A few years ago, I wrote a post called, Unexpected Pregnancy at 40, What Would You Do? and it was about my friend who was pregnant. What I didn’t disclose in the post was that I too was pregnant. I had my own unexpected pregnancy at 39 and had no idea what I would do and I couldn’t talk about it on the blog. I was waiting until the following month to tell my family and friends at my daughters’ 5th birthday party. Unfortunately, I lost the baby before I got the chance.
Over the years, many people have contacted me asking for advice or wondering what I would have done. What I did. This is the first time I am writing about this part of our third pregnancy and having an unexpected pregnancy at 39. I think mostly because I felt so guilty.
I realized I was pregnant at my oldest daughter’s 7th birthday party, March 10, 2012. It was the strangest thing, I was holding my newborn nephew and something in me knew. I just knew I was pregnant. I was sure of it.
The next day, when I dropped the girls off at school, I went directly to the Walgreens and took the test in the bathroom there. In fact, I took 3. We were living with my in-laws who had teased us at their relief that our family wasn’t growing. I was really nervous to find out that I was pregnant during such a time of upheaval in our lives. Even though we had previously planned on a third child. We hadn’t planned it now. Not like this.
When I found out that I was pregnant, I was shocked. I stared at the pregnancy test in disbelief and I may have vomited if we’re being honest. I didn’t even know how to react. If the circumstances had been different, we would have been ecstatic. But living in a room at your in-laws with two small children, trying to sell a house in another city, with no privacy and nothing of your own, made the thought of all of it daunting. We didn’t know what we were going to do.
A million questions and scenarios went through my mind. What if something was wrong? I was 39 years old. How would my in-laws react? Financially, we were strapped. Could we afford this baby? If something was wrong, how could we pay for it? Could we burden our children with that? Did we want to start over? Could we? Would our in-laws ask us to leave?
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Would I have to go back to living in our house in South Bend without my husband (back to commuter marriage life)? Could we afford a third child? Were we too old to do this? Maybe this was too much. But could I even consider the other option? I pondered all the options from the time I found out I was pregnant until I saw the doctor. I was.so.stressed.out.
The doctor wouldn’t see me until I was 8 weeks pregnant. We saw the baby’s heartbeat. We left the doctor’s office, overwhelmed and scared shitless about what the future would bring. We knew there would be obstacles and opposition but we were excited. It was the third baby we had always wanted, just not at the time we had planned. We drove home smiling and discussing names for boys and girls. Declan or Luchedio for a little boy and Graziella for a baby girl. We were hopeful and we were in this together. So no matter what the world threw at us, we had each other; the 5 of us. But for now, it was just for the Big Guy and me.
Those first 11 weeks were like an out-of-body experience. I was hiding the biggest secret of my life from everyone I knew and loved, including you, my readers. On top of being overwhelmed and scared, I felt like a complete fraud talking about every inane thing under the sun except for the only thing I wanted to write about…my pregnancy!
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The Big Guy and I fully passed the consideration of what to do and were full-on in the embrace, the fact that we are going to be parents to 3 while living in our in-laws’ house, decided to surprise everyone at Gabi’s 5th birthday party that May. I would have been 15 weeks and 3 days at her birthday party.
We planned on giving her a t-shirt that said “Big Sister.” We were so excited to do this for her. Gabs had been begging to be a big sister since she was 3-years-old. Due to the commuter situation (the Big Guy working and living in another state), since she was 2, the opportunity had just not been there before. We had wanted it but neither of us wanted me to be pregnant while we weren’t living under the same roof full time. We have always been 100% parenting partners. Surprising her with the news on her birthday was going to be perfect.
We imagined how excited our family and friends would be. We’d have support, even if it was a little cramped at my in-laws. We were excited. Like I said, in the beginning, we were terrified and it took a lot of soul searching (and hearing a heartbeat) to get us on board with a solid yes. I was so excited to get to be the mommy to 3 children. But then…
On Monday, April 31st, after a weekend of slight spotting when I wiped, after dropping Gabs off at preschool, I stopped in the parking lot of the Dunkin doughnuts near her school and I called my Ob/GYN’s office. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t worried. This happened with every one of my pregnancies. It was going to be nothing. I was being silly. But, like my mother always says, better to be safe than sorry. So, I called and they had me come right in for an ultrasound. I wasn’t worried.at.all.
There was no heartbeat. There on the screen, my perfect baby. No.heartbeat. I never wanted this baby more. A room filled with deafening silence as I tried to understand what I was seeing. I was alone. The tech wouldn’t tell me anything, only that she needed to take me to see my doctor. I didn’t bring my husband because I didn’t think there was anything to worry about.
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She took me down the back stairs to avoid the main lobby. My world was collapsing. I felt like a mad, hysterically silent hostage in my own body. I couldn’t make a sound for fear that I would start crying and never stop. I couldn’t blink for fear that all my pain and loss would escape from my eyes and drown all those perfectly round bellies surrounding me. I couldn’t make eye contact for fear I might die. All I could do was sit in silence to contain the floodgates.
Then, all I could do was cry.
So what’s it like being pregnant at 39? It’s terrifying and it’s beautiful and it’s scary and amazing. But only you can decide what to do about this pregnancy. There is no wrong answer. You must do what is best for you and your family. Not what society or your friends or family expects you to do. A baby is forever. Being a parent is forever. I still consider myself the mom of 3 children and I think about that baby every single day but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong if you decide that you can’t or don’t want to have a baby at 39 or 40 or ever.
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You know YOU better than anyone. Do what will make you happy. Do what you can handle. And don’t let anyone else stress you out or bully you into a decision because that will be a disservice to you and your baby. If you’re not all in, that’s ok. No one is judging you. You are the one who has to live with whatever you decide; baby or no baby, it’s a lifetime commitment.
I didn’t get what I wanted in the end but I felt guilty for many years for the fact that I even considered there was a decision to be made. I felt like God was punishing me for stopping, however briefly, to consider there was an option other than having the baby. I’ve since realized that I wasn’t punished for having free thought. I don’t know why it happened. I never will. I know there was nothing wrong with my baby. I know that I wanted that baby as much as I’d ever wanted the other two. Mostly, I know that the choice to have that baby was the right thing for us even if the universe had other plans.