By Guest Blogger Catherine G.
I’ve always known I wanted to have kids one day. I never imagined I’d give birth for the first time at 45 years old.
My enchantment with little ones materialized when I was 11 years old and babysat the twin girl toddlers who lived in my neighborhood. I imagined one day living in a cute house with a handsome husband and a darling baby girl named Darla in my arms. I felt a swell of love for my imaginary daughter and my heart was set on becoming a mother one day.
My blooming maternal instinct remained intact throughout high school but I knew that before I settled down and had kids, I must first explore the world beyond the confines of my small New Jersey town. I longed for knowledge and adventure and to travel far away and discover new people and ways of being.
After completing college and grad school, I headed west to San Francisco, magnetically drawn to the bohemian art scene. I bonded with a community of artists and reveled in the freedom and creative expression we cultivated. It was electrifying. I delved into improv acting, photography, film making, and performance art and started to build a career in communications.
After too many years in relationships with free-spirited men that were clearly not marriage and baby material, I feared I may never meet someone who also wanted a family. One evening I cried out to the night sky, “I surrender! I give up!” as I walked to a birthday party. That very night I met my future husband Michael. We locked eyes across the room, dated for three years, moved in together, and got married standing on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I was 41.
We got busy with baby making and then, unexpectedly, my mother died three weeks after our wedding. My father had also suddenly died the year before. This one-two punch dropped me into a grueling cycle of grief. I was in no condition to think beyond the day-to- day, let alone get pregnant. Without a word, Michael and I temporarily shelved the pursuit while I focused on healing. The dream of becoming a mother faded into a distant blur, though my desire never diminished.
Three years into our marriage, we discovered I was pregnant at 44 years old! It was miraculous – we hadn’t used any fertility treatments, special regimens, or supplements. I was astonished that my body still had the mojo to get pregnant. I was ecstatic and scared out of my mind. I ruminated on endless questions.
~ Am I strong and resilient enough to withstand the emotional and physical demands of mothering?
~ Am I too “old” to be pregnant and will people secretly judge me?
~ Will I develop high blood pressure or diabetes or other conditions associated with being a mother of “advanced age?”
~ Will my baby suffer from genetic problems or be born underweight or too early?
~ Do I even know anything about caring for a little teeny tiny baby?
~ Will my friends (many of whom are child free by choice) support and help me?
~ Will I lose my identity and joi de vivre?
~ Will I decimate my career?
I decided to accept and let go of my fears and fully embrace the wild new reality unfolding as my belly bloomed. After a series of prenatal genetic screening tests, many ultrasounds, blood pressure checks, and lots of baby kicks, my sweet son Bodhi Miles was born after three days of labor.
It’s been a beautiful, crazy, and unpredictable ride ever since. And all of my fears have been proven false.
If you’re contemplating having your first baby after 40, here are some things I’ve learned along the way:
~ Women are stronger and far more resilient than we can imagine, even more so when we’ve had children. While sleep deprivation will temporarily melt your brain, you’ll recover and discover that carrying a wriggling 25-pound baby upstairs while hauling baby gear, and constantly retrieving toys and food off the floor is EXERCISE. I no longer bend down to pick up Bodhi. Instead I do deep squats and lunges as I lift him up to strengthen my legs and raise him high to strengthen my arms and back. Work that baby!
~ Its increasingly common to have kids after 40. The social stigma is fading as women across the country step into their power and create lives that reflect their goals and dreams. While Mr. Rogers suggested we “look for the helpers”, I say look for moms over 40 and know you are not alone. Within my social circle, 12 friends over 40 coincidentally got pregnant around the same time as me (what was in the water?) and I treasure their support, as well as the knowledge that we are pioneers in the older mama movement.
~ Maintaining good physical and emotional health over the long term is a major priority for moms over 40. When I do the math and realize I will be 65 when Bodhi is 20 (gulp!) I realize I have no choice but to stay in shape so that I can run around with him for as long as possible. I try to drink lots of water, eat well, get good sleep, and do some form of exercise every day (even if it’s only a long walk and stretching). Self-care is essential for the long haul.
~ The financial security and career growth that builds over time are a huge asset to parenting. Having some money in the bank and a job you can rely on goes a long way in ensuring stability and allaying fears of the costs of raising kids.
~ All the hard knocks we’ve suffered and survived as women, all the moments of learning, exploring and amazement, and all the quiet space in between, adds up to a deep sense of self, confidence and inner wisdom that is the most beautiful gift we can ever give a child.
~ Every day I continue to revel in the miracle that is Bodhi. He is my greatest teacher and arrived at exactly the right time. He shows me that everything is possible and all we need to do is stay open, trust the universe, and move fearlessly in the direction of our dreams.
~ Bodhi teaches me that age is just a number and that we are all limitless.
Catherine G. is a soul seeker, visual storyteller, writer, and full-time working mom. She’s currently designing her soon-to-be-launched blog that will delve into the multidimensional experience of first-time mamas over 40. She lives with her husband Michael, stepdaughter Lauson Kai and son Bodhi Miles in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow her story in photos on Instagram @bodaciouslysaucey and write to firstname.lastname@example.org to be notified when her blog launches.
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