If reading the title of this blog post makes you feel some type of way, just keep reading.
Yesterday in my stories on Instagram, I asked what people’s interest would be in reading a blog post about my thoughts as I become a mother at the age of 32. I included a slider sticker so people could indicate levels of interest. I didn’t put a box asking for feedback, which is important to know ahead of the next paragraph. I made sure to say that I knew this wasn’t unique or uncommon as plenty of women become mothers at this age or even much later. I also made sure to say that I’m from the Midwest, so that does put me in a geographical location where I am a bit of an outlier since the norm is to get married and start having kids far before the age of 32 ’round these parts. I then clarified that becoming a mother at this stage of life was a CHOICE and also that infertility did play a role and I asked if people would be interested in reading my thoughts about it in a blog post.
Well…there’s always that one person, isn’t there? I received a message from someone who would 100% probably argue that they didn’t do it to be rude (lol don’t they always) – and this message basically told me to go “cry me a river.” To be fair, the message said that “other women” who became mothers later than me or were still struggling would tell me to go cry them a river if I wrote this blog post…because who doesn’t love using “other” people as a scapegoat for what they actually want to say? This person had read my Instagram story gauging interest on a blog post – and I say “read” loosely here because I think they skipped all of what I said above – and had interpreted that I thought I was “old” and that becoming a mother at this age was a negative thing. Imagine my confusion. When I pushed back on this, the conversation turned into some fun gaslighting techniques wherein she told me that she was “just providing feedback like I had asked for” and that me going ahead and writing this blog post would mean that I’m doing it for myself and not to help others and that I don’t actually care what others think. Lol! As Russell Brand would say…”Bit of a leap!” And then it ultimately wound up with the classic, “You shouldn’t get so upset about this for the sake of you and your baby” condescension. I mean…it was textbook internet stranger behavior.
It honestly kinda jarred me to the point where I thought about dropping the subject and not writing this post out of fear that somewhere in her rant was an element of truth and that writing about my experiences was somehow whiney. But, that thought was short-lived as I quickly realized how insane that is. If a 20 year old who just became a mother wanted to write about her experience from her perspective at 20 years of age…that’s what it would be, a simple example of someone’s experience and perspective. The same logic goes for a woman who, at the age of 45 or 50 was becoming a mother and she would want to write about her experience and perspective. I mean, don’t get me wrong I understand we live in a sensitive culture – but since when is it an affront on someone else’s experience to simply write about my own…on my own blog? Give me a break.
Three of my very good friends, all in their early- to mid- 30s, are currently in the stage of life where they want to be mothers, but life hasn’t turned out the way they thought it would at this point. I do believe that all three of them will become mothers, but all three of them will be past the age of 32 when that happens. And each of those girls will have a perspective on the path that led them there and a story to tell. A story that’s not an insult to someone else…it’s just simply a story; their story.
And this is mine.
Let’s start at the beginning and throw it way back for some good context on the amalgamation of life events that formed who I am. First of all, I’m from a military family and while that meant I got to move around a lot and experience the East Coast and the West Coast (and several years in Europe while I was in high school), most of my life has been spent smack in the middle of the U.S. The flyover states. The Bible Belt. The Midwest. Because of the realities of military life, we only lived 2-3 years in most places we were stationed. But there was one exception, which was a seven year span of time where we lived in Waynesville, Missouri. I lived there from age 3-10 so really, the bulk of my childhood was spent in one place – in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks, in a town that had one stoplight and where the town barber was also the town mortician and the high school soccer coach. You get my point – it was a tiny town. Making my own bubble even smaller than that was the fact that we attended that tiny town’s Church of Christ and it was within that church community where we spent most of our social time. For any Church of Christers out there…need I say more? Haha! Ok ok, I won’t dive into my thoughts on the good ol’ (severely flawed) CoC. But I think it’s worth mentioning that that is the environment in which I was raised.
What’s also important to note is that I am the youngest of my siblings with a considerable age gap. My brother, the oldest sibling, is 12 years older than me. To put that into perspective, he went off to college when I was in first grade. He was wifed up by the time I was 12, meaning he got married at the age of 24. My second oldest sibling is my sister who is 10 years older than me and she got married when she was 19. So, I’ve just set the stage for you. Small town kid, much younger than my siblings who got married and started having kids young, growing up in a hellfire and brimstone church environment in the Midwest. If you’re the youngest of a group of siblings like me, you might identify with what I have to say next which is that, in my experience, being the youngest allowed me to sit back and watch. A lot. I was a quiet kid in a sometimes very chaotic family and so my main hobby was just perceiving the goings-on around me. I saw it all, I soaked it all up and for better or worse the accumulation of everyone’s experiences weighed heavy on me. I won’t dump my family drama on the Internet, but I will say that not everything turned out as everyone might’ve hoped. And I watched it all happen from a very young age. The precedent of marriage that was modeled for me wasn’t necessarily an arrangement that I found appealing or that I was in any rush to find for myself. I was also never the maternal type. That’s probably because I was the youngest and didn’t ever have to care for someone younger than myself. But I just never was the little girl who played with baby dolls and I never turned into the teenager/young adult who wanted to get married and become a mommy. Clearly, I softened to marriage and then motherhood later on in life, but before we get to that, let’s cover the next stretch of time in this story.
