Tracy Frank has an article in The Forum today that leaves me unsettled. It is titled – When it comes to fertility, there’s no ‘magic age’ – and it caused me to comment out loud to myself, “There certainly are less than magical ages for fertility and the joy of pregnancy.”
I can definitely speak to experiencing pregnancy, childbirth and raising children at different life phases. I had my first-born just a few weeks shy of my 22nd birthday and my second-born less than two weeks after my 23rd birthday. They are one year, one month and one day apart. It was upon learning of pregnancy two that I got clued into the fact that having a newborn is not a natural form of birth control. If I could bundle up all the stuff I didn’t know at that age compared to what I did know – well let’s just say it would be best illustrated as a steamer trunk compared to a change purse. In retrospect, I believe I was frighteningly unequipped and I am grateful to the universe for helping me in my lack of experience, knowledge and risk appreciation in keeping my kids alive. But such is the path of a young parent, you grow as you go and as your kids grow.
My third child was born in March 1988, a few months before my 29th birthday. By that time I was seasoned – at least in my mind at that time. My change purse was now more of a duffle bag filled with past experiences and lessons learned. I thought I knew a lot more then than I had known when I had my first two, but still – in retrospect, I realize that there was so much more that I didn’t know than I did. Again, I remain thankful to the universe for allowing me to get another child to adulthood in one piece.
My fourth child was born in April 1999, just three months shy of my 40th birthday. When she was born I had children aged 17, 16 and 11 years old. One would think that I had it wired (well, aside from the fact that I had a planned pregnancy on the cusp of age 40 – which does justifiably call into question my sanity). But, after three babies prior and over 17 years of experience, I was still only equipped with my 26″ piece of hard-side luggage. Sure it had wheels and was packed well and it was of endless utility – but it still wasn’t the steamer trunk…indeed, it still isn’t the steamer trunk.
You see parenting – the rearing of children – is a quest. Sometimes you may feel as if you undertake the quest with nothing more than a toothbrush while other times you may feel that you undertake it completely equipped. You take it from where you are, with the knowledge, tools and ability available to you at the time and you hope – indeed, you often pray – for the best.
Parenting is not a science, it is an art. But is it true that there is no magic age when it comes to fertility? I don’t know about that one. I have experienced fertility across a couple of decades of my life and I feel qualified to say that to experience it in this decade – the new forty – would not be magical for me. There are ages when fertility, for a mom of four who already serves as a fairly constant embarrassment to her offspring, would not be deemed magical.
First of all, I don’t feel a need to be in the Guinness World Records book for being the world’s oldest woman to give birth – that would not be magical. I can think of dozens of other unique skills I have that I would not mind being noted in the record book, but my ability to give birth into my old age doesn’t seem like a skill as much as evidence of diminished mental capacity.
Second, I do not have the energy required to keep up with a baby, and then a toddler, 24/7 any longer. It was exhausting when I was in my twenties, I endured it in my early thirties, and found it oddly invigorating in my forties – but in the new forty the idea of waking up in the middle of the night to something other than a hot flash seems wholly unappealing. Diapers and feedings, crying and colic, the constant management of risk – oh no, it’s not in me anymore to do such things. And forget about the precursor to all those things – the actual birth part – I would sign myself into the sanitarium if I willingly agreed to that again as I would have clearly lost my mind.
Third, the mere thought of being asked if my child is my grandchild, is something my ego shudders uncontrollably about. Society has evolved to accept older mothers with greater grace, but there are limits to society’s imagination and me with a baby stroller in the new forty is not ever going to solicit comments about the adorableness of my child…oh no, I have Glamma written all over me.
So, there are some less than magic ages for fertility Tracy. I do believe the universe even recognizes this, which is why it starts to shut the door to women of a certain age. I am okay with that – slam the door already. Alas, I recognize that I have been fortunate to have four children – to experience parenting from a number of life phases. I know that it is only now as I look back as a mom and live the role of Glamma (Noah, Jr. – 6, Cortney – 2, and baby Olivia or Lennon -due July 5, 2012) that I can understand that a steamer trunk would have been nice to have at the outset. I surmise the most important message is we all survived without it – we worked with what we had.
But a final note to the universe, just because my knowledge capacity for child rearing has evolved to being a lot closer to a steamer trunk than a change purse doesn’t mean I need to utilize said capability – slam the door dammit!
Day nine hundred and thirty-six of the new forty – obla di obla da