Advanced Maternal Age and Infertility
Our story this week comes from an anonymous contributor, who shares her story of navigating her desire for motherhood after age 40, and infertility. I appreciate her willingness to share—so honestly—her experiences.
I have a full life with three grown kids, a meaningful job, and some fun hobbies. I mean, I have forward motion. I don’t feel stuck or overwhelmed or emotional need. I just want to raise more children, with all of the stuff that comes with it —sleepless nights, pee, poop, vomit, sticky hugs, backtalk, serious talks about real life decisions, drama, etc. I would like to skip the real scary stuff, but it’s a package deal, so I’ll take it.
People tell me I’m crazy to want more children. Maybe it’s where we live. Locally, the classic scenario is that cis white, predominant religious culture couples are finished having children by age 30, or total 4, whichever comes first. The husband gets a vasectomy once the minivan purchase is made.
I’m older, but don’t feel finished, done, whatever that feeling is I’m told most women get that tells them they are finished with the childbearing part of life. When I got pregnant with my oldest, it was 2 weeks after I went off the pill. He was a year old when I became unexpectedly pregnant with #2, and #3 showed up when my oldest was 3 ½ and I was tandem nursing two kids.
Getting pregnant was easy. Cakewalk. My overwhelming fertility was a bit frightening and somewhat of a cautionary tale to others. That’s part of what makes this so much more difficult now. I’m grateful they all came so fast; I would not have #3 at all had we waited.
After not having any options in the childbearing department for years, I got remarried 4 ½ years ago and I just expected to get pregnant. I was—and am—healthy, my cycles are regular, so a baby is inevitable, right? No, not actually. As an over-40 mom, the odds of getting pregnant naturally are very low. Part of what drives the incredulousness of others that I could consider it is the fact that I am at higher risk for a child with a genetic anomaly. That’s real. There are lots of cautionary tales there too.
I’ve talked to multiple care providers who have laughed in my face about my desire for more children. There was the family practice doc who said how happy I should be getting close to menopause. My reply, “No actually, I want more children.” “Ha ha, at your age?” Then the acupuncturist, “You are almost done, why would you want more?” Then a lecture about possible genetic risks. The chiropractor was simply blunt: “You are how old? Not going to happen.” There have been others just as startled that what brought me to their office was not just to get generally healthy.
I’ve vacillated between telling them off, and breaking down crying in their offices. I haven’t done either. I’ve just sat there with a silent mouth and a wan smile. Stuffed the feelings and raged, or bawled, or both later. I just wanted help, options, recommendations for nutrition, chiropractic, acupuncture, surgery, alternative treatments, whatever magical water I needed to drink to get a baby here. Instead, I got derision, scorn, disbelief, rudeness, and age discrimination.
Some care providers have been compassionate. Some just held space. Three have actively worked with me in varying degrees. While my focus is getting healthier and maintaining a cycle, one care provider focuses on a “take home baby.” This involves lots of cash and decisions I don’t want to be forced to make. How far down the rabbit hole do I want to go? There’s some progress, but progress takes time, and difficulty in conceiving increases with time. There’s the constant thudding of that biological clock with every heartbeat. Sometimes, I feel like each heartbeat wrings it dry with the knowledge that some of the blood which sustains me, just ends up in the trash when trying to create another person.
Three and 1/2 years of actively trying. Nothing. Funny to say “nothing.” Here’s the skinny: I’m old. I have a short luteal phase. I’ve purchased lots of supplements and tests. I’ve had several invasive appointments, a conscious sedation procedure, involved lots of alternative medicine—some if it fairly weird to mainstream life—lots of tears, and oh yeah, bleeding. Lots of losing what should have been placentas down the toilet instead of growing a baby. At the end of the day, there’s still no child. Time and tide and fertility wait for no one.
Perhaps I just get a boring life.
How does one make their peace? Do they go for literally broke with tests and invasive procedures and moral dilemmas in search of a “take home baby?” High risk complicated pregnancies and NICU stays and long term sequelae abound in that scientific realm. As a birthworker, I know how often that can go bad. The older mother is treated like a time bomb with the only option being preterm cesarean birth. I don’t want to fight with medical providers who play the dead baby card, and I also I don’t want a baby with a host of problems related to my demands to get her here. I have no answers.
While all of that is going on, I’m actively working to make life better and easier for many local infants who are on their way earthside, or already here. I’m trying to be kinder to others and maintain flexibility, creativity, and gratitude in all that I do. I guess that’s all any of us can do.