March 9, 2014

On Being an Older Mom

I will admit that I had my annual freakout this year.  It usually goes from the holidays and ends triumphantly with me not being dead, also known as a birthday.
A few years back it didn't really bother me quite so much.  I mean, I had it good.  My kids were great.  I had a job I loved while being able to swing homeschooling.  A nice house.
All the stuff that made life good, right?

Then life changed, and at 43 I had a baby.

Not a huge deal at this time in history, or probably any other actually, but it did alter my life in a pretty big way at a time when I wasn't really expecting it.

One thing that helped me was to realize that the stuff didn't really matter so much?  That maybe I needed to invest more of myself into the lives of those around me.
I will admit that even though we all live in the same space, my introvertedness does require me to make an effort to live outside of my own head at any given time in my own home.

But how was having a baby at 43 different from 29 or 33?

When you add your age to the potential landmarks of your kids, 43 is pretty up there.  After all, when I look at the other local mothers, I could easily be their mothers, and have more in common, it seems, with the grandmothers than with them.
The thing that I realized and that kept hitting me was that I might never see my kids grow to get married or have my grandchildren.  Time is short, and seems to go quicker every year so I need to really invest myself in the here and now and not worry so much with what might be coming and that I might miss it.
I realized that I am not guaranteed tomorrow even.  So I don't need to dwell on being 83 when this baby is 40.
Getting over the mental aspects and just moving on with life is a big part of it for me.

Then there is the social issue.  Aren't I supposed to put him in playgroups?
I had to realize that the idea of putting him in a group based on age went against my belief in the need for socialization.  I don't buy that you have to be immersed in a culture of similarity based upon age.  It is part of why I homeschool.  I'm pretty sure that he will end up a hopefully-normal-ish adult someday despite not going to playgroup.
I will add that I am meeting some wonderful 20-somethings that I probably would have never met if it weren't for us having children in common, and that is a good thing that really enriches my life.
I just don't know that seeking out a group is a worthwhile pursuit.

My pregnancy in my 40s was actually my easiest physically.  I worked regular shifts at the hospital and I worked out.  I knew that exercise would be vital for having a good pregnancy, but didn't try to overdo it like I did when younger.  I ran till I couldn't, and then I walked until I couldn't, and then I waddled, but I did keep moving.  I worked out with weights and kept my muscles toned and stretched.
I knew that labor was coming, but that the stress of carrying a baby was going to be rough on my body.  Making my muscles strong so that they could support the weight and where it was located was key for me.  I am not one to believe in wearing a support.  You train muscles to be strong by letting them work not by giving them a crutch.

One hard part was avoiding all the rhetoric telling me my odds of failing.  It seemed that every source went out of its way to let me know the odds of Down's Syndrome or miscarriage.
I saw this in pregnancy fitness magazines that promised articles talking about pregnancy at different ages.  It was little more than the statistics of my potential to fail.
I searched hard to find a doctor and midwife who were focused on the positives, and fired my first one for their inability to express that I could have a healthy baby.

On another note.... as a RN for almost 24 years... never, never feel that you cannot fire your doctor.  You don't even have to have a concrete reason.  You should feel comfortable with the people who are advising you regarding medical choices.

I'm also a big believer that, in most cases, the baby will take what it needs and it is the mother who will only have the leftovers when it comes to health while pregnant.  This is really an analogy for what life becomes so often with kids.  They take, we give willingly, but during pregnancy you don't really get a choice in the matter.
I also admit that choking down supplements is not my favorite thing at that point, but that NOW's Liquid Cal-Mag was something that I used daily.  This was a good choice because it provided calcium to support my bones and teeth, magnesium to help prevent leg cramps, and the xylitol to keep my GI tract moving.

My skin tends to really show what I'm needing and hydration shows easily along with dryness.  This meant I needed some omega oils dosed until I saw a difference.  Water is a must, and the last half of the pregnancy I also used an essential fatty acid supplement a few times a day and ate fish like a mermaid even.

