Aside from our annual check-ups, we do not go to the doctor frequently unless something is wrong or in my case, expecting a baby. Over the past four plus months, I have been subjected to some extremely comedic and traumatizing moments with my doctors.
At the end of January, I went for a routine check-up. As I prepared to leave, the doctor advised me on my next appointments. He mentioned that I needed to get another ultrasound since I am “tracking large”. My jaw dropped. I was still wearing my regular clothes. My colleagues have kindly lied to me and told me that I do not even look like I am expecting. I have been under an illusion that pregnancy had been kind to my body thus far. However, my doctor immediately burst my bubble with a statement that could have been clearly mistaken for the latest weather forecast.
My doctor further added insult (not on purpose of course) by indicating that the extra appointments are due to the fact that I am at Advanced Maternal Age. My first reaction was “WTF”. “Advanced”. This clinical phrase or euphemism for “old and pregnant” really didn’t roll of my doctor’s tongue well. No matter how many celebrities give birth in their 40’s and the fact that people are waiting until later in life to have children really is irrelevant. After 35, you are too old to be having children or at Advanced Maternal Age.
All jokes aside, the words Advanced Maternal Age have really resonated in my mind and caused me to think beyond the physical age of our wombs and how society (mainly my family) has viewed maternity at this stage in my life.
While everyone is undoubtedly excited about the news that my husband and I are expecting, comments have ranged from “already, you just got married” to “it’s about time” and “I never thought you were going to have kids”. In response, I smile, say my obligatory thanks, and then snidely reply, “Well I’m 36 and married…how long do you suppose we wait until we have children”. I really want to say, “would you prefer I was 16 and unwed. Would that have suited you better?” I don’t of course.
In my family, I have been to more baby showers and kids birthday parties than I have college graduations or weddings. With relatives the same age as me with grandchildren, it’s not surprising that my family has reacted the way they have. If you are 35 and without children, you are looked at as an enigma. The lack of husband and children thus far has been largely misconstrued as me never wanting children and/or I couldn’t hang on to a man (the latter being somewhat true). For them, there could be no other explanation.
My decision to wait until I had a family was largely influenced by my parents. My mother was a teen mother and I saw how determined she was to not let me repeat the cycle. Additionally, my parents always praised and valued education and emphasized that there are things in life you just need to do NOW and other things you need to worry about later.
Throughout my life, my family members have chided my success from a young age. As a child, I was called “white girl” because I spoke proper English. As I got older, I was called “the world traveler” or “the smart one”. The comments always had a sarcastic undertone as my accomplishments were mocked instead of being praised. No matter how many degrees hang on my wall or what successes I have had with work or in my personal life, it all boils down to, “when are you settling down”?
While I disagree vehemently with the article, I Look Down on Young Women With Kids and Husbands and I’m Not Sorry, the author squeezes in a few valid points. Almost anyone can become a biological mom or dad and we spend far too much time celebrating our biological capabilities and the pomp and circumstance of weddings. There is little focus (my interpretation) on parenting and relationship-building, but more focus on out doing one another on lavish baby showers and grand weddings.
From my own experience, society looks down on women (and men) who decide to live life, obtain an education, and focus on their career before they decide to take on the huge responsibilities of parenthood and marriage. Not everyone is college bound or college material. Perhaps, however, if we spent more time encouraging our youth and celebrating their successes beyond their ability to give birth, then the ideal of Advanced Maternal Age wouldn’t have a negative connotation beyond the four walls of doctor’s office.