New Online Group for Mothers 45 and Up

I’ve gotten so many emails and comments on this blog asking me about starting an online group for new mothers at or around 45, or for women who want to feel some of the hope these women’s stories can provide, so here it is!

The group can be found on Facebook at or by searching under “New Mothers 45 and Up”

Here’s the description:

A group for new mothers, moms-to-be, and the many brave women who are trying to become parents near or after 45 and who want to connect with others who have overcome the odds or are trying to do so. Hopefully, it’s a group that will balance honesty and a nod to the tough statistics facing women trying to conceive at 45; with hope and an acknowledgment that sometimes women do get pregnant after 44 and give birth to the babies they’ve been waiting so long to meet. This group has been inspired by the hundreds of emails I’ve gotten from women who’ve learned that I got pregnant naturally and gave birth to my first and only child, a healthy, fantastic, now-almost-5-year-old, when I was 46. Many of these women have asked me, either in email or on my blog, to start a group like this. I hope it offers support, hope, and community in a world that I know can feel hopeless when trying to conceive a bit later in life.

Please feel free to join us!


Waiting for Baby #2 at 44

A Reader Shares Her Experience

Note: I met Bonnie when she emailed me after reading my book, as she was waiting for her second child to be born. She kindly offered to tell us a bit about her experience conceiving naturally in her mid-40s, in the hopes that her story gives hope to women trying for a baby at an older age:

I’ve just turned forty four and for better or for worse, my life is about to change in ways I can’t even begin to imagine.  In the next two weeks I’ll have my second child. When my mother was forty four, she drove me, her second child, to college.  Let that marinate.  I’m starting with child number two at the same age my mom was waving goodbye to her second child.  It just puts life into perspective for me, especially since this pregnancy was… unexpected, a medical miracle at forty three.  After years of struggling with infertility to have my first child, a little girl, in 2015, we thought we were done.  Technically and medically there was nothing wrong with me and my husband, who is four years older than me. We just were just old. Let’s backtrack, I was thirty five when I begrudgingly admitted to myself that I might not meet my soulmate, that I was going to remain single.  I told myself that I had a fulfilling life with friends, work, and my family.  I took solo vacations, always had interesting jobs, and realized that some people were just meant to be single.  And then through a few weeks later through a random website (that my sister secretly signed me up for) I met my future husband.  We married when I was thirty eight and began our journey to parenthood as soon as we got back from our honeymoon.  If I could go back I would have done things differently.  I would have either eloped right away (and avoided that ten month engagement period where I could have been trying) or just gotten off the pill earlier and had big belly in my wedding pictures.  I knew thirty eight was on the older end of the age spectrum, but I didn’t realize how much each month really mattered when it came to baby making.  I waited six months to see my gynecologist (I’ve since found out that if you’re over thirty five you should only wait three months) and then it took a few months to even get the initial appointment to meet with the highly recommended fertility doctor to get started.  She said the best thing I had going for me what that I still had a ‘three’ in my age. I turned thirty nine the next week. After three rounds of IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) we moved on to IVF (In Vitro Fertilization).  Again, neither my husband and I had anything wrong with us, just our age.  In between the second and third round I somehow got pregnant on my own only to have a miscarriage very early on.  The third round worked.  We had our baby girl in September of 2015, soon after I turned forty one.  Life was great.  Easy pregnancy (minus the annoyance of gestational diabetes) and very easy delivery.


My doctor suggested that we not wait longer than six months to start on another baby if that was what we wanted.  I knew that as much as my husband loved being a father (something that really shocked him) I knew that there was no way I could convince him to restart the fertility machine a mere six months after becoming parents.  So we waited.  Fourteen months after our daughter was born we tried IVF again.  We were able to implant three embryos, which is high and not the norm, but as my doctor told me later, the lab could already tell that they weren’t looking great.   And they weren’t great, none took.  We were done. I had finally accepted that I was going to raise an only child, a foreign concept to me, being one of four kids. Growing up I always felt bad for only children, but my husband convinced me that we would be give our daughter the world; the best education, vacations, all our attention, blah blah blah.  Just like when I finally accepted that I’d probably be single for life, I got pregnant.  Naturally.  Shockingly. Like it took my husband weeks, if not months, to really comprehend that we were going to do it again.  Especially after our doctor told us that we had such a negligible chance of getting pregnant naturally.


