With all the medical technology that enables older and older women to have children, maybe it’s time to consider the child’s point of view.
For me, the true impact came at 40, right before my mother died at 82. She had been stricken with dementia and Parkinson’s disease and was admitted to a nursing home. “You’re her granddaughter, right?” the nurse asked. “Will her daughter be here to sign her in?”
Mom looked up. “This is my baby,” she whispered, voice thin as air.
My parents were almost 42 and 44 when I was born in 1961. “You were a change-of-life baby,” my mother told me, “a great big surprise.”
These days, many “change-of-life” babies are meticulously planned and pined for. The conscientious, scrupulously prepared moms boast about their readiness to parent. They’ve got college funds invested and Baby Einstein tapes already feeding through their well-monitored bellies.From the moms’ perspective, all is well.
“The baby will keep me young,” they say.
My mother said that. Maybe I did. But from my point of view, I wasn’t doing a great job.
All kids fear death, but one born to older parents intuitively understands their folks will die sooner and that younger parents have more energy, stamina and, all things being equal, time left on the planet.
There will be moms who have babies at 47 and then live to be 90 and healthy, but many won’t -- a combination of genes, illness and fate. Plastic surgery, dermal fillers and Botox can make older moms look like older sisters, but even if parents partake, they should address the fears my folks never would.
Back at the nursing home, there were apologies. I signed the document. “You’re too young to have a mother this old,” the nurse whispered.
“I’ve heard that all my life,” I reassured her. That day alone, I’d heard it from the ambulance driver, the physician, the discharge planner and a 45-year-old friend, pregnant with her first child.
Only my friend had the look of fear in her eyes. That’s because there was something, in all her planning, she wasn’t facing -- the fact that her child could someday be in the same situation. First, a child of older parents, then a caregiver of older parents, then the adult child of parents who have passed away. She’ll deal with it when she’s ready, but I suggest she talk to the little one early, in ways he can understand. Let him know that she’ll teach him all she can about herself, so that the part of her that wishes she could be with him for the duration of his life will, in fact, live on inside him.
She will, however, have to trade it for the illusion that her baby will keep her young. I hope she doesn’t wait too long.
Meredith Resnick lives in Irvine. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, Bride’s and “The Complete Book of Aunts.”