I had my first baby at the age of 24, so going into pregnancy twelve years later at 36 I really didn’t know what to expect. Except for believing the (incorrect) trope that, as I was over the age of 35, I’d be called a ‘geriatric’ mother. Nope – we now call it ‘advanced maternal age’, presumably because the term ‘geriatric’ is not particularly flattering, and you’re now only considered high-risk as such when you’re 40+.
So, in medical terms, going into pregnancy at 36 is no different to your twenties.
From a lifestyle perspective it was a whole new world. I was 12 years further into my career and working longer and harder, commuting two hours into London twice a week, and running around after preteens (I know more about Juicy Couture and Starbies frappes than I ever wanted to).
Which meant physically, pregnancy at 36 (and then 37 after a booze-free birthday) was A Shock. A big one. A mammoth punch in the face (or pelvis), repeatedly, from 18 weeks onwards. I remember finding pregnancy pretty tough previously, but it was nothing like this; back in my twenties I had the usual nausea and exhaustion but couldn’t remember much pain. So the amount of physical discomfort I went through in the nine months of pregnancy was, quite frankly, hideous.
Pregnancy can be a pretty isolating experience. I don’t think i’m unique in the fact that when I’m pregnant I feel like the only person on the planet that has ever gestated a baby – it’s something you go through truly solo. And because mother nature is miraculous and seemingly erases all bad memories of pregnancy as soon as your baby is born, it’s not easy to find true and absolute empathy in people who are not going through the exact experience that you’re living through at that moment. I found some comfort online (Peanut is brilliant and wasn’t around a decade ago), but it was so hard to convey to those around me and those who love me the most just how horrific I felt.
My worst symptom this time around was PGP – Pelvic Girdle Pain. It quickly became completely debilitating; I had to stop going into my office, I couldn’t walk to the local pub, I didn’t walk the dog. Any distance more than 100m just wasn’t doable, and for the last three months of the pregnancy my life shrunk. My longest walks in the months of September to December were around Waitrose – and this felt like an accomplishment, a treat.
I cannot describe how bad the pain was, how difficult it was to roll over in or get out of bed, how I couldn’t even get off the sofa without crying out. Our bedroom is two flights of stairs away from the living areas of the house and I would make huge efforts not to go up there during the day, just because I couldn’t.
For those last three months I took Epsom salt baths religiously every evening before bed. I’m not sure how far they went towards soothing my pelvis but they went some way to make me feel like I was giving myself a modicum of self-care. I invested in physiotherapy sessions bi-weekly – such a treat, and incredible for the pain for the 48 hours after treatment – and lay down as often as possible.
During one memorable baby scan at the hospital I lost all feeling in my left leg getting off the couch, and hobbled from the scanning room to the waiting area sobbing at the pain in my hip. It was awful.
I found the mental strain of such a shrunken life almost as bad as the physical. Having just moved to a new area it was impossible to get out and meet new people, and as much as I adore being at home it was incredibly draining to be so physically confined to the house. I couldn’t walk, enjoy fresh air, exercise at the gym, walk around a shopping centre – i felt incapacitated and kind of worthless. It made me very sad to not be able to enjoy my life in the ways I was used to.
I also experienced an irritable uterus from 20 weeks onwards, which meant constant contractions throughout the second part of the pregnancy. Though I was assured on the multiple occasions I visited hospital for monitoring that these contractions were non-productive, and therefore not risky to the pregnancy, the pain of such strong and sustained contractions was horrible to bear. And it was tough to not be concerned about them when they were coming so regularly and painfully – I’d often have to breathe through them or would cry out in pain. Not fun when you’re mid- a very serious work Zoom call.
TLDR: it was such a tough time, SUCH a tough time. And as a newlywed, I felt awful to put my poor new (brilliant and supportive) husband through the experience of having a wife who was approximately 10% as fun as the woman he married.
On the bright side, the experience of shopping for an impending baby this time around was a bit more exciting. There are so many more ways you can spend your money on new baby needs and convenience, and being able to take such a long time researching the best buys for us was so. much. fun. I downloaded ALL the baby apps, got ALL the Black Friday Bargains, and hunted ALL the nearly-new clothes on Vinted. I’ll share the things we’ve used and loved in due course, but suffice to say the shopping experience was a crack of light in a very dark room.
Could I go through it again? If you’d asked me that question at 9 months pregnant my answer would have been nope, no, no way, and then no some more. But as soon as baby Raffy arrived, Mother Nature did her thing and I fell head over heels in love; at that time I would have quite gladly agreed to give birth to a five-a-side team.
Now, a few weeks into sleep deprivation and projectile milk vomit, it’s back to a slightly softer no. But no matter the pain it was one million percent worth it