Here’s to all the “old” mommys of the world–the only people who can fit bifocals and binkies into the same conversation!
I am 44 with a three year old and a nine year old. After years of miscarriages and disappointment, my husband and I were blessed with a second bundle of mischief and I am loving every minute, but I have to say that the pregnancy was not happy.
Since we suffered 9 previous miscarriages, my husband and I had given up trying to have another child. We were deeply hurt and resentful and had made the decision to use birth control, something we had pondered for a long time. We were extremely skeptical of this pregnancy and even angry with God that He would play such a dirty trick and give us yet another child to love and lose so soon. I was convinced I would lose her and wouldn’t allow myself to even look at her on the ultrasound. We never announced this to anyone–not even our families, even though I was becoming increasingly round. Once my mother said, “Do you have some news for me?” I simply answered “No” and gave her a distinct look that told her not to press me.
Then at about the 19th week, I went into labor and was put on bed-rest. Bed rest with a five year old to take care of! Now everyone would know–family, friends… I had to tell my mother and mother-in-law and I braced myself for their judgements. Even though they didn’t verbalize it, their faces told me everything. I was sure they judged me. I felt foolish in front of my friends who were looking at college brochures with their daughters and I had one in kindergarten and one fragile one in the oven.
What had I done? I cursed myself for putting my career ahead of starting a family for so long…I cursed the Church for her teachings against birth control…and I avoided thinking about the baby growing inside of me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want this child–I wanted her more than anything and was sure I would be betrayed again…I resolved not to fall in love.
At the same time, my baby sister was pregnant at 28. She had just gotten married and became pregnant on her honeymoon. It seemed so unfair to me that she should be given this gift so easily, without any pain or loss. My initiation to motherhood seemed so much more cruel. While she prepared a nursery with attention from family and friends, I prepared for the worst alone and sank further into despair, sure that I was disfavored by God.
One day, about the 32nd week, the doctor told me I would be allowed to take a “field trip” escorted to the movies or to dinner for a few hours. My husband invited me to a restaurant and bought me a new maternity dress (I had not even been wearing maternity clothes!) . I decided that he, at least, should not suffer so I resolved to try my best to have a good time and dress up for the night.
As she so often does, my 5 year old daughter sat on the edge of the tub while I ritually put on my makeup and did my hair in just my slip. She knew she was going to be a big sister, and perceptive as children are, knew not to ask me about it. But this evening, she just had to ask “Mommy, is that my sissie’s foot?”
I stopped and looked at her dumfounded. She touched my big belly and repeated “My sister’s foot is sticking out.” I looked down and just above my navel was a perfect little foot pushing aginst my taught belly bump. I pushed on it and it pushed back with equal force. I pushed again and it moved a little and then another appeared on the other side of my navel. I went to the mirror–what an absurd sight. I had never seen anything like it…and I had looked at a lot of pregnant bellies in envy over the years! There I was–a big, round belly with two perfectly formed feet sticking out on either side of my navel!
I finished dressing in my new silky maternity dress, wrapped up in a warm shawl since my coats no longer fit and headed out. At the restaurant, we were seated by the cozy fire–very romantic–but like inferno for a pregnant woman and so I removed my wrap and it slipped to the floor. My husband stood to retrieve it, but the waiter was there first and handed it to me. He stopped and stared. “Wow!” he said, “That is incredible, I can see it’s feet…that is amazing…my wife and I just found out…wow…” He couldn’t look away.
My husband came over to investigate and saw his child’s two feet, perfectly outlined. He stared, unable to move. I glanced to the table next to me and an older couple were talking quietly, pointing and laughing. The woman said, “We just came back from California visiting our 12th grandchild. He’s two months old. Smiles all the time.”
By now, a small community of nearby diners had formed oohing and ahhing over this tiny apparition that was manifested on my belly. The waiter was viewing photos of the new grandchild and a very young couple on our other side were lamenting to my husband that no matter how they tried, date-night conversation always turned to their twins at home.
My face was red-hot and I felt panicy. Without anyone noticing, (a miracle itself since I was so big and clumsy) I slipped into the ladie’s room and slumped to the floor crying. I cried fo a long time, until there was nothing left. There was nothing left except to laugh. I held onto one of those little feet and stroked the other.
And then I realized the obvoius thing that I had truly known all along. A child, born or unborn, is not really a gift to me. His or her life is a gift of course, but it is not given to me like a birthday present or the maternity dress my husband bought.
The gift of life is given to the child from God. This is her life already, apart from me. I cannot hide her even in my own belly. This life growing inside me is God’s and her own from the beginning and I have the sole puprpose of bearing it, with all it’s joy and all it’s pain for however long I am needed. But the gift is not mine.
This baby growing inside you is already here–already your child, your children’s youngest sibling, already your parent’s grandchild. And like it or not, they already have begun a relationship–rocky as it is–apart from you. Your parent’s are probably right at this moment beginning to reconcile and negotiate this relationship in their own hearts.
I don’t care how spiritually strong a woman is or how much she desperately wants to become a mother–there are always mixed emotions when it comes to pregnancy. And that is okay. How must Mary have felt! Unwed, betrothed and getting bigger by the minute. I doubt her family reacted with poise and grace and congratulations. They may have been ashamed of her. They may have feared for her life–an unwed mother could be stoned to death. It wasn’t until Joseph was visited by an angel that he accepted Mary’s pregnancy.
Maybe your own parents were expecting something different for you. Maybe they are worried about you–your finances, your health. Maybe they have trouble accepting that your life is your own just as every parent has trouble accepting that for their children. I wonder how Mary accepted Jesus’ role as teacher. I wonder if she always knew He would be sacrificed. How did she let go and let her child live His destiny?
My little three year old still opposes her mother at every step and probably always will and that is our relationship. She tests me and pushes back, and though in years to come that trait of hers may bring heartache and arguments, I can also admire in her a festiness and can remember that she stood up to me and shouted to the world “I am here and won’t be denied.”
You child is here and soon your parent’s won’t be able deny her or him. Things have a way of working themselves out. I promise to pray that God will turn their hearts.
In the meantime, take care of yourself. Ask for what you need–don’t be shy about it. Talk to your doctor about antepartum depression–a depression that occurs durring pregnancy and is 15 times more likely to occur in expectant mothers over 40. And tell your child in your womb about your parents–it may help you to understand them better.
Good Luck and many prayers…