I was nine when my mother turned 40. We were on a ferryboat floating through the Hebrides of Scotland, where we went every summer. My mother wore black, and none of us were allowed to speak. Good times. The night before I turned 40 (89 in show business years), I started to cry at 9:15 in Los Angeles because I was already old on the East Coast.
Of course I have now happily embraced my age because I am having by far the most interesting midlife crisis of any of my friends. Three years into my forties I called my mother and told her that my period was late and weird, and she calmly told me that it was probably the onset of menopause. At least on the rare occasion that my mother is wrong, she’s really wrong: I was pregnant. After being a contestant in the fun fertility game I like to call “The $10,000 Period” and leaving not with a baby but with such lovely parting gifts as unnecessary weight gain and a large stash of needles, I had conceived naturally, with the assistance of a well-timed headstand (after, not during) and a boyfriend, Costaki Economopoulos, who does not believe in statistics. I think I finally succeeded because my father, who had been an ob-gyn and had died five weeks before, made me his first patient from the other side. My boyfriend thinks that we were rewarded by God because we watched the Super Bowl together for the first time. To this day, I still ovulate whenever I see Eli Manning, and I too know what it is to score with 30 seconds left on the clock.
Pregnancy was fun at first. I felt like I was in a one-woman pie-eating contest. All that stopped at the beginning of the third trimester when I developed gestational diabetes. The humorless nutritionist asked me on the phone what my daily food intake had been. As I answered, I heard a lot of “Wow, are you serious? Slow down, I can’t write that fast.” She cut me down to 150 grams of carbs a day, and I was beyond crabby. I became Pregnantor, lumbering around Manhattan in the summer heat with a ring of steam around my head. I also developed asthma. Nothing’s hotter than a wheezing woman who looks like she swallowed a Volkswagen Bug.
Baby showers, I discovered, are made for younger women. I remember them being fun; we played games and ate cake. Mine looked more like a secret society of mothers from the CIA (Children in Adolescence), comparing spyware they use to monitor their kids’ text messages and discussing the special mouthwash that acts as a Breathalyzer. I would hold up adorable newborn outfits, and one mother would say, “I think my son smoked pot.”
My daughter, Ava Rhea Economopoulos (we have already explained to her that the Economopoulos is silent), was born October 20, 2008. One day while my mother was visiting, I said, “She’s beautiful, but I think her head is so big.” My mother said, “Darling, take off your reading glasses—her head is perfect.” She is perfect. She is delicious. I was reading an article that said not to hover over your baby. One of Ava’s ears was in my mouth at the time. Is that hovering?
I no longer believe that your forties are old. My right hip bone and lower lumbar do, but I don’t. I am a new mother in my forties—talk about reinventing yourself. I embrace my reading glasses because I want my life to get bigger, not smaller. In my twenties, I wouldn’t have been good at mothering; I was too busy trying to succeed. Ava has given me so much acceptance and gratitude for all that preceded her. Every man who broke my heart, every show that got canceled, every part I didn’t get—I’m grateful for all of it because if even one thing had been different, then Ava would not be here. See, you can meet the love of your life in your forties.
Caroline Rhea has been a comedian for 21 years and a costar of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. She is writing a “momoir.”
Originally published in the May 2010 issue of More.