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By veteran journalist, Caren Chesler, mother at 47, author of the blog: “The Dancing Egg—An IVF Story for the Over 40 Crowd”. (See bio below.)

I took Edwin to the beach this morning. As he sat on the sand, he watched a man in a floppy hat approach us, and his face lit up. He thought it was his father. It wasn’t. It was our neighbor, Paul, a retired cardiologist.  I can’t fault Eddie for mistaking another man with a hat for “daddy.” It would have been better if that man wasn’t 70.

“He’s a small child. His vision isn’t fully formed,” I told my husband, Bruce. “He probably sees like insects do, like you’re looking through a kaleidoscope.”

We had Eddie late in life. Bruce is 52 and I’m 48. The funny thing is, I expected people to think we were his grandparents. Instead, I’ll see people my age with a child and assume they’re the parents.

I knew there would be issues with our age. For one thing, my vision is deteriorating. Everything’s become an approximation. My eyeliner looks bolder because I’m no longer able to follow the contour of my lid so I keep drawing and re-drawing the line, making it thicker and thicker with every stroke. I can’t see my toe nails so I dab polish on them like I’m stencil painting, coating the entire top of the toe because I know over time, the shower water will take off the excess.

In restaurants if I forget my reading glasses, I’m left to order general food categories. “I’ll have fish.” Or “Get me the chicken.” Subtleties like how it’s cooked are lost.

When we went to visit my mother in Florida, she had a swing for Eddie that she borrowed from a neighbor, but it was missing a piece on the safety belt. I called up Fisher Price and told the customer service representative the name of the toy and the part I needed.

“Model number?” she said.

Need Lemon Juice and a Magic Wand to find Model Number

“Where would it be?” I asked.

“On the inside of the battery casing,” the woman said.

I flipped open the battery case and saw a sticker, but I couldn’t read the numbers on it.

“You really need the model number, huh?”

“We need to make sure we’re sending you the right part,” she said.

I looked again. “It looks like it starts with a ‘4’,” I said. “And then there’s either a “3” or an “F.”

I told her I didn’t need the piece after all.

Last Sunday, we wanted breakfast but also wanted Bloody Mary’s so we walked over to a restaurant we knew in the neighboring town. I went inside and asked the hip young host, who was wearing an earring and a knit hat that looked like a sack, if they served any egg dishes. He handed me a menu. I opened it and immediately started to hold it farther away from my eyes so I could read it, but the young host was staring at me waiting to see if I was going to stay so I moved the menu closer to me and pretended to read it from there. All I could see was the restaurant’s logo.

It reminded me of when I arrived at a new junior high school, and I didn’t want to wear my glasses so I would wander the halls half blind, insulting the few friends I’d made because they would wave to me and I would not wave back – because I couldn’t see them.

“We’ll stay,” I said and snapped the menu shut.

It’s not just my sight. It’s my strength. And it’s not that I can’t lift the baby. I can. It’s that after I do, I can’t lift my arms. I think I’ve gotten arthritis from breastfeeding.

The baby has a little rainforest “gym,” which is a mat over which a rainbow and a palm tree criss-cross like two intersecting arches, creating a cozy little sanctuary underneath. There are rings that run along the underside of the arches from which you can hang little toys like stuffed parrots or butterflies for the baby to bat around.

A couple of weeks ago, I put the baby down underneath the trees and then slid under there, myself, to see what it was like. We lay next to each other staring up at the fake palm leaves, and after a couple of minutes, I could see why he cries when I leave him there: it’s tedious. The silk butterflies look silly, and the music box keeps playing “Skip to My Lou,” over and over again.

But when I tried to get out from under the apparatus, I couldn’t. My body didn’t seem to want to move that way. I was wedged between Eddie on the one side and the palm trees on the other. I had to push the child out from under the trees and then stand up, bringing the whole apparatus up in the air with me so that I could let it slide down my body like a hula hoop.

When I was still pregnant, I visited a fellow writer who has two children, and I accompanied her when she went to pick them up at school. The boy was young and sweet, as boys are, but the girl looked at me suspiciously, almost with contempt. I thought she was wondering why someone as old as me would be pregnant.

“Do I look old to you?” I asked. “Go on. You can tell me. If you saw me picking up one of your friends at school, would you think, ‘Oh, there’s so-and-so’s mother,’ or would you think, ‘Wow, is that really so-and-so’s mother?’ Look how old she is!’ “

I don’t remember what she said because I don’t think I really asked her. I know I wanted to.

