Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How to Live to be 100

(Note: I originally wrote this post for my blog at True/Slant.)

When I looked in the mirror this morning I thought I saw a new wrinkle. I’m not absolutely sure because I’m still adjusting to my bifocal contact lenses and everything up close looks a little blurry.
Hey, I’m not complaining. In your 40s, expression lines and declining vision come with the territory. Anyway, I figure I look damn good compared to how I’ll look when I’m 100.
Yep, 100. According to this week’s issue of Time Magazine, I’ve got a very good chance of reaching that ripe old age, and so do you.
“In the most recent Census, health officials predicted that by 2050, more than 800,000 Americans would be pushing into their second century of life. After the numbers from the 2010 Census are tabulated, some experts believe that figure will grow. By all accounts, these new centenarians are far from the frail, ailing, housebound people you might expect. In contrast, the majority of them are mentally alert and relatively free of disability and remain active members of their communities.
Gee, in 2050, I’ll still be be a sweet, young thing of 87. With so much life ahead of me I’m sure as hell not going to start feeling old now. But I can’t count on genetics and modern medicine to get me to 100.
According to researchers, genetics account for about 30% of aging; the remaining 70% is determined by lifestyle. In the same issue of Time, Dr. Mehmet Oz lists the things we can do to live not only a long life, but a healthy one.
His list is far from extreme – in fact it’s rather fun. We need to do a few simple things every day: exercise, get 15 minutes of sunshine (or take a vitamin D supplement), eat whole foods, sleep well, and have a purpose in life. I read his article twice and it says nothing about not drinking chardonnay.
I like the idea of living a long life, but only if I’ve got my wits about me. My grandmother lived well into her 90s, but toward the end, dementia made her days confusing and scary.
To keep our mind sharp, we need to keep it engaged.There’s a growing amount of evidence that as far as maintaining brain power goes, it’s use it or lose it. Learning a new skill or hobby and socializing keep our brains active and fully functioning.
Armed with this knowledge I’m heading off to play a little sudoku, have a glass of wine and a chat with my husband, eat an apple, then hit the hay. 2063, here I come!
And as for that wrinkle? I’ll worry about it in 50 years or so.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Should Tiger Woods apologize to his mistresses too?

While Tiger is apologizing, didn't he leave a few women out? I explore this issue on my blog at True/Slant. Thank to Forty Fabulous reader, Meg, who put the original article my way.

Monday, February 15, 2010

10 Items You Need to Have in Your Wardrobe

No matter how old we are or what shape we're in, we all deserve to look our best. In this 2-minute video, stylist Kate Shifrin is back, showing us the 10 basic pieces that every woman needs to have in her wardrobe. Take a look, then go out and shop with confidence. With these items in your closet, you'll always be well dressed!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

42, single and pregnant - It's a whole new world

This is the conclusion of my 3-part series about Sheri. Scroll down or click here to read part 1 and here for part 2.

Sheri's 2 & 1/2 year journey to get pregnant through fertility treatments was physically and emotionally challenging, but now that she's through her first trimester, all that pain is forgotten.

"As devastating as it was," she said, "once you're pregnant, you forget all about it. I appreciate the challenge of trying to get pregnant. It has been a life altering experience."

Going into the fertility process, Sheri says she was a controlling person. She always believed that if she were disciplined and worked hard enough, she would achieve her goals. While those traits served her well as an athlete and in her career, they had nothing to do with having a baby.

"I couldn't control this." Sheri said. "I had to learn to let go and face my fears to get pregnant. This process has opened me up."

Bucking the traditional family structure has been liberating to Sheri as well. "People would say to me - 'but you're cute, you could find a guy.' It's not about marriage to me anymore. It's about raising a child."

Through all the genetic testing, Sheri knows her baby is a boy. She also knows her journey has just begun.

"I'm still working on me." she said. "I focused all my energy on getting pregnant. Now I can come to who I am more authentically." She smiled and looked down at her stomach. "He (the baby) is a catalyst to moving me to who I am."

Sheri is confident she has the resources to take care of her child. She has already figured out her child care, work schedule, and budget. She'll stay in her two bedroom condo and live within her means.

"My first priority is to be a good mother," she said.

Sheri admits she does get lonely sometimes. "I want love," she said. "But it has to be right and I'm not going to settle."

In the meantime, Sheri is thrilled with her pregnancy and says she is living life in happiness and joy.

"This has been one of the most empowering things I've ever done."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Having a child on her own - the quest for a good egg

This is the second part of a three-part series about Sheri, 42, who decided to stop waiting for Mr. Right and have a baby on her own. (Scroll down to my prior post to start at part 1.)

Once Sheri decided to get pregnant through artificial insemination, her body became a kind of science experiment.

For weeks before the artificial insemination procedure, Sheri had to give herself hormone shots designed to stimulate her egg production. At the fertility clinic, she was given blood tests and ultrasound exams to determine her peak time of ovulation. On that optimal day, her doctor injected the donor sperm into Sheri's uterus.

Then Sheri waited, hopefully and anxiously, to see if she was pregnant. When she found she wasn't, she shook off the disappointment and began the cycle all over again.

On the third attempt, Sheri did get pregnant, but miscarried after a few weeks. However, the fact that she was able to conceive was considered a very encouraging sign by her doctors. Bolstered by the support of her friends and family, Sheri kept trying.

