I always wanted to be a mother. My parents are immigrants and I would hear stories of their large families back in Holland. My father is one of 14 children and my mother was the oldest of 11 children. Personally, I did not want more children than I could count on my hands. Like many young women, I assumed I would go to university, get married at twenty-five and have my first child at twenty-eight. And like many young women, life took another direction. Instead, I went to university for eight years, met my husband in my thirties and found myself sitting in a fertility clinic staring at a graph that charted my declining egg count. Welcome to motherhood.
Fortunately, I got pregnant relatively quickly and no longer needed to manage my follicles and could concentrate on the “joys” of pregnancy. I will admit; my pregnancy was pretty unremarkable. Aside from extreme anxiety, a sudden desire to eat cheese scones every day and a compulsive need to Google, I had a relatively easy time. However, I was introduced to a term at my 12-week pregnancy check-up that reminded me of where I was in my life. On my file was written “AMA”. I am a veterinarian and my brain immediately started to try to translate the term but nothing was familiar. The term stood for “Advanced Maternal Age” – definitely not a term I use at my clinic. I slowly came to the realization that I would be an “older mother”.
I am not someone who likes labels. I was already so confused with some of the “parent” labels, such as “attachment parenting” or “dolphin versus tiger mothering”, that the thought of adding labels to my pregnancy was overwhelming. But, soon I had to come to terms with being older. One day, while sitting in my doctor’s office, a teenage mother-to-be walked out of the exam room with her boyfriend and mother trailing. The contrast of our lives became evident as I was wearing a scrub top from work and she was wearing sweatpants from her high school. Her next appointment was dependent on whether her mother could drive her to the clinic, as she did not have her driver’s license. Six months later, I had to get my mother to drive my son and me to the clinic. Perhaps some things don’t change.
After I gave birth, I started to realize that my Advanced Maternal Age was going to progress to Advanced Mother Age. At my first baby group, as I was kneeling down, I heard my knees crack. The younger mothers seemed so refreshed, as if going to bed at 2am was just a normal evening for them. Then I thought back to my twenties when 2am was a normal evening for me. Before I got pregnant, my evening routine began to start earlier and I was reading in bed before sunset. When I was younger, I had no routine. Now, my son sets a routine but it seems to change everyday. Similar to my early twenties but with less alcohol and different boy-drama.
My son has just become a toddler and I still feel old. But, in what could be the great paradox of being an older mother, my son has forced me to be young. Today, I took him to Clover Point to fly a kite. Last week in music class, I joined my son in crawling around the room. One of the other caregivers was a grandfather and we both used the opportunity to crawl to chairs so we no longer had to sit on the floor. And like my son, I nap when I can, experiment with my food and play with bubbles. I am already looking forward to grandchildren when I get all the fun and none of the work!
I have come to terms with my status as an “older mother” and have discovered that regardless of age, we mothers share the same challenges and joys. There is no age limit on the capacity to love and care for a child.