I am old enough to be my son’s grandmother. I was 39 when he was born, and the truth is I love being an older mom. But it wasn’t my choice — it was my destiny.
My husband and I decided to start a family when I was 30 and he was 31. I was nervous about babies, scared that motherhood would consume me. But we’d run out of excuses to wait. We both had good jobs making decent money. We’d managed to buy a charming bungalow in a great neighborhood with a good school. And we were officially in our thirties! So on Thanksgiving Day we launched Operation JR, full of hope and fear and giggling at the audacity of what we were doing. Us! With kids! It was a real crack-up. But soon the laughter gave way to earnest effort. And as month after month and year after year went by with no pregnancy, we became grimly determined, then angry, frustrated, and sad.
Fast forward eight years. Speed through four doctors, a frightening array of drugs, self injections, failed inseminations and in vitro fertilizations. Speed through the pain of attending friends’ baby showers, watching mothers slap their children at the grocery store, seeing teenage mothers in the park, and the endless advice to “just relax.” Fast forward to …
Ben arrived on his own timetable, conceived the old-fashioned way after all those fertility treatments had failed us. I floated through my pregnancy, thrilled with our miracle. But surprisingly, not all our friends and family were that happy for us. Despite their support during our fertility treatments, once we were pregnant their support turned to concern. Some reminded me how old I would be when my son graduated from high school. My friends with young kids raised their eyebrows and shook their heads, smiling without comment. People warned me that it would take enormous energy to keep up with a young child, that the exhaustion would surpass anything I’d ever known. And they were right. But although these last few years have been the most physically and emotionally grueling of my life, they have also been the best. For the first time in my life I am immersed in joy, swimming in it, drinking it up like water. I’m healthier and happier than I have ever been. And I have a child.
My son might prefer a younger, more energetic mother. But instead he has a mom who is more patient, less controlling, and more fun than I was ten years ago. I am much more likely to join in the fun of blowing bubbles than to worry about soap on my kitchen floor. Pizza for breakfast? Sure! Read The Very Hungry Caterpillar over and over, night after night? With pleasure.
Those long years of infertility forced me to work through my fear and ambivalence about having a child. It made me realize what I really wanted, and helped me treasure the child who resulted. I would never in a million years say that I love my child more than fertile people love theirs. But sometimes I think I appreciate him more.
There are downsides to being an older parent. Ben will lose us when he is still fairly young. I probably won’t know my grandchildren when they are adults. And the reality of aging is that without a serious commitment to health and fitness, I will be less and less able to keep up with Ben through his childhood. But I have no regrets. Yes, I would have preferred to have a child when I was younger. But the benefits of maturity, combined with the lessons of infertility, have made me a better mom — even if I am old enough to be a grandmother.