Pregnant over 40

I’ve written on our Facebook page about this, but here is the thing. Being pregnant isn’t easy, no matter how old you are. Here are some things that I know from experience……The first thing that I will tell you is, find a provider that listens. Not only do they listen, but they are engaged, and have experience with “older” moms. Don’t be afraid to take your time, and look. Ask for referrals. This makes a huge difference in the quality of care that you will receive, because here is the thing. Your age alone will automatically put you in the risk category, and honestly….it shouldn’t.

Having experienced pregnancy at the “advanced maternal age” (nice by the way) it was by far my easiest of my pregnancies. Now, it did come with some annoying little things, like I have never thrown up so much in my life, he was breech from start to finish, but other than that….it was pretty uneventful. Now, let me walk you through my first visit with who the clinic assigned me to. Due to a complicated delivery with my second, I did have some unique concerns, however, what I was met with from the provider herself, was what I think was appalling! After an ultrasound I was told that I HAD to go into the counseling office for additional information. This is where it takes a turn. They brought out a three ring binder which was full of pages of information on what would be wrong with my baby, and the risks I was also “putting on myself.” I am not kidding you when I tell you, they tried to scare me into taking all sorts of additional tests, and really seemed focused on tragedy. I was not having it. I ended the meeting quickly, and changed providers immediately!

Your provider has the ability to make this a much more pleasant experience. Guess what? With my new provider, I felt heard. I knew some of the choices that I had, and she was very reassuring. This made a tremendous difference. I did not have to go into this experience full of fear, and more importantly…tolerating scare tactics that were nothing more than just that. Let’s face it, with two boys already aged 11 and 12, they did a great job of providing all the scare tactics in the world, and I wanted to make sure that I was able to reassure them that everything was going to be just fine, I did not need to dread going into see my provider. My mother told me when I was pregnant with my first, you will love the person who delivers your baby, and you will never forget them. She was right! Be picky, and know that it is never to late to change your provider! I was 24 weeks when I found a new one, and as a doula, I have had clients change at 32 weeks. Do what feels right to you. One thing you will learn as you navigate this new life, rely on your gut. Honestly, it is usually right.

Here is another thing that I encourage people to do, aside from having a doula. Educate yourself. Find a childbirth ed class that focuses on having a baby when you are older. I have served many women, and what every one has said is that they felt like their childbirth ed class really did not focus on some of the things that frankly only we know and understand. We just have a different list of concerns and issues. Honestly, I have not found one yet, but if you have a doula, they most likely can give you the information that you need, and if they can’t they know who can.

All in all, ask questions. You don’t have to go into this experience with a fear mentality. Sure, some fear is bound to rear its ugly head, but if you ask the questions, you will have the information that you need to make the best choices for your family, and that is the best possible feeling. It all comes down to support. Find your people. Let them rally around you. Support you. Love you. Don’t let fear and mis-information guide this process for you. As always, I am here for you.

Birth Plan vs. Reality

As a birth doula, we tend to see A LOT!!  There are a couple things that I want you all to know, and to hold in high regard.....Your birth plan is just that.   A plan.  I am not suggesting that there should not be any thought put into what your vision of your birth looks like.  I absolutely do!  But, after giving birth myself, and attending countless others, there are a few things that I have learned.  Plans tend to change, and when I say that, it is not in bad way, but things change based on circumstance.  This does not mean that you should not speak out, or be heard, it does however mean that there is no harm in a plan that changes.

What I have seen is a mom be utterly disappointed during her birth.  I have heard "I tried", "I did the best that I could", I have seen tears of disappointment cover a mother's face, and I have been lucky enough to bear witness to these births in which these women are so STRONG!  My response to all of them is..."You are damn right that you tried!"  There is no shame in the birth game.  NONE.  If I could ensure that every birth went according to the plan, I would have the magic ticket, but that is something that I don't have any control over.  Believe me, that would almost make me a Unicorn Doula, and while I would love that, babies make the plan.

Here is what we can control.  We have the power and the control of how we educate ourselves in the process of birth.  We have the power of our voice, and that my friends is a big one.  The other thing that you can control is GET A DOULA!  Now, I would love if it was me, however, get one!  We can help you navigate this journey, prepare you for the questions to ask, and make sure that you are heard.  We won't speak for you, but we are the gentle reminder holding space for you and your family throughout this process.  The other thing that I would suggest is to take a childbirth class.  There are so many great resources locally, and it will help you to understand the process and help you to know what you could expect.  It doesn't matter if you are a first time mom or not, information always changes, and there are refreshers available.

The other thing I have seen is that what you might have thought was an ideal birth plan, you want nothing to do with.  I have had mother's who adamantly wanted a water birth, and upon getting into the tub in the throws of labor, could not get out of that tub fast enough.  That is ok.  I have had families that wanted a HypnoBirth, and did not want to listen to affirmations during the birth.  That too is ok.  At the end of the day, I am certain of a couple things in regards to birth plans.  As I stated above, they are in plans.  It is ok if they change.  This is your birth, and it will play out exactly as it should.  I am certain that the only people in that room should be in 100% support of you, and if they are not, out they go!  Change is hard.  Change does not mean failure.  It means that you are strong.  It means that you are doing exactly what you choose to do to get to that baby.  

