Too Old for Babies?

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Pregnancy at 42 is different. In many ways, it is harder than it was when I was younger. I don’t have the strength I used to. I begin to show earlier, and I grow huge; no gorgeous, skinny mama, belly pics for me! Morning sickness is worse at this age. Fatigue is worse too. Diastasis recti and pelvic floor prolapse are new vocabulary words to define old symptoms. Genetic risks are higher. Risks of pregnancy complications are higher. Risk of miscarriage is higher. As an older mother, there is an increased chance I could die before this baby is grown.

All of that is true.  I can see why some might look at our family and wonder if we are crazy.

But I look at it differently.

What is “too old”?

First, who decides what the magic number is, the number which officially makes a woman too old for babies? General consensus? Doctors? Our neighbors?

How do we define “too old”? Is it a matter of how many gray hairs or wrinkles we have? Does it mean “outside cultural norms”?

Is the number variable by woman or is it universal across the board? Are healthy women allowed a higher number before “too old” is reached, whereas women in delicate health are marked earlier?

Does it have anything to do with whether or not we already have children? Do women who marry later in life get an extension on what age is acceptable to have a baby?

Is it a matter of health? Does it refer to an age that carries pregnancy risks? If that’s the case, wouldn’t the label apply to every woman?

What are the risks, really?

Actually, I don’t view the “increased risks” in older mother pregnancies as being dire at all. According to Merck, the risk of giving birth to a Down Syndrome baby at 42 years old is 1 in 64. If you have a calculator handy, you’ll find that is equal to 1.5%. This means that I have a 98.5% chance of giving birth to a child without Down Syndrome.

The risk of having a child with any chromosomal abnormality is 1 in 42 for me, or 2.3%, which means I have a 97.7% chance of having a child with no chromosomal abnormalities.

And life expectancy? The average white woman in the United States lives to be 81, while the average white man lives to be 76 (Source: Medical News Today). My likelihood – and my husband’s – of living to raise this child to adulthood are still pretty high.

Miscarriage rates are sobering, to be sure. Women who are 35-45 yrs old have a 20-35% chance of miscarriage. But I’ve experienced that, and while it was painful, I have never regretted the fact that my sweet baby girl was conceived. She has an eternal soul, and that fact is so much bigger than the fact that I mourn her loss while here on earth.

Some stats look promising, others less so. Either way, my hope is not in statistics.

Who really decides?

I would answer that first question this way: God decides.

For me, this answer brings clarity to all the other answers as well.

Life is uncertain, no matter how old we are. Having a baby at any age carries risks. We can not know what the future holds, whether that future appears bright or dire. We can be wrong.

But God is all-knowing. He does know what the future holds. And he is good!

And, he is the creator of life. We may try to make our choices in the life-giving department, but God is still sovereign over the womb, and he can override our choices. If he chooses, he can open the womb while a couple is using birth control, and he may sometimes close the womb even when a couple deeply desires a child. It’s a painful thing to accept.

I believe that if God, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, chooses to give me a baby at 42, then he believes I am young enough, and he knows best.  God will decide when I am too old to bear children, and when that time comes, he will stop sending babies.

Until then, I receive each blessing with joy and gratitude.

Trusting in the goodness of God is enough to drown out any fears of the “what-ifs.” What-ifs are paralyzing. If we let the what-ifs dictate our decisions, we would never do anything worth doing.

I would rather trust God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

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Dealing with Morning Sickness and Other Pregnancy Woes

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At almost 16 weeks, I am mostly nausea-free. I’m reveling in the second trimester!

This was not the case a few weeks ago. Either I experienced my worst bout of morning sickness this time around, or I have a terrible memory of my previous pregnancies. I wish I knew of a definitive cure. It certainly would make the first trimester more pleasant.

So far I haven’t found any miracle cures, but I have found some relief from the following tips.

Magnesium Oil and Vitamin B

You may have heard that Vitamin B helps alleviate nausea. I’ve had doctors who have prescribed prenatal vitamins with extra B for this reason. In some ways, B helped, but I recently read a little more to the story.

During my desperate attempt for ideas that would offer relief from my nausea, I came across a fascinating article called The Real Cause of Morning Sickness. I recommend reading the whole thing, because my little summary to follow is a rather poor explanation.

Essentially, some studies have shown that magnesium deficiency can aggravate nausea during pregnancy. Magnesium deficiency is a pretty big problem in our culture today, with many unfortunate consequences, so I find it easy to believe that this could affect the level of morning sickness we experience.

An additional problem exists for us expecting mothers, because magnesium is just plain harder to absorb when we are expecting. This is where vitamin B comes in… B vitamins supposedly aid in the absorption of magnesium, which could explain why some women have good results from using B supplements.

