In this blog, Helen shares her experience of being a mother and having a baby after 40 whilst being HIV positive.
My most recent pregnancy journey was in 2013/2014. I was then a 43-year-old women who never expected to become pregnant again in my forties. I honestly thought things had stopped working in that department. So, you can imagine the shock of finding out you’re having a baby considering my age. All my other children were young adults and I was expecting to become a granny at some point.
Most people were telling me to think wisely about having a baby ay my age. I’m so glad that I never listened to them. Having my youngest child was the best decision of my life.
As an experienced mother who had already had children whilst being positive the worries around HIV were not even a consideration. My main worry was my blood pressure and age. HIV just didn’t enter my mind.
The great thing nowadays is that you no longer need to have an elected caesarean section if there are no other complications apart from HIV. You can even have a natural birth if you have previously had a c-section. This is called a V BAC. If you have other complications you may still need another c-section.
I think my other biggest worry was how am I going to cope financially. Money is very often a consideration when you are faced with the prospect of having a child.
I have learnt that you should never let finances put you off having a baby. Life is precious.
Always remember that not all the healthcare professionals will automatically know that you are positive. I had a bad experience from a community midwife asking me why I wasn’t breastfeeding and what is that medication you are giving to your baby. She was very rude and judgemental.
When I told her, I was positive she wrote it on my notes and then had the cheek to phone me later that day asking if I could erase it from my notes, (I left it there). I think she asked a colleague and was told that she should not have done that so she was trying to cover herself. They never sent her to me again as I complained about her bizarre attitude.
If you are expecting visitors to the hospital once you have given birth make sure that you make the team aware that maybe not everyone will know about your HIV status. Ask for medication to be administered for yourself and your baby after visiting hours.
Let’s face it, hospitals are depressing places and you shouldn’t be in there that long. New mums will be apprehensive about feeding and changing the baby. Even little things like how to lay the baby down in the cot seems daunting. Years ago, you could stay in hospital for seven days and they would show you everything. This is no longer the case and they get you out as soon as possible.
Make sure you ask to be shown what to do, bring in your baby clothes, nappies etc.
Positive mums do get given free formula milk in the hospital but have some stocked up ready at home alongside a steriliser (steam ones are the best in my opinion.)
Its normal to feel very low a few days after giving birth. This is called the baby blues. A time when your hormones go haywire and changes are occurring after the birth. The milk will come in and can be very painful but this will soon pass and if you are not breastfeeding it will subside quickly. A few breast pads will be useful even if you don’t plan on breastfeeding as you will still have some leakage.
Remember that if the baby keeps crying there is usually a reason, wet nappy, sore tummy, scared, hungry, uncomfortable, too hot, too cold, but most importantly they might just want a cuddle.
If you don’t have any family or friends visiting this can also be a depressing time. In the next beds, you will see people bring the new mums presents and flowers. This can be annoying if you are all alone. But remember you are not alone you have the most important person next to you in their little cot.
Also, if you feel lonely and would like someone to be supportive you could get in touch with Positively UK Women’s Project and we could arrange for a mentor mother to be available to you, to share experiences and learn from each other.
I also used to worry about the side effects of the medication on my babies. Two of my children that I had whilst being positive are now 16 and 17. They are totally fine and have not had any complications.
So, my advice would be to not worry and enjoy the moment as it soon passes and they are grown up before you know it.
Positively UK is running a Pregnancy Journey Workshop on Saturday 20 January for women living with HIV to learn more about pregnancy, motherhood, and becoming a parent. The day will be facilitated by women living with HIV who have had babies and have been trained as Mentor Mothers, alongside a doctor and a midwife available for you to ask any questions you may have.