Pregnant at 40~It's Not So Bad...Is It?

Pregnant at 40 (well, actually 41, but I've decided I'm sticking at 40) was something I never planned to be. Since I didn't get married until I was 31 and I wanted four children, my plan was to have them at 32, 34, 36, and 38, well before what I considered to be the scary age of 40.

Scary for a lot of reasons. Foremost, there's the obvious chromosomal abnormality risk. At age 40, the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome is 1 in 110 (mine was listed as 1 in 71). My risk of having a baby with other chromosomal abnormalities, such as Trisomy 13 and 18 was listed as 1 in 135. Women in their forties are twice as likely as women in their twenties to develop problems such as high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. In fact, children of older mothers are themselves at increased risk for type 1 diabetes and high blood pressure. There's a higher incidence of placental problems and birth complications. Babies born to older mothers are more likely to be premature, have low birth weight or even be stillborn. The dad's advanced age can have an effect on genetics as well and carries a higher risk for some disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.


But, I had it licked! I had my four babies well before I was 40. I got two for the price of...well, apparently a really nice fishing boat, according to Hubby. Then another unplanned one right away. And then another one that actually worked out according to plan! And I was only 37!  I even had time for another one!!!

Funny story . . . Hubby gave me a beautiful Mother's ring after Baby #4. My darling Joey proudly handed it to me while I was holding Lil' C in the hospital. Instead of gushing over it and saying thank you I said, "Does this mean we're done?!" Hubby and I apparently had different ideas.  Then Joey's illness came and derailed any plans I had for another baby. 

Just as I had begun to come to terms with the "baby-making" phase of my life being over, I found myself p.g. again. And here I am, about to have a baby in three weeks. And yes, I am 41. And yes, I am scared.

For so many reasons...

When I learned I was pregnant, I honestly just assumed I'd have a miscarriage. I have had three in the past and after all, the rate of miscarriage for the 40-44 year-old age group is 34% (versus 10% for a woman in her twenties). But, early ultrasounds showed a strong heartbeat and a cute little fetus.

My thoughts then immediately turned to Down syndrome. I would be 41 when I delivered, the same age as my sister-in-law when she had her son, who was born with DS. Seeing their struggles with him, not knowing if he would even make it through some of his initial surgeries, and knowing what we had just been through battling cancer with Joey, it terrified me.  I didn't feel strong enough to handle that. We chose not to undergo amniocentesis - the only definitive diagnosis - because the risk of miscarriage from the procedure is one in 300. I would feel horrible if I was that one and miscarried a child just because I had to find out if he had a condition that neither potentially threatened his life nor mine, nor would I abort him if I found out that he did in fact have Down syndrome.

I do have gestational diabetes for the second time. And unlike the first time, I'm having trouble controlling it by simple dietary changes. I am on medication to stabilize my blood sugar; but in spite of that there's a lot of fluid around the baby, and he keeps growing larger! That fact knocks out the potential low birth weight, but the birth complications factor back in. I had twins with no c-section - I don't want one now!!

My doctor did discuss with me the potential risk of still birth which scares the HELL out of me, and of course I worry that I will pass diabetes on to this baby. Or that he will have autism.  Or he will have Down syndrome. And don't even get me started on the cancer thing!

Oh, and then there's the weight thing.  I have only gained 20 pounds, not bad but I did have an extra ten pounds on me when I got pregnant (mourning weight). So not only do I have baby weight to lose, I have that extra ten pounds, and I'm over 40.

The fact is, I never worried all that much with my other pregnancies - well, maybe more with my twins than the other two. But I always had that sixth sense that everything would be okay. As I waddle my way toward my due date, I don't have that sense with this baby. I have quite the opposite.  From the very beginning of this pregnancy I have been waiting for something to be wrong.  Just because I think there has to be.

BUT . . . initial tests - neck measurements, blood tests, ultrasounds - each lowered the risk the baby had for Down syndrome to about 1%, or the same as a woman in her twenties. My doctor assures me that she does not see any of the telltale characteristics of a baby with a chromosomal abnormality. The fact that he is a little bigger is a good sign, too. 

Also, the baby is a kicker! None of my other boys really kicked. They just squirmed around a lot.  This one kicks and kicks hard! And I love it! It's somehow reassuring. I treasure every movement.

I also have a wonderful support system in my friends. By the time I finally got pregnant with my twins, I had pretty much isolated myself from everyone, being so distraught over the whole infertility thing. Many of my high school and college friends lived out of town anyway. With my second pregnancy, I was on Long Island with only one close friend; and with my third, I was back home, but feeling isolated through no fault of my own.

Admittedly, I have reconnected with a lot of people through Facebook, and Joey's cancer journey certainly brought people - new friends and old - out of the woodwork. But because my boys are in school now and in activities, I am out and about more and seeing people and connecting every day. I have received nothing but well wishes, love, and encouragement. I even had a shower thrown in my honor despite the fact that this is my fifth boy. And I won't lie when I say I can't hear, "You are the cutest pregnant lady," enough!

Sure, I had plans to start a second career, get more involved in the boys' schools, maybe train for a race, or at least get in the best shape of my life. Sure by the time this kid graduates from college I will be well into my sixties and looking more like his grandmother than his mother, and I may not even live to see his wedding or the birth of his kids.

 But I need to relax, because worries or no worries, bad or not, I'm having a baby in three weeks and two days!!!!  And as far as I'm concerned, that's never a bad thing.  :)

Photo by Unsplash

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