Greetings!!! My apologies for the delay…..This post continues our series of narratives from real women who had their first baby over age 35.
This week we hear from Rachel Wiederhold, who became a mother again, again, and again despite years of ambivalence.
Rachel writes: “Growing up, I never recall wanting to be a mother. In fact, it was quite the opposite. My mom and I had a contentious relationship, especially in my teenage years. My mom became a mother at the young age of 19. She came from a very large southern family and married my dad at 18. I’m sure she wasn’t truly prepared to become a mother but from her perspective it was what you did after you left home and were married. I’m sure my childhood experiences very much influenced my own life even to this day.
I met my husband, Alan, in college. He was 6 years older than me as he served in the US Navy before pursuing his degree. He was already a father, he had a son from a previous relationship. His being a father was something that I had to reconcile internally before becoming emotionally involved in a relationship with him. Obviously, I was able to embrace both Alan and his son and, after 1.5 years of dating, we were engaged. We planned our wedding for the fall of 1997 following graduation. When Alan went to pick up his son for summer visitation, his son’s mother informed him that she thought it best for him to come live with us. Alan called me and prefaced the conversation with “Are you sitting down? It’s a boy.” It was at that moment I officially became a mother. Becoming a biological mother would happen much later. It was in raising my stepson that I decided to put any thought of bringing my own child into the world on indefinite hold. My stepson at the age of 7 had so much emotional baggage from his own mother literally “giving him up” and other forms of abuse. While coming to live with us was by far the best thing to happen to him, he didn’t necessarily believe that. He was more focused on being abandoned by his mom. He’s now in a better frame of mind after years of therapy and soul searching
My hold on biological motherhood was based on a few factors:
My husband and I never really discussed expanding our family, even after 16 years of marriage (at that point in time). Many of our friends began having children and likely shaped my own personal desire to have a child. We were in the camp of not trying but not avoiding. I had been taking birth control since college and I was 38 years old. I had no idea if my fertility was intact or not. It didn’t take long to discover that everything was fully functional. I discovered I was pregnant right before Christmas in 2013. My pregnancy was relatively easy with the exception of high blood pressure that lead to an uneventful induced birth of my daughter at 39 weeks. Raising my daughter was a breeze through the baby phase. She’s now 4 and smart, strong willed, and outgoing. A mini version of myself. I can only imagine how much more challenging motherhood will become.
Two years after having my daughter, I found I was pregnant with my son…at the age of 40 due to forgetting to take my birth control. That pregnancy was also stress-free. No blood pressure issues like I had with my daughter, but he came very quickly into this world six weeks early. His premature birth was never determined to be related to my advanced maternal age. After 18 days in the NICU, my son came home on oxygen for a month. And at nearly 2.5 years old he’s small but mighty.
I personally find that having a child at a later age was the right decision for my husband and me. We’re much more patient, mature, and established in our lives. We have a greater understanding of how to balance work and life. We devote time and attention to our children, while maintaining careers and personal interests. In our 20’s we raised Alan’s son and looking back, while we did the best we could, we feel like we would have done a much better job knowing what we do now. I guess that is the beauty of hindsight. Despite your best planning you don’t always know how life will go and have to learn to adapt at any stage in life. I don’t regret waiting to have children. As an added bonus it makes others think you are younger than your current age! ;)”
Stay tuned: In two weeks, I will post our reflection on Rachel’s story.
About the author: Rachel Wiederhold grew up in Monroe, Michigan. She attended Western Michigan University where she became a Delta Gamma and earned her BS degree in Psychology & Communications. Upon graduation, she married her college sweetheart and Navy veteran, Alan. In 2004 she relocated to the Baltimore area where she lives with her husband, 2 children, and an Italian Greyhound. She is founder and co-owner of 5 Star Staging, LLC and works with Baltimore area Realtors, investors and home owners in preparing their home for the real estate market as well as redesign projects. You can find more at fivestarstaging.com or follow her on Instagram or Facebook at @5starstagingllc
Have you noticed its becoming a triathlon crazy world? I can’t go on Facebook anymore without seeing pics of friends training, posting near impossible run times, or posing in sleek suits made just for the occasion. There is even a book out exploring this new obsession, Women Who Tri by Alicia DiFabio, a heart inspired exploration of the trend and one woman’s foray into it. It’s a good read that almost, sort of, made me want to try the tri. But then I thought about it and, for myriad of reasons will not be spending my non-existent free time training for this impressive physical feat. In part because I’m lazy, in part because I’d rather play with my kids, but more importantly because I already took my body on its biggest adventure yet.
I journeyed into infertility and came out victorious, not once but twice!!! For me infertility, pregnancy, and child birth were my triathlon. Simply getting pregnant took years of diligent research and strict discipline. I followed various diet plans to improve my fertility. We had perfectly timed sex. I negotiated doctor’s appointments, surgeries, and medications. Once pregnant, I took meticulous care of my body and mind. I wanted the environment that baby was being created in to be as nurturing as possible. Since, I was in effect creating her, I only wanted good stuff for building blocks as well.
