Saturday, May 16th, 2009 • No Comments on Misconceptions (10w3d)
Contrary to what some people think, being pregnant at 42 isn’t such a strange and unusual occurrence in and of itself. There is a misconception that the older mother thing is a contemporary phenomenon, spurred by Type A career women and narcissistic Hollywood types. Not so. Generations of women previous had babies well into their 40s. I believe my grandmother was over 40 when she had her youngest child. The difference between her and me is that she was having her last child after 40 while I am having my first. I am channelling my grandmother for this pregnancy (though I never really knew her) and hoping that I can do just once what she did a dozen times over.
I am a bit of an enigma in some respects. In light of my age, I am asked a couple of questions pretty routinely. The first is whether all of my miscarriages were with the same partner. This question is for genetic purposes, not because they’re questioning my promiscuity. Miscarrying multiple times with the same partner might point to a problem on his end. When I answer yes, the next question is about the years of my miscarriages. 1991, 1997, 2008. While they’re doing the math in their heads, I tell them I’ve been married almost 19 years. Their eyes go wide (wider than when they learn my age) and then they ask the most ridiculous question of all: “And you’ve been trying to conceive all these years?”
Seriously, folks. I am a stubborn, determined individual, but I’m not a glutton for punishment. No, I have not been trying for almost 19 years to have a child. In fact, I did some math of my own and figured out that we’ve only not used birth control for about two years of our marriage. (And yet I managed to get pregnant four times. Maybe I am my grandmother’s granddaughter.)
The thing is, I was never obsessed with having a baby. I never believed motherhood was my “calling.” I was not a little girl who played with dolls. Sure, I had them, but they sat on the shelf in favor of my books. Babies were cute and kids were okay, but I never felt the urge to procreate to a) have someone to love me, b) keep me company when my husband was at sea, or c) to save my marriage. (All reasons I’ve heard before.) The truth, plain and simple, is that I was more than willing to believe what will be, will be. Periodically, we’d give it a go. I’d get pregnant and miscarry or I wouldn’t get pregnant at all and then circumstances would change (a move, a new command, grad school) and I’d go back on birth control. I didn’t pay attention to when I ovulated (my cycles were all over the place when I was younger) and I just figured it would happen or it wouldn’t. And I could imagine a perfectly happy life for myself (and us) either way.
In fact, the reason I’m 42 and pregnant is not because I woke up one morning and suddenly realized I MUST HAVE A CHILD NOW, but because I woke up one morning and realized, hey, if I’m going to experience this thing called motherhood (and give Jay the opportunity to experience that equally delightful thing called fatherhood), I’d better really focus on making it happen. I’m still not obsessed with having a child, but it does seem like something we’d be good at. We are emotionally and financially stable and we have a lot to offer a child. Plus, the dog is getting old and won’t be around forever. (Kidding. I’m kidding.) So I threw out the birth control and started temperature charting, which was tedious and unnecessary, since I found I ovulate like clockwork. Then I bought ovulation kits and pregnancy tests and we gave it a go. The result was we got pregnant two times in eight months. Go, me.
After last year’s miscarriage and some unpleasant experiences with the naval hospital, I became convinced it wasn’t going to work out for us. I’m not entirely convinced yet that it will, but I lose a little bit of my skepticism every day now. I was sad last year, but deep down I still had the belief that what will be, will be. And if it didn’t happen? Well, we’d still be happy and we’d take a trip to Italy in the fall. I love my life now. Really love it. If this is what it was going to be for the rest of my life, I would consider myself lucky. But there was still a part of me that thought maybe we should give it another try. At some point, I will run out of chances. Why give up before then? And… eight months after the last miscarriage… here I was again. Maybe this time, huh?
As much as I love my life now, I like to imagine I’ll love my life with a child, too. In fact, one the scariest thoughts I have after all the usual pregnancy and labor scary thoughts, is that I won’t be as happy. Some women aren’t. I fear losing my freedom and independence, my time to write, my peace, my privacy. I fear losing myself, even though the rational part of me knows it’s just not in my nature to be that kind of woman. But wouldn’t that be a cruel joke? I want to believe that maybe my life with a child will bring a new kind of happiness and a different kind of peace. I will still write, I will still find time to do the things that matter to me, I will put aside some privacy and independence (and peace, no doubt) for awhile, but I’ll get it back as the years go by. And maybe we’ll make it to Italy another year… with tickets for three instead of two.