The morning before I visit my obstetrician, in my head, I run through a medical history since last time I saw him (nearly 8 years ago). It takes a while.
Bring on the tests.
It’s reassuring to visit my doc. We both agree the priority is chromosomal tests. (And I’m itching to get an all-clear, so I can tell my family about this baby — and stop sucking in my stomach!)
I visit the pathology center in the hospital to organize a non-invasive test: it’s called iGeneScreen, and it has to be done on a certain day so the blood can be couriered to the airport to the USA. It tests for Trisomy 21, Trisomy 18, and Trisomy 13. I could also find out the sex, which I decline. I’ll also have a Nuchal Translucency Scan, so I book that in for three weeks’ time.
This limbo, somewhere around 9 weeks, where nobody knows save him and me and a couple of medical/allied folk. This limbo, it’s almost like the baby doesn’t exist. All smoothly rolls; I’m a little tired, nothing noteworthy. Nobody would guess. Sometimes, not even me.
Until this morning.
This morning, when my eldest advises me of a project due TODAY involving printing pictures on vaguearama topics: his culture, his aspirations, as well as the usual family and friends happy snaps. (I can’t find a picture of all four of us more recent than 2009.) The first computer cracks a spaz. The printer refuses to cooperate. I cough on a mouthful of muesli and choke with sudden nausea. Everyone is late. We have no bread. My back aches, and I dread how it could feel with another 10 kilos hanging off it. My breasts ache, as always. I am blue, and angry. Making the boys’ lunch, I try to snap Saladas in half, and they shatter. That’s when I start crying. One son disappears down to the chickens, the other pats my arm, confused.
I can’t do this.
My old body is not up to this pregnancy.
My mind is not ready for the depression I’d forgotten comes freely with pregnancy hormones.
I am not the person to do this. I didn’t enjoy being pregnant the last times: I suffered some depressive episodes both pregnancies, plus PND after #2. I am scared shitless of losing the wonderful positive mental frame I’m in right now.
I lost about a litre of blood with the birth of #2. I am a bleeder. I don’t want to die giving birth.
I don’t even like babies much. I gag changing nappies. I’m not really into kids, either: I don’t like all children, just like I don’t like all people, or I don’t like all dogs.
We can’t afford this.
I will be 65 when this child turns 21. (Daddyo will be 69.)
We were quite content and comfortable as we were. How are we even going to fit a baby into the house? (I’m going to lose my new bookshelves!)
It’s not fair to do this to my sons. Maybe it’s not fair to do this to this unborn little one, either.
It’s surprising just how easy it is to keep this a secret. Unlike my 30s, where every vow of temperance seemed to be met by a cynical tummy-glance, at the moment every second middle aged friend is also giving up the grog for a little while.
Seems that February, coming as it does straight outta partytown, is a great month in which to hide the early months of an unexpected pregnancy. I don’t even have to extrapolate past a polite decline of offered alcohol and “no thanks, I’m off the turps for a while”.
*Australian for “on the wagon”
I like my obstetrician. He’s got four of his own kids: that’s a good sign. One was bass guitarist in a cool Brisbane band for a while, until they broke up prematurely. Some blame Megan Washington, but that’s another story.
He looks a little like Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird. This is exactly what you want your obstetrician to look like, I reckon. Atticus saved my life, last baby, 100 years ago (ok, 8), when he dealt with a delayed hemorrhage. It’s pretty cool to be visiting him again. In a rather life-changing manner of doing so.
I speak to my obstetrician. I haven’t seen him yet; apparently there’s not much point so early. Especially since I’ve done this all before ten years ago.
He tells me about screening options. There’s something new: non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT). With ridiculous brand names like Harmony and Panorama. I tell him Harmony is now off my list of potential boy names.
They can take a blood test around 10 weeks, send it to the US, give you an early chromosomal heads-up. Earlier detection, reduced risk of miscarriage. 10 weeks sounds much better than 13 to this 43-and-a-half year old.
It costs, he tells me, around $800 – $1000.
The Chinese, he tells me, are working on a cheaper option.
If you’re interested in Queensland Health’s brief on NIPT from May 2013, click here. It’s a solid read.
I compile a list of celebrities who fall pregnant later in life… Then I see this article, which makes me feel uncomfortable. I understand, by having a surprise natural pregnancy now, that I am unusual, but Ms Friedman’s censorious tone makes me feel quite excluded. Or maybe it’s the hormones.
Ancient, knocked-up celebs
- Halle Berry, 46 (2nd child)
- Uma Thurman, 43 (3rd)
- Salma Hayek, 41
- Mariah Carey, 43
- Jane Seymour, and Celine Dion, 42
- Madonna, 40-whatever
- Carla Bruni, 44
- Monica Belluci, 45
- Maya Rudolph, 41(4th)
- Mira Sorvino, 45
- Julianne Moore, 41
- Kelly Preston, 47 (3rd)
- Marcia Cross, 51
- Jennifer Connely, 42
- Meryl Streep, 4 kids in her 40s
- Susan Sarandon, 45 (2nd)
- Annette Bening, 41
- Molly Ringwald, 45!!!
- Geena Davis, 46
- Brooke Sheilds, 41
- Madonna, 41 (2nd)
You can’t tell me they were all donor eggs.
Oh, this blog is shiny and new and already I’m writing about celebrities. I feel dirty.
But, I’ll take Uma, and Molly. And the most exciting exemplar…
The winning mature celeb pregnancy is Ursula Andress, who had her first baby at 44, with none other than my high school LA Law crush, Harry Hamlin. She’s also scored some quality doona time with James Dean and Marlon Brando — oh, my teenage self swoons! AND she knows her way around a tiger.
I knew we had more in common than a love of good shells.
And hanging out on coral cays with moustachio’d Scots.
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.
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.
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.
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.