Welcome to my first podcast episode and my first blog back, where I will be sharing with you how I became an older mom.
I was a young girl, I always admired my aunt Blanche. She was one of these women who could always look and sound perfect. You know the type of woman that can always smile even when it doesn’t make sense to anyone else that they’re smiling. And, they manifest a life which at least outwardly looks like it belongs in a Hallmark card. Not shockingly, these women also make the perfect moms. You know what I’m talking about. They look great! They never shout at their children, and always feed them healthy foods. But unfortunately, it’s just not who I am. Nope, not me, my life, despite all of my efforts, has always been much like my wild curly hair, messy.
I often get asked how or why I became an older mom as if I had a clear cut answer. The reality is that for me, it was an organic process, much more about becoming a woman, growing up, and accepting myself than it was about becoming a mother. Now, to be honest with you, I didn’t think much about my life as an adolescent, nor did I think much about the doctor who told me at the age of 15 that I was probably sterile. He said I had a severe case of Endometriosis. Now he sat down and explained what Endometriosis was, but being 15 years old, I didn’t understand much of it. I relied on my parents for that. The bottom line was that he recommended birth control if I was to have any hope of controlling the disease. However, this was in the 1980s, I was part of the just-say-no generation, and my parents, not surprisingly felt that to give me birth control was to permit me to have sex.
Mind you… I didn’t even have a boyfriend at that time. So my parents asked me if I wanted to take birth control, which I thought was a trick question. I was wondering if they were asking me if I wanted to have sex, so of course, my answer was no. The reality is that my parents nor I understood the severity of the problem that I would be facing for the rest of my life. Besides, if there is one characteristic of mine that supersedes all others is my stubbornness. And, I had spent much of my childhood and adolescent, doing things that people told me I couldn’t possibly do. So I was confident that when I decide to become a mother, I would, in fact, become a mother.
Flash forward another decade, and I was busy going to college and having a life. I had no interest in children. Besides, I have always been honest with myself about who I am. Yep, I’m a misanthropic introvert that is sarcastic, often snarky, who prefers being alone than with others. I mean, really? Why would I want to spend time with someone that is pretending to enjoy my company when I can enjoy the company of a good book? And there are so many good books! And music, just beautiful music. And countries to travel to, I mean there is so much to do. And yes, at the time, I had a boyfriend, and he was wonderfully exciting. So nope, motherhood was not even on my radar. There were too many exciting things going on, and I wanted to be part of all of them.
Ten years later, I had learned to accept the misanthropic part of my personality, did not have to agree with the part of me that believes in the community, and has faith in humanity. I mean c’mon, why make sense in a world that doesn’t make sense? Anyhow, I was in a Ph.D. program, and my biological clock was dead. So when yet another specialist told me I was sterile, meh, it was no big deal. I was used to it, and besides, I had a lot going on. I wanted to become a researcher and a tenured professor at a university. And, there it’s all about to publish or perish. I did not have time for kids, I mean c’mon, I was busy! I had a life. The reality was that my focus was on getting a job at a university — any university really. I didn’t care as long as I lived in an academic environment for the rest of my life! Children?! Well, why focus on that when I could go to a conference and enjoy an intellectual discussion? Besides, you know, it would have meant dealing with Endometriosis, which the last specialist called benign cancer, and I didn’t feel like it. I mean, who wants to deal with cancer, or benign cancer if you don’t have to. The only question I have for that specialist in the long list of specialists I have seen throughout my life was, can this cause any problems for me in the future. And he assured me, “Not really.” As long as I had learned to live with the pain, cope with the terrible monthly cramps, headaches, sometimes nosebleeds, and fainting, I would be fine. Well, he was wrong!
Endometriosis stopped my life dead in its tracks. I landed in the hospital with what they called a phantom illness that required a ten-day hospitalization. After a long search by a troupe of doctors, many uncomfortable tests, a misdiagnosis of carcinoids, they found an endometrioma on my ileocecal valve, which led to partial bowel resection. After months of miserable pain, a gastroenterologist finally removed the 38 staples from my abdomen and told me once again I was sterile. Nevermind that he was not a specialist in the field, I was infertile.
