You know the bad dream where you are in a classroom and the teacher hands out a test you didn’t know about and you start to panic when you realize you are totally unprepared? After decades of having that same dream, it has recently been replaced by another recurrent nightmare, one in which I discover I am pregnant.
I do realize that at age 52 a scenario that finds me looking at a positive pregnancy test is unlikely to happen, but bad dreams are often not rooted in reality. I usually wake up when I’m in the delivery room about to give birth and for a few moments, before I fully awaken, I am terrified. But then I remember that my kids are all older and my puffy stomach has more to do with the previous night’s dinner than an expected baby, at which point I am flooded with a sense of relief.
It seems that for a person who desperately wanted children, the concept of getting pregnant wouldn’t be so horrible, at least not bad enough to wake me from a deep sleep, trembling and in a cold sweat. It’s not that I don’t love my three sons; in fact I have devoted the past twenty-five years tending to their needs and putting them first.
I have driven so many miles in my minivans and cars taking them places that I probably could have gone across the country and back a few times. I have spent so much time and money at the market buying groceries to feed their voracious appetites that I am practically a celebrity there and, like in the song from that old television show Cheers, it’s a place where everybody knows my name. I have washed more clothes than a Laundromat (I can get a stain out of almost anything), can spot strep throat or a looming illness with the first cough or wan expression, sighed over a million report cards and worried incessantly over my boys’ mental and physical well-being. In other words, all the things we veteran moms do. But with three sons, and ten years between the oldest and the youngest, I am finding the nuts and bolts of full-time parenting getting harder with each passing year.
When my mother was my age she was already a grandmother. I could totally see doing the grandma thing; I would spend a little time with the cutie-pies, perhaps take them to a kid’s movie (I happen to really enjoy those), buy them stuff, and send them home. My youngest son is 15-years-old and about to enter tenth grade. With my older boys, I was white on rice, making sure they were doing all that they needed to succeed in school. I was sort of hoping this last child would be super responsible like I was as a teen and I could sort of set the controls to autopilot for high school. Although he is a fantastic kid, like most boys his age, he still needs someone on top of him, reminding him to turn off the television, stop playing video games, and focus on his work instead of his devices. It’s all good and I know that we will manage to get through the next few years, however, the thought of starting over with an infant is actually one of the most terrifying things I can think of. I no longer have the physical or emotional stamina to do battle (never mind win) with a small child. I could not do mommy and me again (I don’t even think I could get up off the floor) or only have two hours of alone time while my toddler attends nursery school (although I have heard that nursery school offers really extended days now.)
I know there are people my age raising their grandchildren, or women who started having kids much later in life because, thanks to technology, the artificial biological clock has no age limit. But even if I hadn’t been parenting for two and a half decades, I doubt that I would have the energy and inclination to sign on for a newborn. I think a woman’s biological clock runs out for very obvious reasons. It’s nature’s way of making sure we don’t have to check portals or stand on a cold, damp soccer field or do projects which involve arts and crafts, when we are 90.
I only took one psychology course in college (and it was pass/fail for that matter) and I admit that I am no expert, but I like to think that I am so terrified of having another baby because I have been such a responsible mom and I know that meeting those standards again would be near impossible at this point in my life. In fact, after we lost our beloved dog in January, I decided I couldn’t even start over again with another dog. As a friend of mine commented to me once, “I just don’t feel like I can take care of anyone or anything new anymore.”
I wonder if there are other women my age out there who have had that same pregnancy dream, or am I alone? Perhaps there are some women who feel they could do it all again. I respect anyone’s right to have a child at any age, however, I do believe there is a time for all things and I have reached the autumn of my child-rearing years. I want my boys to know I will always be there for them when they need me (and sometimes even when they don’t) however, to start again would be impossible. So tonight, instead of having the pregnancy dream, I hope that I will dream of new adventures yet to come and wake up with the same feelings of enthusiasm and excitement with which I embarked upon motherhood.
Check out more from Marlene at her blog, Thoughts From Aisle 4