by Mama Caz

It gets serious

We decide to tell nobody. Not even my parents. I know my mum will be disappointed with me later, when she finds out I’ve kept this from her for a month and a half.

Or she won’t know.

The foremost health risk for an old egg is for the foetus to have chromosomal abnormalities such as Down’s Syndrome. Various statistics tell me my chance of this happening is one in 25 to about one in 100. If my amniocentesis comes back with a positive result for Down’s, or if we have any other test results to be concerned about, my partner and I will have to face a ghastly decision. One I prefer to make without anyone else knowing. I hope that family and friends come to understand this.

Miscarriage, of course, is a much greater risk over 40, even if it’s never happened to me before. It’s up to a 50% risk. Some may argue that having support from close friends or family if I miscarry early might be desirable. Not for me. I choose to suffer in silence.

This means I have another six weeks to keep this secret. I’m not good at secrets. I pour my dad a gin and tonic, and fake one for me: mineral water with a slice of lemon. My sister is visiting from the other side of the country. I will have to find a way to avoid drinking. We are invited to a friend’s beach house for the long weekend. I contemplate faking illness the morning we are scheduled to leave. That’s not very honourable. In the end, I throw my back out pushing my broken down car off the road and am bedridden, unable to go. Karma. Bedridden  backache is much less fun without Prince Valium for company.

Think I’ll just tell my friends I’ve stopped drinking because I’m mentally unstable. That’ll stop the questions.

My breasts hurt.

After the first test

I have no idea how far along I could be. Aware that, as an older woman, I need to address certain risks, I call my GP the morning I find out I’m knocked up, to give him the good news and ask for a referral to my lovely obstetrician. Now three of us know. It’s Saturday. It’s a weird Saturday. We go to a dinner full of hard-drinking dentists and I skull mineral water. I drive drunk people out to other bars.

First thing Monday morning, I make the calls. I’m worried now that I might be more pregnant than I think, and that I need to think about tests, etc. My doctor’s rooms suggest a dating scan, my GP refers me, and I find a clinic only 25 minutes away that can fit me in today. I drink water for that fetching ultrasound bloat.

The clinic is full of women at various life points: half-pregnant girls and older ladies courting mysterious later-life ailments. I am seen quickly, and the radiographer asks “Surprise?”

I haven’t practiced my witty responses yet; I’ll need to work on some.

I ask her how old the oldest woman she’d done this scan on was, hoping to hear “50” at least.

“44 or 45, I guess” she responds.

Shit. “Were they IVF?” I ask.

“Oh yes” she replies, “You’re quite the exception.”

She spreads her goo, waves her wand, and hey presto, there’s a little… something. With a flutter.

“Oh, that’s a good heartbeat,” she says.

Shit.

I remember something. Twins are more common in late-life pregnancies. Something to do with your body having a last tilt at reproduction, I guess. The radiographer concurs, telling me it’s true, often both ovaries will “fire at once” in the peri-menopausal. Guns blazing! Fortunately, this is not the case with my otherwise rampant ovaries.

I am 6 weeks and 3 days along (amazing how they can pinpoint this); she can tell me which ovary the egg came from! She shows me the “ring of fire” around a bit of the ovary. The smoking gun.

Don’t go shopping for a pregnancy test at your local pharmacy.

It’s time. The symptoms are getting clearer: my breasts ache. I am irrationally anxious. My last period was barely noticeable. My stomach is a little fluttery.

Of course, it could be the beginning of early menopause.

Or I could be pregnant at 43.

My boys are at a friend’s house, and I have to pick up a prescription for antibiotics for one of them, so I have to go the pharmacy anyway. And I need to know…

I walk in; it’s crowded. Drop off the script. Leave and take some things to the op-shop next door. Return and skulk the aisles, looking for the tests. I plan to locate them, and quietly grab one when they call that my script is ready.

And there he is: the father of my sons’ friend. A neighbour who lives in the next street. A little merry, dropping by to pick up something after a work lunch. He stops for a chat, my name is called, and he walks to the counter with me. Opportunity missed.

I drive to a pharmacy in the next suburb. In some strange kind of downplaying of buying the pregnancy test, I grab some head lice treatment, which we don’t actually need. May as well be embarrassed on two fronts. I also pick up some Betadine, perhaps to appear more responsible.

A customer is having a chat about her various health issues, and leaves the store throwing this gem over her shoulder, “Well I had to do something about it. I couldn’t be walking down the street scratching my bum all the time, could I?”

I don’t feel so embarrassed.

I have to collect the kids straight away, so the test sits in a paper packet in my handbag, waiting. Smouldering.

The next morning, I wake and I KNOW. I send the boys on an errand to the shop up the road. It’s lucky we’re out of milk.

I casually tell my partner, I think I might go pee on a stick. It’s the first he’s heard of my suspicions.

I sit on the toilet, so nervous it takes a little while to get any action. But when I finally make contact, the test is so bloody eager to tell me I’m knocked up, it starts colouring the “positive” section faster than a dividing zygote.

I walk out and hold the pee-soaked stick in front of my partner. He’s smiling, the bastard.

Back to top