by Rachel Canar
My late-in-life pregnancy is not just weird for other people. It is pretty weird for me.
I did not grow up my whole life knowing that I would have children. In fact, I wasn’t even sure that I would get married. I was not like Carrie Bradshaw, who somehow woke up on her 39th birthday and remembered she forgot to have children. I spent many hours in my early 30s in serious reflection and came to the realization that given my body’s fertility window, and the fact that I wasn’t even in love with anyone at the time – let alone that I didn’t have a boyfriend – I was probably not going to give birth to my own children.
I had always been infatuated with the idea of adoption, and I settled into the knowledge that when I was ready for a family, I would adopt. After all, our world has too many children and not enough parents.
So when I shocked myself, my family and my friends and got married at the age of 40, I wasn’t feeling in a special rush to try and have kids. If it happened it happened, but I had some concerns that a baby right away could ruin our new marriage. My man had promised me before we got married that he didn’t want kids anyway. He lied.
Or changed his mind. Once we got married, he became completely baby crazy. We stopped using contraception, and I got pregnant just after our honeymoon. Unfortunately, 10 weeks later, I miscarried. It was a painful experience, but not one that left us feeling defeated. We had proved that we could get pregnant and it was bound to happen again.
But then it didn’t. We started trying harder. We took my temperature and used a device with which I could inspect my spit every morning to monitor my fertility. Yet the months went by with nothing and our doctor recommended fertility treatments.
For me, fertility treatments were the promise of a nightmare. I had always had problems with hormone imbalances that radically affected my mood. I suffer from extreme cramps during my period, and had consistently been proscribed birth control pills to alleviate the pain. Unfortunately, every time I took pills, it sent me into a tailspin of suicidal depression.
So when I started the treatments, we knew what to expect. I went mad. I was sick, and sad, and felt like I was going crazy, all to no avail. We actually had one of the weirdest possible outcomes of IVF. After monitoring me for the entire month and watching my follicles grow to bursting, presumably with many eggs, the doctor was stunned to a jaw-dropping silence that he found no eggs at all when they went in to surgically retrieve them. This type of syndrome is exceedingly rare and happens in only 2 percent of women, most of them over 40.
The catatonic depression that this launched was so bad I don’t even want to write about it. I hated myself, my body, the world, and most of all, my husband, who got me to this place of despair darker than Mordor.
Before you start hating him too, our relationship actually came out the other side of this tunnel with a complete Hope for the Flowers transformation. We were stronger, more trusting, and more about each other. I finally really felt ready for us to have a family and my husband was ready to look into adoption, but we still didn’t know how it would happen. We definitely weren’t doing any more fertility treatments.
All through this entire process, I had been working in a stressful job. Holding a senior position at a major Israeli civil rights organization, I was responsible for raising the 2 million dollars a year that kept the program running and the paychecks coming for the more than 20 employees. Moreover, my marriage had precipitated a move that resulted in my commuting in hellish traffic for three to four hours a day. I was working about 50 hours a week, and counting the commuting time, more than 60. Even the time when I wasn’t technically working, was spent worrying or otherwise thinking about work. In an effort to reduce the pressure, I had started working from home twice a week, but my stress levels remained unbelievably high. My salary was pretty good, and I was guaranteed at least three months of maternity leave with full pay. My co-workers were my family and they were completely supportive of my wanting to have kids.
In October of 2010, I came to know – and this is an entire story in itself – that I would never have a family while I held this job. While I loved my work and it made my life meaningful, it did not allow me the space emotionally or physically to create anything new. Ironically, I had always thought that only with professional success could I feel secure enough start a family.
I informed my boss in December of 2010 that I would be leaving my job in July of 2011.
My last day at work was July 28th, 2011. The date of my last period was August 15, 2011. In other words, I got pregnant my first cycle after I quit my job.
To clarify, this pregnancy was not planned. There were no treatments, no counting, and honestly, we are married so you can assume we weren’t having sex that often.
When I went in to my doctor in the end of September and he confirmed the pregnancy with an ultrasound, he looked like he was going to cry.
I won’t lie. It feels pretty weird to be pregnant at 42. I know it is common, even popular – I just never truly thought that this would be my life. But as my husband points out, I never thought I would be married either. Things change. Get used to it.
In our last ultrasound and battery of tests at 18 weeks, when we had finally cleared the hurdles of so many of the worst fears, our doctor confided to us that he tells our story to everyone: doctors, patients, and friends. He said, “We think we know so much, but your pregnancy has shown me that we don’t know anything.”
And we are all wiser for it.
Rachel Canar is working on a baby and a book.