Second trimester calmed down a bit, but Zika put a dent in any glamorous babymoon plans. We went to Los Angeles, which I thought would be safe, until I got awful food poisoning from a boutique hotel restaurant. Did you know Oscar De La Hoya donated a shining new labor and delivery center to the people of East L.A.? Neither did I, until I ended up there in the middle of the night, retching up my $30 mushroom burger. I received excellent care from the doctors there, who deemed everything fine, and I was able to stumble back to the beach the next day. I’m now a boxing fan.
I know I’ve made all this seem fairly low stakes, so I must share the very real risks of birth defects which increase as you get older. Down’s Syndrome, autism, heart malformations, and pregnancy loss all apparently increase with advanced maternal (and paternal!) age. This raises the stakes for the required 20-week checkup, when the doctors check for all of these things. I was very nervous waiting during the ultrasound, trying to parse the technician’s facial tics as she analyzed what looked to me like a series of pixelated blobs. Like so much in pregnancy, the conclusion was anticlimactic—I received a PDF a few days later declaring the future child healthy and also, in tiny print, a girl.
During the final stretch of any pregnancy, I experienced the unique feeling of actual bones pushing on your bones from the inside. Was this different for my late 30s and early 40s bones than it would have been if I’d had the skeletal density of a 25-year-old? I’ll never know, but I do know enough to say anyone who says pregnancy is not a big deal is full of it. Every single one of your body’s systems is affected: respiratory, digestive, circulatory, psychological, skeletal, and others I can’t even name. You feel an alien being asserting itself at all hours of the day, just below your lungs, and all you can do is lay down and donate online to your favorite reproductive-rights organization because nobody should be made to do this unwillingly.
If you do find yourself in a stable partnership or financial situation due to your “advanced maternal age,” spend your hard-earned funds on organic food for yourself (worth it), not a dozen brands of Danish baby bottles. (Baby will reject all in favor of whatever Walmart sells.) As an older mom, I’d had more time to read about the litany of crazy chemicals in our air, food and water and how dangerous they can be in pregnancy. So, I tried to control what I could. As for the Baby Shower Industrial Complex, having been around the block a few times I had seen some of the happiest kids of my friends sleeping in literal cardboard boxes, so I tried to refuse the onslaught of baby crap. Pay for a doula, a masseuse, whatever human help you can find.