Advanced Maternal Age

biological clockWith a sharp exhale, I dried my hands and put a dampened palm to my sweaty forehead. Blinking at my reflection a few times in the bathroom mirror, I looked at the test again, making sure that I was seeing exactly what it was I thought I was seeing. Had I imagined it? Had I read the instructions correctly? This. Is. Impossible.

I needed another opinion — a pure and unbiased opinion from a pure and unbiased (and not nearly as hormonal) person. So as not to influence my pure, unbiased (and not hormonal) husband , I carefully hid the answer key by partially replacing the torn foil wrapper and summoned him.

“Tell me EXACTLY what you see here. How many lines do you see?” I said in cautious tones, simultaneously standing on my tiptoes and biting my pinky finger, anxiously awaiting his reply.

“I see two lines.” He replied and then looked at me quizzically, his expression asking a thousand and one questions, for which I had no answers. So I removed the wrapper and let him read for himself exactly what the presence of “two lines” indicated on the home pregnancy test. And then I cried. I REALLY cried.

I’d like to tell you that those very first tears after learning we were (shockingly) about to become parents were tears of unbridled joy and expectant bliss. But they weren’t. Those first tears were nothing but sheer, unadulterated fear. Fear that we weren’t ready… Fear that we didn’t have what it takes… Fear that in my 39 years alone on this earth I had grown far too selfish to EVER be equipped to care for an innocent being… And OMG! I AM THIRTY-NINE!

Then the real fear came: The fear that I was too old… Fear that we (but still mostly me) were too old… And fear that my dilapidated-broken-down-ancient-ruin-of-a-nearly-40-year-old body was too old to successfully bear a healthy child. “How is this even possible?!?!” an internal voice screamed. “My eggs are from the FORD ADMINISTRATION!” But apparently it WAS possible, and it IS possible, because it IS happening. And that test (along with the four additional tests I would take soon after) wasn’t lying.

A mother of “advanced maternal age” is what they call you when you find yourself with child over the age of 35, so it’s a pretty safe bet that I am really pushing the envelope here. Apparently, there’s a seemingly endless supply of things that a “woman of a certain age” ought to worry about because of the “advanced maternal age” label, such as: genetic anomalies, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, low birth weight and premature labor and/or delivery. But here’s the thing… I’m choosing not to spend exorbitant amounts of precious energy worrying about all of that stuff because, you see… I wasn’t supposed to be here. Ever.

Many of you who regularly read this blog already know that I have long held the belief that children were not in the cards for me. I had, for the most part, accepted this and Lee and I were about the business of building a happy, meaningful and productive life together sans children. That is, until right before Christmas, when we got this bit of earth-shattering news.

And I can tell you that the most jaw-dropping bit of all is that there was no magic pill. Years ago I tried the magic pills, the magic shots, and the magic procedures and surgeries performed by the magic doctors — all to no avail. And yet somehow I am here now, against all kinds of odds. I am here now—at a ripe, old, advanced maternal age—terrifyingly, dumb-foundingly, shockingly… miraculously.

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Making Peace With Gravity?

apple tree

I probably shouldn’t be, but sometimes I get jealous of the fresh-faced, smooth-skinned twenty-somethings I see walking about. Tan and toned in shorts and tight vintage tees, they flip-flop around reminding me that once upon a time, I too filled out a pair of short shorts like they do. In fact, watching them only succeeds in making me painfully aware of the fact that gravity is most certainly winning in the epic battle of Me vs. It.

As forty looms large, hovering ominously on a not-so-distant horizon, all I need to do is look in the mirror to be reminded that nothing stays the same for very long. I can’t help but notice every new crease, line, wrinkle, dimple or dent that forms in my reflection as everything continues it’s relentless march southward. It’s so much easier now to get depressed thinking of times I looked better, felt prettier or had the stamina of the Energizer Bunny without any help from Starbucks.

However, (and this is a BIG however) if I were to be REALLY honest with myself about those alleged “better” times, I’m fairly certain I was unhappy with my appearance back then too. Surely it’s a losing battle entertaining thoughts that I was also miserable at a time when I should have been THRILLED that all the important parts remained solidly north of the equator. But it DOES beg the question: Am I EVER going to be happy!?

I’d love to find the answer. I know my mother would too as it’s a question she’s been asking me since the first Bush Administration. Someone older and wiser than me, please tell me this is something I’ll learn to do in my 40’s!?  I’m begging you, because as I come to grips with the fact that gravity IS going to win in the end and my knees (among other things) are NOT EVER climbing back to where they were a decade ago, I need to believe that peace is possible. Please tell me that at some point in the near future I will be able to shake hands with my reflection and sign a peace treaty with gravity — or at the very least declare a ceasefire.

