Seven years, six miscarriages, and two babies earth side. One boy, one girl. In 2017, we were done having kids. As our kids grew, we thought we would be done nursing, done with diapers, done with night wakings. We would graduate from cribs, from the baby pool, and even graduate preschool. And, as we entered our 40s, we were well into the next phase of life with kids.
Yet one day, I realized I was late. Instead of running to the pharmacy, I simply placed an order on Prime and waited. I assumed this was how menopause started — in fits and starts. At 41, I couldn’t be accidentally pregnant . . . or could I? But there I found myself, on the floor of the bathroom, looking at two pink lines.
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If doctors qualify pregnancies after 35 as geriatric, then at 41, I was undoubtedly ancient. The number of women giving birth over 40 only accounts for about three percent of births in the United States. And there I was, about to join the club. Are things different in your 40s? Yes, very much so.
A Geriatric Pregnancy
The older you are when you conceive, the more risks you face. Be it miscarriage, genetic defect, gestational diabetes, or any host of other issues, pregnancy in your 40s is, by nature, risky. So how did I mitigate those risks?
- Build a dream team of birth workers. I knew I would face risks beyond the normal pregnancy. And so, I built a team to help me achieve the best result. On my team I had an OB, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist (MFM), a doula, a massage therapist, and a hypnobirthing specialist. Birthing a baby takes work and having birth workers with a wide variety of specialties ensured we looked at all problems from a number of angles. They all worked together to give me the healthiest pregnancy possible.
- Focus on your physical health. After all, healthy moms have healthy birthing outcomes. I hired a both a dietician and a personal trainer. These women helped identify the best ways to properly fuel my body, mitigate the risks associated with gestational diabetes, and prepare my body for the marathon of birth.
- Don’t forget your mental health. Pregnancy, birth, kids — its emotionally exhausting! Doing this later in life is daunting. Having a mental health specialist was priceless as I processed all the emotional ups and downs of my pregnancy.
The Postpartum Recovery
My recovery was far from sunshine and roses. Of my three kids, the last child was definitely the hardest to recover from. Despite being a third-time mom, I was ill-prepared for my postpartum recovery.
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Here’s what I wish I had known:
- Recovery takes longer. We all pop, crack, and grunt a bit more with each passing year, and it is definitely amplified after giving birth. You can be in great shape, but that doesn’t stop your body from taking a bit more time to put itself back together.
- Hormones are a beast. Am I a birthing aged mom or am I perimenopausal? My hormones regularly seem to forget. This has made things like nursing, brain fog, and knocking off the baby weight far more challenging than when I was younger.
- You still need help from others. I prepared my freezer. I had childcare lined up. My husband set his paternity leave. I figured we would be self-sufficient post birth. But we weren’t. I needed help from friends and family, and that was hard to admit.
Why It’s Not So Bad
It is one thing to grow them and birth them, but it’s a whole other thing to raise them. This is what terrified me most when I learned I was pregnant. I was plagued by thoughts: What will people think? Will I fit in with the other moms? What about my career? OMG, we will be 60 when he graduates high school!
Eighteen months in, I still think some of these thoughts. But, in many ways, our age has provided us an edge.
- We are financially secure. We are confident in our budgeting, established in our careers, and worked hard in our 30s to pay down our debt. The costs associated with raising another kid just don’t hit as hard as it once did.
- We trust ourselves. Confidence helps in raising a kid, and with age your confidence grows. We don’t second guess our actions. We run with it.
- We savor the moments. Because of our age, we know he is our last. There are no “we’ll get this again” moments. Because of this, we find ourselves savoring every last stage of his growth. Taking in every last snuggle and milestone brings an added sense of enjoyment in raising him.
Was having a kid in our 40s our plan? No. But now we can’t imagine our life without him. Our bonus baby is the unexpected caboose we never knew we wanted, but now know our family desperately needed.