When I found out I was pregnant, one of my oldest friends—and I mean that as longest, not old, so we don’t get confused—told me I was considered “Advanced Maternal Age.” She learned this herself when she got pregnant at 36 and was informed that AMA, as it was noted on my medical chart, is any knocked-up woman over the age of 35.
There I was, with my life calendar already on the big 4-0. I was truly “advanced.” Call AARP and get my membership card fast-tracked: the birthing world says I’m old.
I recently learned that Advanced Maternal Age is a politically correct term. Apparently, this condition is also known as geriatric pregnancy. I cannot begin to allow that term to entire my consciousness, so we will pretend that I never mentioned it. But let’s dissect this Advanced Maternal Age label.
I like the “advanced” part of the title. It makes it sound like I have an advanced degree, or advanced knowledge, or advanced skills. All cool things, all something good.
“Maternal.” How can you go wrong with that word? Pretty much every connotation is caring, loving, comforting, nurturing, and affectionate. All lovely, shiny, glitter-filled rainbow words. Pair maternal with advanced and you sound like a rock star: I’ve got superior mothering skills!
Then there’s that last part: “age.” Age is a word that can cut both ways. You spend most of your young life trying to get to whatever cool age is next: when you’re in those elementary years, the double digits sound so awesome. Then it’s all about hitting 13, the “magic” teenage years that, let’s admit, aren’t so magic. Then 16 so you can drive. The big 1-8 doesn’t seem that big, but it’s high school graduation and freedom. Then there’s 21. Sweet, legal, alcohol-filled 21. Oh, how we yearned and celebrated thee.
After that, the age milestones aren’t celebrated quite as much, though that legal alcohol certainly plays a big role in the celebrations. Twenty-five: a quarter century. Thirty: there’s no denying that you’re really a grown-up, or at least that your birth certificate says you should be. Thirty-five: whoa, slow down, I’ve got more things to do before you fast forward to *insert dramatic, scary music here* 40.
Hit the brakes. Forty? Midlife. Whoa. All sorts of angst with that. You either love it, have a crisis, or just deal with it. With 40 now in my rear-view mirror, I can safely say I fell into the last category. Fifty isn’t far ahead and I’m not stressing about it, but bring me alcohol and talk to me in a few years.
Biology dictates our child-bearing years, but life doesn’t always match biology. Life happens, the calendar keeps churning, everything falls into place, and you start the path to having a family. Then you find you’re pregnant, AMA-style.
Believe me, the irony that AMA also stands for “against medical advice” is not lost on me. At my first OB appointment, eyebrows were raised and the risks of AMA were outlined. The potential problems, the recommended testing, and the implication that I should fear all things was evident. I even had a doctor order testing against my wishes at one point because of my age. Luckily, another doctor knew my wishes and pulled the orders.
Knocked up and 40. None of the nightmarish fears or worst-case scenarios happened—and statistics show that they usually don’t for most AMA moms. We didn’t opt for any more genetic screening than what was recommended for all mothers. I didn’t have any health issues, and we welcomed a perfectly healthy whirlwind into our lives. So, big middle finger to AMA.
But there are other, less discussed side effects of going AMA. It could be assumed that the mind and body-numbing fatigue of the newborn months—and let’s be honest and throw in toddler years, potty training, and all of the trials and tribulations of raising little humans—are a bit harder on us “old” folks. The upside: It’s nice to have a stroller to lean on as a walker every now and then, you know? And all of that bending over to pick up toys for the 47th million time and the delicate, high-stepping walk around a Lego- and Hot Wheels-strewn floor is good exercise for “mature” bodies, too.
I’ve only been confused as my whirlwind’s grandmother once, this year as we’ve entered the world of Kindergarten. It was the crossing guard I see every morning, so I’m assuming that perhaps I need to do a better job on my wake-up/makeup routine???
The biggest AMA problem I’ve found: as you navigate your new life as a mom, you meet all sorts of fantastic mothers with kids about the same age as your little bundle. But as an AMA, the moms aren’t your same age. Often, not even by a long-shot.
Don’t get me wrong: I like a wide range of friends of all ages. But I want to laugh with someone who remembers that the “M” in MTV actually stands for music and it was what you would watch for hours to see your favorite video. Or a cool mom who gets my references to School House Rock, all things Friends and the ugly side of ’80s fashion.
I find AMA gives me a foot in both age realms: my biological age pulling me toward the more mature crew, my mom age pulling me toward the social circles of the younger set.
At my age, the moms who are senior to me are wise sages who have survived the crazy and offer hope that I, too, will one day once again enjoy a Lego-free floor, that my knowledge of all things Star Wars and the ability to sing the theme songs to an array of children’s shows will come in handy.
The moms who are junior to me are energetic, fun, fantastic women tackling their mom years with bright-eyed, wrinkle-free, perky youth and vigor. Some of them have children older than mine and share their experiences to help out a fellow mom. I love them, despite the fact that perky is definitely in my rearview mirror and I’m old enough to have once been their babysitter.
Most of the time, I don’t even notice the age difference with the moms of my child’s peers…and then I get a big, wet slap back to reality.
David Bowie dies and one of them says, “I know I’m supposed to know who that is, but I don’t.” I try not to gasp and wonder where her parents went wrong.
The legendary Prince leaves us far too soon, and as I express my shock, it’s greeted by “I only know him as some old dude who sang dirty songs.” And I think, Fantastic, dirty songs that were the soundtrack to my high school years and so much more.
Rather than feel ancient, I’m going to add my knowledge of Bowie, Prince, and so many other pieces of our pop culture history as signs that I’m “advanced.” And my kid will have fantastic taste in music.