My experience? I picked up some B complex vitamins from Target along with this magnesium oil from Amazon, and began to feel a little better within days of beginning to use them. Could it be that I was nearing the end of the morning sickness anyway, and my relief was more timing-related than magnesium-related? Possibly. But, I will say that I continue to take my B vitamins daily, and I use my magnesium spray a few times a week. I’m not taking the chance. ;)

Eating Habits

Here’s a puzzling truth: Those very moments when I can hardly bear the sight of food, oddly enough, are the times I need it most.

Seriously. The smallest pangs of hunger trigger my worst episodes of morning sickness. Throughout the first trimester, I find it better to eat small meals every hour, rather than three regular meals a day. Personally, I like to eat meals with protein, because they tend to stay with me longer, and because they are lower glycemic. Too many carbohydrates cause me to crash quickly, and that can trigger a whole new bout of nausea.

It’s a fine line.

My favorite mini-meals this time around are:

  • eggs (every morning)
  • pickles, sliced cheese, and a little mustard on the side
  • yogurt
  • cottage cheese
  • a “parfait” (as Cowgirl calls it) of granola and yogurt
  • a little leftover meat (except chicken; for some reason, I could not bear to look at chicken until a few weeks ago)
  • a protein shake
  • black beans with ranch dressing mix
  • popcorn
  • nuts

I prefer to eat the same lunches and dinners as the rest of my family, just with smaller portions.

Sleep

For me, morning sickness becomes worse the more tired I am. Thus, I nap almost daily without guilt.

Sleep is not a cure-all, but without it, I am a wreck.

The difficult part of sleep, for me, is finding time to do it. Every mother reading this understands. There are always a hundred useful, important things I could be doing, or feel I should be doing.

My solution is this: In the first trimester, or anytime I am sick or weak, I give myself permission to let some things go for a time.

Priorities are essential. As to my children, I look first to their physical needs, then to the needs of their hearts, and then to their educational needs. As to household duties, I focus first on food, then on laundry.  If those important things are taken care of, most other things can wait until I get some rest.

Fatigue

I have very little advice here, I’m sorry to say. Of course, fatigue is a sign that we need rest, so to mention sleep would be rather obvious. I will just reiterate the need to make it happen.

I am still struggling with fatigue, even in the second trimester. This is new for me, as I recall the second trimester as being a lovely, energetic time in previous pregnancies. While it certainly is by comparison to the first trimester, I daily wonder what in the world is wrong with me.

Dehydration makes fatigue worse, so drinking lots of water helps. Prenatal vitamins are important. I use Integrative Therapeutics Prenatal Forte, because they are inexpensive and work great. I find them similar to the popular SuperMom vitamins, but at a nicer price.

Indigestion

I haven’t yet had much indigestion in this pregnancy, but I know it’s coming. The third trimesters of my past have been full of sleepless nights because of it. Even by eating careful, small meals, and restricting myself to no food after 7:00 pm, I still struggle.

One tip that has helped me tremendously has been the use of apple cider vinegar. I sometimes make it into a hot tea with honey, but my favorite way has been more simple. I fill a big glass with cold water, and splash in a little ACV, just enough to lightly tint and cloud the water. The concoction helps me to feel better almost immediately. If you are suffering with indigestion, try it! Just remember to brush your teeth afterward, or rinse your mouth with a little milk to neutralize the acid and protect your teeth.

Attitude

As you can see, I have no cure-all solutions to share. Some tips help, but nothing has made nausea or fatigue go away completely for me. The very best advice I can give is this:

Recognize the blessing.

Remember, morning sickness is something that only happens when you are pregnant. The one thing that has made a difference for me has been the awesome knowledge that it’s worth it!

It’s easy to forget when you are pregnant with a child who is yet unseen, but I’m easily reminded when I look at my children who I already know. When I look at the faces of each of my children, young cuddly toddlers with tiny voices and tiny feet, children who are growing and asking the most amazing questions, and older ones who are becoming young adults, I know they are worth it.

And the blessings are not just for me. Ultimately, the hope in a new pregnancy is so much bigger than me, my joy, my blessings. The goal in raising children is not to raise children, but to raise adults – adults who will have God-given purposes of their own. The impact of a new life is so much bigger than we can imagine. The opportunity to nurture new life, even with the difficulties that come with pregnancy, are so, so worth it.

I’d experience any amount of suffering for my children to have life. Morning sickness is a small price to pay, and is actually a great reminder to me that a healthy baby is growing.

Each child is a gift. This baby – this tiny, mysterious, wonderful child in my womb, who I haven’t yet laid eyes on – is worth it. We can’t wait to meet this little one face to face, and we know we will just fall in love with him or her instantly.

Babies are worth it.

