I’m pregnant at 44 years old. I didn’t think it was possible. The stats, the articles and the doctors all point to “highly improbable” after 40. So, how did one slip past the goalie at my age? Maybe my goalie retired. Pregnancy rates for older women are rising, and it doesn’t seem to just be because of fertility procedures. Some of us are taking the geriatric pregnancy stats too seriously, throwing caution to the wind and getting knocked up. I would not describe the night I conceived as “throwing caution to the wind,” but I digress. We’re not young and dumb, so how do we over-40s handle it when we have an unplanned pregnancy?
When I missed my period a couple of months ago, my first thought was, Menopause is coming! Periods start to become irregular during perimenopause, so that’s what I thought was going on. And I was actually OK with it. It means fewer periods and frankly, I’ll take it! The weird thing was that my breasts were sore, but I chalked it up to very long PMS?
Another week passed of sore boobs and no period. I was starting to get suspicious and decided it was time to go to the drugstore to get a pregnancy test. I remembered doing this when I was 19. Except when I was 19, I was filled with dread. Back then, I was surrounded by my entourage of girlfriends, and three bags of potato chips (or “dinner” as I called it) were added to the basket that I paid for in cash from my waitressing job. This time, at 44, I picked one up in between errands. I was only taking the test to confirm that I could grab a beer with my friend that night — I paid with my debit card because who carries cash anymore? Also, I’m pretty sure when I asked where the pregnancy tests were, the convenience store guy looked at me and thought, “For who? Your daughter?”
The three-minute wait after peeing on the stick wasn’t a stressful one like when I was a teen. I didn’t hold hands in a circle with my friends and perform mock prayers and rituals begging the pregnancy gods to spare me this one time and I promise I’ll never have sex again! Especially not with anymore guys named Chad. I mean what was I thinking? A Chad? This time around, I washed some dishes, put my daughter’s socks away, momentarily forgot I might be pregnant and then sauntered over to the bathroom and picked up the pee stick.
It was negative! Wait, no. There’s just barely a line there. It’s faulty. It has to be. I’m 44.
When I was 19, the test was positive. I cried, my friends hugged me, I cursed all the Chads of the world, and I listened to Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” on repeat. I was young and I screwed up, but unlike Madonna, I didn’t keep the baby. I had an abortion and went back to living my teenage life.
At 44, I stared and scrutinized the pee stick. I stared way too closely by the way. I’d never been that close to my own pee, but nothing mattered anymore. There was a line there, however faint. There was a line. I got the other stick and peed again. This time, I didn’t do chores while I waited. I stared at the stick for three excruciating minutes, willing it to be negative. Yet again, a faint line, strong enough to make it positive.
I was pregnant. I knew it, but I couldn’t believe it. Sure, I’m not 19 years old. I’m married. I have a 10 year old daughter (soon to be a babysitter?) and I have a full-time job with benefits. But, I still felt devastated.
And then the indecision came. Should I have the baby? Do I want to have another baby? Do I want to raise another only child — because that’s basically what it would be like? This was like going to college twice in a row, and who wants to do that? Do I want to forgo the freedom I was just starting to have and start all over again — diapers, bottles, breastfeeding, sleepless nights, toys, daycare, preschool, toys, playdates, lessons about not hitting and biting and more toys? I didn’t think I did.
Would I have another abortion? I’m not a teenager anymore. I’m financially stable. So, what’s my excuse?
Hold on. May I pause a moment?
I can’t help but point out how women are made to feel like their bodies cannot work after 40 years old and that our chances of procreating are nil. I’m not pointing the finger of blame at the medical experts here, but I am pointing two positive pee sticks!
I thought about all the potential risks, chromosomal defects, my own health risks and of course, my sanity. I also thought about this being my last chance, how other women struggle at my age to get pregnant, how my daughter would now have a sibling and how I knew more about raising a child this time around.
I realized through all the debating in my head that it was different this time. It wasn’t like when I was 19. I knew exactly what I wanted to do then. This time I just wasn’t sure. It made the choice so much harder. I also had my husband to help me decide. And Chad was very supportive either way. Just kidding. I didn’t marry Chad. Come on!
I honestly didn’t know what I wanted. I decided to go with the flow and to be 44 and pregnant. Forty-four is the new 34! Yeah, I will be one of the oldest moms at the playground and at kindergarten drop off and at the birthday parties. All the very many birthday parties. So what? I’ll hang out in the corner with the grandparents. I’ll be the youngest one in that group!
Whether 19 or 44, making a decision about becoming or continuing to be a mom is hard. It is a lot on one person’s plate. It’s a decision for us women to make mostly alone. There’s not always a right choice or a wrong choice. Either way, no matter what decision, we figure it out and we get back to living our teenage or over-the-hill lives.
Childbirth is nothing like in the movies, as these beautiful photos show.