My feelings have been all over the map this pregnancy.  A lot of it has to do with my mother passing away very early on in the pregnancy.  I told her that I was pregnant on a Monday night and she was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday.  The grief and mourning process was pretty unbearable and it didn’t help that I was keeping this very new pregnancy a secret as we didn’t feel confident that it would keep.  At the same time my husband and I wanted to finally buy a house.  It didn’t seem that daunting to find a nice two or three bedroom in our area, but now we needed more space and we needed it quickly. We’ve since put the house hunt on hold as I can’t imagine moving or even doing the paper work while I can’t even see my feet (or wear any shoes besides flip flops for that matter.)  So we’re making it work.  It’s been such a whirlwind of emotions.  When I expressed my shock that we were really having another baby (at forty four and almost forty eight) I got responses like “but this is what you always wanted!” or “would you rather be going back to a job?”  Yes, I always thought I’d want more than one child, but that was before I realized how draining my life would feel with a pretentious two year old who has been going through the Terrible Two’s for OVER A YEAR.  And while one of the advantages of having a baby later in life is supposed to be a more patient parent, I find the opposite to be true.  When I was younger I probably would have let half the annoying stuff my daughter does roll off my back, but now I feel like every day there’s a new power struggle between us that I usually end up losing.  The anxiety I feel about having a second one is mostly due to worrying about the first one.  Unlike other moms I’m not worried that I’m not going to love the new baby as much as my first, I’m just worried about keeping my daughter busy when I think I’m going to want to just lay in bed with the new one.  It doesn’t help that the baby is coming in the lull of the summer, camp is over and school won’t begin for a few weeks.  Will I want my daughter with us at the hospital? Should I take everyone’s offer to watch her so my husband and I can be alone at home with the newborn?  I also worry about the stress this is going to add to my always-stressed-out husband.  He’s the superhero at our home, he works all week and then is at the beck and call of our daughter ALL weekend (she actually tells me I can leave the room when he’s around.)  I feel bad when he tells me that he’s never going to be able to retire.  I feel bad that I have to ask someone to run after our daughter when she runs away from us because I’m too large to move and my husband always has a bad knee/back/foot. I feel sad that my kids will experience life with only one grandparent (where I had three of them until my twenties and just lost my dear grandmother last year at forty three.)  I wonder if I’ll be a contributing grandmother, if I make it that long. But for now I just need to make it through this month, make it through another healthy delivery, and wait to exhale and start again.


I’m thrilled to report that, since the writing of this piece, Bonnie gave birth to a healthy baby boy, and she and her family of 4 are doing well.

Is Hope Ever a Negative?

I get a lot of email from readers of this blog, thanking me for the hope they’ve found in my story of getting pregnant naturally with my first child and giving birth to a healthy baby girl at 46. And I’m moved by and grateful for these messages.

But here’s a question that I can’t stop asking myself when I read messages like this: Is it possible that the hope my story provides could be a negative?

I remember hope feeling like a double-edged sword when I was trying, and failing, month after month to get pregnant. (Until, of course, I beat the odds and did.) I know getting pregnant naturally at 45 and giving birth to a healthy first child at 46 is not the norm, and sometimes I worry I’m giving people the false impression that it happens easily, or can happen for everyone.

In the end, I always come back to the thought that it’s important for people to be reminded that, although it’s relatively rare, it does sometimes happen, and with all the negatives out there that women in their 40s hear all the time, it’s important also to hear some positive stories, too, as long as they are honest.

So that’s I’m trying to do with the posts on this blog about my pregnancy.

Am I right? I go back and forth. Why is hope important to you? In what way is it helpful? Is it hurtful in any ways? I’d love to hear what you think.

And if you’ve decided that the mix of hope and infertility is no longer a positive one for you, here are some resources that might feel supportive, from the great organization Resolve.

Mixed Kids, Majority Parents, & the Globally Blended Family

The Full Version…

A modified version of this article appeared a while ago in the Wall Street Journal‘s Expat Blog, but I had to cut some important quotes and content, including some advice from interviewees that felt really helpful as a parent in a majority-majority couple raising a mixed child. So here’s the full piece as I originally wrote it:

Perhaps your child, like mine and many others in globally blended families, belongs to the world’s growing mixed population. The World Factbook finds a countable percentage of mixed-ethnicity people in almost a quarter of its 236 countries and territories. Among western nations, England’s and the U.S.’s mixed-race populations are increasing faster than any other minority group.

The “experiences and attitudes” of mixed adults “differ significantly,” finds the Pew Research Center, particularly given race and community context. But one key difference between many children of multinational families and other mixed people has remained largely unmentioned in English-language media and research.

My child is mixed but also has two biological parents without much clue what it feels like to be a minority as a kid. I’m American, raised with all the cultural privileges afforded to whites in the US, my husband is native Japanese, and we live in Greater Tokyo. My child is only two now, but in the future will likely experience joys and struggles shared among many multinational children yet absent from recent conversations about mixed-race kids.


Shweta Kulkarni Van Biesen, an Indian expat raising a family in Belgium with her native Belgian husband, expects her kids’ experiences to be “very different…Our children face bullying and exclusion lot more than we did.”

