Yes, Medically Speaking – You Are of “Advanced Maternal Age” Part 1

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Yes, during my second pregnancy I was what the medical field termed “advanced maternal age.” In other words: an old mom.

For those of you unfamiliar, in medical mommy world, you are considered of “advanced maternal age” when you reach the ripe old age of 35.

Now I was 34 when I got pregnant with my second child, and for three glorious months there was no mention of the above term; apparently, for those few months I was still just a typical mom, but as soon as my 35th birthday rolled around, I received much more than a cake. It was like I went from being an average mom to one who was old – literally overnight.

From then on at every appointment, I was reminded that I was of advanced maternal age.

All of a sudden, more appointments, tests, etc. were being added because of my age. It was almost as if the insurance wouldn’t cover anything extra until I hit this magical number, and once I hit 35, the extra appointments and tests were insane.

When I asked why I was receiving all of this sudden attention, the standard response was always – you are of advanced maternal age.

At least this is better than the older term (pun intended) “geriatric pregnancy”. That term makes me picture an elderly lady nursing who has a cane.

Now I understand that there are some risks when you become a mother later in life. And I feel that some of these tests were certainly necessary, but I also feel that they became a bit overly excessive at the end of my pregnancy.

I also admit that the constant reminders that I was of advanced maternal age made me irritable, and I still do not see the need to constantly throw around this semi-derogatory term. 

Additionally, I think that there are more factors to consider than just a woman’s age when it comes to pregnancy. I had a healthy first pregnancy, and every test during my second pregnancy I passed with flying colors.

There were no risks identified throughout; yet even up until the birth of my second child, I was barraged with extra appointments, tests, etc., and in spite of having insurance, I encountered numerous extra charges, and I could not help but wonder if it was all absolutely necessary.

So I did some digging, and it turns out that there are a lot of different takes on the subject.

I first stumbled upon these details on Evidence Based Birth.

It refers to previous studies that show having a baby with down syndrome at term increases from 1 in 939 at age 30, to 1 in 353 by age 35, and 1 in 85 by age 40.

Studies also found an increase in miscarriages in mothers who were 35 and older, but interestingly this number was not a significant increase from ages 30-35. At age 30 there is an 18% rate, and at 35, there is a 20% risk. At age 40, this doubles to a 40% rate.

Researchers point to the fact that most of these studies lump five years of women’s ages together.

So a 39-year-old-women’s risk factors were averaged with a 35-year-old-women’s risk factors. This is one reason why some experts are saying that not all advanced maternal pregnancies should be labeled as high risk and more factors should be considered than just age.

Science News explores this concept further in the article, “A Mother’s Age Doesn’t Matter, Studies Suggest.”

Laura Kenny, a mother who was labeled as a mother of advanced maternal age with her second pregnancy and also a writer for Self, experienced many of the same feelings I did and delved into the research too.

In her article, “Is Having a Baby Over 35 Really as Risky as We Thought?”, she stated this quote by Doctor Sarah K. Kilapatrick: “Age by itself should not be major criteria for a high-risk pregnancy. It’s really age plus whatever else is going on with that woman.”

After a little digging and reflection, my personal verdict is that some tests and screenings early on for pregnant women 35 and older can help identify risks and set up these women for healthier pregnancies, so I tend to be grateful for the extra care and attention I received during the first half of my pregnancy.

However, after numerous tests, and being deemed fine over and over again, I am still confused about the excessive appointments and tests towards the end of my pregnancy. For example, the non-stress test, which only resulted in extra stress that I didn’t need.

I will delve into this and more next week in Part 2 of Yes, Medically Speaking I am of “Advanced Maternal Age.”

Suggested Further Reading

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

What to Expect Before You’re Expecting: The Complete Guide to Getting Pregnant

Recommended Product:

The Velociraptor of Guilt Shows Its Head Again During Maternity Leave

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I have a difficult time relaxing.

Ever since I was a child, I had to be constantly doing something mental or physical. I have numerous memories of being on vacation with my parents, and they just wanted to take a justifiable breath and relax, but I always had other plans.

“What are we doing today? I’m bored. Let’s go!”
I was so so that kid.

My parents figured out how to keep me entertained with books, crafts, and an uncanny obsession with 3-2-1 Contact and The Wizard of Oz, but as a parent now, I can only imagine how much of an annoying little kid I must have been: intuitive or not.

I would have driven my own adult self – crazy.

This preface relates to my situation right now. For the last two months leading up to my second son’s birth, I was basically working double time as a teacher while writing approximately 12,000 words a week.

I felt that I had to do this in order to save for a month of maternity leave and because I was about to stop teaching to write and stay home with my two children.

