What to Expect When You're Expecting at 50
When I was 18 I got carded trying to go into an R-rated movie. The ticket guy looked at my ID and said, “You are going to be so happy that you look young when you are older.” I didn’t believe him then. I do now.
Cut to September, 2001. I am 42, single and currently wasting time with a much older, very single, French journalist. Time was passing. If I wanted to get married and have a kid I was going to have to change my strategy and find someone I could actually do that with.
So I went on a loser diet. I stopped dating losers. At first that meant not dating at all. Slowly, like when you give up processed sugar, I came to appreciate the more natural, sweeter, healthy things in life and men.
Then came Bob. He was a widower. I had known him and his partner Julie for many years, but not well. When she passed I went to the memorial to pay my respects. Three months later Bob invited me to go with him to the fireworks show at the Hollywood Bowl.
Afterwards I wrote in my journal “ I just had a date with Bob and I can’t think of a single reason not to go out with him again. I had met someone that most people say doesn’t exist in Los Angeles. A normal single guy over 40. An un-fucked up man. A unicorn.
He said that he hadn’t been on a “Date” since the Reagan administration, so of course he did all the wrong things. He called the next day. He showed a lot of interest right away. But I was ready. So we went on a second date.
It was then that I decided to drop my personal bombshell. I told him that if we were going to date, I was going to expect to get married someday and have kids. Did I mention that this was our second date?
He did not run away, but he told me he did not want kids. My plan was to stop dating him then and there. But I didn’t. Soon after we were married Bob had a change of heart.
At age 43 and 45 respectively, Bob and I were not a sure bet when it came to getting pregnant. We went to a number of fertility specialists. Five years, three rounds of IVF and two miscarriages later, Mathilda was born.
Eight days later I turned 51.
Being pregnant was wonderful. I loved every minute. My hormones were high and so was I. I was the happiest I can remember in my life. I was working on photo shoots right up to the day before my daughter was born.
But expecting a baby as an older person was sometimes challenging. Not from a health perspective, I felt great the whole time. But other people’s reactions were sometimes hard.
One day early on in my pregnancy, Bob and I were in the baby department at Neiman’s. The sales ladies lingered around us asking if we were looking for a gift for our grandchild. We said, “uh…no we are expecting.” It was embarrassing and entertaining watching them try to extract their feet from their mouths.
Another time when I was much further along in my pregnancy, I was in the ladies room at Target. An “older” lady, probably about my age, was struggling with her grandkids. She looked at my belly. Her eyes got wide. She shook her head as she said under her breath, “You are my age.”
Very soon after Mathilda was born I went into menopause big time— because all that was holding it back was “science”. The postpartum depression was overwhelming. I was crazy, emotional, huge and certain that I had ruined all of our lives.
I actually remember saying to Bob with total sincerity, “We should give our baby to someone that really wants her”.
In retrospect, I feel sad that I didn’t get to truly enjoy Mathilda’s babyhood. I’ll never get that time back. It’s a loss that I will have to carry with me. Finally, I got some help from my doctor. I started taking bio-identical hormones and life got a lot better.
Mathilda started preschool at two-and-a-half. Bob and I were much older than the other parents, but in L.A. no one really seemed to take much notice. At that point I hadn’t told Mathilda how old I really was because: 1. I don’t look my age 2. I didn’t want her to blab it to everyone at school.
I could only imagine the “sharing time”.
Mathilda: My mommy is 53!
Class: Wow that’s so old, my grandma is 53!
I’ll tell her the truth when she is old enough not to repeat everything I say to everyone she knows. Even though I still look younger than my age (I think). There are, of course, times when I am made painfully aware of the fact that I am an "older mom":
The girls day at the nail salon when the lady doing our nails comments on grandma having a day with her granddaughter. When I pick her up from camp or school, and I can’t help but make a point of introducing myself as Mathilda’s mother, so I can avoid the awkward interactions. “You are?” I know they are thinking. It stings, but what can I do? I will admit I also wonder if we are excluded from social functions since we are not in the same demographic as the other parents. I guess I’ll never know.
I also think that it’s more of an issue for me than my husband. It’s so common for older men to become parents. But older women? Not as much.
I think I’m wiser being an older mom. Perhaps a bit more patient. I don’t want to play Barbies or Shopkins. But if I were 20 years younger I still wouldn’t want to do those things. I am big on communication and small on punishment.
I am also much more aware of my advanced age from a time standpoint. I am aware that I probably won’t be here for her when she is in her 40’s. I hope she forgives me for that. My mom is here with me still and I don’t know what I would do without her. I feel guilty and selfish for putting my desire for a child over her future reality of being without her mom and dad when she is still quite young.
So here we are. I can’t change my decision to have a child at 50. But I cannot imagine my life without her. I love her so much I cannot express it in words.
Would I recommend to her that she have a baby at 50? Probably not. Maybe I’ll be here when she is 40, or maybe I won’t. But now is all I have.
And all I can do is make sure Mathilda knows that she is the light of my life. That she is loved and cared for. And that I am doing what I can to provide her with all the tools she needs to develop into a strong, smart, funny, loving, brave woman.