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12 Oct

What I Don’t Know Can Hurt Me

“Late Maternal Age,” they call it. It’s a fancy term for OLD MOM.

I was not late of maternal age when I had Wonderbaby. I was not entirely early of maternal age, but still – I didn’t qualify as elderly. Somehow, between the time of her birth and my current pregnancy, I became old.

I don’t mind being old. I much prefer the older me to the younger me, and I intend to go on liking myself even more as I continue along the long and winding road of time. But I’m still don’t like the euphemism that is “Late Maternal Age.” I don’t like it because it’s code, because it’s troubling code. It doesn’t refer to my maturity, or to the wisdom that time has conferred upon me as a mother – it refers to the long list of negative factors bearing upon the odds of success of this pregnancy.

Because I am now over 35 years of age, I have an increased risk of miscarriage. I have a markedly increased risk of carrying a child with fetal abnormalites. There is an increased risk of Spina Bifida and Down’s Syndrome and Trisomy and all those other terrible disorders whose names we prefer not to speak. Because I am now over 35 years of age, the doctor puts pamphlets about Chorionic Villus Sampling and Amniocentesis into my hands and refers me to genetics counsellors.

Because I am now over 35 years of age, my doctor tells me that I must consider seriously tests that will tell me the odds of this being a “problemed” pregnancy. Tests that will give me information that might lead me to consider terminating the pregnancy.

Before I was pregnant with Wonderbaby, I underwent genetic testing and genetic counselling, because my nephew’s disorder, the one that will kill him, is hereditary, passed along the female line of the family. I swore at the time that no matter what the tests revealed, I would proceed with starting a family.

When I was pregnant with Wonderbaby, my doctor offered to conduct amniocentesis, because I was already in my thirties, and because there was a history of genetic difficulties on both my husband’s and my own side of the family. She said, because there is a risk of miscarriage, I only recommend this if the results would effect whether or not you would continue the pregnancy. I was going to continue the pregnancy no matter what, I told her. The results of an amnio test wouldn’t change that.

She said the same thing to me this morning, although she added that, because of my age, the odds of miscarriage due to amnio are now precisely the same as the odds of the test results showing Down’s Syndrome. It’s a worthwhile risk, she said, if knowing the results of the test are important to you. What she meant: if a certain result would lead you to consider terminating the pregnancy.

I told her that I didn’t know. I told her that I didn’t know. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

That I don’t know – that I don’t have the conviction of the last pregnancy, that I don’t have the faith of the last pregnancy, that I don’t know what I’d do – is hurting me. It’s hurting my heart.