Anyhow, I successfully was able to save for a month of maternity leave while also convincing my writing clients to give me this break and making sure I had more than enough ongoing work to help pay the bills after a month of leave.

It should be known that I worked my tail off to make this all possible, and it took tremendous determination, organization, and discipline to pull it all off.

Although it really shouldn’t be anyone’s business how I made it justifiably happen, I still find myself constantly feeling the need to defend myself even when people who genuinely know me know that I am intelligent and analytical when making life-changing decisions, and outsiders have no idea about the full context of my situation.

But again, I digress.

The point is that I am currently on a month leave, and just like that little redheaded girl on vacation, I am having a difficult time relaxing. I have felt tempted to write thousands of words again, and even though I have more than enough work for when my month ends, I find myself scouring Upwork for more writing jobs.

It is almost like I have an addiction to the challenge of obtaining them.

Many people in my life have told me that I need to learn to relax. My husband (also my complete balancing opposite) tells me to chill quite frequently. I apparently have issues with “chilling”.

Although I know how incredibly important it is to bond and relax with my newborn son, and although I am more than aware that I earned this time, I still feel like a restless little kid, and I also feel guilty.

Yes, the guilt always manages to shine through and peep its ugly velociraptor head through the door.

The funny thing is that I see a lot less of this velociraptor lately.

I used to see him everywhere: creeping in the shower, on my morning commutes, on my computer, etc.

He used to be all around, but I do feel I have somewhat tamed the beast, even though he is still there, drooling with his sharp fangs – beckoning me to come closer.

The truth is that although my children are my world, It’s hard being a mom in today’s world.

You are damned if you work and damned if you don’t and damned if you compromise.

You are damned if you breastfeed or use formula.

You are damned if you go a mile a minute or move at a slower pace.

Everyone seems to be an “expert” and everywhere you look you seem to be damned.

The question I ask myself now is how come I feel so damned after I found a way to take care of me?

Here lies the problem.

Part of this is my own fault. I am still that restless little kid who always needs something to do, but the unrealistic societal expectations are also contributors.

Why is it that so many women feel that whatever they choose, they just can’t win?

I, for one, don’t get it.

Here is my take: Do what works for you and your family. After all, you know yourself and them best.

As long as you are doing your best, loving yourself and your family, and causing no pain, who am I to judge?

Even I have had to accept that there is more than one right way to raise a child.

So today I am going to send my two-year-old to daycare (we have in him there for another month), and I am going to lie on the couch, kick my feet up, and put my newborn on my chest, and I am going to binge watch Girl Boss on Netflix.

I do not care to hear any opinions on this decision, and when the snarling velociraptor peers at me from my living room corner, I am going to chuck a rattle at him and watch as he temporarily disappears for a couple of hours.

I am going to force myself to relax until the urge to do the laundry, clean the kitchen, and search for more writing jobs takes over again.

Further Suggested Reading

Maternity Leave: A Novel

The Wise Mama Guide to Maternity Leave: Avoid Burnout, “Bad Mom Syndrome,” and Other Common Pitfalls of Motherhood

 Leave Guilt (thisbrightonmum.com)

 

Second Birth: More Like Being Plowed with a Bike Instead of a Mack Truck

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It’s now been nine days since I gave birth to my second son, Liam. Although it has not been long, my experience so far has been much different than I anticipated.

For one, I was terrified how my older son would react to Liam, as explained in my last post. I feared my older son, Parker, would have major freak outs, meltdowns, and jealous tantrums, but I have lucked out so far, and Parker has been more of a helper, fetching blankets and diapers and making me more than aware when the baby cries for even two seconds. He also kisses Liam’s head and pats his back to burp him.

I feel like I lucked out, but yes, there are also moments when Parker wants me to hold him while I am nursing Liam: this, of course, is an impossible feat. Sometimes Parker also tells me to put Liam in the Rock ‘n Play so he can play with me, and he gives me the lip curl of sadness if I do not abide.

These moments do tug at my heartstrings because although Parker is adjusting much better than I could have anticipated, he is still adjusting. And even though he undoubtedly cares deeply for this new little human in the family, he also is dealing with a loss of the way life once was. So yes, I feel lucky that Parker seems to be excited about his new baby brother, but I also know that there are a lot of emotions that he probably doesn’t understand about the whole situation.

I also want to mention that Parker doesn’t quite understand that he can’t pick up the baby on his own. He needs to be constantly supervised around Liam or else he tries to feed him pizza, offer him his toy cars, or give him a pillow (I no longer turn my back for even 10 seconds). None of these behaviors are malicious, in fact, they are actually endearing, for Parker doesn’t understand that the last things Liam needs right now are a slice of pizza and a pillow. 

