Thursday, February 22, 2007

Under The Influence

Let me start by pledging that this blog will not turn into a pregnancy/ baby blog although I may touch on subjects related to my current condition or frame of mind from time to time.

With my reassurance spelt out, today is such a time for me to share my own experience which hopefully helps to reassure older women who are trying to conceive but have been spooked by the media's concerted effort in telling them that they are already in the midst of reproductive Siberia.

Like so many of the women featured in documentaries made under the banner of investigative journalism such as the most recent I watched by BBC's Kate Silverton - "Right time to have a baby?", I took my own good time in settling down before reaching the conclusion that motherhood is a possibility.

Despite my advancing years, Guillermo and I insisted on waiting at least one full year as a married couple before trying to bring a life-long responsibility into our relationship. By the time we started trying, I read from all sorts of women's magazines and newspapers that conception would equate to winning a lottery. Worse still, these articles predict with such doom and gloom that even if I were successful in conceiving, I ran a very high risk of having a child with Down's syndrome or other birth defects.

Whilst the statistics quoted and anecdotal evidence featured on these television shows are real, the subliminal message seems to be a discouraging one which suggests that if women dare to go against/ delay the traditional role assigned to them as child bearers, they will suffer the consequences.

I felt harassed by this pressure from the media; deep down I suppose I was affected. Although I tried not to show it, I was nervous about the nuchal translucency test at week 12. Combined with a blood test, it gives an 85% statistically accurate estimate of the chances of the child being born with Down's syndrome or spinal bifida.

Before the tests, I was told that a woman my age has a 1:122 probability of carrying a child with these birth defects. The odds were certainly overwhelmingly negative.

Both Guillermo and I took much care in providing the geneticist with the most detailed and accurate data regarding our family history. When the full set of NT-plus test results came out, the geneticist told us that I have a 1:2415 chance in having a child with these particular defects. As far as he was concerned, I scored a gold star in the tests. I wept tears of relief.

Cynics may say I lucked out. Maybe they are right; we are fortunate that both sides of the family have no history of these defects. On the other hand, I also believe in the anti-aging benefits of a healthy lifestyle. In any case, for all the unsuccessful IVFs and other complications you may have watched on television, many women who are deemed to be over the reproductive hill do conceive naturally and become mothers of healthy children. The most important is to keep a positive frame of mind and refuse to be discouraged.

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