A growing body of English-language research does exist about minority kids with parents bred of majority privilege, although focused largely on transracial adoption of monoracial children and single-parent multiracial families. While these studies may offer important insights for families like Van Biesen’s, their relevance remains limited.

 Sharon H Chang, author of the book Raising Mixed Race and the blog Multiracial Asian Families, says the experiences of monoracial minorities and mixed-race people are like “apples and oranges.” “Monoracial people,” she stresses, “have not lived the experience of mixedness, no matter their minority or majority status, and therefore cannot claim to know it.”

Like many mixed-race kids—regardless of how their parents identify—Samuel Ahovi, raised in France by his white mother and Togolese father, says the hardest part was not fitting easily within the ethnic identity of either parent. But their childhood majority-privilege also mattered. “The role of parents,” he says, is to protect “their kids from everyday life obstacles, thanks to their [own] experiences. But being a minority…is something they never had to face as children.”

Chang found similar challenges within Asian-American families. Parents who grew up in Asia, like their white American counterparts, “often lacked a well of critical knowledge to navigate the…difficult webs of U.S. race and racism.” Alternately, parents who were minorities as children “were more likely to have… a critical analysis and tools for resilience” to pass along.

As Ahovi says, his parents “were giving us the best advice they could,” but “discovering it as they were giving it to us.”


Globe-trotting parents in multinational couples who grow up with majority privilege and then create mixed families may project a particularly problematic blend of tendencies, combining an openness to cultural differences on one hand with a blindness to the way race can play out both within families and throughout a broader community.

Hilary Duff, whose mother grew up in China and white father in Canada, cautions against ignoring ethnicity. “My parents didn’t focus at all on my cultural identity…I suspect this was because they wanted my brother and I to think we would be treated like any other kid. [But] we didn’t look like any other kids, and this affected us whether they wanted it or not.”


As with mixed-race people in general, experiences vary widely for children of globally blended couples—particularly given the wide range of races, cultures, and resources among the approximately 232 million people living outside their country of origin, as noted previously in the Wall Street Journal. Mixed-American Nilina Mason-Campbel says, “having a parent of color is…an important resource,” but in cultures like her father’s native Jamaica, black people, although technically majorities, are “secondary in their own country to white people…or those that are light-skinned.”

Others stress not just negatives, but also benefits of growing up multinational, mixed-race, and first-generation minority—another angle parents used to majority privilege might miss. (As I did: When I began this piece, I wondered only about the challenges facing my child. I soon realized one of the greatest might involve this slanted preconception.)

British blogger Philip Shigeo Brown recalls, “it was always somehow especially nice to meet other half-English, half-Japanese kids that you could relate to on so many levels, often without anything being said…’Shoes on or off?’ someone might ask. ‘Definitely off!’ everyone always agreed!”

American Eliaichi Sadikiel Kimaro, director of the award-winning documentary on mixed identity A lot Like You, says “race just wasn’t a factor” for her mother growing up in Seoul or her father on Mt Kilimanjaro. Her parents “had blind-spots when it came to race” she explains, “that both helped and hindered my own understanding…of racism’s impact on my life.”

Brown and others see a positive future for mixed children of multinational couples who grew up with majority privilege. “The world is getting smaller and more connected, facilitated hugely by the Internet and social networking,” he says, combatting isolation and forging “communities to talk to, share and learn from.” In a sentiment echoed by Brown and others, Duff urges globally blended parents to “embrace the duality of their child, and…teach them about their background[s]. Even if kids don’t entirely understand,” Duff urges, “they’ll appreciate it later.”

Still, others caution against expecting a one-sized-fits-all answer. Of his experience being an Asian-American child of white parents through adoption, author Matthew Salesses says people often look for universal “steps [to] follow to make everything turn out okay. There aren’t.”

The same may be true for mixed-race kids of many multinational couples. But surely beginning a conversation is a good place to start.

How Did You Know It Was Time To Stop?

I’ve been lucky to get close to a thousand personal emails from women who’ve visited this blog, women who’ve generously shared their stories and their hopes–and frequently their sadness–with me. Many have also asked me the same question: When did I know, or how did I decide, it was time to stop fertility treatments?

In my book, I wrote about how I dealt with this question, and how my answer ultimately–and with a huge dose of great luck–led to my natural pregnancy at 45 and the birth of my first child, a healthy baby girl who was born 4 months after I turned 46.

I also wrote about how it felt to mourn the child I believed at one point that I’d never meet, a strange mourning of missing what I never had, after spending almost everything I had inside me trying to achieve it.

