After the birth of my second child six years ago, I was prescribed what’s often referred to as the “mini-pill.” My periods had historically always been very regular, but that all changed on the progesterone-only pill. I went off of it and was told by my OBGYN that I should regulate accordingly. That never really happened. After almost 3 months with no period, last year at 39, I thought, “Well, this is it, early menopause; put me out to pasture!”
I finally did have a period and, a few weeks later, had crazy cramping and lower back pain. Convinced that I had some kind of tumor, I made an emergency appointment with the gynecologist. The night before, on a whim, I took a pregnancy test after feeling overwhelmed at a mild garbage smell at work.
Low and behold, it was positive! What?! But I was nearly 40, and it had been 5 years since my last baby! I was planning on starting a business, and my youngest was headed to kindergarten.
Stop! Baby Time!
At the gynecologist, during an early ultrasound, the tech discovered two embryos. One had a lower heartbeat than the other and was measuring about a week behind. Finding out that you might be pregnant with twins unexpectedly at nearly 40 is fairly overwhelming. I called my husband at work rather than face telling him in person. As fate would have it, it was not to be, and two weeks later, an ultrasound showed that the smaller embryo was not viable. Ultimately, we were both relieved and growing excited at the idea of our (single) new addition.
When you are of advanced maternal age (aka geriatric, no seriously, that’s what it’s called), you can undergo extra tests to look for genetic abnormalities. Unfortunately, because there were originally twins, that genetic material remains and could throw off blood testing. We waited for almost 16 weeks to run the tests. Luckily, all came back negative, and we found out that she was definitely a girl! I was thrilled to be expecting another little girl.
Pregnancy at 40 is definitely a bit rougher. The morning sickness was brutal. I developed pneumonia at the end of the pregnancy and was hospitalized. I lost weight, and I swear I’ve never been so sick in my life! Ultimately, I delivered a healthy 5lb 13 oz girl vaginally after 2 c-sections.
The first 6 weeks: Never again
I struggled with postpartum anxiety and depression with my first two children but the first 6 weeks this time were by far the worst. I think that the combination of her birth falling right in the thick of the holidays and having two other children to care for really did me in. We found out that she wasn’t gaining weight well with breastfeeding alone at three weeks after birth, and I had to start supplementing with pumping and formula. At that point, I already hadn’t slept for more than three hours in a row for over three weeks. I started to really lose my mind.
Luckily, I have an incredible husband who insisted that I take a couple of days to sleep through the night (except for pumping) while he slept with the baby separately. I think it saved my sanity, honestly. I’m a psychotherapist who is trained in treating perinatal mood disorders. Still, all my knowledge didn’t help the physiological and psychological effects of weeks of hormone changes, body trauma, and sleep deprivation. During this time, therapy and medication were also key components of my recovery. Luckily, I’ve felt significantly better since that six-week mark, which also coincided with my baby’s beautiful smiles, and now giggles and cooing. Social reciprocity really makes a difference for bonding!
Now juggling three kids a bit daunting, but most days, I manage(ish). It really does feel like starting over with an 8-year-old, 6-year-old, and a now 5-month-old. We hadn’t saved any of my daughter’s baby clothes, but we do have much of her bigger girl clothes. Now I’m in the midst of pureeing bananas and sweet potatoes for starter foods and still juggling pumping, nursing, and bottle feeding. At times I think of how much easier life would be if we were still a family of four, with two big kids able to do many things independently. Easier? Probably. But I don’t think any of us can imagine a life without sweet baby number 3!