Moving Day

red letter dayIt’s odd how the most important moments in our lives are marked. It’s not so much by the grand pageantry of big events, but rather the small details that define our daily circumstances. We just don’t know it at the time. The little moments happen, building a collection of days and weeks that gradually mounts, moving us along until one day we look around and notice we’re no longer standing where we used to be. 

As expected, moving day on campus was a flurry of activity. Anxious parents, faces wrought with concern, clucked and fussed over their newly-minted “adult” children while those same children worked to acquaint themselves with their new surroundings. Hard as it was to wrap my mind around it — my nephew was part of this new batch of freshmen at Ohio State. An avalanche of applications, test scores and campus visits now behind him, he met his roommates and unpacked his modest supply of dorm stuff. Class schedule in hand, he seemed set for this monumental First Day of the Rest of His Life. 

Although I’m not his mother, an odd mix of emotions washed over me after we said our goodbyes. As I stood, squinting in the sunlight, watching his broad, grown-up shoulders fade and disappear into the darkness of the dormitory, feelings of pride, nervousness, nostalgia and sadness ran together in a silent churning sea of sentiment. The day he was born naturally leapt to mind alongside flickering memories of massive Lego builds, movie nights, school plays, sporting events and spontaneous trips to McDonalds. 

I felt a smile tug on the corners of my mouth when I recalled the time, just before he left for camp, when he gobbled three cheeseburgers I was sure he’d never finish. The the hot sting of tears followed quickly after the realization that he was no longer that little boy on his way to summer camp and cheeseburgers no longer an effective currency for affection. 

As we drove away I glanced out the window, noticing hundreds of bright-eyed coeds walking and laughing as they unloaded boxes or rested in slanted rays of sun on late-summer lawns — I felt emotion rise up in me once more. Only this time I recognized it for what it was: a beginning. It is the time when everything is shiny and new and the world rolls out in front of you like a warm and welcome ribbon of highway. It was at that moment—that little moment—that I knew it wasn’t the goodbye that was taunting me. No, caught instead in the corners of my mind… was the quiet turning of the page. 

The Apron

By Tara Canestraro

The following was written by my friend Tara who lost her mother four years ago. Late one night, filled with deep emotion, Tara stayed up and penned the following about her mother, the relationship she had with her and the special kind of love that exists between a mother and her children.

the-apron

Anyone in my family can tell you what the words “go get my apron” meant. For as long as I can remember my mom always had an apron she wore to work. I used to think this apron was magical because so many things came from it.

From this “magical” apron came groceries, utilities, clothing, house payments, wedding dresses, car payments, college tuition and even toys. And the most magnificent thing that it could produce was a Christmas beyond a child’s wildest imagination.

Her apron was not only used for her own children — it was carried on to the next generation. It provided school clothes, more prom dresses, lunch money, Beanie Babies, books, coats and shoes. With her smooth tone of voice—never condescending—we were always told, “It’s in my apron.” Oh was this apron magical!

As the years went by, what I always knew to be “the apron,” had lost its shape and became the pocketbook. The pocketbook could take on the same majesty as the apron. It could provide for anyone in need without question. Even if was something as simple as a piece of gum, the pocketbook miraculously provided.

As an adult I now see that the apron/pocketbook helped a lot of people, and wasn’t really magical after all. I realize now that deep inside the pockets of this apron were things like sacrifice, dedication, and hard work. What came out of it were things like patience, loyalty and love.

She, like many, many mothers, was very dedicated to her children and worked tirelessly to make sure we had everything we needed and then some. Patience and loyalty were given without hesitation, and love and sacrifice provided expecting nothing in return.

Although I cannot repay all that the apron gave to me, I truly pray that my children will see her wisdom and virtues through me. I hope I can provide for my own family in the same way she did — without hesitation, without questioning, always loving, always putting their needs first.

Losing her has been the hardest thing in my life, but I have learned so much from it. What you have is material, but what you need is love. The most precious gift I can give to my children and my children’s children comes from my mother’s apron — self-sacrificing, unconditional love.

I hope in all my years, the contents of that “magical” apron will continue to be passed down from generation to generation.

Tara

Tara Canestraro

The Best of Intentions

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

bride wolfing cake

I can’t believe it is May. The first five months of 2013 have certainly crept up on me, along with (much to my horror) a few extra pounds. Stealthily, one by one, the calendar pages for January, February, March, April and May presented themselves as did pizza, beer, wings, nachos and blueberry scones. And this is a problem because I am getting married in two months. Naturally, I’ve wanted to be a beautiful bride… a glowing picture of health in a stylish strapless dress to showcase an upper body that would make Michelle Obama proud (if not jealous).

