how i got this baby

The Mom Who Faced the Odds of Getting Pregnant at 44

Because no two paths to parenthood look the same, the Cut’s How I Got This Baby invites parents to share their stories. Want to share yours? Email and tell us a bit about how you became a parent.

Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Kristine really wasn’t sure whether she’d have a family that included biological children. Single and in her 40s, she was working on accepting that she might not be a mother when she met her now-husband. For him, having a child was a priority — quickly, it became one for Kristine, too. But at 44, Kristine knew conceiving could be a challenge. She discusses facing the odds of getting pregnant, trying to find a doctor who would treat her, planning a wedding during her second trimester, and the upside of being an older mom.

On being child-free in her early 40s. I was in a place in my life where I didn’t think I was going to have kids, and was making peace with that. Then I met my now-husband — having kids was really important to him. Because I fell in love with him, it became important to me, too. But I also knew that age would be a factor. I was 44.

We decided to try getting pregnant before we got married. I’m a planner — I knew we should just try, but I also wanted to go to the doctor to see about fertility, to fast-track everything. When you’re seeing a reproductive endocrinologist when you’re in your 40s, they’re pretty upfront about your chances. It was a little eye-opening, and kind of scary. But we wanted to try.

On an early roadblock. Before you can enter any kind of fertility treatment, though, you have to have a battery of tests. Those tests showed I had a fibroid that my doctor wanted to remove before any kind of treatment. He wanted it out before we even talked about next steps. Once the fibroid was gone, he told us to try on our own for two months. I’m a planner: I started tracking my ovulation, making sure we took advantage of fertile times.

That year, we went to the West Coast to visit family for the holidays. In January, after we got back, I started feeling a little funny. Then I missed my period. I tried not to get too excited; I knew it was early.

After all that, though, the at-home test showed I was positive. I was 44 — and it had happened without medical intervention.

On settling into the pregnancy. Trying to find an OB who would treat me was a challenge. With my advanced age and history of fibroids, I was considered a high-risk patient. I had to go find someone who would actually deliver this baby. My general practitioner referred me to an OB who was able to do genetic counseling for me, but turned me down in terms of continued care. Through them, I was referred to a maternal fetal-care center that I ended up going to.

At this point, I was definitely talking to my friends at work about trying to get pregnant. I wasn’t talking to my parents about it, though, because they can be a little traditional. We’re an Italian Catholic family, and they’re of the generation where you do things in a certain way. When I’d mentioned to them that I wanted to try getting pregnant, my mom was like, “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.”

But we had a plan. Once I was pregnant, once I was far enough along, once we were engaged — then we told them. I was 14 weeks along at that point. It felt like: This is happening, no matter what! It’s too late for judgment.

I was feeling good. I really thought, with all the things that could have gone wrong, we were doing great. It looked like we were going to have a healthy baby; we had the support of friends and family. It seemed like everything was falling into place.

On starting a marriage with a medical scare. My second trimester went really well right up until the time just before we got married: I was still feeling good, we knew the baby was a girl. I’d been planning the wedding remotely; we live in New York, and got married in L.A. There was a lot going on, but it felt like a very happy kind of busy.

Then, during a routine checkup, they discovered that I had placenta previa (where the placenta partly or completely covers the cervix). They weren’t really worried about it, though — I was going to have a C-section because of my fibroids history anyway. But right before we got married, they thought I could potentially have placenta accreta, where the placenta starts growing into your uterus. That’s where they started to get worried about the potential harm during delivery. Placenta accreta can cause a mother to hemorrhage.

We traveled from New York to L.A. and got married, as planned. When we got back, I had an MRI, where they discovered that it was potentially not just accreta but increta, when the placenta grows through the uterus. That’s when they started to have serious conversations with me about what might happen.

It was very stressful — the doctors were definitely not treating this lightly. When a doctor is that serious about something, of course you take it very seriously. They hoped to get me to at least 37 weeks, but they knew they might have to take her out at 35. The longer you wait, the higher the risk of hemorrhage, even when you’re doing a C-section, because of how difficult it is to detach the placenta from the uterus. I also had to prepare myself for the possibility that I’d need a hysterectomy afterward.

