By Sharon Munroe
For the past five years I had a sense that something was different about my experience with having and raising young children. I’d talk about my age a lot, much more than any time in my life. Was that unusual? Many women stop talking about their age after 30, 35 and certainly by 40.
Why did I feel the need to blurt out my age in many conversations when talking about my children?
The short answer, I’ve realized, is that I am proud of what I achieved in this age, having worked hard for it. From age 39 to the present day, at age 44, my husband and I managed to have three, healthy newborn children in my life. I birthed two biological sons 3 years and 9 months apart and have raised another couple’s daughter from birth as though she was my own, through foster care and soon adoption.
A healthy pregnancy and delivery at age 40 gave me tremendous confidence. Initially receiving the Advanced Maternal Age stamp on my medical chart was daunting. I took it on as a big challenge to beat the odds and feel very grateful that I could. It would have been easy to be discouraged with the warnings I received from my obstetrician, perinatologist, the pregnancy after 35 books, and the comments of others.
Hoping that we could duplicate success and give our son a sibling, 2009 and early 2010 were filled with losses. Miscarriages and the devastating news that two donor eggs would not make a baby gave us much stress and angst. Fortunately, we were now certified as foster parents and ready to take a young child into our home. We grieved and were ready to move on.
Raising our newborn foster daughter who arrived at our home directly from the hospital with limited medical history on her birth parents was yet another challenge. The emotional upheaval we felt of not knowing if we would get to be her forever family worried me night and day all last year. Stress was at an all time high around her first birthday with court dates and visitation ramping up. She was healthy and we held onto the hope of giving our son a sister.
While raising this baby girl and my own growing son, I was spontaneously pregnant. Our second son is now seven months old and I am 44 ½.
As members of a community supporting infertility awareness, education and sharing resources, you will find the American Fertility Association to be a wealth of information. Local professionals who lead support groups and provide couples with therapy are invaluable.
In thinking about my ambitions and considering how to provide a unique resource for first-time moms over age 35, I searched a lot online. My early searching lead me to the wonderful Momopins Blog by Jennifer Rustgi, who like me became a mom at age 40 and talked about her age as much as I do. She lives in my hometown of Austin, Texas. We did not know each other before I contacted her in mid-March.
We met and discussed that there should be something else and a way to share with other women. Jennifer and are now developing a collection of stories of women who became mothers at age 35 or better. There are many other collections of stories I’ve found impactful, including those about adoption. Through sharing our stories, we make sense of the decisions we made in the past and give hope and encouragement to many women who are contemplating this big life decision in becoming mothers at an advanced maternal age. I want to help break the stereotype.
We embarked on The Advanced Maternal Age Project in April with the goal of providing a supportive community to all first-time moms aged 35 or better. Ultimately we’d like to write a non-fiction book on the same topic. Join in the conversation and we’d love to hear your story.
Sharon Munroe dealt with secondary infertility and being labeled as an advanced maternal age patient twice. She the co-founder and editor of The Advanced Maternal Age Project, owner of Little Green Beans, a children’s store, and a market research executive. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and three young children.