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“You’re pregnant!” My husband holds the pregnancy test out for me to see as I search his eyes for some trace of a joke.
“Yeah right,” I say, smiling.
“Really, you are.”
My eyes follow his to the plus sign on the pregnancy test.
“Do another one,” I say, not quite believing what I see.
Quickly, we assemble a new test and wait anxiously for the results. Moments later, another plus sign. The image of a billboard flashes through my mind — it reads “Forty and Pregnant!”
“Wow!” simultaneously escapes our lips as we stare at one another, dumbfounded.
It would be a lie to say I haven’t wished for this moment. But it wasn’t until I had a life-threatening medical condition a few years ago that my husband and I started entertaining the idea of becoming parents. Suddenly, we realized that having a child was important to us and that the life we thought we wanted—one with dual careers, pets, lots of travel and no mortgage—paled in comparison. We knew it was time to begin planning for a family, before it was too late.
Now, a few years later, as I stare at my husband, I realize we’re actually on our way. We’re pregnant. And I’m scared.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic about becoming a first-time mom, but I’m also a bit freaked out. Internet sites are filled with information on the potential dangers of pregnancy—gestational diabetes, hypertension, loss of amniotic fluid, miscarriage, placenta previa, placenta abruption, preeclampsia—not to mention the threat of chromosomal abnormalities and birth defects.
Is it really that much more dangerous to be pregnant after 40? Various sites assure me that, while there are some increased risks (such as Down Syndrome which can be determined by an amniocentesis early in the pregnancy), as long as I’m healthy, a pregnancy at 40 should be fine.
Before I turn around, days pass into months. Our lives focus on my ballooning belly, doctor’s appointments, blood tests, fundal measurements and fetal heart monitors, and I realize that, ready or not, there is really a child on its way.
I prepare to say goodbye to nights spent idly in front of the TV, reading a good book, sleeping in until noon, or going out to dinner, as I feel the tiny kicks of my baby making itself known. Thoughts of the tests I will soon endure begin to loom—the amnio needle going in my belly, the stress tests, the ultra sounds—and perhaps more profoundly I think about just how much childbirth is going to hurt. The fear of the unknown and being out of control begins to overtake me.
My husband reminds me to breathe as questions and thoughts arise: Will we make good parents? Will our lives change drastically? Will we be able to survive physically and emotionally? Are we too old?
My girlfriends who are mothers keep reminding me that I do have maternal instincts that will kick in when the baby is born. They assure me I will be okay, no matter how petrified I may feel right now.
Being 40, I feel more mature, wiser and better equipped to have a child than I did when I was younger. I feel ready for the sleepless nights, the tears and tantrums, I welcome the exchange of unconditional love. My internet searches help educate and relax me. I am reassured that more and more women are becoming pregnant for the first time later in life. Careers first, babies second is becoming more common.
During my third trimester, a few days shy of 32 weeks, I begin to bleed. The earlier diagnosis of placenta previa now threatens. My doctor prescribes bed rest and sick leave from work. I am immediately admitted to the hospital for a week.
I return home, but not for long. Two weeks later I have another bleed so I return to the hospital where I stay until my delivery. Two more bleeds transpire. The days pass slowly. I lie waiting in my bed, back aching, watching the seemingly unmoving clock. But despite it all, the movement of my baby sustains me. My precious baby seems strong and agile. He fights on and so do I.
Three weeks early, Kaian Harrison Reid Friesen is born. Of course he is perfect in every way—even with a touch of jaundice. Now, as we step over the threshold of parenthood, we rejoice.
Well worth the fears, the scares, the long days, Kaian arrived, healthy and happy. We finally feel grown up, ready to wholeheartedly embrace a life filled with diaper changes, feedings and schedules, tears and smiles. His life has altered ours forever but we have no interest in looking back. Our life is now complete. We are a family.
Kim Friesen ©
This article is published in Island Parent Magazine.
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