New York magazine (http://nymag NULL.com/news/features/mothers-over-50-2011-10/) did a cover story last month on how an increasing number of people are having children in their fifties. The cover photo was a profile of a naked pregnant woman   – a la Demi Moore’s Vanity Fair cover  — but her face was that of a 60-something-year old woman. The article, itself, entitled, “Parents of a Certain Age” raised people’s ire, but I’ll bet it was the photo that incited them to post 266 nasty comments on the magazine’s web site.

I knew I shouldn’t read them, that they would only make me feel bad, but I was like that young priest in the movie, The Exorcist, who is warned not to listen to the devil who would try to speak to him through the young girl who was possessed, but he couldn’t help himself. He listened as the devil spoke to him in his mother’s voice and asked him why he’d left her to die.

I poured through the comments on the magazine’s web page and read as they called older parents “selfish!” and said things like, “Menopause is for a reason!” One commenter, writing under the pseudonym, Madworld, said, “What could be more selfish than having a child when you will knowingly leave the child/children prematurely parentless or worse, unnecessarily burdened with having to care for your old, selfish ass?”

I posted a comment of my own, saying, “I had a child at 47. I don’t think I was selfish to do that. My child may be sad when his parents die earlier than those of his friends, and that’s something that pains me, but hopefully all the love and caring and nurturing he gets before that point will make up for it.” Five people gave my comment a “Thumbs Up,” perhaps because they, too, had a child when they were older or knew someone who did.

What I didn’t say in my comment was that my father died when he was just 62, leaving me fatherless at 38. He missed my wedding. He never met my son. It broke my heart. But he had his children young. It’s all a crap shoot.

In some ways, Eddie is lucky to have older parents. With age comes a maturity, a centeredness, a sense of perspective and well being that younger parents may not have. At least in theory. We also wanted him so badly having gone without him for so long, the way someone stranded on a desert island might appreciate his first meal back home, that it’s hard to imagine he could be more loved.

He dines to Mrs. Robinson

He will also benefit from the fact that my husband and I grew up at a time when the world was a richer, safer place, when people played kick ball at the bus stop and you could trick or treat without an escort, when music was more melodious and chocolate tasted like chocolate, and when plastic bags at the grocery store weren’t so thin they ripped right through when you stuck a potato or a lemon inside. My son eats breakfast to Cat Stevens and Leonard Cohen and dinner to Simon and Garfunkel and Neil Young. He learned to dance to Santana, and when he’s upset, we put on Marlo Thomas’s album, “Free to Be, You and Me,” and it calms him.

I plan on taking him to a local pinball hall tomorrow to play “Asteroids,” and I’ll soon introduce him to the album, “Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow…Right!” the comedian’s debut album, which features his classic skit, a conversation between Noah and God.

I sometimes sit on the kitchen floor with Eddie and telephone him on a gourd I’ve plucked out of a bowl full of squash and potatoes that sits on the counter.

Old-style telephone

“Ding-a-ling-a-ling,” I say, holding the S-shaped gourd up to my ear as if it’s the telephone’s ear piece. “Hello? You want to speak to Edwin Joseph? Why he’s right here.”

I then hand Edwin the phone, and he holds it up to his ear and listens and is poised to speak, even though he has no idea what an old-style telephone looks like. I know some of the cultural references he’ll learn will only be located in our house. He won’t be able to find them outside or at school. I don’t have a problem with that.

Notes for this blog:

A journalist for almost 25 years, Caren Chesler has written about topics as diverse as racial profiling on the New Jersey Turnpike to the newest trends in private equity investing. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, The New York Daily News, Popular Mechanics, Miller McCune, New Jersey Monthly, Modern Bride, Investor¹s Business Daily, and the Asbury Park Press, among others. Her essays have appeared in WomensWallStreet.com. You can find her blog on later motherhood at: http://thedancingegg.wordpress.com/ (http://thedancingegg NULL.wordpress NULL.com/)

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16 Responses to Parents of an Older Age

  1. Cynthia Wilson James (http://www NULL.inseasonmom NULL.org) says:

    Yes, the kids at school will assume you are the grandma. But, take it from me, after you’ve picked your child up a few times, been at school events, visited his class, you’ll simply be known as “Eddie’s mom.” Enjoyed reading this post!

