I once saw a cross-stitched pillow in a craft booth kind of store that read “Grandma’s Are Just Antique Mommys”. I am not a grandma. I am a 47-year-old mother of a 3-year-old. I am an antique mommy.
Some of my friends who are also not 25 and have toddlers are bothered by my use of the word “antique”. I don’t find “older mother” to be any more flattering. How about “senior” or “mature” mother? Maybe youth challenged? I am what I am and I am not a young mother.
I went through my 20s and most of my 30s not ever intending to have a child. I had never really been that fond of babies, although I did start to get an unexplainable yearning when I stepped over that 30-year threshold. Even though kids in general terrified me and I knew nothing of the care and feeding they seemed to need so much of, something happened in my heart and I found myself looking wistfully at women with children. Nonetheless, I just couldn’t see myself in that role and my husband made it clear from the begininng that he didn’t really want kids.
Well, there is another saying that goes “Man plans and God laughs” and that is pretty much what happened to me. I had a very nice life going for myself — a husband that I adored and a nice house, friends, travel, blah blah blah — and then I found myself widowed at 34 very very suddenly. It was two years before I emerged from the foggy anesthesia that is grief only to discover that I was 36 and alone. The women I saw strolling their children made me feel even more alone. 36. Too young to go through the rest of my life alone and I felt too old and damaged to start dating again. Single groups? I’d rather have eaten thumbtacks. So eventually I ate a few thumbtacks and went to a singles group at my church. Unlike Stella, there was no getting my groove back. Didn’t even want my groove back. I wanted my old life back.
So I came up with another plan that I would be single for the rest of my life and that would be that…. Then a family moved in down the street. They knew a very nice man who was single and they knew I was single and they invited him to a neighborhood gathering. And I swear to you, the second I saw him I knew that I had found my tribe. I was 36 at the time and he was 39. We dated for two years and then married. You do the math.
We started trying for children immediately with no luck — which was amazing to me because it never occured to me that I wouldn’t get pregnant immediately. After all, I had spent nearly the previous 20 years trying not to get pregnant. After six months, a good friend who is a fertility nurse advised us to consider infertility treatment. And again, we had a plan. Ha! We would only do invitro, but we would not under any circumstances consider donor eggs or surrogates or anything like that. We would just do what we could do semi-naturally and if after that, we had no luck, we would accept that. The funny thing about desperation though is that those lines you draw in the sand shift and move the more desperate you get.
Anything that could be incompatible with conception was me. First it was the fibroids. Three tennis ball-sized fibroids. Which, again, was amazing to me because I’m not that big of a gal to be packing a can of tennis balls and not know it. Anyway, I said to the good doctor, Fine! You just go in there and takem’ out. I may have even snapped my fingers at the end of that sentence. So that is what he did — four months later after a trip down Lupron Lunacy Lane. Lupron shrinks the tumors to make the surgery less traumatic to the uterus, but it also puts you in a temporary menopause with all the accompanying hot flashes, mood swings, etc. I was just spreading joy and sweat everywhere I went in those days. But I survived and recovered from the surgery and figured I’d have my baby by fall. I was certain it was all going to be worth it very soon.
Post op, we found out that I only had one functioning tube through a very barbaric and unpleasant test with an equally barbaric sounding name. If you’ve had the test, you know that of which I speak. Having only one tube was not good news, but the doctor said with invitro we could get around that. Then we found out I had a septum in the uterus that had to be removed. Yet, another surgery.
Finally, a year and half later I was ready to actually start the infertility program. I got lessons from the nurse on how to give myself the injections, three different kinds of needles, several times a day, I pee’d in cups, I gave vial after vial of blood, I drove back and forth to the hospital several times a week and finally the day arrived to see how many precious little follicles (future eggs) I had created!! Two. How many did they want to harvest? 15. I was a tad bit short. After all the surgery and all the waiting and praying and all the drugs I could not make an egg. I was now 40 and I had no eggs. That was just great.
The doctor correctly advised me to cut my losses and move on with my life. Perhaps adopt. With one tube and no eggs, he said I had a “one in a million” chance of conceiving. I sat on the edge of the paper covered table sobbing into the hospital gown until there was just sobbing and no tears. I couldn’t believe after all that, it had come to this. The coming days brought a river of tears at the least unlikely times and nothing consoling could be said. Several weeks later, we made an appointment to talk to another doctor about donor eggs. The line over which we would not cross had just moved. After that appointment, we didn’t really make a decision other than to just stop for a while and lick our wounds.
So, I made yet another plan. I would have a wonderful life with my wonderful husband and wonderful home and we would travel to wonderful places and have wonderful things and it would all be (sob sob) wonderful. In the meantime I could not look at a pregnant woman let alone go to a baby shower. I was beyond bitter.
Cut to three years later. I’ve enrolled in a graduate program to prove that I’ve gotten on with my life. I’m visiting my OB/GYN for my annual check up and I tell her I’d like to have a hysterectomy. I’m now 43 and hopelessly infertile, so what good is a uterus to me? Besides I’m tired of having a period. She is open to that but hands me a prescription for birth control pills to help with the irregular and heavy periods until we can get the surgery scheduled. I take the prescription and stuff into the bottomless pit that is my purse never to be seen again.
Two weeks later, I’m realizing that I don’t feel quite right and that I haven’t had a period for some time, which was not all that unusal. Nonetheless, I go to the grocery store and pick up a pregnancy test just for the heck of it. I don’t really think I’m pregnant. I’ve probably spent a thousand dollars on those stupid tests and have never even come close to getting a positive. I take the test and it is immediately, unquestionably, and without a doubt positive. I could not believe it. Could. NOT! Believe. It. Something must be wrong with this stick. It must be broken. I just stared at it for several minutes. Then I re-read the directions about ten times. I even tried to read them in Spanish. Yes, hold the stick down, I did that. Pee on it. I did that. Put it on a flat surface. Did that. Finally I realized that I was pregnant. Change of plans.
And that is how I became an antique mommy with all it’s mostly joys and sometimes challenges. I was nearly 44 when I had my son and since then, I have learned so many things, not the least of which is how to count in months. I’ve also learned to not make so many plans.