During this time, she developed a host of serious digestive problems including an ulcer and kidney stones. Sheri is pretty sure her health issues were caused by the emotional and physical stress she went through trying to get pregnant.

After six unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant with artificial insemination, Sheri decided to move on to in vitro fertilization (IVF), a much more invasive, complex process that's much more expensive. Artificial insemination costs about $3000 per month; IVF can cost up to $20,000.

Again, Sheri had to take heavy doses of hormones to stimulate production of eggs which were surgically "retrieved." Here is a summary of Sheri's first attempt at IVF.
  • 14 eggs retrieved
  • 12 eggs fertilized with donor sperm
  • 3 eggs developed into embryos
  • 2 embryos placed in Sheri's uterus/1 frozen for future use
  • 1 embryo resulted in pregnancy
  • 1 miscarriage at 7 weeks
The miscarriage was an terrible blow. "I was on my own on that journey," said Sheri. "It was devastating. The money began to drain; emotionally I was in a spiral."

Yet Sheri persevered. Having a baby was that important to her.

She tried again with the frozen embryo, but it didn't take. She needed to select a new sperm donor, because the first man was no longer available. Feeling like she was running out of options, Sheri decided to go through the full process one more time, but have the embryos genetically tested for viability - an even more expensive procedure.

Here's what happened the second time around:
  • 14 eggs retrieved
  • 12 eggs fertilized
  • 10 developed into embryos
  • 10 embryos genetically tested
  • 1 embryo found viable (only 1 out of 10!)
  • 1 healthy embryo placed in Sheri's uterus
  • 1 pregnancy
  • 1 heartbeat at six weeks
  • 1 normally developing fetus at 14 weeks
After all Sheri has been through over the last 2.5 years, this pregnancy is a thrilling result. But it's still early, so Sheri tries to stay cautiously optimistic. Now that she's pregnant with a normally developing baby, she no longer sees her fertility doctor - she visits an OB/Gyn like any other pregnant woman.

Knowing what she does now, Sheri would have approached getting pregnant differently.

"I would have had my eggs genetically tested at age 38," she said. "I would have tried artificial insemination a couple times, but then gone straight to in-vitro."

She advises older women who are considering having baby on their own, "If you want it, you'll meet with a lot of disappointment along the way. You need to prepare yourself for that," she said. "You need someone (a friend or family member) to help you through it. It's too much to deal with on your own."

But hard as it was, Sheri feels her journey has been worth it. "It has been a life altering experience."

Check back for the conclusion of Sheri's story - how her outlook on life has changed and how she envisions her future as a single mom.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A single woman's journey to have a child on her own

First in a 3-part series

Sheri (right) is 42, single and 14 weeks pregnant. She couldn't be happier; she's been working toward this goal for almost three years.

"I always wanted to be a mom," said Sheri. "I innately knew there would be little one in my future."

For a long time Sheri envisioned having a baby as part of a traditional family like the one she grew up with in Glencoe, Illinois. But after a lot of dating and serious relationships in her 20s and early 30s, Sheri realized she wasn't going out with men for the right reasons.

"I was looking at the guy more as a provider and the father of my children," she said. "Less as a companion for me."

Sheri started dating more selectively. Her friends fixed her up; she met men through the online Jewish dating site, Jdate. But she still didn't find anyone she really connected with. At age 37, her biological clock ticking, Sheri began to feel like she might not meet Mr. Right in time to have a child.

"That was when I started thinking I could have a baby on my own."

With the encouragement of her friends and family, Sheri investigated artificial insemination. She talked with fertility specialists, selected a doctor, and chose a sperm donor through the California Cryobank.

The perfect husband might have been hard to find, but when it came to picking her child's biological father, Sheri could get just the guy she wanted. She evaluated donors based on their ethnicity, religion, education, health, genetics, eye color, physique, even their baby pictures. Sheri chose an educated Jewish man who shared a lot of her family's background and physical characteristics - except for height. Sheri is quite petite; she chose a donor on the tall side, "to even things out."

With all the pieces in place, at age 39, Sheri was excited to begin the artificial insemination process. Based on her heathy lifestyle, fitness level, and work ethic she was sure she'd get pregnant in no time.

And why wouldn't she? Sheri is a lifelong athlete. She played Varsity tennis at New Trier High School for four years and went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison on a tennis scholarship. Now she's Director of Women's Tennis at the North Shore Racquet Club in Northbrook.

I've taken drills with Sheri for years and she is one of the most upbeat, encouraging, motivated people I've ever met. Not to mention she's one fit chick.

But despite her motivation and preparation, Sheri didn't get pregnant the first time she was inseminated. Or the second. The third time she conceived but miscarried after three weeks. So she tried again. And again. And again. Finally, after six attempts over two years, Sheri and her doctor decided it was time to give up on artificial insemination.

"If there's anything I would tell other women trying this process is that it takes time," said Sheri. "It doesn't matter how healthy you are, your eggs age. After 40, your chances of getting pregnant drop dramatically. I wish I had started sooner."

Check back for the second part of this series when I'll give the details of Sheri's experience with artificial insemination and the approach she tried next - in vitro fertilization. In part three, Sheri reveals how this process has transformed her, and how she envisions life going forward.