For those of you struggling with this question now, I’m happy to offer here the part of the book where I write about all of this, in the hopes that, like so much of what’s already on this blog, it helps you feel less alone:


For God’s sake, you’re not going to get pregnant, Tracy,” my mother—never one to mince words—tried to level with me a few months later over Skype. She worried we were wasting precious time. Toru and I had stopped the IVF treatments, but I insisted we still try every month with ultrasounds and hormone support from the clinic, plus new twice-a-day injections of a blood thinner for a “clotting disorder” the clinic had diagnosed, which they claimed could cause early-state miscarriage. My stomach bloomed with red and purple welts, but I was undeterred.

My eldest sister said she cried for me, she was so sad that I wouldn’t have a child with Toru, but she also couldn’t understand why we didn’t “just adopt.” “I mean,” she said, “If you’re still not willing to do egg donation.” Both she and my mother pointed out that with adoption too, we might need to hurry, since many agencies had age cutoffs.


“A therapist once told me,” one woman wrote on my Over-40 online TTC forum, “that if what I wanted most in the world was to be a mother, then I would be one; I would find a way, no matter what.” The writer found deep comfort in this truth, and when I read her post, I admired her, but I knew that wasn’t true for me.

What I wanted most in the world was to be with Toru, and then to have his biological child.

When Toru had told me years before that he wasn’t open to either egg donation or adoption, I felt an unexpected sense of relief. Since adoption in Japan is so rare, I wasn’t surprised by his stance. But as we’d begun the process of trying to have a baby years before, I’d realized that my growing longing to parent our biological child didn’t necessarily translate into a yearning to be a parent in general.

By now, the experience of going through years of treatments had confirmed another surprising truth to me: just because we think we are open to certain possibilities in the abstract—like adoption—we never know where our true limits lie until we are faced with actual, lasting choices. Rational or not, I felt safest in my gut with the idea of a baby who was half Toru. I believed it would be harder for me not to bond with, not to love a child whose every cell contained half of him. And if Toru and I couldn’t make a baby together, I’d still rather be together and childless than a mother apart from him.

In any case, with my forty-fifth birthday now looming just past summer, the whole issue would become obsolete soon. We’d agreed we’d stop all medical treatment when I passed that milestone. Most fertility studies don’t even consider women giving birth at forty-five or beyond, when the average chance of a someone having a baby with her own eggs drop below one percent. The most recent U.S. National Health Statistics report’s definition of a woman of child-bearing age: one between fifteen and forty-four. I’d entered the territory of a statistical non-entity.


A few months later, I lay curled in bed past midnight, sobs shaking through my body. Toru lay beside me, wiping strands of wet hair from my cheeks. “You know,” he said, his steady eyes locking into place my teary ones, “If we can have baby, that would be like miracle,” he said. “But it will still only be like dessert, because you will always be main course.”

I couldn’t believe we weren’t ever going to meet our baby. It seemed both so obvious and so inconceivable. Another paradox I felt deeply carved into my body but still couldn’t quite wrap my head around: how I could mourn something I’d never even had, how to grieve the loss of something that had never actually existed. The tension between my fear of parenthood and my longing to have Toru’s baby began to transmute now into a kind of weird emotional torsion, a swirl of missing and nothingness, numbness and nostalgia.

But as my birthday came and went, I reminded myself of my enduring good luck in other ways, and I knew it was crucial to remember such a fact. The previous January, Toru and I had celebrated our fifth year of marriage, and we’d laughed when we remembered my original “three-year nuptial plan,” long forgotten once I’d gotten over my initial nerves. The night of our anniversary, sitting at our favorite Italian wine bar, bubbles rising in clear flutes, we’d toasted each other, and then Toru had turned momentarily serious. “Thank you for marrying with me these five years,” he’d said, and once again I couldn’t believe my luck that somehow we had found each other across cultures, continents, and half the world’s wide curve. I’d already gotten my most important wish: to be a family, with Toru.

I thought back to him telling me we were “together in always.” I had no idea where I was in my life, how I would start rebuilding after fixing my existence on a dream that now seemed dead, how I would emerge from the limbo of the past four years. But I realized finally that those years wouldn’t be wasted—and I wouldn’t even choose to do them differently, now that I knew their outcome—because they would stay a testament of our love for our baby, even if we never got to meet that baby. It was a testament that felt precious to me, despite the failures that accompanied it. Really, there was no better place to be, I knew, despite the sadness in my chest, than together where we’d been, and now where I was still, with Toru in always.


Excerpted from the book The Good Shufu: Finding Love, Self, and Home on the Far Side of the World (Putnam, 2015), by Tracy Slater.

More about Tracy is here.

