When people learn that I had my first and only child when I was nearly 44, they often ask me, “How did this happen?!” This is the story of how I became an antique mommy.
I once saw a cross-stitched pillow in a craft booth that read “Grandma’s Are Just Antique Mommys”. I am not a grandma. I am a late-40s mother of a 3-year-old. I am an antique mommy.
Some of my friends who are also not 25 and have toddlers are bothered by my use of the word “antique”. I don’t find “older mother” to be any more flattering. I am what I am. I am the mother of a young child but I am not a young mother.
I went through my 20s and most of my 30s never intending to have a child. I had never really been comfortable around babies, although I did start to get an inexplicable yearning when I stepped over that 30-year threshold. Even though kids in general terrified me and I knew nothing of the care and feeding they required, something happened in my heart and I found myself looking wistfully at women pushing strollers. Nonetheless, I just couldn’t see myself in that role and my husband made it clear from the beginning that he didn’t really want kids.
Well, there is another saying that goes “Man plans and God laughs” and that is pretty much what happened to me. I had a very nice life going for myself — a husband that I adored and a nice house, friends, travel and all things good — and then I found myself widowed at 34 very very suddenly.
It was two years before I emerged from the foggy anesthesia that is grief only to discover that I was 36 and alone. Now the women I saw pushing strollers made me feel even more alone. 36. Too young to go through the rest of my life alone and too old and damaged to start dating again. Single groups? I’d rather have eaten thumbtacks. So eventually I ate a few thumbtacks and went to a singles group at my church. Unlike Stella, there was no getting my groove back. Didn’t even want my groove back. I wanted my old life back.
So I came up with another plan: I would be single for the rest of my life and that would be that…. Then a family moved in down the street. They knew a very nice man who was single and they knew I was single and they invited him to a neighborhood gathering. And I swear to you, the second I saw him I knew that I had found my tribe. I was 36 at the time and he was 39. We dated for two years and then married. You do the math.
We started trying for children immediately with no luck — which was amazing to me because it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t get pregnant immediately. After all, I had spent nearly the previous 20 years trying not to get pregnant. After six months, a good friend who is a fertility nurse advised us to consider infertility treatment. And again, we had a plan. (Insert God: Hahahahaha!) We would only do in-vitro, but we would not under any circumstances consider donor eggs or surrogates or anything like that. We would just do what we could do semi-naturally and if after that, if we had no luck, we would accept that. The funny thing about desperation though is that those lines you draw in the sand begin to shift and move.
After several years, several surgeries and countless tests and procedures, the doctors said they had tried everything reasonable and there was nothing more that could be done. After the last procedure, the doctor gently told me I had a “one in a million” chance of conceiving. They correctly advised me to cut my losses and move on with my life. Perhaps adopt. I sat on the edge of the paper covered table sobbing into the hospital gown until there was just sobbing and no tears. I couldn’t believe it had come to this. The coming days brought a river of tears at the least unlikely times and nothing consoling could be said.
Several weeks later, we made an appointment to talk to another doctor about donor eggs. The line over which we would not cross had just moved. After that appointment, we didn’t really make a decision other than to just stop for a while and lick our wounds.
So, I made yet another plan. I would have a wonderful life with my wonderful husband and wonderful home and we would travel to wonderful places and have wonderful things and it would all be (sob sob) wonderful. In the meantime I could not look at a pregnant woman let alone go to a baby shower. I was beyond bitter and it seemed that everyone I knew was getting pregnant.
Cut to three years later. I’ve enrolled in a graduate program to prove that I’ve gotten on with my life. I’m visiting my OB/GYN for my annual check up and I tell her I’d like to have a hysterectomy. I’m now 43 and hopelessly infertile, so what good is a uterus to me? She is open to that but hands me a prescription for birth control pills to help with the irregular and heavy periods until we can get the surgery scheduled. I take the prescription and stuff into the bottomless pit that is my purse never to be seen again.
Sometime thereafter, I don’t feel quite right and that I haven’t had a period for some time, which was not all that unusual. Nonetheless, I rummage through the medicine cabinet and pull out a three year old expired pregnancy test. I take the test and it is immediately, unquestionably, and without a doubt positive. I could not believe it. I stared at it for several minutes. Then I re-read the directions about ten times. I even read them in Spanish. Yes, hold the stick down, I did that. Pee on it. I did that. Put it on a flat surface. Did that. Finally I realized that I was pregnant. Change of plans.
And that is how I became an antique mommy. I was nearly 44 when I had my son and since then, I have learned so many things, not the least of which is how to count in months. I’ve also learned to not make so many plans.
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