Beating the .05% Odds to Become a First Time Mom at 40
The average age of women having their first child is rising in the United States. The reason for this is as complicated as childbirth. Time Magazine published a story last year detailing the rise of first time births after the age of 35. While the risk of genetic disorders and complications leading to miscarriage is higher, I was willing to accept the odds to become a first time mom at 40.
In my 20s and 30s I was a woman holding steadfast to a no womb invaders rule. I really didn’t want any children. I was fine with a puppy, free time, and disposable income. Maybe that was my way of insulating myself against the fear of not being able to conceive naturally. I battled the pain of endometriosis and multiple laparoscopic procedures only to experience temporary relief from a debilitating chronic condition. Two weeks after I endured a myomectomy to remove over 20 fibroids, I developed a pulmonary embolism (PE). Several fast moving blood clots in my lungs could’ve easily killed me. I hit Yahtzee when it came to trauma in the womb and body. I felt ashamed and I hurt from my guts.
Multiple physicians presented a hysterectomy as an option since I didn’t want kids anyway. I was high risk for miscarrying and stroke due to my age and medical history. Not wanting children is not the same as not wanting the tools. Can I not own a wrench because I don’t want to be a plumber? I never saw those OBs again and continued to reserve the right to the functioning of my reproductive system.
Having children was heavily on my mind in the summer of 2011. After spending 97 meaningful years on this earth, my granddaddy passed away. Pop-Pop raised me 20 years after all six of his girls were out of the house. After being discharged from the hospital with no further treatment for his lung cancer, he drove himself home and got into his bed. He called each of us by name and simply said, “I love you. Take care of each other.”
Watching my granddaddy pass was life affirming. I figured it out. Life is about who you love and how well you loved them. I wanted that, and I got busy fortifying my life with the kind of love I experienced in Pop-Pop’s room.
I consulted several fertility specialists just to see if there were eggs still in the carton. I learned that my FSH level tested twice in the twenties. FSH stands for follicle stimulating hormones. WEBMD says some other stuff, but here’s a very non-medical definition to tie you over. FSH helps to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs. Remember your childhood Easter Egg hunts when you found those pastel colored plastic orbs? Think of FSH like the grass to hold those eggs. No grass, no eggs.
If your FSH level tests at a ten the doctors get worried. If it ascends north of ten words like ovarian failure and premature menopause enter the conversation. The battery of tests determined that I had .05% of a chance to conceiving naturally.
I was 38 when I heard the news. At the time, I was covered by an expensive, but comprehensive PPO which included fertility treatments. I was going for it. Well, we were going for it.
The experience in granddaddy’s room, juxtaposed to meeting the love of my life, gave more weight to the results of my fertility tests. I didn’t want a baby, I wanted a family.
Philip gave me the option of an add water and blend family. He had just been given full custody of his four-year-old son. I’m not even sure if we had a plan other than to just, you know, practice. If it happened, it happened. As Phil put it, “Life isn’t created. It’s given.”
In January, I woke up to the worst nausea of my life. I felt like my insides were trying to crawl out of my nostrils. Three months before we planned to begin IVF this happened…
I was bestowed the gift of motherhood in the mid-summer of my life’s journey. It was like having a butterfly land on my wrist: captivating, tender, and completely profound. The birth of Braxton (Nings) was followed by Isabelle (Pookie) our “surprise I don’t have the flu” baby 19 months later.
Either all of those tests were really wrong, or I was in the .05 percent