“Is this your first?” people ask, staring at my bulging belly.
“No,” I’ll tell them, “It’s my third!”
I get a little gleeful every time I hear this question, affirmation that I look younger than my years. If you only knew how old I am, I think. Because the reality is, I’m in my forties, I’m having a baby, and this child is going to grow up with a mom and dad who will likely be considerably older than his friends’ parents. This has been on my mind a lot as I get closer to my delivery date.
Being an older mom and dad is nobody’s fault except our own. After having two kids, we delayed (and delayed and delayed) our decision to have a third. My son, Max, has disabilities, and required all the attention we could give him. In recent years, he’s been doing pretty well for himself. By that point, though, our family was in a groove. My husband and I had a good handle on juggling our jobs, two kids and their schedules, and a household (well, most days). “Organized chaos,” I like to call it. Our children were old enough to entertain themselves. Bedtime was no longer a Big Deal, and Dave and I enjoyed long evenings together after the kids went to sleep. We started taking more elaborate family trips, the kind you can’t do when your children are little.
Life was good. Why disrupt it?
And yet, we never stopped thinking about a third kid. Our family didn’t feel complete. And we knew: While we wouldn’t regret having another child, we might very well someday regret it if we didn’t. So we went for it. And it happened. And OMG, there’s an actual baby in my belly and he’s coming out in two months.
Luckily, my energy’s been good and I haven’t been feeling like an “advanced maternal age” lady during the pregnancy. That said, I’ve been thinking like one. Specifically, how I’ll weather the sleep deprivation in a body that’s ten years older than the last time I dealt with new-baby delirium. And how I’m going to juggle it all, given that my schedule’s already plenty packed. At times, I also think about what it will mean to this child to have parents who are on the older side.
I’m heartened by my own parents, who had my sister and I later in life. Growing up, I never felt deprived; kids tend to accept the circumstances in which they’re raised. My mom was always the busy bee, doing her best to raise her two kids. At 55 years old, my dad would race 7-year-old me down the street. He had the exuberance of a much younger man for finding activities for my sister and I to enjoy; he wasn’t one to sit around when there were puppet shows to see and music concerts to listen to. When I was a teen, he was often the dad to do late-night party pickups and shuttle my friends home.
The only time I ever regretted having older parents was after I had my children, when I had to face the fact that my aging mom and dad weren’t going to be around for an abundance of years to enjoy their grandchildren. My dad passed away when the kids were 8 and 6. My mom is hanging in there. And yet, being older parents didn’t seem like enough of a major reason not to forge ahead with having a third kid.
If there’s anything I know by now, I tell myself, it’s that I can handle whatever life brings my way. I’ve got the benefit of experience, perspective and wisdom, not to mention advanced multitasking skills. A child with cerebral palsy who requires a whole lot of therapy? I can deal. A job that sometimes kept me at work till 1:00 a.m.? I weathered it until I finally left. Juggling another kid? Being the oldest mom among the nursery school parents? I’m pretty confident I’ll do just fine. Hopefully, people will keep asking if he’s my first.
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