After a little research on the web I read over and over again that there should be less than a 5% chance of getting pregnant naturally at 47. My husband and I had one little accident 2 days after my period had ended and I thought absolutely nothing of it at the time. There were at least ten days until ovulation and given my age there should be absolutely no way my body would enable the magical creation of life to occur, or so I misguidedly thought… somehow conception did occur and now I find myself, at a time when I should be thinking about hot flushes and teenagers becoming less dependent, being forced to contemplate starting motherhood all over again!
Finding out I was pregnant in my late 40’s was definitely not the same experience as it had been with my other three children in my 20’s and 30’s. But by the time I visited with my Family Doctor I did have an inkling of what to expect. In the back of my mind was that little accident, in the front of my mind, unexplained exhaustion and that bitter taste that comes with a little bit of morning sickness. My Family Doctor took my positive result to heart and when she came back into the room waving the two pink lines on the pregnancy test her lovely olive complexion was abnormally pale. But even though I had had a feeling, it was still a massive confirmation to have to come to terms with, and when I left her office and got into my car I burst into tears and sat there for half an hour unable to move. “Come back in a week” she had said, “when you have had time to discuss it with your husband and to think things through”.
At that moment I wasn’t able to consider having a beautiful little baby, my mind was instead crowded with thoughts of: Was it safe for me to go through pregnancy and birth at my age? How would I tell people the news? How would my much older children react to the news? How much weight would I gain? How could I go through the next nine months feeling as tired as I did right at that moment? And how would my new child react to having elderly parents, and regardless of how youthful I look right now the fact is I am 47 years old and when my child is 20 I will be 68 years of age.
My own parents are in their mid 70’s and I guess this is the hardest part to come to terms with, in my eyes my parents are O.L.D! They are in and out of hospital with medical complaints, in fact well over 50% of all of the conversations we have are about my mothers bowel problems! She even will produce photographs of mysterious objects that have passed through her, and I most certainly do not want to inflict this kind of rhetoric on a twenty something year old. However, I can not remember a time when my mother was not sick, throughout my teens she was always to be found in bed in a depressive state caused by illness or perhaps illness bought on by depression, I’m not sure which. After having a hysterectomy, bowel resections and now having had the majority of her bowel removed and relying on a bag, her problems are still no better. Except for the depression, this is no longer evident, thankfully it lifted from her in her early sixties and in spite of pain and illness it has made having a relationship with my mother much easier. My father is well, except for a couple of recurring hernias because he does not take it easy enough and keeps lifting heavy things! All of us, his children, consider him to be a saint for having endured quite a trying marriage for 55 years whilst always seeming to keep a positive outlook of life, supporting my mother, and never saying one bad word about her. But being around my mother constantly has rubbed off a little and I believe he is older than his time because of it. My husband and I on the other hand are fit and well, and I am very fortunate to have never experienced depression like my mother did, instead I was blessed to inherit my fathers positive outlook on life, and the women of his genetic line have lived into their 90’s right back as far as we can research to my great, great, great, grandmother, whose father also lived to be 99 years old, I have a newspaper article celebrating his long lived life!
After sitting in my car weeping about my circumstances I went straight home to our small farm and told my husband I would need to have an abortion. It was awkward, my husbands parents were over from England and we only have a small farm house, finding space to discuss the matter privately was difficult, as was having to cover my devastation and exhaustion for the next three weeks with bright and bubbly daughter in law-ness.
My husband was supportive of whatever I wanted to do, but I saw that glint of pride in his eyes, that tiniest bit of hope that maybe I might come to see this as a blessing and not the terrible burden I seemed unable to get past. It was fine for him I thought, he didn’t have to be pregnant for the next seven months, give birth, and then breast feed for twelve months. I had plans! Now that my two youngest children were 13 and 14 years of age I had intended to go back to university, get a post-grad qualification in History, and continue with the academic lifestyle I love so much. For the past 15 years I had giving up my studies to help my husband with the farmlet and a retail business part time, whilst raising the kids and running a home. The raising the kids part I loved without reservation, the running a retail store, not so much. This next stage in my life was meant to be about finding me, I had given so much to so many people for so long now, surely it wasn’t too selfish of me to choose to want to do something for myself, was it? Guilt was starting to niggle at the fringes of my mind.
