On episode 35, we have Tamika Michelle Johnson on to share her pregnancy stories at 41 and 43. Originally, Tamika is from Connecticut, but she moved to Georgia almost 30 years. She has three children: her daughter she had when she was 25 as a single parent, then she got married at 41 and had her two sons after that.
I guess it’s true, I turned 40 and I’m not able to conceive.
She’s known her husband for about 14 years, but they weren’t together until she was 40 and he was 47. Together they wanted to have children together. She’s heard all of the ‘statics’ about pregnancy after 35. She thought she might be barren and didn’t know what was going on with her eggs. She also thought she already had a child in her 20’s, so she might just be able to do it again. Her husband doesn’t have any kids, she thought maybe there’s something wrong with him that they wouldn’t be able to have children. They agreed not to try but also didn’t want to prevent it from happening. After only six months they weren’t pregnant, and she started questioning if it was possible.
She had an emotional release she describes as purging her feelings of hurt. She didn’t realize she had so much stress from a previous relationship, being a single parent, and working on a career. She was stressed during those times and didn’t process the emotions. It was a Sunday afternoon, she remembers clearly bawling in her bathroom. During this time she accepted her husband. She asked God to show her how to be the wife her husband wanted her to be and how to open up her heart. After the release, she experienced the greatest sense of peace that she’s ever had. She went out of the country shortly after that to come home feeling ill. She assumed it was the water that made her sick. She wasn’t thinking she was pregnant. Then on Halloween when she realized she didn’t start her cycle, she took a pregnancy test. Two tests showed that she was pregnant. She was excited. She called her husband upstairs to show him the positive tests. He had no idea what he was looking at. She told him she was pregnant, and he was going to be a father. He gave her a look and then a joyful hug. He told her he was a father of two now, meaning her daughter she had in her 20’s.
During her pregnancy, she was told to take a baby aspirin once a day from the beginning of her pregnancy to help prevent a miscarriage. She went to Dr. Google to look at the statistics which brought up a lot of anxiety. In fact, she had a lot of anxiety during the entire pregnancy. Her husband suggested she start a blog to document what was going on and to share her thoughts. She did write, but she didn’t feel comfortable hitting publish just quite yet. She was terrified she wasn’t going to make it full term or the baby wasn’t going to be healthy. She waited until after birth.
Physical, her pregnancy was ok. Because of her age, she saw a maternal fetal specialist. It was different but good at the same time. She liked that she was monitored a lot more. She got a few more ultrasounds than a typical pregnancy. Her baby had intrauterine growth restriction which meant he was small. He was weighing in at the eighth percentile. That required additional monitoring. It was also important to her to see a chiropractor.
Her birth plan: she didn’t want to be in a lot of pain. That was it. She remembers being in a lot of pain with her daughter in her 20’s. She felt delirious afterwards. It was all natural, and she knew she didn’t want that again. She wanted to be present this time for labor. The day before her due date, she had an appointment. The doctor said the baby was still small and because of her age, he didn’t want to go past her due date. He told her the placenta deteriorates after 40 weeks. He was ready to induce her. She didn’t even get to leave the hospital, her husband was to meet her later with food and clothes.
Labor was about 16 hours, so she delivered on her official due date. She said she had all of the medications to go with an induced labor. She wanted an epidural. It took awhile, but it finally came and it brought a lot of relief. She didn’t know the epidural could affect the baby. The baby was starting to get destressed, and Tamika’s blood pressure dropped. She started to get nauseous and the room started spinning. The nurse rushed in. They didn’t tell her anything. She wished they told her what to look for on the monitors. They were able to stabilize her and the baby quickly. When she was ready to push, it only took three pushes and her son was delivered. She says it doesn’t take much pushing for her, but it’s the labor that’s horrible.
In recovery, she bleed a lot. She believes it was caused by the baby aspirin that thinned her blood. On day two, she felt great and amazing. Before she was discharged, the nurse asked her if she wanted pain medication to take home with her. She declined. She didn’t think she need it. She doesn’t recommend doing that again! When she got home, she felt like she was hit with 16 tractor trailers. Everything in her body hurt. She couldn’t even walk. She pushed herself a little too much, also. She works for herself and at 3.5 weeks postpartum she started working again. She doesn’t think it was a good idea.
I’m sorry, I can’t nurse and be pregnant at the same time.
Mentally, she was good. She didn’t have postpartum depression. Breastfeeding was hard for her initially, though. She was struggling with it. She wanted her husband to be involved, so she pumped a lot and nursed when she could. Her son preferred the bottle and this frustrated her. When her son was three months old, she stopped feeding him with the bottle all together. She said it was just her and her son, and they were going to figure this out. It worked, but it also physically hurt so much. Once she pumped less and nursed more, it made things easier. She nursed until he was eight months old when she found out she was pregnant again.