Why It’s Not So Rare to Get Pregnant after 45

Hope for Older Women Trying for Healthy Babies

Current conversations about fertility are failing the millions of women world-wide who are over 40 and trying to get pregnant. When we talk about the best time to conceive or  how much fertility declines with age, we talk past a huge community of women who are hoping to become mothers after 40.

I remember the recurrent sorrow and crazy-making frustration of trying to get pregnant, starting when I was first ready to become a mother—not until I was 41—and lasting until I was lucky enough to conceive my first child at age 45. Our child was born when I was 46 and is, I’m incredibly grateful to report, now a healthy, happy 4 and a half year old. I also remember how unhelpful much of the discussion around fertility and age was, during those years when I was trying and failing to get pregnant or to carry a pregnancy to term, a time I’ve written about in my book, The Good Shufu.

Because here’s the thing: Women like these, and like I once was, are not in the position of deciding when to have a baby or whether they should try before reaching “advanced” or “very advanced maternal age.” The ship has sailed on that one. The reality is, they are already in their 40s, and the teeth-aching desire to meet and hold their baby has not declined with age.

Surprisingly, for women over 40 who want to conceive, the most relevant—and most hopeful—information isn’t even found where people usually look during discussions of fertility. Instead of focusing on studies comparing fertility at various ages or surveys of ART successes and failures, we should look to US census data on births and, perhaps paradoxically, to statistics on abortion, menopause, and sterility.

To be clear: I’m not arguing women should wait. I’m not arguing they shouldn’t. I’m saying that if a woman happens to be in her 40s and trying to conceive, she should know there actually is some hope, tempered though it may be. The chances are certainly smaller than when she was 25, and even 35. But that’s immaterial now. And it doesn’t by any stretch mean there is no chance. This point bears stressing and examining in the absence of comparisons with younger women.

Besides having given birth to a healthy baby conceive naturally when I was 45, I’ve also been unusually lucky to have heard from almost 1,000 women, aged 40+ who are trying to conceive or who are already pregnant and who have found me through this blog, then gone to my book’s website to contact me. I love hearing from all of you and am grateful to be privy to some of the uncensored thoughts, concerns, questions, and emotions being shared among this population.

Especially for those women 42 and older who get in touch, I hear frequently that they’ve either heard or just feel they have “no chance,” a “0%” likelihood of becoming mothers with their own eggs. A significant number also tell me they feel ashamed, have been told they’re “crazy” for thinking they might have a shot. These are the women I’m writing this for now. (And you go, ladies, for trying!)

Overlooked Stats Show Hope for Women 40+

Census statistics on live births & medical abortions According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016, there were 111,848 births, (1.1% of population) to women 40-44. This covers all births, not just births to women who were trying to conceive, suggesting that if all 40-44 year olds in 2016 tried to conceive every month, the percentage of women in this age group who’d had babies would be considerably higher. To women between 45-54 (with the great majority falling between 45-49), 9,025 babies were born.

Combining these stats with those on abortion in 2015 for the 40-44 age group, (20,962)–the latest age group and last year in which statistics were collected–and then dividing this number by 3 (accounting for expected 33% miscarriage rate in this age group), we could expect to add around 7,000 babies, totaling close to 120,000 births. This number would actually be a low estimate, since many miscarriages occur before scheduled abortion dates.

All together, we could expect between 125,000-130,000 live births in 2016 to women 40-49. Put into context, that’s a population of babies likely greater than the total population of most of our hometowns.

Perhaps most significantly, these statistics hold steady or decline only somewhat when viewing births before egg donation was available in the US (See births 1933-1998 @

Sterility & menopause According to a review of the literature pertaining to declining fertility with age, the likelihood of permanent sterility at age 40 is about 40% and at age 45 is about 80%, meaning one of out every five 45 year olds should be able to become pregnant at some point during their 45th year. As explained by executive director emeritus of the North American Menopause Society Dr. Marjory Gass, pregnancy even in the mid-to-late 40s is not impossible for most women. “Never assume, ‘Oh, I’m too old to get pregnant,’” Gass has said. “Unless you have gone a year without a period–the technical definition of menopause—pregnancy remains a possibility.”

Birth defects & miscarriage

I get a lot of questions over email and on this blog about whether getting pregnant in the 40s, especially in the mid-40s, guarantees a miscarriage or a child with a genetic abnormality. Many women, myself included, field questions from family members about whether it’s even wise to get pregnant or hope for a positive outcome given the dire statistics on Downs, etc., for older mothers.

