When I started having sore breasts and feeling emotional shortly after my 46th birthday, I figured The Change had finally come for me. Until that point, my cycles had been like clockwork, so when I missed a period, it simply affirmed that major hormonal upheaval was afoot.
But my breasts got more and more sore (hugging was agonizing and I’M A HUGGER. So that was hard.), the emotions got more and more intense, and that cycle got longer and longer. I started to wonder. At least at the time I thought of it as wondering, but looking back now I think I knew.
I took a pregnancy test in the bathroom at Whole Foods. I remember sitting there (still on the toilet) staring at that little white stick as two definitive lines appeared. They weren’t faint. One wasn’t darker than the other. There were two distinct, solid, undoubtable lines. I texted my best friend. Not an exclamation of joy or a call of distress. It was a text of disbelief. And a dash of oh, shit.
My first reaction was to not believe it. I took two more pregnancy tests– both also positive. I asked Dr. Google and he/she told me it was possible I had a cyst in my ovary that was releasing HCG (the pregnancy hormone). I became convinced that this was the reason for those positive results. After all, I’d been told by doctors my entire adult life that I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant without scientific intervention due to a diagnosis of poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) at 23. And I was 46 years old now, for god’s sake. 46!
But the truth is that I was afraid to believe it. I was afraid to admit that I wanted it to be true. Afraid to disclose the intense vulnerability I felt in those early moments: ME, the intrepid world traveler, the favorite auntie, the solo outdoors-woman. I was afraid to let myself feel hopeful. I was afraid to fall in love.
I went on denying the inevitability of my pregnancy until I lay in an exam room, watching my son’s teeny tiny heart pound like a piston during my first ultrasound. His heart was so strong. So determined. It was clear that he wanted to be here as much as I wanted him to be. And I knew then that we were together in our hope, in our vulnerability, in our desire to know one another. It was too late: I already loved him.
After I’d fully absorbed the truth of this blossoming love and of its bittersweet implications—I’d get to be a mama after all but I’d be an older one—came the terrifying task of telling my son’s father. We’d been non-exclusively dating and he had told me on many occasions that he never wanted to have children. I knew with every fiber of my being that I wanted to be a mother, but I was thoroughly anguished by how much my decision would change his life.
It was a time that was both miraculous and fraught, as we went to therapy together and I went to all of my medical appointments and did all of the baby planning on my own. Ultimately, my son’s father did what fathers have done throughout history, even when they don’t necessarily plan for it: he fell in love with his child.
While our road to becoming parents together, and eventually a family, was a long and winding one, we became a family none-the-less. We rallied to bring our child into an environment of love and laughter and kindness and mutual respect. We are still growing and fumbling and learning every day but we are among the most devoted parents you might ever meet. And our little guy has been our guide every step of the way, leading us, assuring us, loving us with the beat of that fiercely irrepressible heart.
To casual observers, it’s the miracle of my story that stands out: I got pregnant naturally at 46, after a lifetime of infertility. And it’s true. It is a miracle. Finn is my own private miracle and I’m grateful for him every day.
But the journey of the Midlife Mama is rarely a black-and-white one. Whether we conceive with assistance or without, whether we adopt or marry into motherhood, our experience is often bittersweet. With the triumph comes heartache. It’s part of what makes mothering in this season of life so unique and so special. We don’t take it for granted for one single second.
Did you become a mother later in life? I’d be honored if you would share your story in the Midlife Mama Story Archive. Click here to learn more >