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.