On episode 55, we have Maria on to share her pregnancy at 41. She grew up in Germany but she is a Spaniard that now lives in Austin, Texas. She is an Air Force Veteran, has a PhD in health sciences and is a college professor in fitness. She calls herself the menopause expert. She’s always been fit and has lived an active lifestyle because it’s her profession. She has an eight-year-old daughter that she had when she was 41 with the help of science. Maria never thought she would have children or saw herself as a mother. She said something just clicked when she reached ‘middle age’ at 39 and knew motherhood was something she wanted. She started to research the IVF process and said all of it came together. It felt like it was meant to be.
Everything happened just the way it was supposed to.
She first started with two cycles of IUI’s with a close friend as the sperm donor. Her friend didn’t have an interest in being an active parent, which was perfect for her. Those didn’t work out, but she’s glad. She was worried about emotional complications after the baby was born.
Picking out an anonymous donor from a sperm bank was more fun than Maria thought it would be. She said it was weird, but thought it was amazing when she got into it. At the beginning, she thought any donor would do, but the more she looked, the pickier she became. She picked the perfect donor based on genetics. Being a scientist and researcher, she loved the ‘nerdy’ part of the process. She created a folder for candidates and why they would work. Genetics were the most important to her. After that, it became a fun ride to choose the genetic father of her child based on someone that matched her physical traits.
You hear getting pregnant isn’t easy, but when it’s you, you expect it to still work.
Maria did three IUI’s with the sperm donor and that didn’t work either. She was really discouraged at this point of her journey. Mentally, she didn’t understand how others went through this over and over again. It was crushing to her. She thought about how she didn’t even want kids for most of her life and now she was so determined to have a baby. She had her mind made up. She exhausted her options of trying for a baby after six months before deciding to go to IVF. She only wanted to try it one time. Her doctor told her about a research study that they were doing for a new drug for IVF patients. If she participated, she wouldn’t have to pay for the drugs. She signed up. It felt like a no brainer for her because the drugs were the biggest expense. It was a randomized control trial: one drug was already being used and the other one they were testing. She wanted to believe IVF would work: There was more science, more people involved, and all the smart people in the lab. Maria had two embryos transferred. She says the two week wait was horrible, like sitting on pins and needles. She didn’t take an at-home pregnancy test because she didn’t want to have false hope without knowing the numbers. The nurse called to tell her she was pregnant, and suggested there might be twins because her HGC numbers were so high. It was a huge relief to hear she was pregnant. She called her Mom and sister after she got off the phone with the nurse. She found out at six weeks it was twins. Her doctor told her most pregnancies start out as twins. She was shocked to find out she was pregnant with twins. When she finally accepted she was having twins, at ten weeks along sadness followed when the doctor told her there was only one. She felt loss once again. Maria can joke years later that her daughter is the life force of two.
There’s no regrets here, but we need to be honest with the experience of it.
Overall, Maria had a great pregnancy. It was interesting to her to have herself as a study subject. Despite being fit and active, she was still considered a geriatric pregnancy and high risk. She worked and worked out all the way to the week before the birth. She adjusted her workouts to the baby’s growth. She thought because she was so fit that pregnancy would be a piece of cake, but she had her struggles. She says she got very large and had to deal with her sciatica, but other than that, she didn’t have any complications. She had one day of morning sickness. She kept taking pictures of herself to see the growth of the baby. The tests came back great and then she was off to prenatal care with her doctor. She started to get excited for every ultrasound. She tried all the creams to rub on her belly for stretch marks, but then gave up. She doesn’t consider herself a high maintenance person. She was willing to deal with the stretch marks. She didn’t care. She was expecting to have all kinds of cravings, but she didn’t. She doesn’t remember having any specific dislikes. Her lifestyle and even her diet didn’t change from before she got pregnant. She just didn’t put any restrictions on herself.
Maria didn’t know the genders of embryos before the transfer, but she wanted to know. Not for the decoration, but for her emotionally she wanted to know. Having a background in science, she likes data. She didn’t have a preference but wanted a healthy baby. She was ecstatic when she found out she was having a girl. She and her sister are the only girls among a lot of boy cousins. Her sister has a boy, but having a girl was perfect for her. She felt like it’s how it’s supposed to be. She was surprised at how much she loved to hear it was a girl.