  2. georgina says:

    I think you are being too hard on yourself. I am a 46 year old with a 4 year old son and I don’t think I am “old”, or worry that people will think I am his grandma. In fact, people at work were shocked when I told them how old I am – they thought I was in my 30s. Just keep dying the grey roots, stay out of the sun, make an effort with your appearance and keeping up with cultural references — and go to the gym occassionally and you will do just fine. I am the same age as Halle Berry was when she had her daughter and I don’t think she worries about being mistaken for grandma 🙂

  3. Susan says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Caren! I had my son at 46 and I can relate so much! I finally got multifocals so I can more or less see all the time, but I still always get someone else to cut his fingernails because even at 4 now, his little fingernails are so hard for me to see well! He also listens to a lot of the same music as your son! I knew a woman when I was a child who got pregnant at 46, when the rest of her children were already in their 20’s, so I grew up thinking it was unusual, but possible to have a child at that age. I visited her with my little boy when he was about 2, and she showed me pictures of her latest grandchildren, the children of that little boy born when she was 46. She passed away last year at 86, and I don’t think that her son had been cheated out of anything by her having had him (a surprise in her case!) at that age. Good luck to you and your family and ENJOY!

  4. Ellen says:

    nice read!

  5. Tara says:

    I’m 46 with a 15 month old son. I get called grandma all the time. I won’t pretend it doesn’t bother me, but I’m getting use to it. I was at a museum with my sister who is 38, her 2 year old, and my son. Several people thought I was her mother and their grandmother! I think it’s my weight, but really, it’s small potatoes compared to the giddy joy I feel with my son. I enjoyed your writing, you’ve got great taste in music!

  6. Sharyl says:

    I loved this article. I see myself in it. Especially the problems with vision. LOL. I am 46 and I have a beautiful nine month old daughter. I never thought I’d have kids, so imagine my surprise to find out I was pregnant…….naturally. And the easiest pregnancy on record, I’m sure. I figure, if I wasn’t meant to have this baby, it would have never happened, and I thank the Good Lord for her every day. And I tell her thousands of times a day how much I love her. Even if she is young when I pass on, she’ll know she was loved. I think the whole age thing is overdone anyways. Lots of kids lose their parents before they ever get to know them. I might be one of the lucky ones to live to be a hundred and see some grandchildren, who knows??? All I know is, from a 45 year old egg, came a beautiful child who is loved and respected. Oh, and get this…………..when I put her in her Jolly Jumper, I put on a cd of Guy Lombardo’s hits – he was a friend of my Grandfathers, so I grew up with the music too…………and I hope she grows an appreciation for all things old, and new 🙂

  7. Lisa says:

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    I too am an older mom. I didn’t plan to be…I tried to have a child for ten years, finally achieving our daughter two weeks shy of 45. It had been a long, hard haul to get there, full of sad setbacks and many failed fertility treatments, surgeries, even a year of weekly acupuncture treatments and drinking herbs that I brewed daily, to help achieve our goal. And then, after a relatively easy, blissful pregnancy, I came down with a rare (often fatal) pregnancy complication, HELLP Syndrome, that gave me a stroke which put me in a month long coma and ruptured my liver. I had an emergency C-section, craniotomy, tracheotomy, $11,000 in blood transfusions and once on my feet again,18 months of cognitive and physical therapies, all blessedly paid for by my dual union provided health benefits.

    Obviously, I did not plan on HELLP Syndrome hitting me and had I known that I couldn’t safely carry a pregnancy I would not have done so. However, I’m grateful for everything that went right and happy to report that my daughter is very healthy and despite the early health disaster we are both doing well and our bond is strong. (We bonded when she was in utero. Though she didn’t hear my voice until she was three months old I’m told that when I could finally speak again she recognized my voice no matter how far away from me she was in the hospital room, no matter whose arms held her.) I have no memories from that time, however, but I cherish the photos my husband took.

    Interestingly, my husband was told that had I successfully carried one of the earlier pregnancies to term I probably would have died since HELLP has a high incidence of repeat and the technology to save my life (a tool that allows them to operate deep within the brain where the bleed happened) didn’t exist earlier. So as much as I hated it when people would say to me “Everything happens for the best” in some weird way, perhaps everything did.

  8. Donna says:

    I am trying to get pregnant at 44 but have been told I will have to use a donor eggs as mine are old. Only one lady in the comments said she conceived naturally. I have never had a child…I was made a widow in my 30’s then married again at 41. I am a little scared I will always keep thinking the child is not really mine with a DE and wonder if I will love it just the same. My mom had cancer when I was 8 and my dad passed away when I was 16, so where they selfish for having me in their early 30’s? My mom is still here and who says I won’t live to be 100 and my child in their 50’s when I pass. I would not care if I was called a grandmother as I would be over the moon with my child and stuff them anyway.

