Name: Carolyn Schweitzer
Current Resident: Massachusetts
Child’s name and age: Adam age 6
Current or former profession: Family Dentist
Were you trying to get pregnant and did you have any difficulty conceiving?
My husband and I had been together for 7 years when I quit my career due to stress and illness. I figured it was time for a break. We’d been pretty lax about birth control, but had never had an “accident”. See, I hadn’t wanted kids while I had my dental practice. I never thought I’d be able to juggle child rearing and business ownership and wasn’t having strong yearnings for children.
So at 43 I stepped away from my career, and we thought, why not see if we could have a child?Tests showed that we had all the right parts and in working order, but due to my age my chances were pretty much slim to none that I had any viable eggs left.
I’d had enough of stress and emotional roller coasters in my life. I didn’t want to get on another one with IVF and other ART’s. So we went home and got on with our lives. We figured we wouldn’t prevent pregnancy, but that’s about all the “trying” we did. Eighteen months later, I had the surprise of my life.
What did you do or not do to increase your chances of getting pregnant after 35?
I’ve never smoked and once my college and graduate school days were over, I was pretty much done with drinking and “partying” as well, just the occasional glass of beer or wine. I’ve always needed regular exercise to fight a tendency toward depression, but I switched my routine and made it less rigorous. I changed how I ate, slept, and even my attitude toward life. There’s a lot more detail to what I did, but I’m convinced that in my efforts to achieve health and balance I also set the stage for a healthy pregnancy. And even though I’ve mentioned I drank only occasionally, Adam was actually conceived over a miniature bottle of white wine!
How supportive were your doctors during your pregnancy?
My OB GYN was supportive but I noticed she was a little guarded with her enthusiasm. It wasn’t until the first round of genetic testing came back normal that she seemed to get really excited. At the time, I knew nothing about the statistics and simply felt confident that I would have a normal pregnancy and a healthy baby. (I was right!)
Did you change doctors or would like to have changed doctors?
Yes, in retrospect I would have chosen differently. You’ll see why later.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS
What was the reaction of friends and family when you told them about your pregnancy?
Let’s put it this way: For each friend and family member I phoned with my news, I asked the same question: “What’s the last thing you’d ever expect to hear me to say?” To a man (or woman), everyone replied “you’re pregnant!” They were all thrilled, especially my parents. My mother always thought I’d regret not having kids and my father was just dying to be a grandpa.
LABOR AND DELIVERY
Did you take any childbirth classes? Why or why not?
Just the one class recommended by my doctor. We took the all day class on a Saturday so my husband wouldn’t have to miss work. Although I’d had no worries up to that point, the videos of childbirth terrified me!
Where did you give birth and what do you remember most about the birth experience?
I gave birth at the hospital. Due to my age, a home birth was not recommended nor would I have wanted one. I knew I’d need anesthesia. And due to my size (I’m 5’5″, built narrow, and my non-pregnant weight is around 120lbs) I feared I wouldn’t be able to push him out.
As for the childbirth experience, that’s quite a story. I went into full labor three days after my due date, around 11:30pm. There hadn’t been a single hiccup or twitch up until then. We got to the hospital around an hour later. My Obgyn wasn’t on call so I got her partner, a male doctor. (Not my preference). He didn’t even come to say “hello” or check on me for quite some time.
It took 10 hours to reach the ideal of 10 centimeters dilation, which is normal. I was on my back the whole time — not what they’d shown me in the childbirth videos.
Then there was the problem with anesthesia. At a certain point a “Foley catheter” had to be inserted, but as soon as it was placed, I felt like I had the worst urinary tract infection you could imagine. Waves of pain with every contraction!
The anesthesiologist could only get me comfortable for about a half hour at a time and the pain returned. Even the head of the department had no better success. So after what seemed like hours of this, it was time to push. I’d been doing yoga right up til the last month of pregnancy. I was ready.
I pushed in vain. The OB was trying to get a bit of cervical tissue “out of the way” and it seemed like he was using his entire fist to get to it. He kept saying, “you’re going to have this baby”. He didn’t want the C-section.
But at 18 hours there was no choice; meconium (baby poop!) had entered the amniotic fluid and I had a fever.
The C-section was performed by both the male partner and my regular Obgyn. She’d been called in to help with the surgery. The two of them chatted about their weekend plans and their golf game as they worked, never once stopping to tell me that everything was going fine.
Later, my husband filled me in on the details: I’d been pushing for so long that our baby was wedged tightly, far down the birth canal. Hubby said it looked as though they were doing violence to me and the baby as they pushed, pulled, and pressed until they could get him out through the incision. Necessary,but frightening for him to watch.
Finally, out he came and the female doctor told me that my boy was one of the most beautiful babies she’d ever seen. Right after, an attending nurse announced, “he doesn’t look a thing like you!” Gee, thanks.
What concerns you most about being a mom over 35 and how do you compensate for your concern?
Of course, I worry about fitting in with the younger moms and I don’t want to look like a grandma. So I color my hair, get to bed early, exercise regularly and try to eat a healthy diet. I want to be around as long as possible for Adam. Staying healthy and active is the best way to do that!
What do you enjoy about being an older mom and how has becoming a mom changed you?
I’m a much better person for it. Kinder, more maternal. I can relate to people on all kinds of levels now. I can relate to the young moms, as we’re all parents. I can relate to women in midlife since I’m going through menopause. I can even relate to the seniors as I find myself starting to deal with some of the issues that come with age. (I’m now 52).
But what’s best about being an older mom is how much I appreciate the chance I’ve been given to be a parent. I remind myself that every moment with my son is fleeting and precious. I love being able to see life anew through the eyes of a child while offering him the wisdom of my advancing years.
What advice do you have for women considering motherhood after 35?
Go for it! Just be aware that your energy reserves aren’t what they used to be, and you’ll need to compensate for that. Start getting healthy at least 120 days before you intend to get pregnant. By 8 weeks in utero, the baby’s health blueprint is already mapped out.