“No big deal,” I told him, I had always wanted an emerald mini cooper. The car would be my baby. He laughed and asked me out on a date. He was very cute, and c’mon he was a doctor. But no, I didn’t take him up on his offer. I was not about to date someone who had seen the inside of my intestines. But, a few months later, I did meet my husband. The scientist in me took a backseat to the romantic in me as I fell head over heels in love with my big, German bear! Oh, I could just swim in those blue eyes! We met in September, and we married on the beaches of Kaui in March. Together we laughed when the pastor blessed my womb and wished a family for us. My husband had a vasectomy, and I was sterile. Besides, who needed a life-sucking parasite?!
It turns out that we, us! That’s who! We wanted the life-sucking parasites to take over our life and fill it with apprehension you never seem to outlive. Why? No idea why, but we were determined to have no life. My poor husband went through a vasectomy reversal. I went through several surgeries. And, all for the privilege of paying for very expensive fertility treatments that were not covered by insurance. My body became a black and blue pincushion for tests and needles that lasted nearly a year to produce the two most beautiful life-sucking parasites I have ever met!
We wanted the life-sucking parasites to take over our life and fill it with apprehension you never seem to outlive. Why? No idea why, but we were determined to have no life. My poor husband went through a vasectomy reversal. I went through several surgeries. And, all for the privilege of paying for very expensive fertility treatments that were not covered by insurance. My body became a black and blue pincushion for tests and needles that lasted nearly a year to produce the two most beautiful life-sucking parasites I have ever met!
Now before you start thinking, that does not sound like me because I seem to be so methodical. Nope, it’s just like me. Out of the blue, I do the most unpredictable adventurous things, and becoming a mother was an adventure. Just a few weeks into the pregnancy, I found out that while I was a very competent professional, my cervix wasn’t incompetent. And that required me to have a cervical cerclage, which basically means my cervix was starting to open early in the pregnancy. So it needed to be sewn shut to ensure that I would be able to retain my babies. What was worse, the procedure did not ensure that I would not go into premature labor and lose the babies. I had to go through with it to give my twins the best chance possible. Only that’s just the beginning of the misery! It would be followed by the pregnancy from hell in, which I developed gestational diabetes, and couldn’t eat carbohydrates, lost my gallbladder so no fats, had my ribs dislocated twice by one of my little girls. It all culminated in 20 miserable weeks of bed rest, in which I became a fan of the Deadliest Catch because I was sick of watching baby shows on TV. I do my best not to be snarky, but boy did it get hard!
But it was all worth it. Emmi and Ruby were born on Father’s Day to completely destroy any peace of mind that I had ever had and forget about free time. (Sighs) Still, I remember the first day I saw them in the NICU, breathing through tubes, connected to several machines because they were 8 weeks early. I was so proud of myself, somehow the doctors, and I had managed to take them all the way to 32 weeks. The magical 32 weeks doctors had been talking about from the beginning of my difficult pregnancy. Absolutely everything I was then and am since then was theirs because, until that moment when they were born, I had never loved so fully, so completely, or so selflessly. I was not perfect before they came into my life, but I was perfect in all of my imperfection because I belonged to them. And because I was theirs, I was determined to be the best mother I could possibly be every day and every minute of my life.
Fast forward, twelve years into the future, and nothing has changed. I am still madly in love with my twins. And loving them has allowed me to open myself to more glorious pain as I accepted Dora and Bug into my mother’s heart. I’m still as imperfect as I ever was. Still as perfect as only being a mother can make me. And, yes, I’m still the sarcastic introvert that loves books. Only now, I have no time, nor inclination, to read or to be snarky because I am enjoying being an older mom.
So what are the takeaways from my story and those who share similar stories?
- It doesn’t matter how you became an older mom. Whatever your story, it’s your journey and has value because you have traveled that road.
- Never forget, you are a great mother in your perfect imperfection because you love your children, and you do best you can by them.
- And, finally, however you got unto this crazy older mom journey, thank you for traveling this road with me.