September 26, 2014
Pregnant at 40-plus and Hating It: The Conversation We Never Have

People love to talk about the beauty of being pregnant, but when you're 40-something and expecting, it's not that pretty - though no one likes to admit it, says this contributor.

by Ira GM
Issues
Share:
In a culture where family is everything and having children is considered THE utmost achievement for women, it is difficult for one to admit that she hates being pregnant.

Alas, that is what I felt during my nine miserable weeks of pregnancy. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love babies and I believe my biological clock began ticking the moment I graduated from college. I longed to have a big family, and I remember days when I dreamed of having babies in my arm.

Long story short, I got married to a lovely man and got pregnant at a mature age of mid 40s. Not a prime age to bear a child, but, hey, modern medicines allow women close to menopause to have children, so I was undaunted.

Because I had false alarms before, I was not too concern when my period was three days late, but out of curiosity I bought a test pack and did the test at home. It was negative. So I carried on with my life, doing yoga, having wine at dinner and whatnots. After eight days, however, I thought something must be wrong, so I did another test again. It was positive. And just to be sure, not only I bought another test pack, I also went to a lab to take a urine test. Sure enough, it was positive. YAY! 




I was ecstatic, but at the same time worried, as I had done some reading about pregnancy for women over 40 years old. It is not pretty. There are lots of possible complications and risks involved, including a 30 percent risk of Down Syndrome baby. After some thoughts and discussions with my husband, we decided to tell only our loved ones and close friends. 

The first time I went to see a doctor I went alone.  He congratulated me after confirming my pregnancy. But when he read my file he said, well, considering my age, I was not to travel, nor was I allowed to do any exercise. There went my Bali and other trips plans. But I didn’t mind. And I didn’t mind forgoing sashimi, half boiled eggs and cheese. While I would miss yoga and coffee, I consoled myself that the three-month period was not very long.  

Besides getting supplement, I was prescribed a hormone therapy to help my body produce everything needed to help the pregnancy progress well. It was horrendous. Not the pregnancy, but the therapy. It wreaked havoc on my body. 

Before this, I used to be very active with yoga and up to five meetings a day. I traveled like crazy and ate healthily. Suddenly, I couldn’t do much. I no longer understood how my body worked, what with the headaches, the body aches and the constant nausea. My taste buds changed from eating healthy to craving junk food. Gone were the salads, replaced by burgers and pizzas. Cereals and low fat yogurt made ways for croissant and bubur ayam (chicken porridge) from the street.    

I envied those pregnant ladies who glowed with their beautiful skin, showing off their bellies. I didn’t have those. My skin did not glow. I looked sick and tired and weak. I was mostly feeling dizzy and could barely work. And I hated everyone, my husband included. 

I spoke to my girlfriends whose kids are in their teen years now and how they had been lucky to have children when they were younger, when their bodies could bear the pregnancies well. I thought about those women like my late grandmother, who gave birth to more than 10 children, and I wondered, how did they do it? 

It is hard. Your body could do so much, but the wonder of carrying another being, another life – that is God’s wonder work and, yeah, I saluted all mothers everywhere.

Nevertheless, as much as I was complaining, I was thankful for the opportunity to be pregnant. It was a joyful thing. My family and friends who got the news really loved it and they were very happy for me and my husband. 

Alas, this did not last long. 

Because of the aforementioned risks, my doctor required me to do a weekly monitoring, and on the 7th week he said that the fetus was not growing as a normal one would. But he said we could wait another week to see if there was further development.
On week-8 my husband took me to the doctor and we were told the sad, sad news. The fetus had no heartbeat and had not grown in a week. We had to let it go. 

Because it was still eight weeks old, I could abort the pregnancy with medications as opposed to going to the table. And it was hell. 

Besides being psychologically a mess, for losing the baby, for being a failure, for being sad and lonely, I went through a physically challenging time. I took so much strong medicines that my body just wanted to reject everything. I spent so much time at the toilet bowl that I considered moving my bed to the front of the bathroom to make the walk shorter. 

It was so tiring that I stay cocooned in my bed, watching sitcoms and old movies, eating ice creams and other junk food. Basically counting the days till the ordeal is over. 

My husband comforted me and reminded me to be thankful for this experience, and encouraged me not to lose hope. I was grateful for my families and friends who were very supportive, who prayed for me and remained hopeful for me. 

To be honest, I felt relieved, however. In the beginning I thought it was shameful to feel this way, to be glad that the misery was over. It seemed ungrateful, knowing that many couples try so hard to get pregnant, and here I was, feeling happier that I was no longer pregnant.  It was not something that people talk about, but I have friends who are my age, who experienced the hardships and they comforted me.

Now I no longer think it’s shameful to feel this way. 

I suppose because many women in Indonesia start bearing children before they turn 25, most can’t imagine someone close to 45 years old being pregnant, knowing the complications involved. Having said that, there are plenty of healthy babies delivered by women over 40 years old, and it is wonderful.

Now that it is all over I have been asked if I would consider trying again.I told my husband I would like to take a break first and be myself again. Perhaps next time I will be more prepared, not just physically, but also psychologically.  
 
So I guess deep down I hope there will be another chance. Next time better.
 
About Ira GM
Ira was a banker in her previous life but now prefers to work in the media, NGO and anything related to yoga. She loves books and travelling equally and is blessed with a loving family and many friends.  She was born and raised in Jakarta. Post-writing this article, she had a successful operation and is now contemplating whether to try to get pregnant again.