It was fall of 2010 and I was minding my own business, debating my mid-life crisis options and dusting off my resume to try to re-enter the job force. Our youngest had started first grade and so I was starting to think about beginning a new chapter in my life. It was then that I discovered – after several weeks of some pretty determined denial – that I might be pregnant.
By Annette McLoughlin
It was fall of 2010 and I was minding my own business, debating my mid-life crisis options and dusting off my resume to try to re-enter the job force. Our youngest had started first grade and so I was starting to think about beginning a new chapter in my life. It was then that I discovered – after several weeks of some pretty determined denial – that I might be pregnant. By the time I decided to really face the music and drag my stunned, knocked up and middle-aged self into my OB/GYN, I was almost in my second trimester. And though I’m pretty embarrassed now to admit it, I was inconsolable; I just couldn’t believe that I was getting back into the baby game at my age (which let’s just say is closer to 50 than 30).
Our other children were 12, 11 and 7 at the time, and our family was just entering that zone where some aspects of life get a little more civilized — from the little things like finishing a conversation uninterrupted to the big ones like eating out as a family (in nicer restaurants) and taking vacations that don’t involve the Disney Cruise. As far as I could see it, the opening at the end of the proverbial tunnel had been slammed shut.
I was in a hormone-induced state of embarrassment and horror (absurdly so), and I spent most of my second trimester as a shut-in and told almost no one. My friends thought I was in a major crisis (other than pregnancy) and I learned later that our daughters thought we were getting a divorce. I was a ridiculous mess.
In addition to my self-absorbed woes, I was worried about the health of the baby. Pregnancy after a certain age becomes a huge drama in the world of obstetrics. And should you find yourself headed down this path, take a deep breadth, strap on some faith and check your dignity at the door because there is rarely a moment during that 40 weeks when the medical world isn’t telling you how dangerous and potentially disastrous your pregnancy could be … “because of your advanced age.”
Fortunately, the hard part of the pregnancy was the beginning. Once I got past the important gestational hurdles and got out of my own way, I was able to “man up” so to speak. I came out from under my rock socially and revealed my fat old belly to anyone who cared. At this point, though, because I had hidden my pregnancy for the first half of it, and because it was winter, a lot of people had no idea I was expecting until they saw me with a basketball belly.
Their unbridled shock was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. You could practically hear the thought process out loud when I surprised them. “What the…? She’s really pregnant! How the hell old is she? Could that have possibly been on purpose? Wow … better her than me.” I know this because it was my selfsame reaction to a friend who found herself in a similar situation two years earlier. I may have even laughed in her face. Karma … I suppose she’s had the last laugh.
Tragically, however, fate had a couple more giant curveballs in store for our family. That winter we lost two beloved family members. My husband’s father passed away in December and my mother died in February. Both deaths were unexpected and devastating but, somehow, the baby lightened our heavy hearts and carried us through the sorrow. Though I’m not a particularly spiritual person, it felt like there was something divine about the relationship between the dawn of the life on one end of the family and the sunset on the other two. This feeling of celestial intervention became more obvious to me when the baby arrived several weeks early — on my mother’s birthday. And when we saw that he resembles his grandfather, with his fair complexion, blonde hair and light blue eyes — the complete opposite of my husband and me and our other children — it was just so easy to believe. And though perhaps it’s just some generation-hopping DNA, it’s nice to think that his timing and features were a little gift to us.
Baby Mac just turned 1, and contrary to his introduction, it’s been one of the best years of my life. And though I’m still suffering from chronic sleep deprivation and despite the fact that I don’t have much of a life beyond the day-to-day care of my family, I feel incredibly blessed and can’t begin to imagine life any differently.
Much to my surprise, it’s so much easier the fourth time around. The worries of motherhood aren’t gone per se, just overshadowed, I guess, by a greater sense of appreciation and confidence that comes with age. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a division of labor this time around. It’s generally all hands on deck at our house, and so the big kids have learned to be more responsible and have consequently grown more independent. And everyone seems to get along better. Every crisis seems less important or muted in relation to the wonder of Mac and his exploration of the world around him.
I’ll be back at the baby pool again this summer, alongside the cute young moms in bikinis. I have this image of myself glancing over at my former self, relaxing on a lounge chair, reading a book. Maybe I’ll buy her a rum freeze, she looks bored.