Pregnancy/birth story: After two failed marriages and an unsuccessful attempt at having a baby on my own via a sperm bank (miscarriage number one), I finally stumbled upon the right guy for me–someone I had known for three years and previously had only thought of as a friend. By the time our relationship was serious enough and he had done enough soul-searching to decide that he really did want children, I was 44, nearing 45. So we went to an infertility clinic in San Francisco, where we lived at the time, and started down the path of trying to have a baby. We knew that at the age of 45, when I started my first cycle, my chance of getting pregnant and carrying a healthy baby to term using my own eggs was less than 1%.
As a result of the infertility drugs, I produced a satisfactory number of eggs for the first cycle, some of which were healthy enough to become fertilized with my husband’s sperm. Four embryos were deemed of high enough quality to transfer into my womb, so we implanted them all. While I did not get pregnant, the results from the cycle (the number of eggs I was able to produce, etc.) were not so negative that the doctor could definitively say that we would NEVER succeed. But still, the odds were dropping with every passing month. After deciding to do a second cycle with my own eggs and preparing to start the course of medications, we (shockingly) discovered I was pregnant–completely on our own. Sadly, that pregnancy ended (miscarriage number two) at nine weeks. By the time I had recovered, physically and emotionally, from that experience, more precious time had passed. I finally came to the conclusion that my wish to have a child surpassed my wish to have a child who had to be genetically related to me. So we decided to investigate the donor egg route.
We used the donor program that operated within the infertility clinic and they promptly gave us access to a website full of young women who were willing to donate their eggs. My husband soon abandoned the task of looking for a donor on the site, as it reminded him of online dating and made him feel guilty, so I took on the task myself of narrowing the field down to a few candidates. There were a number of conventionally beautiful women (in the cheerleader-homecoming-queen kind of way), but I kept gravitating towards a 24-year-old who was attractive, but not in a conventional way; had my build, eye color, and hair color (my real hair color, not the blonde I’ve been since 1985); and was working on her Masters degree. I presented my husband with her and a couple of other candidates, but we settled on my first choice. How does a person make a decision like this? It came down to choosing someone who physically resembled me, someone with an advanced education, no serious medical conditions in her background, and, honestly, someone who said she loved the writing of David Sedaris. That was the clincher.
So this anonymous woman (we were able to view photos of her as an adult and a child, read everything about her and her family’s medical history, her education, her answers to endless questions about why she wanted to be a donor, etc., but chose not to meet her in person) became the answer to our prayers. The clinic synchronized our cycles using medication, so that she would produce lots of eggs and my uterus would be ready to accept the fertilized embryos at exactly the right time. The result was a startling 21 fertilized embryos. They transferred one blastocyst (a five-day-old fertilized embryo, which has a higher rate of survival than a two-day-old embryo) in September of 2008 and put the rest in the freezer. We moved to Portland later that month and, several weeks later, found out that I was NOT pregnant. Devastating.
Since the transfer of unfrozen embryos has a higher rate of success than “defrosted” embryos, I was certain that the universe was trying to tell me that I was not destined be a mother. There were a lot of tears (mine) at that point, more than ever before. Here I was, 45 years old, trying to become a first-time mother when many of my contemporaries were raising teenagers or were already grandmothers. But we decided to persist. Thanksgiving weekend of 2008, we returned to San Francisco and had two embryos transferred. We had had many discussions about the possibility of twins (my husband was nervous about this proposition), but decided that since I was nearing the age of 46 and our goal was to produce > 0 babies, transferring two embryos gave us better odds. Several weeks later, we found out that we were, finally, pregnant. Through blood tests, they determined that we were very likely pregnant with more than one baby.
At six weeks along, we went to a local lab to get an ultrasound, having been referred to the lab by our clinic in San Francisco. We were in a strange limbo period where I was still an infertility patient but not yet pregnant enough to visit an obstetrician. The radiologist delivered some unsettling news. Yes, we were pregnant with twins, but one of the sacs looked misshapen and the other was significantly smaller than the first. I will never forget the radiologist concluding that “there was a serious question mark above each fetus.” I remember going to Walgreens after the appointment with my husband for a prescription and sobbing in the aisle.
Around nine weeks, we went to my obstetrician, who performed another ultrasound. His opinion, after looking at the lab’s ultrasound images and the ones he had just taken, was that the fetuses looked normal and that it had been too early at six weeks to make any kind of a determination. I left that appointment elated!
As my pregnancy progressed, subsequent obstetrician appointments and ultrasounds gave us more and more confidence that the babies were developing normally. My pregnancy was amazingly normal for being an older mother carrying twins, which turned out to be a boy and a girl. I ate well, worked out with weights and did cardio, as I had been doing for two years previously, throughout the first seven months of my pregnancy. I never had a backache, preterm labor, or many of the issues that moms of multiples experience. Everything went swimmingly, with the exception of being nine months pregnant during the week of 107-degree heat during the summer of 2009 and coming in for a scheduled C-section at 38 weeks with preeclampsia.
The birth experience was wonderful. I was wheeled into the operating room to the sounds of Frank Sinatra singing “Fly Me to the Moon” (our choice) and, while I felt a little strange after the spinal block took effect, I felt generally safe and blissful. The twins were born August 2, 2009: Simone Mae Glickman at 6 pounds, 11 ounces and, one minute later, Gabriel Marlow Glickman at 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
Life with multiples: I used to be a type A perfectionist with unreasonable expectations about people, places, things, and really, all aspects of life. Now I am a reformed type A perfectionist who has learned to have low or no expectations about anything. “Muddling through” is the best way I can describe it. It helps to say things like, “Well, no one has thrown up on this vacation–so far” or “They’re in fantastic moods—for now.” The truth is that I love them so much that any form of self-transformation or self-sacrifice seems reasonable and possible. I would simply do anything for them.
As for how it is to be an older mom, I can say that it’s great so far. An older gentleman in a Denny’s somewhere in southern Oregon did ask me if the twins were mine, followed by a mumbled explanation about how “these days grandparents often take their kids out.” I know it’s only the beginning of such comments. I just try to be the most loving mom I can be and take care of myself so that I can be in the best mental and physical shape possible.
Hobbies: I quit my job as a technical publications manager shortly before we left the Bay Area in 2008 and have not gone back to work. My hobbies are working out with weights (my husband says this isn’t a hobby, but it’s something I devote at least four hours a week to, so I’ve decided he’s wrong), reading when I have the energy, and scheming about how I’m going to return to work on the novel that I started before the twins were born.
Advice for new moms: If you’re a stay-at-home mom and can afford part-time help, even if it’s only a few hours a week, go for it! We hired doulas for a few hours a week during the first six months and have had part-time nannies since then. Having a break from the kids allows me to take care of myself and come back to the twins with more patience, a greater ability to focus on them, and more energy.
2011 Resale Coordinator
Mommy to Simone and Gabriel (8/2/09)