I had both of my babies at the age of 40 and older. I was a month shy of turning 41 when I had my first baby, and 42 when I had our second son.
I wasn’t purposely holding off on having kids, in fact, I knew there was a chance I could have fertility issues since two of my sisters endured those challenges. Life happened to me this way: I didn’t meet hubby until I was 37, he and I got married when I was 39, we didn’t get pregnant until I was 40. Thankfully, it all worked out, but these are the 10 biggest challenges I faced:
- Unsolicited “advice.” I heard a lot of crap about being a “high risk” and “at risk” mama. As if pregnancy hormones aren’t enough to drive one mad, there are tons of people out there who are “all-knowing” about the risks of pregnancy when you are older. Ignore all of them!
- Paranoia around exercise. I was super active during both of my pregnancies. And when you are 40 and older, everyone (my parents, hubby) makes you believe you will have a miscarriage from lifting something. Completely not true! As long as you were active before pregnancy, you can continue working out while scaling back. In fact, every single person I know who had tremendously amazing pregnancies had one thing in common: we all were avid exercisers. Also, most miscarriages are caused by chromosomal issues well outside the control of a mama! People need to stop perpetuating this terrible myth.
- Jealousy. Many people (including family members) were happy when I turned 40, because according to the statistics, I would have a hard time getting pregnant and having babies. They were all wrong. Do yourself a favor and stay away from the haters. I have more on that here.
- Google. I tried to stay away from Google, I really did. But pregnancy hormones and anxiety pushed me to look up all of the worst case scenarios. Thankfully, all of my anxiety was tempered by a fantastic team of chill midwives and my nurse practitioner, who kept me calm by simply stating the facts. And…none of my fears ever came true!
- Gender stuff. This can be an issue at any age, but since I was an older mother, hubby and I found out the gender of both of our babies pretty early due to the fact that because of my age, we had a series of blood tests in the first trimester. There was a big hullabaloo in my family because I was the first to have a boy in my immediate family – I come a family of 5 daughters and my parents have 4 grand-daughters. I felt very protective of my first son because of all of the naysayers and haters. If you feel ultra sensitive about people’s reactions to your baby’s gender, keep that information private.
- Planning for another baby. Hubby and I didn’t have much time with our first son before I got pregnant with our second (our first was 6 months old). I was told by the midwives to give my body two years to heal, but I didn’t have that time. By the time I gave birth to our second son I was 42. If I had all the time in the world I definitely would have given my body a chance to heal, and focus on getting to know our firstborn before adding another baby to the mix.
- Other people’s fertility issues. If you are 40 and are able to have a baby, you will likely deal with other people’s projections of their own experiences. A family member of mine refused to acknowledge my son due to her own fertility challenges. It hurt like heck but I knew it wasn’t about me (or him). Brace yourself for this!
- Postpartum anxiety and depression. My postpartum anxiety was serious enough that I spent one week in the psych ward of the hospital just a few days after I gave birth to my first son. I underestimated how crazy I would feel after giving birth, and apparently that is a symptom of being an older mother. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get adequate rest (I know that’s tough with a newborn) and to limit visitors. People are excited to see the baby, but now is not the time to entertain. It’s more essential that a mama is given adequate time and space to heal.
- Identity stuff. Since I didn’t become a mother and a wife until I was much older, most of my life was spent…alone. I didn’t have to plan out my day based on anyone else’s needs except my own. It took some time for me to work my way back to myself. I did this by making sure to stay connected to my strong support system, going back to work, and being honest with hubby about my needs and wants. It’s not easy but from someone who never thought I would be a mother, I look at my two little guys and still marvel that this is my life!
- Lack of choices. When you are an older pregnant person, you feel that you don’t have many choices in terms of childbirth plans, etc. I remember with my first baby, I was told time and time again that if I went past the 41st week, I would need to be induced. I was also told by many “all-knowing” mothers, that I would definitely not be able to have a vaginal birth, because after the age of 35, according to them, it’s physically impossible. All of that was bogus. I had two vaginal births, and our second was unmedicated. I also was never induced (though if I was, ain’t no shame!) All this to say: pregnancy and birth are unpredictable and I’ve heard many stories of a birth plan going awry. That is very true and as an older mother it’s hard to feel that you have some agency over the whole process. To some extent you don’t, but to a larger extent, you really do!
These are the top 10 challenges I faced while being pregnant as an over 40 mama. Drop a comment below if you can relate!