Once upon a time, a woman stood in the empty nursery of her home. It was a high summer evening and her husband and two daughters were off on a bike ride. She could hear the carefree shouts of the neighbor children coming through the open windows. And she couldn’t stop herself: Andrew, Andrew she found herself calling out, in the vacant nursery, on this evening that trembled with green breezes and slanting sunlight. The name was one chosen for a son even before college, the name that topped the list for boys whenever she was pregnant. She felt a bit crazy to be standing there alone, calling out for a child who didn’t exist. So she got hold of herself and left the nursery. She had a perfect family–why ask for more. And she was almost 40. But the thought kept pumping through her head–you only live once.
Of course the woman was me and the catharsis of that summer night created an even stronger desire to have another child. With some tears, laughter and the dubious argument that our midlife crisis should not be a snappy red convertible but another child, I convinced my husband. Of course being a numbers guy he pointed out the 50% possibility. No problem. We picked out a name for a girl too.
Amazingly I got my wish and less than 2 years later–Andrew was born. I will always feel there was just some nameless force inside of me that propelled us forward. In some ways wanting a child and being blessed with one often happens that way. And this post emphasizes all the positives, though being an RN I schooled myself in the risks of pregnancy over 40 and all that meant–increased chance of miscarriage, fetal anomalies, and infertility problems. A friend and I even wrote a book about it, which we never published. But truly the upside of the decision far outweighed the downside. Look at these current stats, from the National Center for Health Statistics: in American women ages 40 to 44, birthrates have hit their highest point since 1967. Births have also become increasingly common among women in their late 30s.
Many women today wait to have children because they realize the positive aspects of having a career and thus insuring a strong economic foundation before having a family. And many women like me have forged the pathway for older moms now having babies. We made the decision to not care if when preschool began someone might think the grandmother had showed up and not the mother. The Boomer culture enfolds us and reminds us to fight the grey hair and keep the body trim and flexible. The latter is easily accomplished when you have to chase after a baby!
Our son’s presence in the family welded us all together in a new and exciting way. Yes, there were some adjustments. But very quickly his sisters embraced him and eagerly wanted to babysit, feed and play with him. They both became his godparents and thus our little BUDDY had it made from the start. My elderly aunt on hearing of my pregnancy exclaimed, “He’ll add 20 years to my life.” Amazingly, he did. Of course his grandmothers were thrilled to experience the first word, the first step of a grandchild all over again. Children just fill you up and pull you into their world.
Because I was an older mom:
- my son commented that his oldest sister is the luckiest because in the long run she’ll have more time with me. Of course he’s counting on me taking a powder one of these days, but I know what he means. And I’m not sure his sister would agree and I’m just not going to ask her!
- he says he wouldn’t trade this older mom even if I could run the rapids like Meryl Streep in THE RIVER WILD
- he taught me about legos and Game Boys, guitar riffs and appreciating music of the 70s 80s and 90s that had passed me by
- I never minded when: I found guitar pics in the dryer; he changed my screen saver to read: I LOVE ANDREW; we had open talks about sex; he refused to part with any remembrance of his childhood (well, maybe I did a little, but I was flattered that these things meant so much to him and luckily we had the room to house everything)
- he taught me once again, that amazing experience of family–that we all belong to each other
There is no doubt that his presence in our lives kept me and my husband young. John became a Boy Scout leader and went on campouts complete with raccoons invading his tent. I did a short stint of rappelling during scout camp, rolled down a hill like I was only nine, and numerous times went sledding and hiking. Final report: no broken bones!!
Then the most amazing thing happened. Andrew was taking a tennis lesson and I was sitting in the bleachers listening to the thump, thump of the ball and looking at a magazine. And after I while, I got distracted and was just staring into space. And I heard the name HAVEY. Of course the coach was talking to Andrew, urging him on, saying something like way to go HAVEY. But my skin tingled and my heart increased its rate and I was back on a Chicago park bench with my girlfriends, waiting to hear that word blow across the baseball field or the tennis court. Waiting for the love of my life to show up with his friends.
I’ve been a HAVEY for most of my life now, and when I looked up to see Andrew swinging his racket, that same deep love extended back to him, to my son, to this child of an older mom. Because I know he will inspire my heart and keep me young.
As my fellow bloggers from Grown and Flown wrote in a recent post–Motherhood is a big tent and it matters little if you step inside at 18 or 40, or somewhere in between. What did matter was my desire to grow and change with this child. To open up to new experiences, to adjust to thought patterns and ideas that might never have presented a challenge had my husband and I not taken up the role of parent again. But it’s all good–it’s all amazing. Because we have stayed young, we have embraced new things– I guess you could say we have thrived under the big tent of parenthood.
A Mother’s Time Capsule, Short Stories from 1980-2014 www.elizabethahavey.com
photo: thestir.cafemon.com and John Havey