Although I had a great worldview-forming and eye-opening experience as a teenager in Europe where getting married young is very much not the norm and I felt more aligned philosophically with people there, I moved back to the states for college and where did I go? The Midwest. And what college did I attend? A Church of Christ affiliated university in Oklahoma. If you’ve ever heard of someone getting their “MRS” degree, you most likely went to a religious university in the Midwest or South, where it was common for girls to focus more on becoming a Mrs. than getting a degree or establishing a career. To be fair, I don’t know the statistics of how many girls went to my University with this as their sole purpose and I don’t like painting with a broad brush or unfairly categorizing people so in a way, I don’t love the “MRS” degree joke. But, on the other hand, I can say that it did solidly feel like that was the case. I also feel the need to clarify that I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong of them, but it is the exact opposite of my own personality and that’s okay. I identified with very few people in college because I was just fundamentally different than so many of the girls I went to school with. My circle was small – I found people who were more like me, weren’t at college to find a husband, had goals and ambitions for their personal futures that included stacking up more degrees post-grad and gaining momentum in their respective career fields – and those girls are still my best friends today.
Since my parents had dated in college and gotten married soon after graduating and we’ve already discussed that my siblings were married at 19 and 24, when I graduated college myself and was very much, and very intentionally, single…it did start to become a household conversation. Not in the sense that my family was pressuring me, but the odd comment about it was made here and there. I’ll never forget when a step-family member got engaged at the ripe age of 18 (or was it 17?) and I protested this as something I could not understand and didn’t feel like I could support, which was met with a comment by my sister that I was just jealous. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that she said that. I don’t hold it against her, of course – my sister and I are very close and I think she truly thought that my shock and awe was rooted in some kind of jealousy. But it does kinda provide you with an example of how my family and I approached the subject of getting married young, i.e. like two bulls with their horns locked together. I would make comments about child brides (which in hindsight was rude of me) and they would roll their eyes at me or suspect I was jealous because, well isn’t it every woman’s goal to be a wife??
But the thing is, while it is plenty of women’s goal and that’s totally fine, it just wasn’t mine. I had a lot of fun dating, but I also had a lot of fun working on my own life. I focused on my career, rising in the ranks to become the Manager of a multi-million dollar legislative bill tracking company at the age of 24, I traveled solo internationally and volunteered at a center for refugees for a summer in South Africa where I lived in a shared house with 15 nomadic types just like me from all around the world who were in Cape Town chasing dreams and wild experiences, I ran for office and was elected at the age of 26, I began my Masters degree journey, I had a lot of fun dating a lot of different people and really getting to know who I was on my own, what kind of man I did and didn’t want and what I wanted out of life. I did a lot of growing and maturing. And on happenstance one night in the summer of 2016, I met Adam. I wasn’t looking for him, but there he was. As I got to know him and we started dating, I quickly realized that this was someone I never wanted to say goodbye to. He is everything my mom would always tell me to look for, something I’d consistently tell her was a fairytale and men like that didn’t exist. But Adam did. He is everything wonderful in the world wrapped into one person. So…ya girl got married. I was a few months away from turning 27 at the time we got married and while this seemed “later in life” to the standards of the world in which I was raised, that’s pretty young to a lot of people outside of that world and I acknowledge that. But the fact still remains that I’m so glad I dumped all the duds before him, that I enjoyed my life and did wild, brave things and that I waited for the right person instead of impulsively marrying someone just to be married.
When we first got married, we joked about how we wanted to “wait about eight years” to start trying for a family and honestly at the time I still didn’t really know I even wanted kids, it was more just a way of saying that we wanted to enjoy being married and didn’t want to put that discussion on the table for a while. The deeper into my marriage with Adam I got, though, the more I knew I wanted a family with this man. And he was also coming to that same realization. We started to see that for ourselves much sooner than we’d anticipated – and also started realizing that age would play a pretty big factor if we did indeed wait those eight years. He’s four years older than me, so he was well into his 30s and I was 29 the year we said, “Let’s start trying.” Now…am I aware that there are a multitude of women who consider 29 to be young and who would roll their eyes at me saying this was “later in life?” Yeah, duh. I’m aware of that. But as I’ve laid out…in my world, yes 29 is much later than what is typical. Almost everyone I know had started having kids in their early 20s. By Midwest standards, Adam and I were outliers and that is fact. It is not lost on me that when our girl is in kindergarten, I’ll be the 37 year old mom who is a solid decade or more older than the other moms (if we’re still in Oklahoma at that time, that is).
