Thursday, March 30, 2006

Advanced Maternal Age

When my doctor told me that he wanted to test my new baby for Down syndrome, my head started ringing, time stood still and I tried to remember to breathe.

Aaron would have his blood drawn and analyzed. The results would return in an excruciating two weeks. I looked at the lab requisition. My doctor had written in big letters: ADVANCED MATERNAL AGE.

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Maternal. Oh. That's me. Advanced? Ouch. Well, I was 35 when Aaron was born but only 34 when he was conceived.

My myth-filled mind started to rationalize the situation. Only women over 35 had children with Down syndrome. Right? Right? Please, somebody tell me that's right.

(Actually, that's wrong. Now that I’m an expert on all things Down syndrome, I know that the 80% of babies with Down syndrome are born to women under the age of 35. This statistic busts open the myth that only "older" moms have babies with Down syndrome because of this interesting twist: more women under the age of 35 are having more babies than "older" women. Hence there are more ‘young’ moms than ‘old’ moms).

But in my reeling mind in my doctor's office, this "Advanced Maternal Age" business was starting to piss me off. My grief process kicked in. Denial: I wasn't over 35 when my baby was conceived; therefore my baby cannot have Down syndrome. Anger: How dare my physician call my age "advanced"! What does he know?

I’m a young chickie! I'm my husband’s young trophy wife! I haven't found any white hairs in my head yet! I like "Green Day" music! My doctor has clearly lost his mind.

Fast forward three years. My baby, who does indeed have Down syndrome, celebrated his birthday today. Yesterday he had a playdate with a friend with Down syndrome – and his mom was only 21 when her baby was born.

Even if my chronological age creeps up with each passing year, Aaron keeps me young. He's forced me to be a whip-smart advocate, fierce myth buster, and nimble cheerleader who applauds wildly for every single baby step.

Happy birthday, my dear Aaron. Your old mom (and even more ancient dad) love you very much.


Blogger Mom Of Three said...

Happy Birthday to Aaron!!!

If 35 is advanced, then what the heck is 40? Ancient? And what about 50?

Doctors are insensitive. When my daughter was in the hospital last week the doctor was taking her health history and when I mentioned the Down syndrome he said:

"Oh, you know! Good! I was hoping I didn't have to be the one to break it to you!"

Holy insensitivity!!!

Goes to show you that an education and lots of money can't buy you class or consideration.

9:08 PM  
Blogger Tara Marie said...

Oh Happy Birthday Aaron!!! and what a wonderful thread...I loved it [and am laughing at the 'advanced' thoughts!] I have found that the gift of Down syndrome in my life as truly resparked my life into a fullness that I didn't know was even missing.

Happy, Happy Birthday from another 'advanced' Momma and her youngest sweet pea.

6:52 AM  
Blogger Sarahlynn said...

Happy Birthday to Aaron!

I was an "advanced" mama too - although I was only 28-years-old until a couple of weeks before my Ellie (now 2) was born.

"Advanced Maternal Age." Pshaw.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Sarahlynn said...

Also, doctors don't mention so much that the extra chromosome doesn't *always* come from the mama. And there's a correlation with "advanced paternal age," too though I've never heard a medical professional use that term.

10:18 AM  
Blogger apostrophe s said...

Yes, I've heard that the extra chromosome can come from the dad in up to 25% of the cases.

I have a theory that it isn't that our eggs are so 'weak' and 'old', but rather than the babies are so 'strong' that they make it to term. I like that flip side of looking at things.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Mom Of Three said...

To me, it doesn't matter WHAT caused it, I'm just grateful it did. Had either of my children NOT been born with Down syndrome, they would not have BECOME my children.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Sarahlynn said...

apostrophe s, I really like that way of looking at it! And in my daughter's case, I think you're exactly right!

mom of three, finding out which of us donated the extra bit of genetic material hasn't been important to us, either. I know that the genetic counselor has that information, but we've not asked for it.

1:14 PM  
Blogger apostrophe s said...

I did go through a 'why, why why' phase when Aaron was first born. I think this is a normal part of grieving, and falls in the 'blame' category.

I even remember telling my husband, very irrationally: 'You should have married a younger woman!'

I think this is completely normal and natural. Thankfully, it fades, and Aaron completely won me over!

Sue, aka 'Apostrophe S'

8:30 AM  
Blogger lori5 said...

Thank you for your heart thoughts.
I want to have another child and at age 46 my risk is 1 in 19 for downs. I am trying to read up on things and it really helped me to read of your joy love and early moments of pain. But what I read leads me to think you would not take it back. I thank you. lori

1:03 PM  

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