You won’t find me in the pages of the “Guinness Book of World Records” for having a baby at 100, but at the ripe old age of 37 I am “advanced maternal age.” At least that’s what my doctor tells me. And that’s what medical textbooks say. My husband and I are expecting our second child—a son—this December. He’ll join our sassy and independent two-year-old daughter Madeline. I never imagined I would qualify as an old lady having a baby, but here I am. To understand my surprise at my new label you have to go back, waaayy back.
My parents were in their mid-thirties when I was born in 1979 (and my sister followed a couple of years later). They were older than the average parents of the day, but my mother certainly did not see a high-risk obstetrician (though they opted for several extra tests when my sister came along). My parents seemed like all the other parents to me, so age wasn’t part of my perspective. Now, they’re in their seventies. Quite frankly I’ve met people 10 years younger that seem elderly in comparison. My mother and father are active, they travel and manage to keep up with Madeline. Like many other older Americans, they’re redefining what it means to age.
I’m part of another big group: Women who waited to have children. I worked as a television news producer for nearly 15 years before Madeline was born. I was 34 when she came into the world so I was just one year shy of the “advanced maternal age” label. This time I couldn’t escape it. My doctor referred me to a high-risk obstetrician. A few months ago at my appointment (I was roughly 12 weeks along), I found myself trying to figure out the ages of the other moms in the waiting room. I didn’t seem older although I did remind myself I use Oil of Olay. (Clearly this was proof it was working!) I had a healthy pregnancy and delivery last time. However, my doctor did suggest I take Metamucil after Madeline was born. Confession. It’s still part of my daily routine. There’s no question Metamucil is associated with old people, so what did that make me? Then I remembered how shocked I was when I learned one of the moms in my daughter’s music class is in her early twenties. She seemed just like me! We were in the baby and toddler trenches together and age just never occurred to me. The thought of my 22-year-old self having an infant? Let’s just say we’re all better off! Just as my mind was spiraling out of control, the nurse called my name.
My appointment began with a special ultrasound and a meeting with a genetic counselor.
That’s when I started to fear for my unborn child and myself. The ultrasound technician could sense my nerves. As soon as that little miracle was on the screen, she said, “This is going to be a fun one.” That was her cue to me that even at first glance baby was developing as baby should. I am forever grateful to her. The relief, however, was short lived because the genetic counselor began asking lots of questions. Then the ultrasound technician had trouble getting an important measurement because of the baby’s position. The decision was made to revisit taking that measurement if necessary. After a few nerve-racking minutes the doctor appeared. He explained that at 37 I wasn’t necessarily high risk, but elevated risk. The doctor said more and more women ages 35 to 40 are having children, and calculating the risk is a matter of statistics.
As time goes by, it’s possible women ages 35 to 40 won’t even be considered elevated risk because of their age. It helped me try to keep things in perspective—until I had to do a battery of blood tests. I opted for everything that was available that could give my husband and I an indicator of any genetic problems. We wanted time to prepare and educate ourselves if something was wrong. (My insurance covered the tests because it was considered medically necessary.) A long week later I got a call with the test results. Baby and mama are healthy—and it’s a boy! (A fun bonus amid all the nerves!) I also learned I could resume seeing my normal OBGYN and proceed with this pregnancy like I was 34 again. Ahhh, youth!
Now I’m 30 weeks and my pregnancy has continued to go smoothly. I’m still taking my Jazzercise class although I’m not jumping around as much these days! Playing on the floor with my daughter is not a problem, but getting up is pretty comical. I am starting to toss and turn at night because it’s getting harder to get comfortable. All these things I attribute to being seven months pregnant—not 37-years-old. Our December due date is still weeks away so my “advanced maternal age” may still become a factor. I hope not. And I hope others who find themselves in this category can find peace and perspective. After all, with age comes wisdom.