I’ll just put it out there. I was one month shy of 41 when I had my daughter. First pregnancy. First child. Whew.
There, I said it. I have significant anxiety about admitting that, which frustrates me that ageism has such an influence on me. Add pregnancy to the insecurity of aging and we pretty much have full blown breakdown potential.
For those of you in the same age group, you likely know that having a baby at this stage in life is called a “geriatric pregnancy.” Well, that’s what my family doctor told me when I was 34 and went to see her about the possibility of getting pregnant. You may have heard “advanced maternal age,” which frankly doesn’t make me feel any better, but give “geriatric pregnancy” a google and you will see it is a term that remains mainstream (insert angry, red face emoji here). Turns out I wasn’t ready for pregnancy at the time, so I let it go. Fast forward 6 years and the term came back with full intensity to haunt me.
To be fair, my doctor said it in jest because both of her pregnancies were “geriatric” and without issues. Please note I will continue to write “geriatric” in quotes because the term in this context is so ridiculous. I soon learned that the phrase is associated with pregnancies over the age of 35, and she advised me to return in 6 months if I wasn’t pregnant yet. With a medical background, I processed the appointment, (6 months?? I thought it was a year!), and “geriatric pregnancies” in general, struggling to make sense of it all. Here’s why: a quick online search defines “geriatric” as, “a branch of medicine that deals with the problems and diseases of old age and aging people.” Problems and diseases of old age and aging people?!?! Considering a 35+ pregnant woman is neither old nor managing a problem or disease, isn’t “geriatric pregnancy” an oxymoron? I say yes. There are one offs and a 70 year old has a baby; now THAT to me seems geriatric, but a 40 year old about to have her first baby?? You gotta be shittin’ me.
“I should never have gotten pregnant, or at least not so soon, and most definitely not without fertility treatments, but I did. And, it was easy.”
I believe awareness is important so let’s dive into the numbers for a second. According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC), fertility begins to “steeply decline” by the age of 35. That meant at 40, my chances were significantly worse, like vertical dive bomb worse. The anxiety compounded as I started to think about adoption, in vitro, lack of time, lack of money, more doubts, more guilt, more anxiety. Apparently the stress, like most stress, was a waste of time because the reality is, it took me 2 months to conceive. Like, pregnant the second month trying pregnant. That’s it. Now, I do not minimize in anyway those who have had trouble conceiving at any age. Many of my friends had trouble conceiving, a couple of them never were able to. All were quite young, between 30-35, and at present the age group of women having the most children. I am merely stating that given the statistics, I should never have gotten pregnant, or at least not so soon, and most definitely not without fertility treatments, but I did. And, it was easy.
So what? Well, I argue this: “geriatric pregnancy,” ” advanced maternal age,” “delayed child bearing,”…why give it a label at all? We women are exhausted from the pressure of trying to balance work/life, lean in, lean out, and break glass ceilings that we don’t need to feel more stress and judgement getting pregnant in our 40s. When it comes down to it, regardless of age, 21, 35, or 43, outside of associated medical issues, aren’t we all just pregnant? It’s time to confront the blatant ageism, and sexism for that matter. A man who knocks up a woman when he’s 70? A stud. A woman gets pregnant at 40? Desperate, old and lucky. WTF?
You can have a baby after 35, after 40, after 45, and it can be easy. It might be hard, but it CAN be easy. In the end, I implore you, ignore the terminology, challenge the science, and have faith that women get pregnant older and will continue to get pregnant older. Give fear and judgment the middle finger. Go out there and get knocked up, or at least have a damn good time trying.