Every woman’s reproductive story is different. Mine goes something like this:
Spend a decade taking every precaution not to get pregnant, waiting till the ‘time is right.’ Spend three years trying to convince my husband that the ‘time is right.’ Have one gloriously healthy baby boy, experience one miscarriage, then whammo: Advanced Maternal Age.
During my pre-mom years, I took my fair share of ribbing from motherly peers. Wait too long and your eggs will ferment, they warned. But the era in which I exist is one that insists there is time for everything.
I’ve always known I wanted to have children. I’ve also always wanted to follow in the footsteps of my corporate executive mother, travel the world and make something of my passion for writing. All of which have a tough time sharing the priority spotlight with a baby.
So comes Advanced Maternal Age, widely defined as pregnancy after age 35. On my 35th birthday, I am six months into my third pregnancy, with the ultimate goal of making my first born big brother to a gloriously healthy sibling.
My doctor uses the term much too frequently as she repeatedly pulls out well-worn charts of increasing Down syndrome and miscarriage percentages. The wear on the charts is reassuring because it reminds me I’m not the only one getting this lesson from doc. In fact, these days one in five American women bears their first child after age 35.
Most of the new risks that come with Advanced Maternal Age are easy pills for me to swallow, including reduced fertility. Even now, as my age threatens to limit my family size, I’m wide open to fostering, adopting or even volunteering somehow that would afford the opportunity to forge a bond with a little person.
Tougher to take are the increased risks of something being wrong with the baby. No matter how many people can point out acquaintances who have produced healthy babies way past age 35, the increased chance of birth defects, chromosomal and otherwise, are enough to keep you up at night. There are plenty of additional tests you can submit to which determine the likelihood of problems, but nothing can conclusively describe to you the potential of the baby you are carrying. The bigger question is: what will you do with the information? Trying to answer is like standing at the oracle’s mirror facing the true reflection of your soul.
The non-medical side of this story is full of positives. At 35 I am more stable than ever in countless ways: emotionally, financially, personally and professionally… I will welcome this baby into an established family built on a strong marriage. He or she will have a good home, a very happy big brother and a mom who has fully matured out of any prior habits that would be detrimental to a healthy family.
So Advanced Maternal Age be damned. If you are enjoying this particular Mommy Milestone, celebrate by taking great care of yourself. A little exercise and regular hair color can sure make 35 feel a lot more like 26.