The first time I heard the phrase “geriatric pregnancy” I had to physically contain myself from kicking the doctor in the shins (or somewhere else). My mind swirled and I sputtered to ask “Did you just say GERIATRIC? As in OLD PERSON?” He simply let out a deep belly laugh and said “I know, it sounds bad, but it’s just what we call a woman over 35 who is pregnant or attempting to become pregnant”. My only thought: ” HOW IS THAT FUNNY?” I left that office with visions of my little eggs crawling around with the tiniest of walkers, cobwebs in corners of my ovaries and prunes in my uterus. Thanks for THAT uplifting visit Doc!
A quick google search and sure enough, Geriatric Pregnancy is a medical definition for any woman over the age of 35. This was news to me! How on earth did I get here? Having been married since the age of twenty-two, I used to be the “young wife”. I spent the first 5-7 years of our marriage laughing off questions of if we were going to have a baby anytime soon. I was working round the clock, hustling, building my career from being an out of work actress, to working at a cosmetic counter at the busiest retailer in Chicago, to somehow carving out an actual career and becoming the youngest executive at my company by the time I was thirty. In other words, I had plans and a baby wasn’t a part of that first phase. After all, in my mind, I had all the time in the world.
Then, as so many women know, around the age of 33/34 I realized I was ready, but nothing was happening. I chalked it up to my crazy travel schedule, stress etc. It took about eighteen months to get a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility”, at which time I was, you guessed it, now considered GERIATRIC. The next three years were filled with doctors appointments after doctors appointments, specialists, shots, tears, and heartbreak with a loss. I raged against the irony, that mother nature would make it to where you seemingly had to CHOOSE, a career first and no baby, or baby first and then late to the career? How were those the choices and more importantly, in my grief I sobbed and asked my closest friend:
“Why didn’t anyone TELL me??”
And then, magic happened. I had another failed treatment in February, but it triggered a series of events that led my husband and me to evaluate what was truly important in our lives. The big house, six-figure job, high powered career that had me traveling all over the country/world was no longer it. I quit my job on Valentine’s Day with no idea what I was going to do (some half-formed idea to start my own consulting firm), but first I was going to enjoy a few weeks of the start of spring and go to beach yoga, have brunch with friends, and just take care of ME for once.
Within the month… SURPRISE! As I write this, a week from my 39th birthday, I am entering my third trimester as a “Geriatric Mom-to-Be”. Luckily I now have a doctor that simply refers to it as a much kinder “Advanced Maternal Age” and I am grateful every single day that one of my little eggs tossed her walker to the side and joined the party with the young-ins out there!
“Advanced Maternal Age” = worry
So what exactly does “Advanced Maternal Age” mean for a pregnancy? Well for me it was carte blanche to WORRY. Having always been an anxious person by nature (anticipating, and avoiding, disaster made me exceptionally good at my job for over a decade) I went into overdrive. Without listing the scary statistics here, let’s just say that mother nature makes it a scary game to conceive in your late thirties. All of the sad stories of early loss due to genetic abnormalities kept me holding my breath for twelve weeks, genetic screening at ten weeks for every disease you can think of (silver lining that the same blood test can tell you the gender of the baby that early), then a tiny exhale only to suck that breath back in while waiting for the actual growth scan to rule out the final markers for other diseases. While I am magically carrying one heck of healthy beautiful baby girl (she is my unicorn) I’m still at risk technically for a premature labor, and other things I won’t type because I’m superstitious.
Sheer terror and pure excitement
All this worry created an environment of sheer terror that something awful would happen. That I actually couldn’t be this lucky, this happy. On our babymoon to Hawaii, I called my OB the day I landed, afraid the flying had “done something” to the baby. The sweetest nurse gently reminded me that there is only one way out for the baby, and if something was wrong I would know. Every food was thoroughly researched and vetted by my husband and I (poor waiters would come to take our order and find us furiously on our phones googling mercury levels of that night’s special). I’d like to say the further I’ve gotten, the more I’ve started to relax , but I still worry at nine am when I haven’t felt her move for the morning (she’s a late sleeper apparently lol) and have been known to wake her up with drinking ice-cold water just so I can go about my day without the fear. I try my best to enjoy each day for itself and not worry about what I can’t control. Notice I said try?
The other piece of being “AMA” is the math you end up doing in your head. I realized last night while watching a House Hunters episode of a couple of empty nesters, that my husband and I won’t be alone until I am almost sixty years old! I’ll be close to sixty-five at a college graduation and who knows how old at a wedding etc. The women in any playgroups I join will most likely be fifteen or so years younger than me, but I look at the positives, they will keep me young right? And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be viewed as the “wise one” in the mommy and me groups, handing out advice with butterscotch candy to the “youngins” and saying things like “back in my day” while watching my precious baby girl crawl around a playground. That is, in fact, this old lady’s greatest dream.