When viewed from the perspective of high the risks are compared to pregnancy at 25, the numbers do look grim. But when viewed from the perspective solely of the chances for a healthy baby at various ages throughout the 40s, the numbers are much more hopeful (and again, relevant): “For women at 42 years of age, more than half of the intended pregnancies (54.5%) resulted in fetal loss…The risk of spontaneous abortion [was] 84.1% by the age of 48 years or older.” So yes, these are scary statistics, and they aren’t great, but they are better than many people fear and assume, especially if we look at them in reverse, from the perspective of a positive outcome rather than negative: a 45% chance of success for a 42-year old to carry a pregnancy to term, and even a 15% chance of success for a 48-year old. & : The estimated rate of all clinically significant cytogenetic abnormalities at age 40 is 15.8 per 1000, meaning we can expect between 98-99% of all babies will be born genetically healthy. For age 45, it’s 53.7 per 1000, or between 94-95% of babies. Even for women giving birth at 49, only 12.5% of babies will carry a genetic abnormality, meaning 87 out of every hundred babies will be born genetically average.

So if you’re out there now and are trying to conceive in your 40s, please know that I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts and hoping you have the same good luck I—and almost 9,000 other women aged 45-49 in the U.S. last year—had. And please know that I and thousands of other women are out there, pulling for you.

Note: For more about trying to get pregnant, you can also see An Honest Take at Getting Pregnant Naturally at 45Getting Through to Getting Pregnant at 45 and On Delivering My First Child at 46, other blog posts I wrote in the hopes of supporting people slogging through infertility, although some of the content from these is reproduced in this post.  Based on requests in the comment section of this blog and through email, I’ve started a new online group, New Mothers at 45 and Up, and I welcome you to join us there. Finally, if you’re still interested in my path to motherhood later in life, the story of how I met and fell in love with my husband and then went through years of IVF and finally got pregnant naturally, is in my book The Good Shufu

Navigating a Safe Pregnancy in Your 40s

I’m so touched by all the emails I get from women trying to conceive in their 40s and from people interested in pregnancy at a later age. One person I loved hearing from through this blog is reporter Kristine Crane, who writes about women and health for US News & World Report‘s Wellness section. Her latest piece is “Navigating a Safe Pregnancy in Your 40s,” and it starts with our story, then goes on to look at those of other women, couples, and doctors involved in later-life pregnancies and the quest to conceive in your 40s:

At age 45, Tracy Slater, an American expat writer living in Osaka, Japan, resigned herself to the fact that she might never be a mother. After a few years of failed fertility treatments and two miscarriages, she and her husband continued trying to have a baby – but shifted their focus to Slater’s husband’s dying father.

So when Slater developed what they assumed was a stomach bug, they figured she had picked it up at the hospital while visiting him. But it turned out she was seven weeks pregnant. “They already saw a heartbeat,” Slater says. “And I’d been drinking one or two glasses of wine a night, and a cup of coffee everyday.” In addition to drinking alcohol and caffeine – not advised for women trying to conceive – Slater was also overwhelmingly stressed over the prospect of losing her beloved father-in-law.

In other words, she was not in ideal fertile conditions – and yet, she had become pregnant. “I still have dreams they made a mistake. I still can’t believe I carried to term this healthy child,” says Slater, author of “The Good Shufu.”

While Slater’s outcome is certainly not the norm, and one she attributes to good luck, it’s increasingly common to see women in their 40s have successful pregnancies – through IVF, egg freezing, donor eggs or more rarely, as in Slater’s case, natural conception.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnancies among women in their 40s has increased by about 2 percent per year since 2000. In 2014, there were 10.6 pregnancies per 1,000 women in this age group.

Read the full article here at US News & World Report


When parents are in the majority, kids in the minority

Grateful to the Wall Street Journal‘s Expat Blog for publishing this piece focusing on some of the issues I’m trying to work out about race, privilege, and identity as a white parent married to a native Japanese man and raising a mixed-race child in Japan.

From ‘Blind Spots’ and Other Problems in Globally Blended Families:

As a woman in a multicultural, multinational, and multiracial couple, I’ve sensed how some people assume I must be uniquely open to cultural differences, and thus uniquely equipped to raise a mixed child. But this assumption betrays a flawed logic. Globe-trotting parents in mixed marriages who grew up in the majority may be aware of racism and may even have faced it themselves, but most still lack a deeper understanding of racism during a child’s formative years.

Read more in the Wall Street Journal online.

An Honest Take on Getting Pregnant Naturally at 45

If you’ve landed on this page after a random web-search, you aren’t alone.  The topics of “natural pregnancy at 45” and “getting pregnant at 45” draw more visitors than any other to this blog, I only have  few other posts on this whole blog solely devoted to trying to conceive in my 40s (a topic I also write about it my book), and together they’ve gotten almost a half-million views and have encouraged almost 1,000 women to reach out directly over email to share their stories, fears, and/or frustrations. So if you’ve landed here because you are struggling with infertility, I hope this post gives you some comfort and especially helps banish any guilt you may be feeling about what you are or are not doing to have a baby. Please know that although I (probably) don’t know you personally, I’m keeping you–and the many others out there struggling with trying to have a baby, especially at a later age in life–in my thoughts.

