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In a million years, I will never regret giving birth to my much-wanted daughter at age 39. My husband never regretted it either, and he became her father at age 55.
When I married the man I loved I was fully aware that the 15-year age difference would have consequences down the line. But what did I care? I had finally found the perfect person to spend my life with, the man I wanted to father my child.
Though I knew our daughter was coming into the world with older parents, I saw only the positive: that she was born to two people who loved her, that we were a couple devoted to one another, and that we were at a point (career-wise, financially) that our priorities were straight.
What mattered to us was creating a loving family and all three of us seemed to flourish in it. Though Paul and I were sometimes referred to at parks as our daughter’s grandparents, we found the labels humorous. We never acknowledged what that really portended.
Together we watched our beloved child blossom and enjoyed each phase of her life. We were also lucky enough to have personalities that melded together.
At our daughter’s graduation from college, we bursted with pride. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were, look what we’d been blessed with!
And we continued to feel blessed until the fall after that graduation when my husband at age 77 was diagnosed with a terminal cancer. Our perfect, loving, world was about to unravel.
For three years we watched the painful, steady decline that ended in October of last year.
I had married my husband accepting the devil’s bargain that he would most likely go before me. I was willing to endure that pain because being with him, married to him, was worth it.
Many of us adopt a positive view of older parenting (especially when we are younger) but now I wonder. It’s a bit pie-in-the-sky, head-in-sand thinking, isn’t it? It’s not reality-based. What did I think was going to happen, realistically? That he would live to 90, 95? He made it to 80. That’s pretty good, all things considered, isn’t it?
What I had not thought through was the consequences our daughter would face because of our choice to have her at a later age. I had conveniently overlooked that little tidbit.
In the days that followed Paul’s death, I saw with new clarity what our daughter had truly lost: a father to guide her as she enters the work world, a father to love her until she finds her own mate and finally a father to walk her down the aisle when she ultimately does.
Yes, any parent can die unexpectedly and at an early age but the odds are not in your favor when you have children late in life. For some reason, many of us don’t want to believe the odds. We don’t want to see the pain we might cause.
If you asked my daughter, she would tell you she doesn’t regret any of it. That it was worth it to have had the father she did. But these are early days still. Regret may emerge down the line. How can they not?
Older parents won’t and shouldn’t refrain from having children. But they need to be aware of the not-so-unexpected outcomes they have avoided looking at. Though we may be comfortable with our choices, the reality is that the person who will pays the biggest price is our child.
Notes for this blog:
Madelyn Cain is the award winning author of LAFFIT: Anatomy of a Winner, The Biography of Laffit Pincay Jr. (Affirmed Press) . She is also the author of The Childless Revolution, What It Means to Be Childless Today (Perseus) and First Time Mothers, Last Chance Babies (New Horizon Press). She holds a Masters degree from the University of Southern California where she was elected to the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. She has written for newspapers, magazines, the stage, and for television. Currently she teaches nonfiction writing at the University of Southern California.
In addition to writing and teaching, Ms. Cain lectures on women’s issues and conducts writing seminars at Media Bistro. She has been a guest on Anderson Cooper 360, NPR, CNN, The Diane Rehm Show, The Other Half, NBC Evening News and more.
This year she was asked to be a judge for the 2012 PEN Awards (Nonfiction) and
a panelist for the 2012 L.A Festival of Books (Writing the Sports Biography) as well as a judge for the Writers’ Program Awards at USC.
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