My eldest son is 25 years old, studying medicine, gorgeous, intelligent, strong willed and still at a stage in his life where diplomacy has yet to fully make an impact. I told my eldest child straight away because I knew he was mature enough to handle the situation but he was very forthright in dishing out his advice. “Mum, he said, you need to have a termination immediately, how many weeks are you, you know you can still have a pill if you are less than 7 weeks along, you are too old, think about your health, this could kill you” He confirmed all of the negative things I had been dwelling on, but the matter of fact way he said I was too old, got my back up a little bit. “I’m not that old, you know, everyone thinks I look ten years younger than I am!” I said defensively. ” Yeah Mum, you may look younger than your age, but that doesn’t mean you are physically younger, you are nearly fifty, women who have babies at fifty end up on TV news, you cant really consider having the baby as an option” he said matter of factly, not expecting a reply. I left it at that, there was no point in arguing the options out with him when I hadn’t even made a decision. “You are probably right love…” I said, sadly.
I started having vivid nightmares about my baby dying. They were upsetting, and confirmed to me going through the process of an abortion would not be easy for me at all. I live just outside Auckland, New Zealand. Here, if you have a decent enough reason you can legally have an abortion up to 12 weeks and 6 days. At my next doctors visit my doctor assured me being 47 was definitely reason enough to be referred for a termination. Given that we estimated I was about 8 weeks, she felt I should be referred through to the “Day Clinic” and then if I decided to have the baby I could always cancel with them. She said they also would offer me professional counselling before a decision is made either way, which she thought, would be a positive process for me to go through. I agreed, we did blood and smear tests, booked in an ultrasound, and made an appointment for the following week to have a counselling session at the Day Clinic.
At this stage I was still 90% sure I was going to have a termination. It was a sad and terrible situation but I just considered myself too old to have a baby, and I just kept thinking about how I view my parents, and how this new life would regard me and my husband.
My scan was booked for the first Monday in April, 2017. I turned up, I was terribly nervous that people were looking at me, this old pregnant woman. Of course they couldn’t tell I was pregnant, I was just being so stupid, and its funny because usually I do not care what people think about me, but I was so self conscious about being pregnant that I tried not to make eye contact with anyone.
The radiologist was a lovely women about my age, she showed my the various bits of my baby that at 8 weeks were quite hard to discern but that she assured me were the vital bits necessary at that stage. Then she said something shocking to me, my due date was my own birthday! Later I would find this out to be incorrect and I am unsure if she had purposefully made an error in telling me this information because she could sense my reservedness about being pregnant at my age. She told me she scanned many women of 45 who had just undergone IVF to try to get pregnant, so I was exceptionally blessed to be so fertile. Whether accidental or not (my birthdate is evident at the top of screen and just maybe she made an honest mistake) that telling bit of information turned my world up side down.
My head was spinning as I left the hospital, I was doing all of the actions; walking to my car, opening the door, putting the keys in the ignition, getting ready to depart the car park, but it was all done so on auto pilot. My baby, or so I thought at that stage, was due on my birthday, surely a gift just for me. I couldn’t get this out of my head, I phoned my husband and told him the news, he was less shocked and it probably had less significance to him, but he could tell I was rattled by the news and was making an adjustment to maybe thinking about being able to keep the baby.
There was still so much inner turmoil about the whole thing, but a tiny little glimmer of hope had started to burn in my heart.