Motherhood is amazing.  Motherhood is hard.  Motherhood often means looking adversity and change in the face, and sometimes telling it F**ck Off!  Motherhood is full of guilt, and your labor is not one of things that you should feel guilty about.  You should feel proud, strong, confidant, informed, and empowered.  Ask all of the questions, and sometimes fate will take a hand.  I know that this sounds dumb, but trust the process, because at the end of the day, YOU can do this!  You are strong enough!  

 

Why I was led to be a doula.....

 

I found that when I became pregnant the first time, I was met with nothing more than fear and excitement.  I thought about all of the romantic things that involve pregnancy like names and nurseries.  That excitement led to fear.  Quickly.  I began bleeding soon after my pregnancy was confirmed by my doctor, and soon found myself getting hormone levels checked every other day to ensure that the pregnancy was still viable.  Hormone levels continued to rise, and I was told to not worry, and that sometimes that just happens.  The bleeding stopped and my paranoia eventually faded.  It faded for a while anyway, until a week before the ultrasound where we were going to find out the sex of our baby.  I woke up that morning, and instead of excitement, the fear was back, and I felt like something was off.  I paced at the Dr's office, and when I went back, I knew.  I knew without having to be told.  As the ultrasound was being done, there was just silence in the room, and I was told that they had to go and get the Dr. to speak to us.  I will never forget the statement that he made.  "Well, unfortunately I have some very ominous news.  There is no heartbeat."  My vision narrowed, my heart raced, and I felt paralyzed.  That was that.  I wish it was that easy, but it wasn't.  It took months.  I still think about it.  Miscarriage is not an easy thing.

It took about a year for me get pregnant again, and I spent a good portion of that pregnancy filled with worry and fear.  I probably called the Dr a couple times a week, and honestly, the pregnancy itself was pretty uneventful, however, I never allowed myself to get to swept away in the planning piece, as I knew how fragile this could be and did not want that devastation again.  My water broke at 32 weeks, had an epidural, and what I thought was routine.  My son spent some time in the special care unit of the hospital, and I spent time going back and forth via a tunnel that connected us to Children's Hospital in a wheel chair.  Yes, you read that right, a wheel chair.  It wasn't until the next day, when I could hardly stand, let alone walk, that I asked why all the other mother's on the floor seemed to moving around with a lot less pain and ease, and I felt like my bottom was going to fall out onto the floor.  The nurse just looked at me and said, "Oh, honey!  Did they not explain to you what happened?"  I remember thinking to myself, "What the hell is she talking about?"  She then went onto to inform me of the level four episiotomy that I received, the amount of repair that needed to be done, but sheassured me not to worry.  Whelp....I was in pain until I became pregnant with my second child.  Yes you read that right as well...10 months later, and cortisone shots where you can only imagine.

My second pregnancy was pretty uneventful.  I went into labor in the middle of the afternoon, and while my contractions were ramping up, so was my need to start arguments.  I started with a call to my sister, who was also pregnant, and she promptly hung up on me.  As any good daughter would do, I called my mother to bitch about how rude my sister was, and my mother noticed I was having a hard time talking.  She then says...."Holly, do you think you are in labor?"  Yep!  Sure was!  Labor progressed, and then there was shoulder dystocia, and forceps.  I was given my baby, and his breathing was labored.  I was all to familiar with breathing of an infant, as my first had to stay for a little while after my release.  I then brought that up as the Dr. was doing my repair.  I was assured that his breathing was fine, however, thank god for my insistence!  They decided that yes his breathing was labored.  He was then taken for observation, and several hours passed.  No word.  My then husband went to see what was going on, and he came back to our room as white as a ghost.  My son was very bruised from the forcep delivery. His breathing had returned to normal, and I was discharged.  Everything seemed to be fine until on November 21, 2004, when my son was 11 days old, I hemorrhaged in my kitchen.  No pain, just lots and lots of blood.  We called my Dr. who happened to be at the hospital for a delivery, and he directed us to get into the car and go to the hospital immediately.  We couldn't.  The bleeding was just that bad.  Ambulance.  I have to thank my neighbors at the time.  One stayed with the kids and tried to calm my husband, and she stayed with me.  I honestly don't have a lot of recollection of much more after that, except for some bright lights, someone yelling that my lips were turning blue, and my Dr letting me know that they would try one more drug, and if that didn't work, I would be urgently prepped for a hysterectomy.  The drug worked!  I received a blood transfusion of seven units, and was told I could leave if there was no more bleeding in the morning.  However, as I was counseled the next morning, I knew there would be more to this outcome.  They would send "things" to pathology, and I needed a follow-up appointment. However, there was one more thing,  I would not be able to conceive again, and on the off chance that I did, I would not survive it.  Or....so they thought.

Fast forward to twelve years later.  I had gone through a divorce, remarried, and my current husband did not have any children.  For a while, I was disappointed that I could not give him any children, but we just kept living, and I was grateful for the two boys I did have.  It was June of 2014, and man was I sick.  Throwing up all the time.  I still had a period, so pregnancy was the last thing on my mind.  I just kept thinking it was stress.  July came around, and we decided to have a barbeque.  We invited friends that we had not seen for a while, and my puking continued throughout the day.  I was talking to a friend when I needed to excuse myself yet again to go puke, and she says, "you're pregnant!"  I laughed it off, and put myself to bed at 7:30, right in the middle of the festivities.  I woke up in the morning to do the regular errands, and found myself at Target.  My husband states that he thinks it's a good idea to just take a pregnancy test.  Then at least we will know.  I think he is nuts, but continue to find the cheapest test that I can find, and one with a coupon no less, as I am convinced this is a complete waste of money.  We go home, I take the test and throw it on the counter, and continue to clean.  I pretty much forget about it.  About a half an hour later, I remember it.  I run to the bathroom to check it, and guess what?  PREGNANT!  At 42 no less.  Now I wish I could tell you all about the romantic way I shared the news, but nope.  Not my style.  I yell for my husband and as he comes up the stairs, I just state..."We have a problem!"

I call the OB the next day, and they ask me to hold.  I answered the usual questions, date of last period etc.   I get the token response which was we will see in about 8 weeks.  No you won't.  I then explain, look I'm 42, and have a hemorrhage history.  I'm on hold again, as they look up my file.  Ok, good luck is what is running through my mind.  She then comes back onto the line and states that they would like to get me in tomorrow morning.  She then says...."I remember you."  See my OB was a beloved Dr here in the Twin Cities, and truth be told, I loved him too.  I never got see him after my hemorrhage.   He passed away a few weeks after he saved my life.  My situation was pretty grim I was told, and since it had been so long since my last baby, they had to send someone out to get the actual paper file which was in some storage facility.  UMM, ok.  As you can imagine, I was pretty nervous for my appointment the next day, which was an ultra sound.  So, now here is where the story gets a little complicated.

We are called back, and I am prepared for grim news.  She then states..."Everything looks good.  You are 22 weeks and 5 days."  WHAT??  I am in shock!  My first thought was that maybe I could have been on a reality tv show, and I was the girl who had a baby in the toilet, and didn't know I was pregnant!  She then states that we now need our genetic testing done due to my advanced maternal age.  Let the games begin.  This was not fun.  We were brought into a room and told the 1000 things that would be wrong with this baby.  They pressured us about additional testing.  We were even told that there was a Dr. on staff that could terminate the pregnancy.  OK....I stated NOPE, NOPE, and NOPE!  We left.  I spent the next weeks at specialist appointments, researching, and really spent the whole time in fear. They had done what they thought their job was.  Convincing me that I was to old, I wouldn't survive it, and that there was still a laundry list of concerns over baby.  I switched providers.  Don't let anyone tell you it is to late to do that.  It isn't!   

My baby was a transverse breech.  My Dr was great, and assured me that I had plenty of time for baby to flip.  Well, my son decided he was way to comfortable, so no, he would not be flipping.  My water broke at 35 weeks, 5 days.  I got to the hospital, was scolded a little for eating pizza en route, and was told I was going in for an emergency c-section.  I'll let you guess what my reaction was.  You guessed it!  NOPE!  I wanted an external cephalic version.  This is a process by which the baby can sometimes be turned manually.  I was met with a little push back, and again told that they would try, but I would probably still need a c-section.  It worked.  Well, it worked for about 5 minutes.  He moved back to breech.  ( of course he did, now that I know his personality, stubborn like his dad, and determined like his mama) I begged for them to try again.  They were annoyed, but moved him again, and used a giant bandage to hold him in place.  I received an epidural, slept for 24 hours, pushed three times, and  had a perfectly fine baby.  I even lived to tell you about it!  

What I learned from all this is that not only is pregnancy amazing, but it also can be confusing and at times, scary.  The people that surround you need to be supportive. In all ways.  I learned how important asking questions can be. The importance of  being an advocate for yourself, and having someone, if only one person, tell you that this is going to be ok.  YOU CAN DO THIS!  I believe in being informed.  I hate fear mongering.  I believe that we have a choice in how we birth.   Information and comfort measures go a long way.  I also believe in miracles.  Do you want to know why?  Despite being told that I would never have another child, the danger if I did, the scare tactics and fear mongering that I unnecessarily had to endure, despite the cards being stacked against me, I lived to tell you my story and to prove them all wrong.  I'm allowed to serve people in their birthing journey as they need me to do, and for that I am ever so grateful.  I get to make a difference!