Deciding to start trying for a family at 29 wound up being a bigger blessing than I realized. Although we could have easily decided that was still too early, had we waited longer to start trying, we would have delayed the knowledge of the inevitable life factor that came swinging at us hard…and that is infertility. I wrote out a full blog post on our first pregnancy story and what it took to get there, so I won’t belabor that story and re-tell it here, but I will say that from the time we said, “let’s start trying” to the time we had a positive pregnancy test was three years and a result of six infertility procedures.
And now we’re all caught up to the present! Hopefully by now you’ve heard me out enough to understand where I’m coming from when I say I’ve been mulling around how I feel about becoming a mother at the age of 32, an age that is older than average for the geographical/religious/familial/cultural world I have been apart of. How I feel about it in short: I love that this is my life’s path. I consider it a huge positive that I waited until much later than the norm where I’m from. I think about who I was even just 10 years ago when others I knew were having children and the thought literally makes my skin crawl. While I believe there are some women who were cut out for motherhood at a young(er) age, I was not one of them. I had a lot of growing and maturing to do. I’ve been through some hard experiences in my life that, while they were devastating to experience at the time, have shaped me into a remarkably resilient and much wiser version of my former self. I’m still me, but much improved. I’m financially stable. I’m with the most supportive partner I could ever imagine and enjoy a marriage that has a level of equal partnership beyond nothing I’ve ever seen or experienced before. I feel so ready and so confident about entering motherhood and I guarantee you had I made more impulsive decisions in my 20s, life would look a lot different for me right now and I would not feel the same if I were entering motherhood under different circumstances. But the life that I’m currently living, I have to say I’m pretty obsessed with. I’m proud of the decisions I made, the opportunities I accepted and the experiences I flung myself into. I’m proud of the waiting, I’m proud of the delaying. I’m proud of the fortitude in sticking through years of rough infertility experiences. I’m proud of who I am and the career path I’m on. I’m proud of the partner I chose to parent with. I’m so ready to become a mother and I’m so excited that it’s happening at this stage of my life.
But…there are also drawbacks and the pride and happiness conveyed above can exist in parallel with some sadness. The two feelings can both be true at the same time. I think this mixture of emotion was what compelled me the most to write out how I’m feeling – which makes the rants of an extremely assumptive stranger on Instagram even more uncouth in my opinion. (OK! I’ll drop it. I am but a humble Enneagram 8 at the end of the day, so ya know…my justice-centric self couldn’t miss the opportunity to point that out.)
When I think about becoming a mother at 32, I do feel all kinds of satisfaction, pride, happiness and comfortability. But here’s what also goes through my head:
…but I’m the youngest of my siblings by far. I became an aunt when I was 14 years old. I just attended that nephew’s high school graduation – he is now an 18 year old and that little boy that I held in my newly-teenaged arms when he was a baby is now going to college right as I’m just about to have my first child. My daughter will be so much younger than her cousins, all of whom have had years and years of experiences together. I have eight nieces and nephews who all know each other well, are close in age and have great friendships. They have “clubs” and inside jokes and memories she’ll never share. Our baby is so young, so new, so not part of the pack. I feel late to the game.
…but my parents are aging. I can’t even write this part of the blog post without tears in my eyes. My nieces and nephews have all had so many years making memories with their grandparents. Countless summers at the family lake house, fishing and snorkeling with their PawPaw, eating popsicles on the dock with their Grandma. Years and years of precious memories. And that lake house now sits empty; we no longer use it. Everyone has outgrown it. Life looks so different as the kids have grown into teenagers and mini adults. Every year at the lake, I watched as my sibling’s families made memories that my children simply won’t have. And my dad’s health has declined. Over the past couple of years he has suffered a major stroke, congestive heart failure, had a stint put into the “widow maker” heart artery, had a pacemaker put in and was diagnosed with lung cancer which he’s still battling. I beg and plead with God on a constant basis to let my children know my parents. I mean really know them. Remember their details. Form core memories with them. I cannot tell you how important it is to me that she knows them. I know she won’t have the opportunities her cousins have had but I want so desperately for her to make her own unique ones. And the unknown future of how long I still have (and therefore she will have) with my parents wrecks me on a routine basis. It was my decision to wait. But the waiting has consequences and this is the biggest one.
…but my parents were around my age now when they had me. At 32, I still feel like I need my parents. I can’t imagine a day where I can’t pick up the phone and call them; hear their voice, seek their advice, tell them my news. I’m entering into a chapter of life where I don’t know how much longer I will have them and I am TOO DAMN YOUNG. Will my daughter, and the children we hope to have after her, be in this same position? Will they be left on this Earth without me to guide them and will they still feel like they need me?
So you see…I know that this is my moment. I know that it is the right moment. I cherish the story I have written and the life that I have led. My correct timing for motherhood is right now. But it is not without its disadvantages and I carry that with me as I walk forward on this path.
This is my story. These are the experiences that have formed me. This is the culture I live in, the crowds I’ve run in, the family I come from. This was my path to motherhood and these are my thoughts as I enter into this chapter of life. It is not a comparative story – it is just simply my story.