Herbs used in my last weeks to help tone my internal organs for delivery.  I used the Gentle Birth Formula from Mountain Meadow Herbs.  Used as directed, it is a safe way to tone and prepare you body for labor and delivery.
This labor was pretty wonderful, but then I do get epidurals.
The baby was a fat, healthy boy who was absolutely perfect.

But then, you have a baby.

I had nursed my other 2 babies exclusively for almost 2 years each.  They grew even fatter and happier, but this time it was different.  My little baby who was fat and happy at birth started wasting away.  By 2 months, he had gained less than 2 pounds.  Seeing him daily took away my perspective so I took a photo one day.
You could see every rib in his little body.  His skin was dry and thin.  He looked like a little starving child; probably because that's what he was.  My baby wasn't getting enough food from me.
I could've gone to ask the pediatrician, sought advice from others, but it was evident that the baby needed food.

The thing is that I never felt engorged or like I had enough milk as I did with my other babies.
Turns out, this can be a common issue for older mothers, especially if it has been a while since your last child.
I continued to nurse, but supplemented with formula.
It eventually became that he had formula and supplemented with nursing though.
I refused to feel like I had failed at feeding him, but felt empowered that I recognized and treated the situation.  I could beat myself up over having a baby that was malnourished and hungry, or I could see that I acted and worked to repair it as quickly as possible.
I think if I were younger I'd have thought myself a failure, but at this point, despite the emotional scar from this I'll always have, I'm not out to prove anything.
I used Nurse-Me Rhyme Tea from Mountain Rose herbs daily, drinking at least 2 quarts a day to maintain what little supply I had.
When I started Trim, Healthy Mama I did see some increase as well.

And the not sleeping thing?  It's harder now than before.  I had struggled with adrenal fatigue a few years back and the lack of sleep kept causing my body to drift back to that state of hormonal imbalance.  Again, staying on track as far as diet and exercise were the things that kept me healthy.
To me, a good diet and exercise are the MOST important things you can do.  It isn't about supplements or popping some 'magic' potion to make you feel better.   To repair you have to make real change and address the issues, not just cover them up and allow the symptoms of disease to be stifled.
To repair adrenal issues, the first step is to stop contributing to the behavior that brought it on.  I knew the lack of sleep was temporary. Yes, it was hard and it made me nutty, but I knew it was limited and I would live through it.  I knew that I needed to maintain and do all the other things I could do, like get off all sugars, stay away from carbs and get good quality foods along with exercise to keep my body functioning.

I stay on top of hauling a 30 pound toddler around by keeping my appointments with my chiropractor and massage therapist as well.
Now that I'm back on the job this is doubly important.  The baby is mobile and can walk, but I need to also stay strong so that I can function in a hospital, ICU setting for many more years.  My back and core are vital to this.  I've never had a back injury and never plan on one either.  I have learned how to move safely, but also how to strengthen my body and how to maintain with regular adjustments to keep alignment.

So the fact is, being a mother can be a trial and a blessing no matter what your age is.  As with most things in life, your perspective and attitude are the most important things you can bring to the equation.
And I'll just focus on potty training for the moment and not think about teaching him to drive in my 60s.


Melissa Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barbara O said...

I loved this. Thanks so much. My last 2 (of 6) children were born when I was 40 and 42. You will be in your 50's when you teach him to drive! I'm 60, soon to be 61 and the youngest is graduating. I feel like I've made it! Survived! There were some superficial challenges..being much older than the other moms my children were friends with, the questions "Is that your grandma?" "How nice to have your grandchldren with you!"
BUT these young ones have kept me young! I'm always surprised to find that others my age aren't "up on the latest" that kids do these days. I listen to a lot of the music they like and probably wouldn't even know about some of it otherwise, etc. Our house is noisy and active when most people my age have long had quiet, lonely houses. I'm very thankful for that. Thanks for reminding me...

See the Blue Sky said...

Bless you Barbara and thank you for your wonderful words.