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By the time I conceived my second child at 44, I knew I would be afforded little opportunity to embrace the pregnancy experience with unrestricted joy.
In fact, I gritted my teeth like Russel Casse (Randy Quaid) in Independence Day, before he rammed his fighter jet into the guts of a hostile alien ship and saved the human race from annihilation.
The medical process I was about to endure, as a pregnant woman of “advanced maternal age,” wasn’t going to be pretty.
Medical visits were “pregnant” with the unspoken indictment that I was selfish enough to subject my unborn child to increased risk of chromosomal abnormality and a host of other biological bad guys associated with an old and knocked-up nag being long in the tooth.
I still remember the long, lonely walk down a darkened hospital corridor leading to a little counseling room where I sat and was told the oldest woman to have received amniocentesis that year was 46.
“Sign here,” they said, to absolve themselves of liability.
I felt like the executioner, signing away the life of my child. Either way, they didn’t care.
It was the sordid sense that the pure bloom of motherhood—the very creation of life—was somehow tainted by my age.
Ergo, I was getting what I deserved.
Or was I?
According to Stephanie Dawn (http://www NULL.stephaniedawn NULL.com/)—who manages an LA-based practice to mentor midwives, doulas, and childbirth educators around the world—it’s time for a wake-up call in how the medical establishment handles 40+ pregnant women.
Dawn, a former environmental activist, who had her second child at 42, says they treat us “like there’s something wrong with us.”
“It’s as if we are dysfunctional in some way and therefore less able to do something that we were physiologically made to do.”
Scheduled to speak at the Spirit of Birth in Italy in May, she emphasizes that “women continue to be deeply oppressed when it comes to their bodies, their babies and their births.”
And, if that’s the case for the majority of expectant women, then it must be doubly so for the older sisters in the group.
It will take nothing short of a “massive tidal wave of prenatal enlightenment” to diffuse the fear-mentality surrounding later life motherhood, says Dawn.
“It will take women speaking up for themselves in unprecedented ways with their care providers.”
“It will take a merging of the midwifery model with the western model of care to create a woman-centered model of care that does away with ‘power over’ thinking—as in an OB thinking they know better than their patient.”
When medical professionals impose their beliefs on vulnerable expectant women, says Dawn, they instill fear where there is no need for it.
Instead, she advocates for “power with”—meaning that 40+ expectant mothers are provided and empowered with the best information, and then trusted to make the right decision for themselves and their babies.
Dawn, who waited to have children until she’d matured and was “very much myself,” says that age has made her a better mother.
“It requires almost every ounce of me—and I never forget that to them I’m God, so that I must be on my best behavior.”
But, like the rest of us, she has her bad days. “The challenge with my age is that I’m not as resilient with regard to sleep.”
She also argues that society’s nuclear family model is less than ideal, especially for older mothers who may not have parents to help them.
“Being alone with my newborn all day while my husband worked was no fun,” she says.
“I felt very isolated and alone. I no family members and none of my close friends had children.”
However, it was this experience that led her to reach out and begin healing circles for other moms to come together and the beginning of her Sacred Birth Workshops and Workbook.
“All women, everywhere,” says Dawn, “must dig deep inside and become one with their own inner authority regarding pregnancy and birth.”
“We’ve forgotten ourselves, and nowhere is it clearer to me than how we treat women and babies.”
Could this be the Dawn of the age of New Motherhood—where women who become mothers after 40 are embraced and respected?
Notes for this blog:
Angel La Liberte is the founder of the website Flower Power Mom—The Truth About Motherhood After 40 (www.flowerpowermom.com), a regular blog featuring news, commentary, real mom stories and expert advice about motherhood after 40.
To contact Stephanie Dawn, more info on Sacred Birth Workshops, Mentor Program and Workbook: http://www.stephaniedawn.com (http://www NULL.stephaniedawn NULL.com/).
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