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May 20, 2011

A midlife crisis

I look forward to those lazy breakfasts with dear friends that extend up to lunch and beyond. During these occasions, our conversations cover almost all topics—from showbiz to fashion, to vacation plans, to home management tips. It was during one of these breakfasts when our discussion veered away from the strange ways of our young teenage sons to menopause. After all, we were five women in our forties—established, fulfilled and pretty much secured—and menopause is something that is inevitable. Little did I know that I would soon be facing a life changing moment.

"I think I will have an early menopause. It has been a month and a half already," I declared. I was unprepared for the shrieks that followed. "Oh My God! You're pregnant! Quick, let's ask someone to buy a home pregnancy kit!"

What?! Pregnant?! Where did THAT come from?! That was a thought that definitely did not cross my mind. After all, I personally felt that pregnancy at my age was no longer an option. With three children already, I was quite sure that I was done with the morning sickness-back pain-epidural-caesarian operation routine. Now don't get me wrong. I love each of my children and I honestly believe that pregnancy is the ultimate miracle. I enjoyed my pregnancies. The awe of the first felt kick, the excitement of having an ultrasound procedure, the thrill of trying to guess the gender. Each pregnancy was different but nonetheless a beautiful experience. But at my age... I wasn't very sure if I could go through another one.

So to humor my friends, I got myself a home pregnancy test kit that weekend. The result was positive. So I got another kit. Who knows how reliable these tests are? Once again, it was positive. So I took another one... and another one...

Four home pregnancy tests later, I had to face the truth. I am pregnant. And I'm 42 years old.

So began my journey into late pregnancy. Somehow, it almost felt like a journey into a galaxy far, far away... I cringed at the thought of what awaited me.

I am aware that having children in your forties is not a surprise anymore with the way women have been delaying childbirth until they have achieved a certain level of success in their career.

So the first thing I did after I got out of my state of stupor was to check on pregnancy sites on the Internet. I wanted to know if there was a forum or a support group or a site which focused on late pregnancies. After all, I don't think that pregnancy and childbirth is like riding a bike. All pregnancies are different and somehow the memory of the extreme pain of the epidural and post surgery of my last pregnancy was enough to send me scampering for cover.

Anyway, the first site I logged into had a flashing sign that read, "First Time Mothers! We Want Your Stories!"

Hmmm... what about fourth time moms? Or moms in their forties? I feel that we have a far more interesting story to tell than first time mothers. First timers usually share the same feelings—anxious but giddy, apprehensive yet excited. Sure I'm anxious and apprehensive. Giddiness is something I don't expect to feel but, perhaps? Why not? Excitement? Sure, maybe that feeling will eventually kick in.

But more than anything else, I was fearful and insecure. What if there was something wrong with the baby? Isn't it a known fact that women who get pregnant in their forties are considered to have high risk pregnancies? Then I started doing "the math." By the time this child is in first grade, my other children will be 22, 20, and 18 years old. My husband and I will be 50 years old... oh dear Lord! We thought that at 50 we can already start reaping the full financial rewards of our hard work. We thought that by then we can just pack up and play golf or travel anytime we want to and not worry too much about our kids or our businesses. Looks like those thoughts will have to be pushed farther back. And what about nursing this baby? Can I still manage the late nights of feeding and the two-hour sleep intervals? I will need to wear reading glasses on a regular basis soon. Will I still have the patience to read stories to this child every night? Or have the energy to run around and play games? Or have the tolerance to attend PTA meetings? And what will happen when menopause does kick in? Will I be able to handle those dreadful hot flushes and hormonal changes and still be a nurturing mother to a young child? What about my physical state? I just might be the oldest mom in this child's class! I need to color my hair for a long time because I refuse to be mistaken for grandma! I have to keep on going to the gym because I may be the oldest but I refuse to look the shabbiest! I have to be fashionable, chic and cool, without looking like a trying hard matron... oh the pressure!

One day, one of my dear friends shook me out of my pitiful melancholia. A few years older than me and with four children already, she sent me a text message that said, "Don't worry. I'm sure it will be exciting! In fact I'm envious. I have been secretly hoping that I will have an accident and have another child." She wants another one? Wwhhhhhhyyyyy? Several perk upper texts from the same friend and I realized, "Why not? Didn't Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker and Geena Davis have children in their 40s too?" Besides, aren't we all now saying that 40 is the new 30? Or 20, even? Shouldn't I be thankful that I am still able to conceive at this age? In fact, my personal trainer told me that one of the reasons I got pregnant is because I'm fit and healthy. (To which I jokingly replied, "Huh? Had I known that I'll get pregnant I shouldn't have tortured myself to maintain my weight!") So many women who go to my OB-Gyne, an acclaimed fertility doctor, spend hundreds and hundreds of thousands just to conceive. Another friend had even gone through an in-vitro fertilization abroad but to no avail. And here I am being so emotional and selfish.

What then am I being so depressed about? I'm having a baby, for crying out loud. My room will soon be filled with the sweet smell and sounds of an infant. The remembrance of a baby's soft cry (and sometimes wail), whimper, gurgle and giggle make me smile. When my older children are all grown up and have started living their own lives, I will still have this child to share my days with. Who knows? I may still be able to ride the scary roller coasters in Disneyland. Or spend an entire weekend playing in the beach (which means I have to fit decently into a bathing suit for a long, long time). I'm sure I can still manage to teach primary school lessons (though I have long given up on middle school and high school math). And traveling will be a cinch for as long as I remain healthy and strong.

Now, having this child inspires me. Maybe the time is right to try the things I have always dreamed of trying. Maybe it's time to open that retail store I have been planning for. Maybe I should write more, take more pictures, improve my golf game or rather, learn to play good golf.

I'm 42 and I'm having another baby. I have, again, reached a crossroads in my life. When I retired from banking and got into business seven years ago, it felt like was having my second wind. Having this baby must be my third wind, if there is such a thing. I can use the lessons I learned from the mistakes I made in raising my three elder children to become a better mom to this child. Maybe this time I'll be more calm and untroubled and less worrisome. I am thankful for this wonderful opportunity. Life can't get any better.

This time though, I refuse to watch Barney the purple dinosaur again. Groan!!!

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of HerWord or BusinessWorld.

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4 comments so far (post your comment)

Wow Jenny. super mom ka talaga. Now I know what to tell hubby. If Jenny can do it at 42 years old, what's I more year older? Hopefully, a girl this time after 2 raunchy boys. :)

Posted by Vina on Wednesday, 06.8.11 @ 08:00am

Thank you Joy and Jay! It has been an exhausting yet exhilarating roller coaster ride. What a blessing indeed :)

Posted by Jenny on Tuesday, 06.7.11 @ 16:47pm

Wow!! That's good news! Actually, my mom gave birth to my youngest brother at 40 and he was such a blessing to our family. I think with an additional member in the family, we became closer. Also, at least you have older kids who can help you out with the little one. =D

Posted by Joy on Wednesday, 05.25.11 @ 12:14pm

Congrats, Jenny! You're lucky to be living such an extraordinary experience! : )

Posted by Jay on Friday, 05.20.11 @ 15:43pm

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