My situation was monitored closely into the third trimester. I had to be very aware of tell-tale signs that something was going wrong. If fluid is leaking, you have to go to the doctor right away. I was always checking, wondering if I was leaking … or just sweaty. I had to look for signs of early labor. Every time she kicked, I wondered if it was a contraction. I wasn’t on bed rest, but I was supposed to sit still and not lift anything. That was hard for me — we’d just moved, and I wanted to get the baby’s room ready.

In the middle of this, I was tested for gestational diabetes, and the result came back borderline. To be safe, my doctor decided that I should follow the protocol for that. So then I had to start taking my blood every day and really watching what I ate. I was like, What other complication could there be?

On the sonogram that made a room go silent. At my 32-week checkup, my blood pressure was found to be elevated. I was like, Oh great, now I have preeclampsia. I had an ultrasound, and all of a sudden, everyone in the room got very silent. I’d witnessed this before, when they were looking at the placenta accreta. I was like, Oh no, what’s going on?

One of the doctors took me into a room and said that the baby had not grown, and the fluid in my uterus was very low. I needed to go to the hospital for observation. My husband was traveling at the time — I had to run home, pack a bag, then hustle up to the hospital without him. There, they found that my blood pressure had stabilized. But the baby’s vitals were a little all over the place.

They told me there were three ways it could go: One, she could be delivered soon. Two, once the baby was stable, I could go home, stop going to work, and be on limited bed rest. Three, I could stay in the hospital for three weeks, until I made it to 35 weeks.

After a night, they decided I could go home. She was stable; they felt good about it. But by that afternoon, a different specialist saw me and said she needed to come out now. He wanted me to get ready for surgery. In 24 hours, I went from being a total mess, terrified, to feeling determined. I was like, Okay, she’s coming. This is going to be great. Luckily, my husband was able to get back in time.

On having a baby in a room full of people. For my C-section, I was in the main OR, not a room on the Labor and Delivery floor. There were literally 22 people in the room. The anesthesiologist was amazing; he looked like he’d stepped off an episode of M*A*S*H. He told me to look at him the whole time — “If I’m cool,” he said, “you’re cool.” Everyone had a present, ready-for-action attitude. All of us — the surgeons, the residents, the NICU doctors, everyone.

They opened me up, and they delivered the baby. I had no idea what she’d look like when she came out. But she looked perfect, just very tiny — she was two pounds, 15 ounces. Then they had to take her and start working on me. This was the part they were worried about.

I heard someone say, “Oh my goodness!” The voice was very bright and happy. The placenta was coming right off. It was a huge relief — we’d prepared for the worst, and we had the best outcome possible.

On her daughter’s hospital stay. In the NICU, she was diagnosed as a “feeder, grower.” She had to eat, and grow, and learn to be out of the womb. She was in an incubator and on a feeding tube. Eventually, we did some breastfeeding — when she was born, she hadn’t grown cheek pads, which babies need to latch. She was in the NICU for a total of five weeks. We were just so grateful to come out of this with everyone intact.

The silver lining of our stay was that we’d had all these people on hand to teach us how to care for her. When we got home, the one thing we weren’t prepared for was: Where to put her? She was too tiny for a bassinet, too little to be swaddled. We eventually found a rock-n-play that was sort of shaped like a hammock. You could put her there and feel safe that she’d be snug and secure.

On early parenthood at home. Even with all the stress and complications, we’re somewhat of an anomaly as parents. Our lives did not radically change with the arrival of our daughter. We had people over. I was cooking dinner for people. We had an atmosphere of allowing people into our home. In fact, because we live close to the hospital, I invited over some of the women I’d met while our daughter was in the NICU. It was nice for them, I think — to see what it would be like once their baby was able to come home.

On being an older mom. Because I don’t know any other way, it’s hard for me to characterize being an older mom. It is what it is. I’m definitely a lot more patient, though. When she was an infant, I’d joke that evolution got it wrong — we’re supposed to have kids young, but you’re only patient enough once you’re older!

Now, she’s 3 and I’m 48, and I definitely feel my age sometimes. But I still have the patience. My mom gave me really good advice early on: “She’s going to do what she’s going to do, and it’s all going to work out. You follow the baby’s lead, not the other way around.” I think having the patience of an older mom allows me to accept that reality a little better.

The Mom Who Faced the Odds of Getting Pregnant at 44