I’m an “old” mother. I didn’t have my first child until I was 38 years old.
As the doctors say, I’m of “advanced maternal age.” Despite my advanced status, I never expected to have problems getting pregnant. Even though intellectually I knew that I was past my prime baby-making stage when I finally got around to trying to conceive with my husband, who is by the way of advanced paternal age (assuming that’s a thing), I never imagined that I couldn’t just pop out a few babies. Three, to be precise.
Initially things looked good. I had my daughter nine months after I got married. Obviously I’m a baby-making machine! After my little bundle of joy was born my doctor gave the all clear to start trying again at 4 months postpartum. I quickly went on a mission; I was going to be pregnant again within 2 months. I used ovulation prediction kits, watched my diet, and precisely planned our “encounters,” so I was convinced I was well on my way to having my second child quickly so we could get to number three by the time I was 40!
But then two months passed, then three, four, so on and so forth. I started fertility meds, journaling, medical monitoring, then when nothing happened I moved on to the reproductive endocrinologist, who did test after test to officially diagnose that she was unable to diagnose me, basically undetermined secondary infertility. We jumped right to IVF, because when you are of advanced maternal age you can’t waste any time — you go straight to the big guns. The first round was a failure, and I was ready to call it quits. We endured two years of trying and two years of disappointment. I loved my daughter and I was prepared to give up the dream of a big rambunctious dinner table. But my husband talked me into one more try, one more round of self-administered shots, one more month of weekly blood draws, of riding the bus for 40 minutes to get to the doctor’s office, and one more month of multiple internal ultrasounds.
It cost an arm and a leg (but we got a whole perfect little body in return, so it was a bargain), and it took what seemed like forever, but we got the positive pregnancy test, then the positive ultrasounds, and finally a strong heartbeat. It was there, a perfect little being. He is perfect and my family is just that much more complete; even if it isn’t the family I envisioned.
The thing is, I learned a hard lesson about motherhood, biology and “having it all” during my pursuit of a family. While I spent my twenties and early thirties traveling the world, going to law school, and generally living a full single girl’s life in the city, my body was aging. Whether I felt like it or not, those eggs were being released which means one less chance of a baby each month. Basically, popular culture lies to you, movies and TV depict women having babies in their 40s like it’s no different than when you were 25 and the reality is that it’s simply not that easy.
What it boils down to is choices. Women are faced with tough choices every day and sometimes our choices have tough consequences. Could I have chosen to have started my child-bearing experience earlier? Of course. Would I have had a better chance of having more children? Most likely. Do I regret my decisions? Sometimes. Some days I wish someone had told me it’s okay to make being a mom your top priority in life, that it’s pretty much the most important thing you can do. But other days I feel like I couldn’t be the mom I am without having waited to become a mom. My experiences make me who I am, it has shaped the kind of mother I am, the kind of wife, and the way I balance my roles as wife and mother.
I might be an old mama, but I’m a happy mama. And we are all more than “just moms.”
And, you never know, maybe there will be a fifth plate at the dinner table someday, stranger things have happened.