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.
Jennifer Hoeprich, a certified Doula and Childbirth Educator based in Phoenix, AZ, 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”

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.)
Chicago-based Midwife, 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.
Angel La Liberte is founder of the website Flower Power Mom.com—The
Truth About Motherhood After 40
. Angel gave birth to her children at 41 and 44 after conceiving naturally. For her full story, visit http://flowerpowermom.com/my-story/.

6 comments:

  1. If I had it to do over, I don't know what I would have done differently. Having no youthful pregnancies to compare my 37, 40, and 42 year old pregnancies, I felt fairly normal. I guess "Ignorance IS Bliss." :)

    All were c-sections, but women half my age were having them, too. I was very active and had normal blood pressure, sooo...

    Anyway, it wasn't always a piece of cake. I had 1st trimester nausea and fat feet. Mentally, I was okay - especially after the first child. There was no time to worry during the second pregnancy. :)

    However, I do recognize all of what you're saying, because as you've noted, doctors, magazine articles, and other people are great at putting doubt in the minds of older pregnant women.

    I hope your work will continue to educate and ease the minds of older moms-to-be.

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  2. Thanks Anita for your comments to this guest post. I really appreciate your support in my goal of easing the minds of expectant older moms.

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  3. I'd like to share a different perspective; I had two boys in my 20's and out of inexperience (vs fear) they both included induction-epidural-forceps delivery. Last year I had my daughter at 43 years old and found that despite my advanced maternal age the pregnancy and delivery was much LESS stressful. I attribute this to a few things that I hope all older moms can relate to; first of all my knowledge of my body and my intuition was much stronger at 42 and I found it easier to trust in myself (wisdom and life experience perhaps), secondly I knew I had a responsibility to be informed and at optimal health (which I guess I took for granted at 24) and so I reduced my stress by doing yoga, meditating, visualizing a healthy birth, and hiring a wonderful Doula to coach and reassure me. Yes, I had all the genetic testing done and of course that was stressful but we are powerful, nurturing, amazing women! Giving birth is a natural process and no matter what our age we are entitled to a wonderful birthing experience. I know its hard not to listen to those who want to worry us with stats and warnings but lets bond together and support each other with great forums like this one so we can enjoy this life experience at any age that our body deems is right.

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  4. Amanda, thanks for sharing a different perspective and your encouraging words. I especially like your statement, “ I know it’s hard not to listen to those who want to worry us with stats and warnings but let’s bond together and support each other with great forums like this one so we can enjoy this life experience at any age that our body deems is right.” Good advice!

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  5. Do you have a link for Jennifer Hoeprich that works? I am in the Phoenix area and would like to learn more about her. Thank you.

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  6. Thanks Amanda for letting me know that the link was not working. Try this link: azbirthnetwork.com/providerdatabase.htm

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