Maria found a new OBGYN for her pregnancy. Because she is a veteran, she went through the VA Healthcare System. She had all the specialized ultrasounds through them. It was important that her doctor listened to her and have some sense of empathy. As for her team of doctors, if someone needed a recommendation, she sent them there. There were a lot of doctors, but you came in and never felt like you fell through the cracks. You came in and they took care of you. It was a seamless transition where she felt supported.
She didn’t really prepare for the baby. She didn’t want to take classes because she thought they would limit her to only one path of birth. She went to one Lamaze class, but decided she really didn’t need it. She took yoga classes with a friend that was experienced enough to work with pregnant clients. It was important to her to open up her hips for childbirth. She wanted the birthing experience in a hospital and to be as unpredictable, but as natural as possible. She didn’t have a birth plan. She trusted that she knew her body well enough that she knew what she needed to do to get this baby out.
She was 39 weeks along when she was scheduled to be induced. She was glad because she didn’t have to worry about her water breaking at an inconvenient place or time. Maria’s last meal before she went to the hospital was sushi. Now, she likes to tease her daughter she loves sushi because it was her last meal before she gave birth. She arrived at the hospital late in the afternoon, but she wasn’t dilated. That evening she was given medication to begin the dilation. Being induced went so fast for her. She pushed through the pain for about an hour before asking for an epidural, but the epidural didn’t completely work. She had a hotspot of pain, so they gave her another one. Then she felt paralyzed for the next 12 hours. The important part is she didn’t feel pain after that which was what she wanted. She was ready to push 45 minutes after getting the Pitocin. She knew that she could do it. Even the nurse said it wasn’t supposed to go this fast. but there she was and ready to come out. Her legs had to be held because they were numb and she’s not in control of them. She ended up tearing her labrum and her hip labrum. She started up high and she pressed it down with the core muscles and pushed it out and it worked. Maria describes the moment the doctor laid her daughter on her chest for skin to skin as incredible.
Breastfeeding was the most stressful part of the entire journey. It was not amazing. It was horrible. She started to think, “why did I do this to myself?” Then the stress creeps in. Her daughter didn’t know how to latch on. The first couple of tries, she just put up with it. Then within a day, her nipples began to get so sore, and the thought of breastfeeding was so stressful. Then a sense of failure that comes with. The nurses kept telling her to keep trying. Her nipples were bleeding, it was so painful. Once she left the hospital, she saw a consultant, but she just wasn’t a good latcher. They figured it out eventually, but those first couple of days were horrible. She didn’t want to resent this thing that is supposed to be really beautiful. She felt the pressure that she was supposed to breastfeed. Maria made just enough milk to sustain her. She would wake up in the middle of the night to pump or in between clients at work just to get enough milk. It was a whole bag of emotions, but they figured it out. At three months, she started to supplement which left her with a sense of failure. She’s also proud for going three months and giving her daughter what she needed. That was the most stressful part of the whole pregnancy/baby thing.
It’s a painful recovery. Maria had stitches and it was painful. It hurts to recover. It hurts to go to the bathroom and then you have a baby. So, it’s that initial two or three weeks to really heal that was uncomfortable. After that, it was great because she knew how to get back into movement and how to start her workouts back up. She recovered pretty quickly after that. She just aimed for small goals and weight loss at first. She was just going to try to be healthy and keep her and her baby healthy. Getting to pre-baby anything wasn’t her goal. She didn’t put any of those expectations on herself, which took the pressure off. Maria is confident her recovery was quicker because she stayed fit through her pregnancy.
Mentally, she was challenged. Mostly because she wasn’t sleeping, but she doesn’t romanticize the first year. It wasn’t fun. Friends came over and she told them she didn’t know why she did this. This is really hard. Postpartum regrets a little bit. When mom isn’t sleeping, things get worse. You can’t deal with things as well. Maria is thankful for her great support system. She made it through and can now laugh about it. She finally decided when the baby sleeps, she sleeps. Yes, she is taking naps! And, so, even to this day, when baby is in bed, she’s in bed. The schedule is working!
Contact Maria through email: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Disclaimer: Does the photo look off to you, too? That’s because AI helps me to expand photos to fit the size that’s required, and sometimes it’s not perfect. Things can get weird on the blog! The middle section of Maria holding her daughter and pup on the sofa are the true image.