Name: Rachel Demas
Age when you gave birth: 44
State of residence: New York
Child’s name: Claire
Current profession: Freelance Writer/Editor
How long were you trying to get pregnant?
We tried for about a year and a half. I got pregnant fairly quickly for the first time, but had a miscarriage at 13 weeks. We followed our doctor’s advice, and took about a six month break after my miscarriage. I got pregnant a second time about two months after we started trying again, but I lost that pregnancy at five weeks. We didn’t wait following that loss, and I became pregnant with our daughter, Claire, around three months later.
What did you do or not do to increase your chances of getting pregnant after 40?
I went to a fertility specialist to make sure everything was in working order. The doctor said that I checked out fine. In fact, he practically gushed when he saw how many eggs I had on the ultrasound. He told me that he had thirty-year-old patients who would be quote “jealous” of my “egg supply”. While I was happy to hear the good news, his comment also made me really uncomfortable. I wish that he had managed to relay that information in a manner that was more matter-of-fact.
How supportive were your doctors during your pregnancy?
In general, I think the term “geriatric pregnancy” needs to go. I found that the medical community has a tendency to lead with that age-based assessment, and see you through this lens throughout your pregnancy. Specifically, though, I felt incredibly supported by the midwife, Barri Malek, who delivered our baby. The unfortunate thing was that there were four midwives in the practice, and I saw each of them during routine check-ups. I didn’t feel as supported by them, because they could be quite doom and gloom about all of the complications that can happen when you are pregnant past a certain age (none of the complications happened to my baby or me).
My husband and I were hoping that Barri would deliver our baby, because of her positive attitude. But we weren’t able to choose a specific midwife from the practice. Basically, the policy at the birthing center was that when a woman goes into labor, the midwife who is on duty that week delivers her baby.
Indeed, we hit the jackpot and went into labor when Barri was on duty. My labor went like clockwork (eight hours), but we had two complications during delivery (neither of which was likely due to my age). Claire had a shoulder dystocia, which Barri nimbly fixed with no harm to our daughter. More concerning, I had a postpartum hemorrhage, which could have been life-threatening. I lost about two liters of blood.
Barri stopped the bleeding, and I feel that I owe my life to her. Later, she told me that she attributes her expertise in postpartum hemorrhages to her time spent delivering babies in Indonesia, something I highly doubt many traditional doctors could boast.
Did you change doctors or would like to have changed doctors? Why or why not?
I was originally with an obstetrician, who referred to me as a “geriatric pregnancy” at our first appointment. I wasn’t thrilled with our rapport with her, but she seemed smart, knowledgeable and experienced. We went to her until I was eight months pregnant, when we decided to look elsewhere. It was not a decision that my husband and I took lightly, but I was committed to having a natural birth if I was able with as few interventions as possible, and we came to feel that our obstetrician would not be as amenable to this idea as we had originally thought. It was hard to be so close to the end of my pregnancy without having everything in place (or a place to go. I joked that I felt like Mary looking for a place at the inn!)
But at my eight month check-up, my husband and I asked our obstetrician if we could start talking about a birth plan. At the mere mention of the words “birth plan”, she became incredibly strident. Before we could even get into any specifics about what we had in mind, she told us that quote “she was the captain of the ship” and that “if we didn’t like that, we could leave her practice now.” The thought bubble over my head was “I thought the baby was the captain of the ship not you”. But I didn’t see the point of getting into an argument with someone who, clearly, had ideas that were different from ours, so I said ok and left.
That day, I started looking for another place to give birth. I found a birthing center, which was farther away from our house than we had wanted. But it turned out to be the best decision we have ever made, because I was able to give birth to my daughter naturally like I had wanted.
It’s funny how situations that are extremely stressful and trying can sometimes end up being the best thing that could have ever happened to you! I have ended up feeling thankful to the obstetrician for, basically, giving us the boot from her practice! Also, I attribute my willingness to leave her practice to the wisdom of age.
As I have grown older, I have learned to trust my own instincts and to push through the fear of not knowing what was going to happen. I think that, if I had been a younger version of myself, I probably would have believed that the doctor knew best and stayed with her out of fear of making a wrong decision.
What was the reaction of friends and family when you told me about your pregnancy?
Everyone was extremely thrilled.
LABOR AND DELIVERY
What do you remember most about the birth experience?
Of course, seeing my baby for the first time was the most memorable and amazing part of giving birth. Probably every woman feels that way, but it has special meaning when you become a mom after a certain age. You aren’t given much hope that you will have a baby, so you have a tremendous sense of God’s grace in this gift. Also, when you are pregnant after a certain age, you are told that there can and probably will be complications from beginning to end. Until you see your baby for the first time, you aren’t sure whether you or your baby will be a casualty of poor statistics. So when I saw Claire, it was a moment of great joy about life’s abundance and the power of surrendering to the unknown, as well as incredible relief that we had made it safely to the end.
I’M A MOM
What concerns you most about being a mom over 35 and how do you address these concerns?
I definitely have less energy than I did when I was in my 20’s or early 30’s. I think I am a more tired mom than I would have been, if I had had my daughter earlier. I have an earlier bedtime now, so that I feel rested enough to keep up with my busy, busy daughter! I also worry about how old I will be when she is in high school and beyond. Watching her grow and learn and experience life is the greatest joy I have ever had. I, greedily, want to go on seeing her life unfold for as long as I can. I know that, at some point, I will leave this earth and leave her. Odds are that it will be much earlier than I would like. But, really, no one has guarantees, so I try to live each day without dwelling on my mortality too much. Some days it’s easier than others to do so!
What do you enjoy most about being an older mom?
I have more of a sense of self now than I did when I was younger. I feel more grounded, which allows me to let my relationship with Claire be more about what’s best for her than what I want or need. Basically, I like to think of it like a tree. I am firmly planted in the ground, yet, when the wind blows, I am flexible and can bend. When I was younger, there would have been a greater chance that I would have just plain old broke! I’m by no means a “grand old oak”, but I’m trying!
How has becoming a mom changed you?
Being a mom requires an amount of sacrifice that I’ve never experienced before having Claire. Surrendering to that kind of selflessness is both challenging and rewarding. It’s not always easy, but it’s an incredible gift about what it means to be in relationship to another human being. The “I and Thou” relationship takes on a new and powerful meaning that is extremely beautiful.
What advice do you have for women considering motherhood after 35?
Oh, don’t get me started on this question! I have so much to say about how necessary it is to ignore the bad statistics and cultural messages surrounding becoming pregnant and having a baby after a certain age. We are individuals, not statistics. Every woman is entitled to her own journey around having a baby, regardless of what other people believe or what the statistics say about her age. Indeed, I have so much to say that I will refer your readers to a post that I wrote about it on my own personal blog, because I’m too tired and busy from caring for a four year old to write it all over again here! http://taoofpoop.blogspot.com/2013/09/my-geriatric-pregnancy.html
Publisher Cynthia’s note: I originally published Rachel’s encouraging story in June 2015. If you’re a mom who gave birth over 35 or 40 to your first baby, I would love to share your story as a Featured Mom. Contact me for details at email@example.com