Tamika’s Pregnancy at 43
When her son was three months old, Tamika spoke to her husband about having another baby. They both agreed they wanted to try again. She wanted another child because one, her daughter hated being an only child and two, because they were both a little older. They tried from that point on. She was frustrated when it didn’t happen right away because she thought she was more fertile after birth. She decided to be more intentional by downloading an app to help track her cycle. She inputted the dates of her cycle and a week later the app suggested she take a pregnancy test. She didn’t think it was possible. She just started using the app! She took the test anyway, and it was positive. She thinks it was the break from the stress that caused her to be able to get pregnant. On Easter Sunday she had family over and they were talking about baby names and gender. She started cramping and when she went to the bathroom, she knew. At 8 weeks she miscarried. It was a traumatic experience, but she wanted to try again. The doctor suggested she wait one cycle before trying again.
She picked up the app when her cycle started up again. The first month after her first cycle she noted her fertile days and she said her and her husband ‘capitalized’ on those days. The day before her son’s first birthday party her app told her to take a pregnancy test. She did and it was positive.
Literally every time I went to the bathroom, I looked for blood.
This pregnancy was totally different. She was immediately referred to a specialist, again. Because of her age, she also took a baby aspirin daily again. She had a subchorionic hemorrhage. A few months into the pregnancy she started bleeding and assumed she was miscarrying again. The next 7 -8 months of the pregnancy she went to the bathroom looking for blood. This made her anxiety through the roof. She had gestational diabetes, too. She went to another doctor that told her she needed to take insulin. Tamika does not like taking medications if she doesn’t have to. She had to prick her finger three times a day to track her numbers. She wanted to know what her options were so she didn’t have to take medication. She didn’t want her body to be dependent on medication. She went to a nutritionist, and they were so helpful explaining how everything worked. Her numbers were the worst in the morning, so eating one fun size (Halloween-size) Snickers before bed the night before worked because the popcorn didn’t. With trial and error, she was able to get through the rest of the pregnancy without taking medication. She ditched foods like pasta, but she also got creative by replacing it with zucchini. She ended up losing weight off of her body while she gained the baby weight.
She was inspired to started a FaceBook group after what she she’s been through. She was happy with the growth of the group and she loved seeing the success stories, but seeing the losses gave her anxiety. She thinks this pregnancy was more challenging because she had the miscarriage before this pregnancy.
Her baby was big and because of his size the doctor wanted her to be induced at 38 weeks. They warned her of his size because his shoulders could get stuck which would require a c-section. That freaked her out! This was the first she was hearing about a c-section. She just assumed it was going to be another vaginal birth like the first one. She went in for the induction and described it as just fine. She had a friend that was a labor and delivery nurse where she was delivering. Her friend was working the day she was scheduled to be induced and prepped the staff ahead of time that Tamika wanted an epidural as quickly as possible. Tamika got to the hospital and started the Pitocin right away at 11am. The contractions had begin so the nurse offered her an epidural. The contractions weren’t bad yet, but she agreed. She was so happy to not feel the pain. She was playing games on her phone and recorded videos of her progress. She didn’t feel anything and things were progressing. About 8pm that night the epidural started to wear off a little bit. They offered her more pain relief. Looking back she doesn’t think it was a good idea. When it was time to push, she pushed but nothing happened. She couldn’t feel anything which prolonged the delivery. About an hour later it wore off enough that she could push again. She pushed only a few times and her second son was delivered. She had so much anxiety during the pregnancy, she felt so much relief when he was finally here. He was 8 lbs 9 oz. She delivered her third child two weeks before the world shut down in March 2020.
Her son was jaundice, so for the first 10 days they were going back to the hospital everyday to check his numbers. Her son’s skin was also super red for a month or two which didn’t have to do with the jaundice. She feels lucky he didn’t have to be admitted.
Tamika’s plan was to have two boys, so the youngest one could wear all of the clothes the oldest outgrew. The plan was perfect, but her youngest outgrew clothes and diapers too quick. She even had to give away diapers because he was too big.
For her recovery, she said she learned from her previous birth and took the pain medication home with her. She says this baby was born to nurse. She breastfed him for 15 months with an excellent supply. She didn’t want to pump this time, but because the world was shutting down, she would have a meeting with a client, come home, take a full shower and then nurse him. That added to the stress of it all, too. She stopped nursing at 15 months because she got pancreatitis.
I felt like I couldn’t breath.
She says 2020 was not a good year for anyone’s health! Mentally, she felt like she was dealing with a lot. She was concerned about her teenage daughter because her social life completely changed after things shut down. She also had a 1.5 year-old, a new born, and her husband needed to care for his elder parents a little more. She said it was crazy. She went back to work at about 7-8 weeks, but she wishes she took more time off.
When she was four months postpartum, she felt like she was about to have a mental break down. They were in the middle of moving and her father was sick. She needed to take a break. She originally planned to take a month off, but one turned into 9. A month after they moved, her husband’s father passed away and her mother-in-law came to live with them. She said it got super crazy. She had to be very intentional about taking care of herself and finding a healthy balance. At 15 months postpartum, she was hospitalized with pancreatitis. It felt like a break from it all, but she felt like going to the hospital shouldn’t be a break. While she was in the hospital, she had an IV for fluids, but she didn’t eat or drink anything for a week. Her body was completely cleaned out. A month out of the hospital she found out she was pregnant again at 45. It was a total surprise. She said ok, let’s embrace this and plan. Tamika believes her body was the cleanest it’s ever been. It made her realize the importance of detoxes and cleanses that helped her become fertile. She lost this pregnancy a few months in which was traumatic for her.