At the counselling sessions the following week my husband and I arrived and were greeted by a lovely women of Indian descent who promptly told me that many women in India have babies later in life so I should not feel so unusual, and she beamed at me. This was not at all what I had expected. I was receiving counselling at an abortion clinic and the woman before me thought that it was fabulous news that my husband and I might actually be considering going through with the pregnancy. It was kind of like being in the twilight zone, I had arrived expecting one thing and left having encountered something completely different. Everyone I encountered seemed to have a positive view on my pregnancy, not one person had mentioned anything negative, except my son of course, and I found this all rather shocking to process. The counsellor went through all of the points she believed were pertinent for us to make a decision; family stability, financial situation, genetic illnesses, and once we had covered all of these and worked through there were no negatives in these areas she believed I would benefit from seeing a high risk obstetrician who would be able to explain the risks and pitfalls to me of going through with a pregnancy at my age before I made a final decision. “Good luck” she said to us cheerfully as we left her office!
I had been unsure about whether or not to tell my younger children, but by this stage, it was clearly evident something was going on with me and whilst on a family break in Rotorua- the geothermal capital of NZ, we broke the news to them. My 13 year old daughters reaction was most unexpected. She was angry, and selfish, and adamant she wanted no part of it. It broke my heart to see her behave this way, we are exceptionally close, always have been, it is not a father and daughter thing in our family it is very definitely a mummy and daughter thing. “How will I tell my friends, OMG you are so old, that is truly disgusting!” she said vehemently (I did actually laugh at that part!). My daughter is an A type perfectionist, who strives to be top in her class at everything, plays netball, and soccer, and does jazz ballet and who, even though we are not at all in the wealthy zone of society, has achieved expertly at equestrian and hopes to achieve a career in this area. “How will you be able to take me everywhere with my horse riding Mum if you’ve got a baby, come on surely you must be able to see this is a really bad thing for our family.” Actually she does have a point, horse riding is a massive commitment and requires quite a bit of travel to various competitions up and down the country, and in the future we had talked about being able to have her complete in the English season which will require us to relocate there for a couple of years whilst she gets up and running, she really is that good. My son was more measured in his response, he is the sweetheart in my life, the child who always thinks about the consequences of his actions and never says anything bad about anybody. He was worried about me and my health, and then even he did say “She is right you know, her horse riding is very important to her and will you be able to help me study for my GCSE’s this year if you are having a baby at that time? Will you still have time for us when you are so tired and dealing with a newborn” Children are the equalizers of everything, they see things exactly as they are and they don’t dance around the subject as others might. They were right, things would be hard at first, I am the academic one who helps them with their learning, my husband has neither the schooling nor patience to complete this task. The unplanned baby is due in early November, right smack amongst my son’s exams, which is the last thing he will need. My son is completing accelerated Cambridge exams, he is in a class where all of the kids are completing subjects a year ahead of where they should be so they can then complete their final year taking extra scholarship subjects to give them a very varied subject base. They are expected to achieve high results, and my son is doing brilliantly. But I do help him, teach him little studying techniques I learnt at University, we discuss intellectual subjects regularly and we both thoroughly enjoy this one on one time. I can absolutely understand why he would feel threatened about loosing this, just as I can understand how my daughter feels about having her equestrian dreams threatened, she is such a determined soul at an ego-centric time in her life, I understand these things.
But when my eldest son was eleven, I gave birth to my middle son, and fifteen months later my daughter arrived. So I know how much enjoyment a young teen can get from babies arriving. My eldest son was enamored from his first hold, he spent hours just gazing into his baby siblings eyes, and then when they started to laugh and play a new adventure started. He changed nappies, fed babies, rocked them to sleep, and once even got up in the middle of the night and told me that if I wanted to go back to bed he would rock his sister to sleep, love him so much! They are still all very close.
And so now, in spite of all of the children’s reservations, we have decided to go ahead with the pregnancy and give this little baby a warm welcome into our family, and hopefully, by the time he arrives all of the people I love so very much will have had a chance to warm up to the idea.