But overall, I am blessed and incredibly fortunate for my little family. This time around I feel more rested, less anxiety, and more of a sense of calmness than I did the first time around. I was not expecting this.

I was a train wreck after Parker was born. This was not his fault; I just had no idea what I was getting into after the birth of my first child. Everything was new, uncertain, and somewhat terrifying. I mean I used to sometimes poke the poor kid in the middle of the night just to make sure he was breathing; I do not do this with Liam. I am just more relaxed, and my demeanor is more peaceful (for now).

Don’t get me wrong, I am tired, and my first outing with a newborn and toddler in the car (outnumbering me) was a bit terrifying, but I have a tendency to always prepare myself for the worst, and so far, I am grateful that I actually do not feel like I have been hit by a Mack Truck and spewed out onto the highway. 

I just feel like I have been plowed over by a bike, and this I can deal with, but I am also well aware that variables rarely stay constant with parenting, so check-in with me again next week.

Further Suggested Reading

SECOND LABOR: Mothers Share POST-Birth Stories: Twenty-Four Mothers Write Bold, Honest Accounts About Life with a Newborn 

The Second Baby Survival Guide

Why Having Babies Close Together is not as Hard as You Think

Just Go With It (Concerned about Your Firstborn as You Are About to Pop with Your Second Little Bean)

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Note: Soon after writing this post, I did, indeed, pop. Liam was born two days ago, and we are doing splendidly. He will meet Parker this afternoon. More updates to come, but for now, let’s go back in time:

As I write this, I am 39 weeks pregnant and feeling like I am about to pop any day now. I have been taking advantage of the extra time I was able to spend with my two-year-old son, Parker before baby Liam makes his appearance into this world.

I treasure the moments my first born son says, “Mommy hold me,” or when he hands me rocks on our morning walks.

Lately, as I watch Parker, I frequently wonder how he is going to react to a new baby brother. He is such a mama’s boy, and I sometimes feel that he understands more about what is going on than we give him credit for.

The other day, he put his hand on my stomach and said, “Baby coming soon,” which is what I have been telling him, but afterward, I swear I heard him say, “Don’t have him.” It was so quick that I am thinking maybe I misinterpreted his toddler jargon…or not. Either way, Liam is coming soon, and I am aware that our well-constructed routine is about to go haywire.

Although I am so excited about the upcoming birth of my second son, I also know that our worlds will never be the same and so much is about to change.

I think these thoughts as Parker crawls upon me and says, “I’m your monkey,” which quickly changes to him lying in my arms and saying, “I’m your baby.” This is a comment that he only started around a month ago, and again, I wonder if he is just being a funny little boy or if he knows something more.

I have heard various stories about how siblings react to a new baby. My mom loves telling the story about how I used to throw toys at my baby brother while he was nursing. Now I was only 18 months old, but this image of me, as a red-headed toddler, chucking toys at a baby’s head is an interesting one.

On the other hand, I have heard stories about children who loved their new sibling from the start and never wanted to leave their new sibling’s side.

The truth is, I have no idea how Mr. Parker is going to react, and this is just another aspect of motherhood that is beyond my control.

We do the best we can to love our children and do what we feel is best for them, and sometimes we just have to go with the flow and catch the pieces as they fall.

Lately, I have felt incredibly blessed. I can say, without a doubt, that I am happy. I am able to spend more time with my children while also maintaining my sense of self through writing and editing.

It is a time in my life when I took a leap, and things seemed to fall into place; however, I am well aware that I am in for a change, and it is going to be a crazy balancing act with two children in tow, while also working from home. I am well aware that it is not going to be all fairies and unicorns.

No one ever said it was ever going to be easy.

I have made my life simpler, and I have finally looked out for my own well-being more than I have in the past, but I am still aware that there are some adjustments to come, and only so many preparations can be made until you have to wait and let the chips fall where they may.

When Parker was born, my life changed in the most profound way, and I cannot even describe that change with words.

I have a feeling the arrival of Liam will feel the same on many levels, and my husband and I will adjust to this new, blessed life, just like we did before. It may take some time, but eventually, Parker will adjust too.

Like I mentioned before, sometimes you just have to go with it and let the chips fall where they may.

Suggestions for further reading:

Here is a blog post I wrote for Peace Quarters on how to raise resilient children.

Twice Blessed:Everything You Need to Know About Having a Second Child. Preparing Yourself, Your Marriage, and Your First Born for a Family of Four by Joan Leanard–This book is the best book I read about how to prepare for a second child.