When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. ~ John 16:21 ESV

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Help with Homeschool Information Overload

Yesterday I shared the joys of homeschooling conventions and how the experience has changed for us over the years. Today, I’d like to share a potential downside of these conventions. Honestly, it was something that I’ve never noticed before, but I think God brought it to my attention in a very obvious way for a reason.

At one point during the convention, my teens were attending a session together, and my husband and I walked through the exhibit hall with only our younger children. As we explored the various vending booths, a woman shoved a brochure in my hand.

“You will need this,” she said, knowingly.

“What is it?” I asked.

We are an online school. You may be okay now, but you will need this someday,” she said, glancing at my little ones.

I smiled and thanked her, taking the brochure and walking on. In my head, I laughed. Now, I have nothing against online schools. I am sure that many people benefit from using them, and who knows if maybe we will use one someday. However, I really did not like being told I “needed” one. I will graduate my first child in a year, and I have not needed one yet.

Keep that thought in your mind and set it aside for a moment.

Not twenty minutes later, another woman at another booth inspected my elementary aged children, and in a serious voice, asked,

“Are you doing drills yet?”

“Yes I am,” I answered.

“Well, research shows that drills are the only way for children to succeed in math. You need to make sure you do this rIght. We are the experts.”

Once again, I responded with a thank you and a smile, and walked away.

I agree drills are important, and we do them. But I really, really don’t like the attitude that there is only one way to homeschool, and if you don’t use this curriculum or that one, then your kids will be messed up.

As a seasoned homeschool mother, I recognized that these ladies were just trying to sell me something, and I wasn’t threatened. I wasn’t personally offended or frightened by the words of the online school lady or the math drill lady.

But I was irritated for another reason. Many young, new homeschool mothers are jumping in to these new waters right now. They deeply desire to do what is best for their kids, and they are already overwhelmed by all that is out there. Fear is already there… fear of their new venture. Fear of how their kids are going to turn out. Fear of making the right curriculum choices. Fear of how they are going to give their kids a good education while taking care of the house and baby too. Fear of how they will financially be able to make this venture work.

I know they have those fears, because those were my fears twelve years ago. To tell you the truth, there were lots of other fears too.

So I was not irritated for myself. I was irritated to get a glimpse of the pressure that these two vendors tried to place on me, which for a young mother with less experience, could add MORE fear and pressure to their already overwhelmed selves.

Most vendors are not like this. In fact, in the many conventions I’ve visited over the years, I think this was the first time anyone approached me with the old “FUD” approach. Most vendors do believe that they have something of value, and they are there to show what they had to offer, answer questions, and sell some stuff. Everything displayed in that exhibit hall would be of value to someone, and I think it’s great that we have the opportunity to interact with the vendors and see if their books/methods/etc. are a good fit.

But the PRESSURE! Homeschool moms, especially those new to the journey, feel that pressure… feel the fear, uncertainty and doubt… even without high pressure sales tactics shown by those select few women I encountered. They need confidence. They need to be encouraged. They need to be equipped. They need help navigating the new, deep and wide waters.

They don’t need more pressure.

These thoughts hit a nerve that has been bothering me for a few days.

As I mulled over these thoughts, I wanted to do something to serve and minister to young, overwhelmed moms. I considered perhaps writing a blog about how to navigate through the incredible amount of information in these waters, but had not yet determined quite where I would go with it. Then this morning, providential timing, I discovered that someone had beat me to it! Over at Raising Arrows (GREAT blog, by the way!) Amy is just beginning a series on Homeschool Information Overload. I’m sure she will have tons of better advice on the subject than I could offer, so I am happy to direct you to her. :) If you are overwhelmed by the options out there, if you are feeling those fears of which methods to use and which curriculum is best, if you worry that choosing the “wrong” books could break your kids… fear not. Go visit Amy and be refreshed!


Homeschool Conventions: Then and Now

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A lone star made of cowboy hats at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

 

Our family had the pleasure of attending a homeschooling convention in Fort Worth for three days last week. I truly enjoy attending these conventions, exploring curricula that I’m considering, being encouraged by the various speakers, and gaining new ideas.

The way my husband and I experience these conventions has changed a lot over the years. When we attended our first one twelve years ago, Grandma babysat most of the children, except a nursing baby. My husband and I needed to stay in a hotel, because the convention was several hours from our home. It was a rare and exciting getaway for us, and we looked at it as a romantic “date” weekend. Yes, folks, if the baby can not speak yet, it is an official date in our minds.

At that first convention, I remember being amazed by the sheer number of people who attended. We were new to homeschooling, and as it was not nearly as popular at the time, we were personally acquainted with only one other homeschooling family. I remember once, one of my children asked, “Mom, are we the only people in the world who homeschool?” :) Feeling alone in our journey was difficult, so simply being in the presence of others walking the same path was encouraging.

