I got pregnant for the first time at age 40. Of course I was thrilled and still am, but I’ve noticed there are some specific challenges to being an old new mom. Though it’s not something I recommend, it’s not exactly avoidable for many of us, and more and more women are jumping on the mommy train at the last stop. Here’s what we oldsters need to contend with on this bumpy ride:
1. Getting reminded that you are ancient: At every OB appointment they use the words Advanced Maternal Age, or AMA, incessantly. For a while there, I suspected that my doctor had a strange AMA-focused version of Tourette’s—I considered going in there with “AMA” tattooed on my forehead so he didn’t feel the need to remind me every 14 seconds. If you are bombarded with this term, just be thankful they don’t bust out the even more alarming “Geriatric Pregnancy” which can also refer to all expecting moms above 35.
2. Being labeled a daredevil even if you don’t feel like one: Another term that gets bandied about is “High Risk.” Even if you don’t normally see yourself as a risk-taker, getting pregnant this late makes you kind of like Evel Knievel, except instead of a motorcycle, you have a fetus; instead of jumping over ten semi-trucks, you have to somehow lug yourself and your unborn child through ten months. Instead of a sporty white jumpsuit, you wear a frumpy maternity tent patterned with heinous flowers. All of this requires equal parts bravery and luck.
3. A battery of tests designed to terrify: You thought you had test-taking anxiety in high school? While waiting for these results, you’ll pull all-nighters scouring the Internet for the weird genetic ramifications of your coupling. Of course, you want these tests, you probably need these tests, but you dread the results even more than birth itself. And that is saying something.
4. The news that childbirth requires a strength you no longer have: Well, I was going to contend that birth is more difficult when you’re older, but, really, it’s probably insanely difficult at any age. The fact remains that most of us AMA’s are less fit than we were in our 20s and are at least 20 years past our athletic peaks, so the act of pushing is more a matter of willpower than actual strength. The only thing we have in our favor is that we have by now experienced lots of other kinds of pain, both physical and existential. Hopefully the wisdom from all this life experience will help assure you that each contraction is not The Apocalypse, even though your body would suggest otherwise.
5. Joint stiffness that impedes all movement: After that jellyfish looseness in your joints caused by the appropriately-named hormone, elastin, your lower back and hips will seize up at some point in the months after the birth, causing you to wonder if you have early-onset rigor mortis. This means that you can’t get and up and down from the floor as swiftly as your younger counterparts. At the end of baby story time at the library, you can either suck up your pride and ask the spry young mom sitting next to you for a lift, or you can decide to live there, among the stacks, for the rest of your life, justifying that at least your child will be well-read.
6. Dangerous levels of fatigue: Granted, every new parent is exhausted, but old parents tend to nod off with a frequency that borders on narcolepsy. Don’t you dare lie down while playing with your toddler; you could quickly slip into a coma. And that drum your child is banging right next your ear could get suddenly swapped out in favor of your equally-hard head. At night, make sure you turn up the volume on your baby monitor to the highest setting so that your child’s nocturnal howling will have a chance to pierce through the deep-sea sludge that is your slumber. In case there is any doubt, the fact that you’re an old mom will be 1000 percent confirmed when your parrot/child says, “I’m really tired,” as one of his first full sentences.
7. A preponderance of gray hair: You know all that hair that falls out in full clumps after you give birth? If it grows in (and unfortunately this is not a guarantee), it will decide it’s tired of its original color and make its comeback in gray. I went from a few random gray strands to full-on streaks in a matter of months. Of course you can dye it, but this takes time and funds, and you are suddenly running low on both.
8. Diminishing opportunity to pop out a sibling: It’s nothing short of a miracle that you were able to conceive #1, and that was when you had a bit more energy for well-timed coitus or for intensive, well-timed appointments at the fertility clinic. If you want a sib for your kid so that he or she can experience the joy, love, hatred and rivalry inherent in that kind of relationship, you better get on an adoption list soon.
9. Severe social disparity: Your new perky mommy friends also think that parenting is challenging, albeit for entirely different reasons. Yes, there is a common ground, but not like you had with your pre-parenting friends. The thing is that their kids are now anywhere from 7-17 years older than your child, so they are well beyond potty training and high chair meltdowns. The good news is that these friends can dispense excellent advice that is tried and tested, not to mention boatloads of hand-me-down clothes and toys they are more than happy to get out of their basement in order to make room for a bar. Just be prepared for the disorientating weirdness of posting Instagram pics of your child’s first haircut while they post pics of their kid’s prom.
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