. I am now 44 years old and my son and daughter will be 3 this summer.

While it was a lengthy, emotion-filled and difficult road, with many twists and turns, I reached my goal and am living my dream. I have two incredibly beautiful, smart, healthy, active children who are the joys of my life. Yes, I would do it again in a heartbeat and encourage those of you going through infertility to remain hopeful. I am living proof that it is possible!  Your original plans may have to be altered in one way or another, so staying flexible and open to what options present themselves will help you get through this process.

In retrospect, I know that I am a better Mom in my 40’s than I would have been in my 20’s and 30’s. Through these years I have been taught the value of patience, hope, faith and to never give up on my dreams, no matter what life puts in my path. Honestly, my heart still hurts for the child that I miscarried and the loss of my fertility, yet in hindsight I do see incredible wisdom in the timing of my children and they way the arrived. They are the most precious gift I have ever received and well worth the wait. Everything has come together so beautifully and has all worked out for the very best so it is with eyes of gratitude that I view this journey.

*Pseudonym given at the request of the author.