The Basic Story

I got pregnant naturally at 45 and a half, and I delivered a healthy baby four months after I turned 46, our first and only child. I conceived this child after more than four years of IVF and other fertility treatments in Japan, where we live and where my husband is from. During this 4 years, I’d had 2 miscarriages and a whole slew of diagnoses for my infertility.

“How did you get pregnant naturally at 45?” people often want to know. Here’s how, I’m assuming: We got really lucky.

My husband and I both longed for a child, but we didn’t consider using donor eggs or surrogates, because they are not approved in Japan, and because we desperately wanted a child that came from both of us biologically (a feeling I wrestled with and felt very conflicted over, but that was true, and that I wrote about for the New York Times). I’d been diagnosed with high FSH, a luteal phase defect, a blood-clotting disorder, low progesterone, and inconsistent ovulation. As well, of course, as being old. I tried acupuncture, herbs, fertility yoga, and multiple fertility diets and dietary restrictions to try to make my maternal age “younger.”

When I turned 45, we decided I’d stop all medical treatment, because the statistics on pregnancy at or past 45 with a woman’s own eggs were so dire. (My husband is 5 years younger and was in good procreative health, according to our doctors, so the issue was me, I felt sure.) I stopped all the fertility diets and acupuncture, too, as well as the special fertility yoga, although I continued to do regular yoga. I started drinking wine again and coffee whenever I wanted. I felt freer in some ways, but also very sad.

I had a deep, gnawing yearning to meet our baby, and I felt sure that our baby existed somewhere, but I was trying hard, after my 45th birthday, to adjust to the fact that I was probably never going to meet our baby or hold our baby, because of my age and all of the factors my doctors had said would prevent me from getting pregnant and giving birth to a healthy baby.

Still, my husband and I continued to try to monitor my body’s cycles and to try to conceive a child naturally, mostly because my husband is an optimist and he convinced me there was no reason not to keep trying, and I couldn’t find a reason to disagree with him exactly.

When I was 45, my father in law got very ill. I loved him deeply, and I spent every day at the hospital in Osaka with him. My husband and I were both stressed and sad and very, very tired, so when I thought I might be ovulating, we tried to conceive but were so exhausted and overwhelmed we only managed to try once or twice a month for a while.

But one of those months I got pregnant. And now our child is 2, and perfectly healthy.

How My Pregnancy Contradicted Some of the Myths or Rules You May Be Struggling With

I’d be lying if I told you now that I know how I got pregnant naturally and delivered a healthy child after I turned 46. And, no offense to anyone, but I’d guess that most people are lying–or at least are wrong–when they say they know the key to getting pregnant at an advanced age.

I tried really hard to be a good fertility patient–to eat the right foods and to avoid all the wrong ones, to stay healthy, to do the right things and not any of the wrong ones, etc.–and I always felt every month like I was failing. I was never 100% perfect with my diet, and of course I was never pregnant, or pregnant for long.

I can’t say for sure that none of the acupuncture or fertility exercise or diets I followed had no impact, because I did end up getting pregnant with a healthy baby eventually. But I wasn’t following any of this for at least six months before I ended up conceiving, so I certainly won’t say that any of these myths or rules proved true for me, either, at least not for the month I got pregnant and the half-year or so leading up to it:

  • If you’ve never had a child or carried a pregnancy to term, you can’t get pregnant naturally and deliver a healthy baby after you turn 45.
  • Drinking coffee will stop you from getting pregnant.
  • Drinking wine and/or beer will stop you from getting pregnant. I’ve never been a heavy drinker and I hardly ever have hard alcohol, but I drank a glass or two of wine or beer almost every night from my 45th birthday on, up until I was about six weeks pregnant–until the moment we learned I was pregnant, or actually about a week before that, when I started to feel nauseous (which at the time we attributed to a stomach bug I assumed I’d picked up visiting my father-in-law in the hospital).
  • Being stressed out will stop you from getting pregnant. As I write above, I got pregnant during one of the most stressful times of my life. And seriously, who isn’t stressed out when trying to conceive after, about, the first month or two of trying.
  • Thinking negative thoughts will stop you from getting pregnant. Let’s just say I’m not an optimist. I had negative thoughts all the time while I was trying to conceive and I always felt irked by the advice to think positively (more about this below). Struggling with infertility sucks and is incredibly hard, so go ahead and forgive yourself a negative thought or two–or two thousand.
  • You will get pregnant once you stop trying. As I write, we were still trying every month, just not with medical intervention anymore.

