What a difference it was having a son at a very young age and daughters well into my 30s. Everything from the pregnancies, to delivering each baby, to raising them was such a different experience each time.
An easy pregnancy and birth at age 18
I had my son at the age of 18 and I was vibrant, worked 3 jobs, worked out at the gym, and went to college full time at USF. I had an easy pregnancy and worked up until the end. I gained 67 ½ pounds but lost all the baby weight within 6 weeks after having Brendan. I had a 17 and a half hour natural labor with no epidural and was allowed to go home within 24 hours.
As opposed to these days, in the 1990s, I did not hear anything about babywearing, baby-led weaning, not using a walker because it may cause hip dysplasia, co-sleeping, not practicing the cry it out method, sound machines, essential oils, etc. I tried nursing my son but ended up with mastitis at 6 weeks and ended up having to switch to formula. He was a calm, happy baby. He was a good sleeper (in his own crib), flew through his milestones, and letting him cry it out worked well for us. He used a walker to get around the house while I was cooking, cleaning or studying. He started talking at 8 months and walking at 10 months. We did not have electronics back then, nor did we encourage him to use them when they became popular.
As a young mom, I easily kept up with my energetic son
Every weekend, we went to a theme park, laser tag, bowling, a park, a playground, a birthday party. You name it, we did it. I did not get much sleep, but it didn’t seem to faze me. It was a little awkward being the youngest mom at school orientations but it evened out during his high school years and I was very close with him and his friends because I still had enough energy to participate in physical activities like laser tag, skating, etc.
He played baseball, then soccer and flag football, and was on the drum line. He took honors gifted classes, was always polite and loving, and like most teenagers, enjoyed sleeping late and dreaded Saturday cleaning. He is now at USF majoring in computer engineering. He works and attends school full time, while still making time for family, friends and his girlfriend, who is truly a sweetheart. With the help of my family and friends (it takes a village), I would say we did alright.
More than a decade later, we wanted to expand our family
Seventeen years later, my husband and I decided we were going to extend our family. I had surgery and the OB-GYN told me it was a possibility that we may not be able to get pregnant. We had been together for 8 years and were finally taking the plunge and getting married. She told us to start trying, and if a year down the road we were unable to conceive, then we would explore other options. We were planning a wedding four months from then, and I had applied for a promotion with my job that would relocate us from Wesley Chapel, Fla., to San Diego, Calif., if I was chosen. Even with so much going on, we agreed to start trying.
Pregnant again — this time in my mid-30s
While we were on a mini vacation in St. Augustine on Mother’s Day weekend I was a few days late, so I took a test — and it was positive. We could not believe it and were so excited! We drove straight to both of our parents’ houses on Mother’s Day and shared the great news!
Shortly after, I learned I was chosen for the San Diego position and that we had 2 weeks to move out there so I could start. We decided that it would be too difficult to move across country and I did not want to be a blimp during the wedding ceremony so we moved the wedding to 1 week away. In one week we planned and executed a wedding and used the second week to pack up the house and find a new place to live while continuing to work. We drove across country and it took us 4 ½ days. We made a road trip out of it and stopped in New Orleans, San Antonio, and more, but boy was I sick the entire trip. I had to keep stopping to throw up and to use the bathroom.
A much tougher pregnancy and delivery at age 36
It was a rough pregnancy. I started bleeding early on and was diagnosed with placenta previa. I was in a lot of pain, vomited the entire pregnancy, and was put on bed rest for a portion of it. The placenta moved so the placenta previa corrected itself.
Makenzie was born 5 days early and they used Pitocin to speed up the labor. The pain was so intense that they thought I was going to have a seizure. I made it to 9.5 cm and they gave me an Epidural (which is not usual). I had to wait 30 minutes to push and she came out after a 6 hour active labor. She was healthy and strong and mama was exhausted. We were out on the West Coast with no family and my husband had started a new job so he was not able to take any time off. Thankfully, the state and my employer paid for 3 months of maternity leave.
Caring for a baby was much different this time
It was a trying first 6 weeks only showering every 3 to 4 days, never sleeping, and binge eating when my husband got home every day. Everything was different than the first time around. I was older, more tired, and all of the rules had changed. We had skin to skin contact for the first 2 hours at the hospital and stayed at the hospital for 48 hours. Prior to being allowed to go home, I had to attend classes at the hospital and a state trooper had to sign off on the car seat being installed correctly. We did not let Makenzie cry it out, we co-slept, wore her in a Moby until she was 15 pounds, and switched to a Tula after that. She nursed on demand for 40-60 minutes every hour to an hour and a half. I was so drained and in pain.
