My husband and I are expecting baby #3 this Spring, and I could not be happier…or more terrified! Since I will be the ripe old age of 37 when this baby comes into the world, I will be at higher risk for all sorts of scary pregnancy-related complications. As if that weren’t enough—we might also have to buy a minivan. (I kid. Mostly.)
If you’ve cracked open a women’s health book lately (or even just Googled “pregnancy after 35”), then you know that the alarming statistics and catalogue of risks can seem as long as a sleepless night with a fussy newborn. Even though more women than ever are delaying pregnancy until their mid-to-late thirties and even into their forties, the conventional medical wisdom is not encouraging.
At my first appointment with my midwife last month, I shared these concerns with her. Of course she had heard them before and was quick to reassure me that healthy post-35-year-old women do not automatically fall off a cliff into a chasm of horrible pregnancy outcomes, as I’d been envisioning. I’m a bit of a worrier. One of first things you read about pregnancy over 35 is that you may have difficulty getting there in the first place. Since we’ve cleared that hurdle with flying colors, hopefully the other concerns will prove to be non-issues as well.
There’s no shortage of risks you face when you postpone pregnancy, however, or—in our case—leave your options open to pregnancy later in your childbearing years. Women like me face greater risk of just about everything—including gestational diabetes, miscarriage, premature delivery, and chromosomal abnormalities in babies. We haven’t had any pre-natal screenings or ultrasounds yet, so I’m waiting to exhale until we have our 20-week ultrasound to discover the gender and track the development of our baby.
Early in this pregnancy, when the only two people who knew about it were my husband and myself, I fretted a lot more over this tiny life inside me. But since we’ve told our older two children, family, friends, and now, pretty much everyone, I am feeling more assured. Everyone has responded with excitement and encouragement; no one has reminded me that I’m at risk for all sorts of scary complications. It sure is a lot more fun to envision a normal and healthy pregnancy and baby than it is to stew in my own fears!
It’s especially encouraging that my children are excited about the prospect of a new baby. Well, my six-year-old’s very first reaction, when we broke the news over pancakes a few weeks ago, was to burst into tears—overwhelmed by this new reality. My four-year-old’s initial response was, “Can we name it pencil poke?” (This cheered big sister up a little, and they proceeded to come up with a host of ridiculous names for their new sibling.) Now, they almost always talk about the baby with a positive attitude.
I’m thankful that baby #3 will be coming along when my other two are old enough to be pretty cognizant of the world around them and what it means to be a big sister or brother. I know when the baby actually arrives there will be some jealousy and some acting out, but I’m pretty confident that, at the very least, they are beyond reverting back to pooping in their pants (surely, right?!)!
Here’s another thing I know: I definitely appreciate my children’s independence. At this point, they can actually dress, feed, and entertain themselves pretty well. I can block off the driveway, and they can ride their bikes alone out there. I don’t have to worry about them speeding into the street or shoving rocks into their mouth. So the idea of a mini start-over when my youngest is fast outgrowing the toddler stage (and when many of my friends have already sealed off the possibility of more children) is still a bit daunting.
Clearly, there is plenty to cause concern with both my “advanced maternal age” during this pregnancy and what will happen when my husband and I are outnumbered by our little brood. Since I’ve entered my second trimester, I’ve tried to embrace a more Zen-like peace about the pregnancy and our uncertain future. We were open to this baby because we wanted to leave a little mystery working in our lives. Our home will shrink a little, and our wallets will be lighter once #3 joins us—but surely our hearts will be more full!