Resources & Ideas to Support You if You’re Trying to Conceive

Although I don’t know exactly how or why I got pregnant at 45, I do know what helped me get through my years of infertility and losses, and get through it with my marriage enough intact that my husband and I were still happy to keep trying naturally after my 45th birthday. In the hopes that some of these things may help or at least give solace to some of you, here they are:

  1. Accepting both the sadness and the freedom that corresponds with realizing I didn’t have much control at all over my own body: The number one thing that helped the most was actually something my dear friend Jenna said, which was roughly something like, “The most important thing to remember is that you have basically no control. Your body is just going to do its thing, and there is not much you can do to affect that one way or the other.” When she first said it, it sounded harsh and maybe even a little hopeless, but then when I thought about it, I realized both how true and also how freeing it was to accept that, for the most part, there was very little I could do to control–and thus very little I could do to ruin my chances of–getting pregnant. This may not be true for people who have structural impediments to conceiving or carrying a baby, but for many of us, whether or not our body produces a healthy egg and releases it at the right time and nurtures it the right way is something we cannot master. As I’ve mentioned, my doctors had so many reasons why I couldn’t produce or release or implant an egg normally without shots, pills, weeks of medical preparation, or another woman’s eggs, but in the end, my child’s first little cells formed, released, and took hold all by themselves. I didn’t even know about it until my child was 7 weeks past conception.
  2. Accepting some negative or sad thinking while balancing that with an effort to take good care of myself as much as possible. Plus a podcast: I could never deal with the “positive thinking” movement–something else I write about a bit in my memoir.  First of all, unbridled optimism just isn’t my thing. But even more than that, it felt crushing to me to force myself to think happy thoughts about how an embryo was implanting or how I’d be pushing my baby in a carriage soon, and then every month to not get pregnant again.But I was able to find a resource that helped me combat negative thinking, which in turn helped keep me grounded in a space that balanced honesty with the tough odds I was facing, with solace and assurance that I was doing everything I could to stay healthy–and that I could feel good about that. I used podcasts by Belleruth Naparstek (especially the ones on fertility, anxiety, and general well-being). I liked these because they didn’t force false hope down my throat but enabled me to focus on staying healthy, but I think you could use anything meditative and it would help.
  3. Keeping up with my yoga as much as possible: Related to this, I did yoga almost daily, sometimes fertility-centered yoga but mostly just whatever kind of yoga routine I felt like I needed to feel best at the moment. I’m not saying that helped me get pregnant physically–or emotionally, for that matter. Plenty of people do yoga and still don’t get pregnant, and arguments about doing certain kinds of exercise (or diets, or thinking regimens) in order to get pregnant are specious at best, I believe, and dishonest at worst. But the yoga helped keep me strong and as relaxed as possible (which of course wasn’t very relaxed at all, especially not during treatment).Perhaps most of all, when I turned 45 and started to try to accept that my odds of getting pregnant with my own eggs had statistically dwindled to zero, the yoga really helped provide solace while I mourned. It also left me feeling like I hadn’t completely lost 4+ years of my life to infertility, because one thing the experience had given me was the ability to do so many more yoga moves than I’d even been able to do before. That, of course, wasn’t nearly equal to the pain of thinking we’d never be able to meet our baby, but it was something I was still grateful for, and finding anything I could be grateful for, at that point, helped.
  4. Keeping my focus on the love in my marriage, and on how lucky I was to have found my husband–child or no–also really helped me. Even after my husband and I gave up trying medically, remembering my love for my husband enabled me to know that we would be OK, that I would be OK, even if we never got to meet our baby. This was hugely helpful especially as I started to mourn the idea of having a child, when I turned 45 and we stopped all medical treatments and I thought my chances were basically nil. And if I hadn’t been able to get through all this with our partnership intact, then essentially I would never have been able to have my baby, because we wouldn’t have still been trying naturally.

I tell the story of how long we waited for our child, and all the ups and downs this waiting entailed, in my book, The Good Shufu. But I post this now in the hope that it gives some comfort and encouragement to anyone who reads these words and is struggling to get pregnant or feels guilt about whether you are too stressed or doing the wrong thing to conceive. And I wish the same incredible good luck for you too.

Note: Based on requests in the comment section of this blog and through email, I’ve started a new online group, New Mothers at 45 and Up, and I welcome you to join me, and many other readers of this blog, there. 

The Unsung Benefits of Marrying a Man Who Isn’t Fluent in your Language

Fun at the Four Stories event at the Tokyo International Literary Festival 2016, where I answered questions about about multicultural, multilingual marriage; finding love in another world; and, of course, The Good Shufu!

Here, I’m sitting next to my Four Stories co-reader, Jake Adelstein, author of the knockout book Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan.