Well Hello there and Welcome to My Almost Midlife Crisis, the show that dives into that tricky time in our lives when we are no longer young, but we aren’t old yet either. I’m your host, Jennifer Villamil. Finding out you are pregnant hopefully is a really exciting time, but when you’re older and your pregnancy is considered high-risk, it also comes along with a whole set of concerns. Especially if you have had a failed attempt in the past, a feeling of hesitancy is likely part of your journey at the beginning. In today’s episode, we discuss the first trimester in a geriatric pregnancy because mentally it looks different than if you were pregnant in your 20s. I want to share my story for those of you that are trying to conceive or that have experienced the first trimester over the age of 35. Let’s dive in.
Looking at the Positive Side
In episode 2, Pregnant at 39, I talked about how back in November I had a chemical pregnancy where I had a positive test and then a couple days later, started spotting and got my period. Even though it was only a couple of days, it was heartbreaking to get so excited to only be let down shortly after. It’s so easy to jump into planning and talking about this little person that could develop in you right when you get the positive – especially as a first time parent. But after you have a failed attempt, and feel that heartbreak, the next time you get a positive test result, you’re naturally more cautious.
While I was late starting my period, I had had an irregular period my last cycle and had some slight spotting a couple days earlier, so I thought it’s probably just another irregular period. That’s the thing – and I’m not going to get all political, but these laws about the six week abortion – it takes weeks to even get a positive test result. And if you get irregular periods, which a lot of women do, there’s a good chance you may not even know you are pregnant until six weeks. So that would make it impossible to even have a chance to make a decision in time. Anyway, like I said, not getting political – just stating a fact.
But as I became a couple more days late, I took the last pregnancy test I already had sitting around the house. We had a party the following day at a friend’s house and honestly I just wanted to know if I should drink or not, but I really wasn’t expecting to be pregnant. Christian was getting ready for work and when he came out of the bathroom, there was no fun little scavenger hunt game like the first go-around. I simply just held up the pregnancy test and said “I think I’m pregnant?”. Christian, he smiled and hugged me but also said, “do you think it will stick this time?”. This was my exact thought when I told him and I honestly didn’t know. I hoped so, but I was scared to get too excited just in case and it looks like I wasn’t the only one.
We agreed to play it safe and assume it was going to stick and retest in a couple of days. So I went to Binny’s Liquor Depot and found a non-alcoholic sparkling wine to bring to the party so everyone thought I was drinking and we could keep it on the down low. If you are a wine drinker like I am – just know that non-alcoholic wine sucks. It just does. Unless you like moscato – which if you like moscato and you’re over the age of 30, I’m sorry but I’m judging you. Or if you like Meomi because they add sugar to their wine – gross. But so far, I have tried multiple different brands of non-alcoholic wine with no luck. I like dry wines and cannot find an equivalent. If you have one, please send a reco my way!
The day after the party, I took another test, and it was again positive. Two days later, I had a doctor’s appointment that was previously scheduled for my back as I’ve had lower back issues since July 2020 thanks to working from home on dining room chairs during COVID. But while I was there, I asked to get a blood test and we received the results the next day – positive! By then, I had missed a whole period as well so we took that as a sign that I was actually pregnant this time and our hope started to increase.
The longest wait ever.
So far in my life, I have not experienced a wait time that was more excruciatingly painful than the four weeks between having a positive pregnancy test and going to your first prenatal appointment. On one side, I was desperate to hear a doctor confirm that not only I was pregnant, but that things looked normal. I had a dr. give me a blood test, but I wanted that ultra sound to confirm things looked good. Especially because early on, you can’t feel the embryo or anything so it almost doesn’t feel real. Well, except for the side effects.
Some women are very lucky and don’t have any symptoms early on in their pregnancy. That’s awesome for them, but that was not my experience. I had all the symptoms. Read an article about first trimester symptoms and I could pretty much check every box. There was:
- Fatigue – crazy fatigue that hits at any time. One minute you feel fine (or at least you aren’t tired) and the next, you physically cannot keep your eyes open. It’s like your body is a car that is out of gas and you’re trying to push it to the gas station.
- Nausea – pretty much unless I was eating, I was terribly nauseous. So I was eating almost non-stop to avoid the feeling because I hate feeling nauseous. Pregnant or not, that’s one of my least favorite symptoms. It’s so debilitating!
- Constipation – I take it back, this was my least favorite symptom. I’m very lucky where this isn’t something I normally have to deal with -so I have no cures for this or any experience dealing with it. I was so constipated I was having such stomach pain – which any pain in your stomach while pregnant is terrifying and adds to the anxiety especially during those initial weeks.
Oh and did I mention that Christian had to leave for two weeks three days after my positive blood test? He had a class for his MBA program in Tel Aviv, Israel. So I had my blood test on a Tuesday and he left that Friday. So picture this, it’s too early to really tell anyone you’re pregnant because as a 39 year old pregnant woman, my chances of miscarriage are over 30%, and you feel like complete shit, and you are alone at home. Add to that, I had just started a new job which was a video-on culture so I constantly had to be on camera and it was still winter in Chicago so it was too cold to even go for walks outside. I was miserable.
I felt horrible, isolated and just lonely. There was a three day stretch where I didn’t even shower. I went into pure survival mode – eat, try to use the bathroom, and sleep. I pretty much traveled from bed, to couch to bathroom and that was it. I had zero energy to cook anything healthy so I was eating whatever was quick which means I wasn’t eating super healthy which probably contributed more to my constipation. I had called the doctor and they approved the use of Mylanta so I took the minimal amount hoping this would help relieve some of the pressure.
However, the night Christian left, the pain from my constipation was so bad, I got really scared around 11pm and called one of my best friends and asked her to come over. I didn’t know if I had to go to the hospital or not and I didn’t want to be alone. Thankfully I didn’t have to go to the doctor, and after a bout of diarrhea and vomiting, I felt better. This is how she found out I was pregnant. And how her boyfriend found out because when you’re live with your significant other, you kinda have to tell them why you’re leaving the house at 11pm, and why you aren’t going to be coming home.
After trying Mylanta, Milk of Magnesia and finally Colace, I was able to get my constipation under control. I couldn’t go without supplements, but at least with the help of modern medicine, I was becoming somewhat regular again and the bloating and pain was becoming more manageable. So for the next couple of weeks leading up to my first prenatal appointment, I survived. I ate more small meals, I had smoothies every morning that seemed to help make me feel better and I never left the house without a snack ready to go to control the nausea. Finally, at nine weeks, the time had come for the first appointment.
Let the testing begin.
So a big difference when you have a geriatric pregnancy is the amount of prenatal testing and how early this testing begins. The reality is as a woman, pregnant for the first time at 39 years old, I am considered high-risk. High risk for miscarriage, birth defects, complications and not just high-risk for my baby’s health, but my own. So at the nine-week appointment, the genetic testing begins. It’s crazy how science works now-a-days. I had some blood drawn and bam! We can find out the risk level of our little embryo having a genetic disorder. And we can find out the gender. First they test me, then if I’m a carrier, they test Christian because both of us have to be carriers.
Before we received the results, which took a little over a week, we still held off from really telling our families and friends in the event that there were any potential genetic defects. I admire parents for being willing to go through with a pregnancy no matter the situation. Now this is going to be controversial, but I am not one of those people. While we cannot predict with 100% guarantee that our children won’t have any disabilities, with modern day science, we can get a pretty good read. And I honestly don’t know if I could go through with a pregnancy if I found out there was a high probability that our child would have some severe genetic defect that would prevent them from living a healthy, normal life.
Now that may sound harsh, but life is hard enough as it is. To me, one of the benefits of having a child later in life is to be in a place in our lives where we can help set our kid up for success. We are financially stable, we have finished our education and we are far enough along in our careers that we have more flexibility. All of this gives the child we chose to bring into this world the opportunity to never be in need. Whether that’s in need of quality education, healthcare or opportunities to learn and grow through life experiences. It may sound irresponsible to not continue on with a pregnancy that has high potential for health issues of the child, but I look at it as actually the responsible route.
This child didn’t ask to be brought into the world. And I don’t believe there is any greater responsibility than raising a child. It’s at the top. Number 1. It’s our job, as parents, to raise a good human being. A human that will bring value to her community and to those around her. I believe every decision we make is in service of giving her a life of endless possibilities. And if that’s the case, then going in, knowing that she could be severely limited? It’s not an option. I may lose listeners for that, but I firmly believe that it is a personal choice of every parent and I’m not saying it’s an easy one, but it is a choice. Because of the magnitude of the responsibility, parents need to truly look themselves in the mirror and know they are ready and willing to take on whatever comes their way. And I don’t believe enough people take it as seriously as they should.
Thankfully, not only did our first round of genetic testing (yes, there is multiple!) pass with flying colors, my doctor actually said I am a carrier of NOTHING. No Genetic Defects at all. Which she says is rare. Now, I don’t know how rare it is, or if she just wanted to make me feel good, but it worked! Because I pretty much felt like super hero after she told me that. She also informed us we were having a girl!
The next female president is in my belly.
We were so sure we were having a boy. Actually we thought there was a possibility of having twins! When I got the blood test, I asked for the hormone levels and they were high for me being five weeks along. When I went down the Google rabbit hole, the answers for why my hcg levels could be that high was likely multiples! Oh my God, can you imagine? I mean, whatever is meant to be, but having one seems like a lifechanger, I can’t imagine having more than one at the same time. For those of you that do it – you’re amazing and I have so much respect for you. For us, that’s scary.
So no twins, we’ve now asked at multiple appointments just to make sure, but a girl! We thought we were having a boy because for the last couple years, Christian’s grandmother has read my palm and she said we would have one child and it would be a boy. So maybe she was wrong on this one point, but she was right on a lot of other things so we figured she was on point here too. We had even started coming up with some boy names prior to getting the news – that’s how sure we were. But we couldn’t be happier that we were having a girl. Personally, I’m extra excited we’re having a girl. Selfishly, I think it will be easier for me to relate. Also, I’m honestly so excited for Christian to be a Girl Dad and for her to have us as parents. Still today, many boys are taught to get educated and be successful whereas girls are taught to get married and have kids. I know I felt this pressure growing up.
I have always felt like my parents believed my career was just biding time until I prioritized what really mattered -starting a family. How could I not believe this when I was hearing comments like “I’m so proud of your promotion, but when you get married, you won’t have to work.” Or them being more excited about me dating a man they liked than getting a new job. I was being asked in my late twenties when I was going to have a kid. Maybe I should get a boyfriend first was usually my answer. And when I met Christian and things were getting serious – oh my lord the pressure was on. I was constantly being asked by my whole family when we were moving in together, when we were getting married and starting a family. And why we were delaying these next steps. What was wrong? In fact, when Christian asked me to move in with him, my brother’s response was “I honestly didn’t think that was ever going to happen.” Gee thanks!
Christian and I have been together for over ten years now. So that’s almost 10 years of questions and pressure that at times really messed with my head. Sometimes it made me question my own relationship and assume something was wrong when in reality, I had one of the healthiest relationships out of those I knew. We both come from divorced parents and just my extended family, I have enough divorces to set the clear example that love isn’t always enough. So why did I let these same people get under my skin about my relationship?
This little girl will never feel that pressure. We will never expect her to prioritize marriage and kids above education or whatever her goals are in life. She will have two parents that fully support her path and witness our relationship which is a 50/50 partnership which will help set the expectation for her future relationships – with men, women or whomever she may choose.
Her value doesn’t lie in her ability to procreate. Her value lies in her heart and her mind. And Christian and I couldn’t be more excited to support her on her journey. Maybe that’s to be a stay-at-home mom if that’s what she chooses. Or maybe it’s the be the next female President of the United States because god help us if in 50 years we still haven’t had our first. But hey, no pressure!
Sharing the news.
After that first round of testing came out successful, we finally felt comfortable to openly tell family and our friends we were expecting. And for me, this was when I started finally enjoying the process. I was feeling better which definitely helped. But sharing in the joy we had with those we love was the best part to date.
You better believe our parents were overjoyed. Christian’s parents will be first time grandparents so they were over the moon. My parents already have three grandkids but they were so excited for me to have my first so there were lots of tears of joy.
My Dad started immediately asking me about my next kid, so I did have to put the kibosh on that convo real quick. We’re only planning on having one. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I could even have one. And I definitely wasn’t sure if I could have one without some sort of medical support at my age. So we were so thankful that we had this little miracle happen. So far, is healthy and on track. So let’s not push it. And I will say, I’ve already had multiple people tell me that I’ll change my mind and have more. Excuse me? Who do you think you are?
The one thing that has become blatantly obvious since I’ve become pregnant is the audacity of others. Why is it that when you become pregnant, people feel like it gives them the right to say whatever they want to you? And to touch you without asking? And when you express your disdain for this, the response is – “well that’s normal. That’s just how it is.” No, I don’t accept that.
How about, I feel lucky at 39 I was able to get pregnant naturally and pretty quickly with only 6 months of trying. I know far too many women my age that didn’t have that same luck. So to start adding the pressure of a second child before we’ve even birthed this first one is absurd. And honestly risky because we don’t know if this one will go smoothly. Or just because I had this one naturally, that I can do it again safely. So why put the pressure on? Let’s just enjoy this one. Let’s enjoy this process and not worry about the next. If there will ever be a next.
I even had a daycare owner tell me, with all the confidence in the world, that I will change my mind. That I will have a second and she knows because she did. Ok, party of one. I’m happy for you that you had multiple children because you wanted them. But you know nothing about me, and it’s none of your damn business how many I want nor is it your place to tell me how many I want. Or to tell me I don’t know what I want currently. It took me thirty-five years to even decide I wanted a child. I don’t know if I’ll ever change my mind, but if I do, it’s our choice to make and isn’t because you know us better than we know ourselves. So please stop projecting your decisions onto us. Thanks so much. By the way, Thanks so much is my passive aggressive way of saying FU.
The adventure of a lifetime.
With each doctor’s appointment and round of testing, our confidence and excitement grow. Being older and pregnant, I continue to have worries and am being more cautious because of my risk factor. I barely have coffee – only here and there. I don’t drink at all. I have had a sip to try a wine a couple times, but that’s it. I am wearing my mask in crowded places just in case and taking all the precautions to do whatever is in my power to continue having a healthy little girl. I don’t think I’ll stop taking my age and risk factor into account until she arrives and a doctor tells us she’s healthy, but I do know one thing.
We have traveled all around the world. We’ve had adventures on multiple continents, but we are just now starting the adventure of our lifetime. This little girl will change our lives, for the better. She already has started. Both of us have always been the type of people that are striving to be our best selves. We are goal setters and constantly pushing ourselves to improve. But before her, our motivation was selfish. Now, for the first time, we have a much deeper obligation to be our best selves for her. To lead by example. It’s a whole new sense of responsibility that is at times intimidating, but mostly empowering. So let’s go on this journey together. Hopefully it’s filled with more tears of happiness than sadness, but either way, we’ll do it together.
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Until next time!