BY JILL V. PALARCA
GERIATRIC mother. That was how I was described on the medical notes upon my admission to the delivery room. And I thought, wait, what? I’m only in my 40s – not 80. The dictionary has a clear definition of ‘geriatric’ – an old person receiving special care. But in the world of obstetrics, any woman getting pregnant over 35 is already considered High Risk.
The reality sank deeper when I gathered, I was the only 40-something mom-to-be grunting through her contractions inside that room. I was not just the oldest mom giving birth that day. I was, simply put, an old mom. Later on, I would discover that the updated medical term that they should have used was “advanced maternal age” but I don’t think it softens the blow in any way.
Truth is, being a first time mom in your 40s is not a walk in the park. Or perhaps it is – in Jurassic Park though, where the mom is the dinosaur. We could be wiped out any time. The health complications are real both to mother and baby: high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, birth defects to name a few – and yes, I had all of them. I almost died and I’ve lost 2 babies prior to my child now. As her pediatrician remarked, “the third time’s the charm.”
Should be I blamed for it? It wasn’t like I deliberately delayed pregnancy. Most women who become pregnant much later typically battled with infertility and all the mental anguish – societal pressure and wife guilt – that comes with it. I suffered through a number of reproductive issues – both rare and regular, and one of them was PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
At one point, my doctor even told me that it would be quite impossible to conceive without artificial assistance. So, my husband and I went through many work-ups until we realized that scheduling procreation i.e. sex was tedious and unromantic. It was work. It made us more stressed, hence sabotaging the work-up. It became ironic.
So we stopped the expensive treatments… went through an entire decade of being a childless couple and were pretty much content to be pet parents. Until one day, I found out I was pregnant. Stupefied! I was approaching my 40s at that time. And as medicine expected, I had all the complications… i lost that baby at 6 months in my womb.
My little girl was born sleeping. I was wheeled out of the hospital not cradling a baby but clutching the cheap pillow that came with the maternity package. It was traumatic. I went through depression. And then 4 years later, just when I was finally able to pick myself up and rise in my career, I got pregnant again – still naturally. But I also lost that baby girl. Only this time, I got to experience 7 months with her. It was even more tragic. More traumatic. More depressing.
A year later, I was blessed with my real rainbow baby. And thank God, she’s healthy; pawing at me as I write this. So now, I am officially a forty-something first-time mom.
Entering motherhood late in life is like going back to high school as an older person. You try so hard to fit in; and a lot of times clumsily do so. I have a 20-year career in media and education under my name, and I’m doing my masters, and yet I still need to google “how to know if a baby has a cold.”
How did I turn dumb all of a sudden? Not really. I’m just anxious like any other new mom out there. But unlike most first-time moms, my route coming to this point in my life was a very long and complicated journey. MMK stuff, if you will. While some scenarios are fit for a sitcom – all of which you will be reading about in this column.
Forty-something first-time moms may be a very specific group but what we’re going through is the same with every other younger mom out there. The only difference is that we’re seeing motherhood and everything else in between through a different lens; symbolically and literally too since a lot of us already wear prescription eyeglasses.
They say, Life begins at 40. But Life INSIDE ME began in my 40s. And I am here to tell you all about that.
(Virgilind “Jill” Palarca was an associate producer for MTV Asia and a television and events writer before returning to her hometown Davao City, and became a media educator. She graduated with honors at UP Diliman and is currently taking Master in Development Communication at the UP Open University. She is also a filmmaker and has won Best Screenplay at the 2014 Mindanao Film Festival. She has been married to Dr. Joseph John Palarca, a veterinarian, with whom she shares her advocacy for animal welfare and love for pop culture and documentaries. She describes herself as ideaphoric and passionate for her projects; the latest of which is motherhood.)
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