I’m a Big Brother by Joanna Cole–This is the book we read to Parker about adding a baby to the family.

Cruise Control

The decision to quit my teaching job and stay home was one of the most thought out and analyzed decisions I have ever made in my 35 years of life. With one week left until I begin working at home part-time and being a stay-at-home mother, I reflect on leaving a career I love and a job I am good at, while still reaffirming that this is what is best for me.

I have trouble with uncertainty. I am one of those people who always seems to have a plan. But teaching has taught me that sometimes plans can go awry, and there are many times you have to just go with your gut. In many ways, teaching has made me a better person and enriched my life. My students have taught me more than many adults ever could.

One day, I may indeed return to this incredible yet intense career, but for now, I have to take a leap. I am excited to say that this leap has already resulted in some amazing writing opportunities for me, and we are going to be just fine.

But this poem occurred before all of this. This poem is about the personal epiphany that I needed to make a change. It was when I realized that I just was not a person who could strike a healthy balance with what I currently had on my plate.

It is about a moment that was flooded with emotions: recognition, fear, uncertainty…But it was also a freeing moment, in which I had an immense amount of faith. Deep in my gut, I knew it would work out. Deep in my gut, I knew I could create options.

It was a scary, yet freeing moment when I had to push aside the thoughts and views of others and put my personal well-being first, and it all occurred on a drive home.

I was, indeed, coasting along in cruise control. This poem is about figuring out that if I didn’t start paying attention soon, I was going to keep on missing the miles.

I hope you enjoy the poem and please share and comment below.

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Cruise Control

There are spans of time when we are on cruise control.

We weave around corners; we follow the line.
We rarely gaze out the window at the mountainous edges below.

We wander the speed zones;
we relish the mode.

Sometimes–
we even forget we are driving.

Then, one morning, the pattern transpires:
a silhouette across the road, a bellowing horn, a flickering headlight.

We are immediately jerked into a wakeful oblivion.

We slam on the brakes and begin questioning everything.

We contemplate the loss of time, like trickling sand through clenched fists.

And the epiphany becomes very real, although we have been harboring it all along.

Suddenly, we notice more:
the streaks of sunset in the rearview mirror,
the ocean-
on our way home.

More suggested readings:

Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe

One Mother’s Crazy Pregnancy Craving For Eggs: An Irrational Moment Her Husband Will Always Remember

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I had a majorly irrational pregnancy moment today. It all started with a craving: eggs.

I wanted eggs, and I know that there are arguments about whether pregnancy cravings are purely psychological or scientifically based, but I am telling you now: this morning, I wanted eggs.

And not just any eggs, McDonald’s scrambled, delicious eggs.

These eggs were at the forefront of my mind. Sure, I wanted some pancakes and sausage too, the whole little platter deal they do, but above all–I. Wanted. Eggs.

These cravings do not strike often, but when they do, there is nothing that will stop me from obtaining what I want. It is like this magnetic force within me and can be quite scary.

My husband generously offered to go get us breakfast. ‘Perfect honey, I have other stuff to do. This is wonderful,’ I thought, ‘he will get my eggs.’

I hopped on my computer, did my weekend writing, and waited eagerly for his arrival.

Twenty minutes rolled by, and I heard the door, ‘My eggs!’ I thought, ‘finally!’

My husband strolled in, and he was proud of himself. “Here’s your ketchup, your pancakes, your sausage, your syrup, and some extra napkins,” he said handing it all to me.

“And my eggs?” I looked in the bag, I looked under the bag, I looked behind the bag, but I could see no eggs.

My husband was quiet.

“Did you really forget my eggs?!”

I am not sure what he said at this point for my mind was so caught up on eggs. I think he might have been quiet or maybe he said something like, “Darn it!” Honestly, I cannot remember.

I am telling you, I was irrationally thinking about eggs.

Finally, he said he would cook me some; this of course was a sweet gesture, and despite the craving being for McDonald’s eggs, I appreciated and accepted this offer.

One problem. What was the one thing we were out of? EGGS!

This was the tipping point. I got up and snagged my keys and purse.

My husband thought I was crazy, and I agree, I was.

“Are you really going all the way back there to get eggs?” he asked.

“Yes, you don’t understand! That was the one major thing I wanted, and I know it is insane, but it is on my mind, and I need to go get them.”

You could tell my poor husband was feeling bad, and so then I started to feel for him: “I am not mad at you. I know you tried. I am just very angry at the situation, and I know it is crazy, but I have to go!”

And with that, I huffed out of the house to go get my eggs.

Fast forward fifteen minutes later to Mcdonalds:

I am in the drive-thru line: “Hello, how may I help you, do you want our special of chicken tenders?”