Also at that time, I had so much to learn, and I was thirsty to grow in knowledge. With multiple speakers during each convention time slot, I had so much trouble choosing which to attend. I would pick one, and bought  CDs of those I missed  so that I could listen later. I soaked it all in like a sponge.

In the short half hour periods between listening to speakers, I scrambled through the exhibit hall with determination, a list in my hand, exploring the multitudes of curriculum that I’d read about online and wanted to see in person. Evenings, I poured over my notes and made decisions as to which curriculum I would buy before the convention was over.

At the end of the weekend, I went home exhausted, but encouraged and excited, the trunk of the car filled with all of the curriculum purchases for our first year of homeschooling and my mind spinning.

For several years, not much changed. I anticipated the homeschool convention with enthusiasm each year, appreciated as many speakers whose sessions I was able to squeeze in, and poured through the exhibit hall on an intense mission. Each year I left the convention exhausted, but prepared and renewed.

Over time, as I gained more homeschooling experience under my belt, I began to feel less like a novice. I was no expert to be sure, but somehow I doubt I’ll ever feel like I’ve “arrived.” Our homeschooling experience changes too much from year to year for me to ever gain that sort of confidence. :) Not unlike parenting in general, I might add.

But, I had seen God work to produce fruits in our homeschool, and I had gained enough experience to give me some amount of confidence in what we were doing. I felt less of a need to listen to every single speaker, and having used a variety of curriculum and teaching methods, I began to know what I wanted, freeing me from the need to get my hands on every single item in the exhibit hall. We stopped going to conventions annually, and started attending only every two or three years.

We’ve attended two conventions in the nine months since moving to Texas, simply because they were so close to home (no hotel rooms! Yay!) and because each convention hosted speakers that we did not want to miss. In both cases, we brought all the children along, which in itself dramatically changed the experience!

First of all, we can not whisk little ones from one session to another. Even with coloring books and quiet toys on hand, they can’t be still and silent for very long. My husband and I found it better to take turns attending our carefully chosen talks, while one of us sat out, walking with the youngest children or letting them play in the halls. For a few of the keynote speakers in the largest auditoriums, we would attend together, and one of us would pace the back of the room with a toddler.

This meant that we attended only two or three speaking sessions each day instead of six or seven. But, we found, we didn’t really mind. The list of speakers and topics that we truly cared about was significantly smaller than in years past.

The more relaxed pace allowed us to make a side visit to the Fort Worth Water Gardens. Ten years ago, with my need to cram in as much as possible, we never could have done that.

I didn’t make a single purchase in the exhibit hall, although one of my children did. While discounts and “no shipping” has its appeal, and is wise if I KNOW I will be making the purchase anyway, I now typically find that I spend less and make better selections if I wait to think about it a while.

The older kids went to a lot of speaking sessions on their own. They mostly attended teen track sessions, but occasionally would go to hear other speakers of particular interest. Our oldest attended as many talks on the topic of writing as she could, and we listened to most of the keynote speakers as a family. After every session where we were separated, we would meet “under the hats” (the lone star of cowboy hats, which you can see at the top of this post), and then we’d chat about what we heard and where we would go next.

The children adored the whole experience, even the very young ones. From their level of excitement, you would have thought they were at Disney World. Seeing in person their video teachers or authors of their books, they felt as though they were meeting celebrities. Steve Demme (of Math U See) joined us for a snack/dinner at a concession table, which was great! We discovered that he lived very near our former hometown, and learned a lot about him. He was a very personable man, and he told the children a lot of jokes.

The children also enjoyed visiting the vendor booths. We saw a lot of unique toys and great books, which is always fun for them. Happy bought a few Jim Weiss CDs to add to his collection, and Mr. Weiss kindly signed one for him, and told us an interesting story about when he did that particular recording.

Yes, conventions have changed a lot for us over the year! In some ways they have become easier, in other ways harder. In all cases, it is still rewarding. :)

How do you approach conventions? Is it a cram session for you, a relaxing “get in what you can” weekend, or something in between? What do you like most about conventions?


Fort Worth Water Gardens

image This past week, our family spent three days at a homeschool convention in Fort Worth. I have much to say about our experience, but that will have to wait for another day. For now, I’d like to simply share some pictures of a little side visit we made during a break from the hustle and bustle of the convention.

During one particularly long period when we had no plans to attend any speaking sessions, we took a walk over the Fort Worth Water Gardens. The area was beautiful and relaxing. The kids climbed and played for a while, and we took some fun pictures.

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We all got a laugh from the funny timing of this photo. Doesn’t Handyman look like he’s walking on air?

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The temperature was almost 80 degrees that day, which amazed us for February! The beautiful weather made us appreciate Texas all the more. :)