Six weeks postpartum, I flew to Florida to stay with my parents for a couple weeks and it was a lifesaver. We figured out that Makenzie was not latching properly (that’s why she was eating so often and I was in so much pain). She was a colicky baby, and probiotics changed our lives, haha. And, having help and adult interaction was amazing.
Back to reality and life with a baby
After going back home, I joined a couple of mommy groups on meetup.com and I would shower and force myself to get out of the house 2-3 times a week. The second 6 weeks of maternity leave were amazing. We did mommy and me yoga, walked Balboa Park, went to the zoo, and had meet-ups to talk everything mommy and baby. Things started to calm down.
It was really difficult to go back to work after 12 weeks and leave Makenzie in someone else’s care, as well as go to work on 1 to 3 hours of sleep. At 10 months postpartum, I met a friend who introduced us to essential oils; I was skeptical so I ignored the offer. At 13 months postpartum, I was willing to try anything to get some sleep. I started diffusing oils called Peace and Calming and Lavender — and hallelujah! She started sleeping through the night. It was difficult, however, to get her to sleep in her own room after co-sleeping with us for so long, but she finally adjusted.
A third pregnancy came with a different set of challenges
My third pregnancy was even more difficult. We decided to give ourselves a 3 month window to try again. I did not want to wait until I was much older to have another baby, and I wanted the girls to be at least 2 years apart. (3 years would have been ideal, but I would have been too close to 40 at that point for my comfort). We agreed that if we did not get pregnant within 3 months that we would not have any more children.
Well, once again, we got pregnant right away. This time it took 2 months instead of 1 and we once again found out on Mother’s Day. I was sick throughout the majority of the pregnancy again, started losing weight, and was put on partial bedrest. We almost lost Morgan. I only gained 28 pounds with both of the girls but the pregnancies were difficult.
And again, this delivery was different too
Morgan came on her due date, and by then we were living in Florida. I went to the doctor’s office to be checked and they said to call my husband and family and let them know today is the day. My water bag was bulging and I was having contractions. But I’d already been having contractions for 6 weeks that were so painful and intense that I could not stand up we, so even with the news of the baby’s impending arrival, I went home. I called my parents and told them to drive in from Tampa and told my husband to come home in an hour or two. I did not want to go into the hospital until active labor began.
My parents arrived an hour and 15 minutes later, we grabbed lunch and I bounced on my birthing ball. My husband got home and I told everyone that I felt like it was time and that we should head to the hospital. The hospital was only 10 minutes away but I had to stop and use the bathroom on the way. We checked into the hospital and I was 4 cm dilated. Within 2 hours, Morgan was born. During birth, my blood pressure dropped and so did her heart rate, so we had an emergency team there helping. She had swallowed meconium on her way out so a rescue team came and suctioned her out and helped her to start breathing, placed her on me, and she started nursing right away. She was very calm and slept a lot.
With a third baby came more new experiences
We decided not to co-sleep this time. We put her in the Halo Swivel Bassinet for the first 3 months, diffused essential oils, and used a Dohmie white noise machine so she slept through the night right away. We moved her to her own bed at 3 months and she started to sleep 11 to 13 hours a night by 4 months. We used the Moby a little but she did not like her legs restricted. We use the Tula in order to be hands-free, but she will not stay in it long.
Brendan and Morgan were both good sleepers. Makenzie slept well after essential oils. I only nursed Brendan for 6 weeks, Makenzie for 19 months, and Morgan is 10 months old and still nursing. Brendan slept in a crib and we let him cry it out. Makenzie co-slept and we did not let her cry it out. Morgan slept in a bassinet and then in her own room and we did not let her cry it out. All 3 were talking by 8 months and walking by 10 months (Morgan is still learning and only taking a few steps).
All three were/are happy, healthy babies, with three completely different personalities. It just goes to show you that everyone’s situation is different, every child is different, and every mom does what works for them. Boy did all of the rules change over time, but either way they all turned out fine.
Exhausted, but happy
In hindsight, it was much easier having a child at a young age versus 36 and 38. Mama is tired but so very happy. Hang in there mamas. You are all doing a great job.