‘No!’ I think to myself, ‘I just want some damn eggs!’

But I held my composure until I realized I had completely lost track of time.

“Umm, are you still serving breakfast?” I asked.

“No, we just stopped serving, ma’am.”

At this moment you know what I thought of? Romeo and Juliet. Yes, I know this sounds like a weird connection, but I had just taught my students a lesson on how one major theme in Romeo and Juliet is fate versus free will.

In that same class, we had a long discussion, in which we talked about what the quote “star-crossed lovers” meant.

We finally came to the conclusion that it meant that their love was doomed from the start, and it just wasn’t meant to be.

This was what was happening with my eggs. The universe was toying with me, but I remembered that we also spoke about the power of free will and how you can take destiny into your own hands.

I took a breath, and I pulled the pregnancy card. It was a desperate moment in time.

“I’m pregnant, and my husband went to get breakfast, and he forgot the eggs. It was an accident, but I need those eggs. Are there even just a couple left? I will pay extra.”

The lady laughed. “You’re in luck,” she said, “we can do that for you.”

I told her how grateful I was through the rusting speaker.

When I picked up my eggs at the next window, the lady said with a smile, “It happens. You ain’t’ the first one honey.”

I found this hilarious, and it made me feel a little less fanatical, although, by that point, I was well aware that I was not thinking rationally about these eggs.

When I got home, I told my husband all was well. I made sure to tell him that I did appreciate his efforts, but for the duration of the pregnancy, he might want to write a list.

We ended up laughing about it, and I told him that I was well aware that the egg craving had taken me straight to crazy town.

Then, I sat down and busted open the most delicious, fluffy, beautiful eggs that I have ever seen and all balance was restored.

 

Mommy Guilt and The Flu: How One Mother Deals With Her Sick Kids And Working

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My son had the flu again not too long ago. In his two years of life, he has had it two-three times, and the number of liquids that are capable of coming out of that child never ceases to astound me.

Before becoming a parent, I had no idea how often young kids got sick. My son had a trifecta of petri dishes coming at him from the time he was 7-weeks-old. I was a school teacher, my husband a custodian, and he was in daycare.

Germs were coming from everywhere.

For those first few months of daycare, it seemed like my son was sick every couple of weeks. Although this certainly wasn’t his fault, these illnesses were difficult to deal with while working.

I was fortunate to work in a very supportive school, but it’s still stressful when you receive a phone call in the middle of eighth grade English informing you that your son has a fever and is vomiting.

As a new mother, these moments used to make me panicked and guilt-stricken. Panicked, because I had twenty-five needy middle schoolers staring at me, and guilt-stricken, because I wasn’t there with my son.

Immediately, I would hop on the phone and see if my mom were available, or see if my husband could take on a couple of hours before I could make it home, and sometimes I told my boss that I just had to leave.

Thankfully, she was always understanding, and it was me that beat myself up more than my actual employers.

Then an appointment would usually take place, and they would sometimes tell me my son couldn’t go back to daycare for days.

The phone calls would begin again. If I went back to work, I felt guilty, and if I stayed home, I felt guilty. I equate these feelings to a dog’s cheap chew toy—constantly torn.

Then he would recover, and before I knew it, it seemed like I was receiving notice of another sickness.

What a rollercoaster, but as my son got older, he built immunities, and it got better.

But on this particular Friday, the flu happened, and it was a weekend of vomit, poop, boogers, Tylenol, and cuddles.

The guilt, once again, ensued.

This is one of many reasons why I decided to stay home after the birth of my second son. For me, it just wasn’t working.

Unlike other amazing mothers I knew, I just was not capable of striking a healthy balance.

I wanted to give 120% to teaching and 120% to my son, and the fact that I couldn’t, often tore me apart, because eventually, I knew that both areas were not receiving even 100% of me, in fact, they were both beginning to receive a lot less.

I knew, with a second child on the way, it was only a matter of time before this weight would devour me.

My personality does not handle guilt well, and I always felt like I was letting someone down. I knew I had to be creative and find a way to make a change.

As I reiterated in numerous other posts, we must go with our instincts and go with what is best for us. What works for me may not work for you, and that is okay, and vice versa.

So, during this weekend, when my son was weakly laying in my arms, saying, “I love you, mommy,” nasty liquids and all, I was just happy to be there.

And for once, I didn’t think about anything else.

 

Suggested Further Reading:

Why All of This Mom Guilt? By Jennifer S. White

Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most, and Raise Happier Kids  By Julie Bort

Lose That Mommy Guilt: Tales and Tips From an Imperfect Mom By Cara Maksimow