    • Janet says:

      Hi Donna
      I had boy / girl twins last year at age 43 thanks to the generosity of a young girl willing to donate her eggs. These babies are MY babies and I love them more than I can tell you. I was told at 40 to consider a donor because my fsh was high and my AMH was low but I tried and tried and tried on my own anyway. I had to go through the process. I grieved the loss of my DNA but I have to tell you that once I made the decision to move forward I never looked back. I read someone say that they think of the donor as giving you the blueprints but you actually build the house. I’m so thankful every day for my donor and for these precious babies. I love them like I never dreamed possible and they have changed my life. There are lots of good discussions on the Inspire board and also on Parents Via Egg Donation. Those boards were a tremendous source of support for me when I was going though trying to get pregnant and also becoming an older mom. There are so many moms in their 40s these days that, yes, I do sometimes feel a little old, but it doesn’t bother me and I just feel so blessed to finally have a family of my own.

    • Rhizomom says:

      Hi, but are you still producing eggs??? Have you already had a failed IVF??? Have your eggs been fertilized and looked at. I am wondering whether that decision is merely based on your age or on hard facts? Has the doctor already done a polar body diagnsotik on your eggs? (Polar body diagnosis (PBD) is used within the programme of assisted reproduction techniques (ART) to investigate for female chromosome abnormalities prior to pregnancy}.

  9. Mills says:

    Pay no attention to rude people! I got pregnant at 47 and delivered my first and one and only child at 48. Yes I am an older Mom but I am the luckiest Mom in the world! I am now 54 and my child is my pride and joy.

  10. Carolyn (http://www NULL.mommyinthmiddle NULL.com) says:

    I love the questions you were wanting to ask the little girl. I had them answered for real on the playground when my son was about 18 months and I was 48.

    I was looking kind of rough that day from lack of sleep (At six, he STILL doesn’t always sleep through the night!) and chasing after my little one. The girl, who was about 4, looked up at me and said, “Are you his grandma?” I answered, “Well, I’m OLD enough to be his grandma, but I’m his mommy”. It didn’t satisfy her curiosity. “Then why do you LOOK like his grandma?”, she persisted, as her own mother cowered behind her.

    Her mom was mortified of course, but I was kind of glad to get that milestone out of the way!

    • Caren Chesler (http://www NULL.thedancingegg NULL.wordpress NULL.com) says:

      Carolyn, I love that story.

    • Sharyl says:

      I too, have been asked if I am the Grandma, but only when my 22 year old step-daughter is with us. That is the only time I’ve ever been asked that, otherwise everyone just knows I’m her Mom. It doesn’t bother me at all, I actually kinda get a kick out of people asking. I love making people wonder about stuff 🙂

    • Susan says:

      Hi Carolyn:
      My son was born when I was 46 and now just turned 5. I just wanted to say that he also STILL does not always sleep through the night, so I was happy to see that he is not the only one! I certainly look more like the grandma than mama on the days he hasn’t slept well!

  11. Jennifer says:

    The most important thing is really about how much love the parents give the child. As older parents, we do see the BIG generation gap. But that doesn’t mean young parents doesn’t have gaps from their kids. Looking for my other friends who had kids in their early 20s, I would reather to choose to have kids later. We are more stable, financially and emotionally. We know how to correct our own mistakes much better than when we were young. That will provide our kids a much better enviroment to grow up.

    Ideally, we would say the perfect age for being a mom is between age 30 to 35. That is only 5 years. Who would able to get all 2 or 3 kids in that age and garantte they are muture enough to keep their marriage, family, and live stable? I am sure the younger the parents are, the more challengs the family usually face.

    As parents, we need to promise ourselves to keep calm, keep our family and marriage in lovely situation. That will be the best gifts to every child. I feel the older parents seem able to make the promise firmer.

    I don’t doubt there are great parents in every age. But many young parents actually still “in love” with their job, and left their kids to grandparents or caregivers. We of course can’t deny the efforts of working mothers/parents. But I do see older parents are more willing to give up what they used to like, and try to give the best attention, and more time, to their child.

    Both of me and my husband were raised by our grandmoms. Our moms were young, 20 and 22 separately, and had to work. In my personal opinion, to be raised by grandparents, is worse than by older parents.

    At least, we got kids. Some of my friends tried forever but can’t get any. I know a mom finally got a baby girl at age 50, through international adoption. I actually feel that mom (and of course the daddy, who is even older) gave the best parenting to their girl.

    It is always hard when we are new parents. We are firm about what we should think. So we kind of worry about the others’ opinion. I am sure every parent, especially older mommies, passed that kind of time. But when your child grow up, you will see he actually doesn’t mind what you look like. He will only enjoy your love. And you will receive all of his love and friendship, to be your best reward.

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