On New Year’s Eve, I ran into an old friend from high school who nearly choked up her champagne when she saw me. She apparently found it hysterically funny that I was two months away from my 45th birthday, nine months pregnant, and with braces on my teeth. “Are you trying to recapture your lost youth or something?” she cackled. Ouch. That hurt.
It’s not that I’m a late-bloomer or a non-conformist or anything like that. I just happened to be middle aged by the time I realized I didn’t want to miss out on motherhood. I know they’re supposed to be just for laughs, but I, for one, can relate to those greeting cards and bumper stickers with a picture of a woman and the caption, “Oops, I forgot to have children!” The truth is that I spent most of my prime child-bearing years searching for “Mr. Right” while passing time with lots of “Mr. Right Now’s.” Most of those guys I wouldn’t have trusted to take care of my goldfish — much less father my child. And it just so happens that I didn’t find my soulmate until the twilight of the fertility years, which fortunately in my case, turned out to be in the nick of time. I married my 33-year-old “Mr. Right For Me” at the age of 41, and suddenly the alarm on my biological clock was set to go off, and I had no time to hit snooze.
At 42, I didn’t even know if it was too late for me physically. I’d read magazine articles that insinuated that women my age had a better chance of being hit by a bus than getting pregnant and having a normal healthy baby. But for me the question was, “Should I try at all?” I bantered with myself, asking what’s the big deal if I want to have a baby, and I already have reading glasses, and I only have a few years before I qualifying for membership to the AARP? It was thoughts like these that both tormented me and weighed heavily on my decision to give first-time/later-in-life motherhood a shot.
I recall envisioning myself as they only mother at the PTA meeting who actually watched the Beatles make their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show or who vividly remembered sitting in front of a black-and-white television watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. I feared my child would be the only one in fifth grade whose mother qualified for the senior’s discount at Denny’s. Would his friends see me and ask if I was his grandma? Fortunately many of my friends with children helped me overcome my fears. Many told me that being a parent was one of the most fulfilling experiences that had had in their lives. So I decided, with my husband’s support, to give it my best shot.
Thank God, it turned out that I was able to defy the odds that Time magazine claimed were not in my favor. (I think it was 1 in 10,000 or some other mildly discouraging figure.) I had recently turned 44 when the little line showed up in the EPT window signaling that my life was about to change. We were ecstatic, but cautious. Not a peep until the three-month danger period passed. But even then, my earlier age-related concerns continued to haunt me. I remember sitting in the obstetrician’s waiting room and searching for another big-bellied mommy-to-be with crow’s feet. I resisted the urge to rip out the cover of my file that listed my diagnosis as “High Risk: AMA” (Advanced Maternal Age) rather than simply “pregnant.” Do they have to rub it in? I thought.
But it wasn’t until I saw Enrico Miguel’s angelic face that I put all my fears aside and brand-new, never-before-experienced emotions took over. Now I only wonder why I even hesitated a moment, and I thank God for my decision and determination. If I had ever decided against becoming a mother, maybe I would never have known what a great invention the Boppy is, how handy baby wipes really are, or felt so strongly that the epidural is the single greatest medical advance in the last century. But more than anything else, I would have missed out on the greatest love of all.