Somewhere along the way, I became obsessed with an unmedicated birth. By this, I mean no epidural and as few interventions as possible. We decided to learn Hypno-Birthing. It required weeks of learning and practicing the visualizations and meditations in a formal setting followed by daily in-home practice. Physically, I knew I had to train as well. My body would be put to the test. No matter what kind of birth you have, it is the biggest thing your body will probably ever do. I did yoga , Bodypump, and walked regularly. I was ready to go days without sleep and only ice chips to eat. (I did ultimately have an IV line with fluids pumping in to support baby’s heart rate during the delivery and keep me hydrated).
I went into labor a week early. We were giddy with excitement. I tried to push down the fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear that my body would fail me (it had before). Fear something would happen to the baby. Fear that I wouldn’t be able to handle it all. We headed to the hospital, as ready as we would ever be. I imagine starting a triathlon is much the same way. I had a level of acceptance that we had done all that was possible to prepare, and it was now time to perform. My surges started slow and steady. They actually stayed about five minutes apart throughout the whole labor but as the hours passed, fatigue set in. At one point, I briefly considered an epidural but my Doula reminded me of how great I was doing. My husband did all he could to support me but at the end of the day it was really about me and baby making it to the finish line. Unlike a triathlon, no one can really tell you when that is. You need faith. Faith that your baby and body can do this. Faith that your providers can care for you, keep you and baby safe. Faith in your resilience. However, there is a finish line. Babies are born and when yours is, that first snuggle on your chest, that first cry, that first rush as you marvel in what you have made is grander than anyone announcing you are an Ironman. You are a mother.
I can see you. You are the beautifully dressed executive that came to my house and played with my kids after you spent a long day at work. You are the Auntie that always knows the coolest toys. You are the friend that cried with me through each failed attempt at pregnancy. You are the one who rejoiced once I conceived. You have always been there, supporting each friend, sister, co-worker through achieving their dream of a family. You stayed late at work to get the job done because you knew your colleague was stressing about daycare pick up. You have patiently waited your turn. You gave. I can see that.
You did not wait to have a baby. You waited for the right partner (or may still be). You bid your time well. You went to graduate school; you took the promotion. You are not career obsessed. You simply weren’t going to sit on your hands until the universe conspired to bring the right man into your life.
I can see how much you give to the world. I can see all the volunteer work you do. I can see how you show up at every event, willing to celebrate other’s milestones as you await your own. I see you visiting your friend after she had a baby or taking your niece out on a special “date” to give mommy a break. I see you caring for your parents because your siblings are busy with their own kids. I can see you. You are important. You give. You nurture. You matter. I can only pray that you too will be blessed with a baby. That all that love you give out will be returned to you. Hold tight, have faith and know that you are seen.
My daughter is in love with a penguin. It’s small and plastic and she lights up when she sees him. If she’s fussy, “pengi” can calm her down. Once we found out that Sandra Boynton wrote a book called My Personal Penguin, we added it to her library. The book’s theme resonates with me as the main character is the child’s number one cheer leader and wants to be with her always. I feel that we could all use a little of that. During my fertility journey, I know I certainly needed support. I’ve been the hopeful new patient at the fertility center, the desperate woman trying to conceive, the happy and anxious pregnant lady, and the elated and anxious new mom. Now, I’m an overextended working mom of two. I’ve utilized lots of coping skills along the way but the one that has been the most consistent are mantras. Mantras are meaningful phrases that you recite to yourself. They can center you as well as instill hope or confidence. They keep things in perspective, much like a good friend whispering affirmations in your ear.
We write more about mantras in our book. Here is an excerpt:
“Pick a mantra that speaks to you and try meditating five minutes a day on it. You can choose a short phrase from spiritual writings or poetry, or you could write your own short phrase. It is important that the mantra reflects your true feelings and also reflects acceptance of your situation. Below are some simple examples:
I whole-heartedly accept things as they are; I understand that they are temporary.
I am taking great care of myself, creating a safe place for my baby.
I will be a mother, I just don’t know how or when yet.
People get pregnant, so will I. It is just taking longer than I like.
Throughout your day, repeat the mantra to yourself, especially when you start to sense stress rising. You can say it, chant it, sing it out loud, whisper it, or you can repeat it silently in your mind. Experiment and find out what’s most effective for you.”
My personal favorite mantra is: “I’m doing the best I can with what I have. With grace and gratitude, I’m moving forward.”
I’m very intentional about the words because so often we blame ourselves for failures when it’s really an impossible situation. It’s important to remember what you are working with. It’s also important to stay thankful for what you have and what is going well. Lastly, we cannot change the past so there is no need to get stuck there.
Spend five minutes now thinking about a mantra that would work for you and write it on a post-it. Place the post-it on your bathroom mirror so you can start your day with it. Remember to refer back to it throughout the day.