GUEST POST-Stirring Our Pregnancy Anxieties
By Angel La Liberte
I’ll never forget the day I signed on the dotted line at the age of 44, consenting to an amniocentesis. I realized then (and I am equally assured now) that the medical establishment does not comprehend the degree of angst—all too often verging on bald, raging fear—that older mothers feel about their high-risk pregnancies. In fact, they do much stir the unwelcome sediment of our darkest nightmares so that, despite our “advanced age”, pregnancy can feel like traversing a decision-making minefield while still as wet-behind-the-ears as any other novice.
In the moment of our greatest joy, we are all but robbed of the pleasure of it. And there’s something inherently wrong with that—against the nature of motherhood.
, a certified Doula and Childbirth Educator based in
, agrees that midlife moms are generally
more anxious. About them she oberserved: “Many had shadowy fears about
the birth—not sure how to name them, but just fears about something going wrong
due to their age” Phoenix, AZ
According the Hoeprich, the medical establishment can exacerbate those fears by subjecting older moms to more rigorous testing and warnings about risk factors.
“I observed that these moms had to do non-stress tests twice a week, starting at 32 weeks, and I think it instilled some fear in them“ she says.
Hoeprich also noticed that over-40 moms tended to have control issues during natural childbirth and had more trouble letting go. (It begs the question whether long careers with lots of responsibility might have something to do with ‘vaginal-retention’, although Hoeprich suggests that being an IVF mom might play a role.)
, Elise Erickson has worked with a number of over 40 moms, either prenatally or for birth, and says that midlife moms make up 10-20% of the clientele at her practice and that their numbers are increasing.
In her experience pregnancies for over-40 moms, some of these fears can be reality based—underlying health problems such as obesity, hypertension, or a history of infertility can make for a rougher road for pregnancy and birth. She adds that “unless these women keep very active and are in good shape prior to pregnancy, labor and birth can be more challenging because aging makes the body less flexible and can affect endurance.”
However, both Hoeprich and Erickson have noted some behavior of older mothers that might make them good ‘mom’ Scouts–meaning that they tend to come well prepared in terms of getting all of the support they need by hiring midwifes, doulas and childbirth educators as well as doing lots of research.
But Erickson warns “there a risk with TMI (too much information) for any woman exceptionally educated to every aspect of pregnancy and birth that we (her midwives) may spend a good deal of time trying to relieve anxieties and stresses from reading horror stories online or from relatives. High anxiety or fear doesn’t help a healthy pregnancy or birth. “
She says, despite the fear-mongering, she’s attended a number of “lovely natural births of ‘advanced maternal age’ women who have birthed beautifully”, and has learned to appreciate the wisdom and mature approach that the majority of older moms she has worked with bring to the clinical relationship.
Talking with Hoeprich and Erickson, who have dedicated themselves to supporting mothers—including the rising older breed—through the rite to which they have a birthright (motherhood), sets me to remembering my brief and miraculous two pregnancies.
If I could have a do-over, it would be this: to have embraced each and every day of those fleeting few months in the calm and grounded knowledge that all was well and would be well.
It puts me in mind of a saying a French midlife mother gave me. It doesn’t translate well, but here it is in raw, unrefined English: “The dog may jump and bark, but the circus still passes by.”
And now refined for our purposes: Your baby will grow, form and enter this world as he or she is meant to, whether or not you jump, bark or fear the worst.
Posted by InSeason Mom Cynthia
Labels: advanced maternal age, first time mom over 35 and 40; having a baby after 35 and 40; pregnancy after 35 and 40