Kelly Carper Detterman
Life of an Older Mama
I don't really want to put my age out there for everyone I don't know, but let's just say I am an older mama. Not quite geriatric by my standards but the doctors definitely used the term "advanced maternal age" in my medical file and treated me as such with lots of extra tests and more regular appointments than those lucky 20 something mamas sitting across from me in the waiting room. For those of you doing the math you now know I am at least 35 years old, by medical definition of an advance maternal age mama. But do the differences stop here...terminology and appointment scheduling? Yes and no.
Pregnancy has it's challenges for everyone who experiences it. Some struggle with morning sickness others with weight gain or swelling. I had my share of challenges; including the worst heartburn imaginable and some crazy blood pressure, but wouldn't that have happened at any age?! Definitely...heartburn seems to be a common thing among every mother I talked to during my pregnancy and so many times I heard that it doesn't go away after pregnancy. (GOOD NEWS FOR PREGNANT MAMAS - It did go away for me!!!) But high blood pressure, was that age related? There are several risk factors for preeclampsia and while age is one of them (risk is higher women under 20 years and over 40 years of age), it is not the only risk factor and I really didn't have any of them; obesity, gestational diabetes, history of high blood pressure, etc. I did have an early test in my pregnancy that predicted I would develop pre-eclampsia. Luckily, my blood pressure was controlled with low dose medication and never became pre-eclampsia. So my verdict on pregnancy...it isn't easy at any age. All in all, I think it actually went better than I expected based on stories from other mamas. I didn't have any back pain, leg pains, morning sickness never happened and the symptoms I did have were far outweighed by my joy at being pregnant. I was a paranoid mama, checking my baby on a home doppler at 2 am while my husband was snoring in bed. VERDICT: Pregnancy is the same no matter the age...unpredictable and different for every woman. A few extra tests just meant I had a little more information than a younger mom might get.
Now for after I left the hospital...let the adventure begin. Oh the sleepless nights. I so wish I had slept more and cleaned less in those last few weeks. My baby really didn't care that I vacuumed the couch and cleaned all the baseboards, but some extra rest in those last weeks may have prepared me for motherhood a little more. In my 20's I had no problem surviving on 3 hours of sleep; including my 2 years of graduate school in which I did this 5 out of 7 days of the week due to a full time class schedule and 2 jobs. Before I even left the hospital I was exhausted and questioning whether I would be able to survive on this sleep. A couple days later my lactation consultant asked me what was the longest period of sleep I had since the baby was born, and I burst into tears; 2 hours of sleep is NOT enough when you are ** (not 29 years old). VERDICT: I definitely feel stamina is not the same for an older mama. Seven months later and I still dream (daydream) of getting 8 hours of sleep.
Weight loss is not easy at any age, but I got lucky in this respect. I stayed within the doctors recommended weight gain and packed on a whopping 22 pounds during my pregnancy. I wanted to eat everything in site, like most pregnant women...BUT, a big thank you to my heartburn! I wasn't able to overeat and kept the weight gain to a minimum. The 22 pounds was actually gone within 3 weeks of the birth. Thank you breastfeeding!! Also, I was so tired I generally opted for sleep over eating. Let's not talk about the weight gain since then...my regular diet of grab and go snacks that I can eat while playing with an on the go baby hasn't been great for my waist. VERDICT: I think weight loss varies by individual mama and is not entirely based on age.
The uncertainty and insecurity that comes along with being a mama is a serious downer. Am I holding the baby the right way, am I feeding him enough, is he getting enough sleep, do I really need to spend more for organic cotton pajamas...and doubt after doubt after doubt. I think it is natural to question yourself as a new mama at any age. I think of the younger mamas I know and they seem to have the same concerns. We can commiserate over what types of food to feed, whether to sleep train, is this toy safe. VERDICT: As an older mama once I have an answer that works for my baby, I am willing to listen to other opinions but I don't question my own judgement. In my 20's I may have been guilted into not asking family members to use hand sanitizer with my 6 week old, but don't mess with this older mama!
Flexibility is something we are all good at in our 20's. Dinner plans change...we roll with it. Impromptu trip to the beach...no problem. In my 30's, I have a schedule, my career path is established...I can't just change at the drop of a hat. It has been difficult adapting to being a stay at home mom after 10+ years working in HR. I questioned what this would do to my future career prospects, I battled with the change in my sleep schedule and not being able to run to Target without feeding a baby, burping a baby, diapering a baby, packing a diaper bag...you get the drift. I was struggling with giving up my path and my freedom. At my age, I had a plan and I thought the baby would fit into that, not me fitting into the baby's plan. VERDICT: Flexibility is key to being a mama! It may be easier in your 20's but it will come at any age. Babies are not so flexible and mom's at any age learn to just roll with it.
Finding mom friends with kids of similar age is important; someone to commiserate with about sleep, leaky diapers, vaccinations and teething. It is definitely a challenge when you are older than most of those moms. Most people who don't know me wouldn't necessarily guess my age, so I can blend in with the younger mamas. Thank goodness for my Rodan + Fields regimen. VERDICT: Mom struggles are mom struggles at any age...go ahead and friend that younger mama on Peanut.
Overall, I think new moms have their own set of struggles at any age. It may have been easier to adapt to such a lifestyle change in my 20's but I love being a mom at this age. I never would have felt comfortable in my 20's sharing so much of my journey on this blog, but I am more comfortable with who I am as a person and as a mom.