But alas, I’ve done nothing to accomplish my goal of slimming down. I can still remember stating my intentions to do ALL that I could to look killer for my wedding like it was yesterday… I was sitting at my cousin’s dining table on Christmas night, surrounded by family and slamming cheese cubes, chips and various chocolate-covered bits of deliciousness as I talked (with my mouth full no doubt) about how this was my LAST binge before I started being REALLY careful and intentional about my diet.

Obviously, that plan crashed and burned along with my aspirations to be a size 2 again by summer. A friend took me shopping for wedding dresses mid-January and I refused to try anything on, claiming that it was futile since I would have a completely different body by June. Then February came… and went, as did March and April. With the turning of each calendar page, I would feel the squeeze a little bit more. My time to do something about this is rapidly shrinking. And unfortunately, it is the ONLY thing that has shrunk.

I’ve never lost weight or gotten in shape on a deadline before. I seem to remember reading something that said it wasn’t very effective to try and lose weight for your wedding because the stress of planning along with the attempt to be trim and sexier could potentially backfire. No $#it. My ears are still ringing from the sound of it backfiring on me. Or is that the sound of my button popping off and shattering the window?

I have been stressed. Not because of planning of the wedding actually, but for different reasons altogether. And I’ve learned that I am a stress eater. When I am happy and feeling at ease, I tend to make good choices and slim down. Conversely, when I am stressed and experiencing difficulty or uncertainty, I am lazy and eat bad food.

I wanted so badly to be able to look at the photos from our wedding 20 years from now and think: “WOW! Was I a knockout or what!?!” But then last week it hit me. Twenty years from now I’ll be 58… and no matter what I look like THEN or whether I was a size 2 or a size 8 on the big day… I’ll STILL be wishing I was 38 again. I’m not getting any younger. I’ll never get 38 back. So I ought to enjoy it as I am TODAY. I should probably stop worrying about some idea I conjured of perfection (in a Christmas-chocolaty state of bliss and denial, no less) and buy a dress that flatters the softer, slightly-rounder me and just enjoy the ride. Or in this case… the walk. Down the aisle… toward my future.

Our Barbies, Ourselves

Barbie125thCareerRetroWe’ve come a long way, baby. Or should I say Barbie has come a long way from the ill-proportioned, frighteningly well-endowed, bleach-blond beach bimbo she once was to her latest occupation: Engineer. You go girl!! You show the world that you can be ANYTHING you want to be! Plastic can be molded in a million different ways and clothes can be sewn to suit any proportions these days—real or imaginary. I, for one, find it refreshing to see that Barbie is made of stern enough stuff to conquer yet another male-dominated field.

I’ve long had a theory about Barbies and the girls who play with them. That being that who we are (or aspire to be)… was probably foreshadowed in our Barbie play. The notion grew out of a simple conversation I was having one day with two of my female co-workers. Somehow the topic of Barbie came up and all of us confirmed that we’d had at least one of them growing up. Naturally, the conversation turned to what we liked to do with our Barbies when we played with them…

JOANNA
I proudly admitted to the fact that all my Barbie wanted to do was HAVE FUN! She partied, she LOVED working on her tan and swimming in her pool (which was actually just our kitchen sink magically converted into a sparkling oasis in which Barbie could dive and swim… naked). MY Barbie would not be confined to the pre-determined dwellings crafted for her by Matel.

The Barbie mansion could not hold her. The Barbie RV was too cramped and not NEARLY luxurious enough… and so I constantly commandeered entire rooms in our house and created elaborate living spaces for her to inhabit. Thankfully my mother put up with this. I do seem to remember my poor dad trying to get to his office in our basement and having to ever-so-gingerly tip-toe around all the precariously placed pink and orange inflatable furniture.

My Barbie also did not do any work. Don’t ask me how she had any money… but she managed. She had A LOT of boyfriends. Perhaps they sponsored her. If she DID work, it was in a fashion boutique where she spent most of the time trying on the clothes instead of helping customers. In fact, looking back on it now, my Barbie was a little bitchy, somewhat lazy, completely self-absorbed and truth be told, probably a bit of a tramp.

AMANDA
One of my co-workers—let’s call her Amanda (names have been changed to protect the innocent)—had a much different interaction with her Barbie. Amanda’s Barbie was what I would call a little Worker Bee. Amanda dressed her in gray business suits and sent her to work in an office. All Amanda’s Barbie did was work. Amanda even cut up Barbie-sized squares of paper that she would feed into a miniature typewriter!! And all I could think of while she was telling me this was: She thought THIS was fun!?!?! How in the #@$% could this be fun??? But it was what Amanda liked to do with her Barbie.

When I inquired about possible boyfriends for her Barbie (I’d be remiss if I failed to mention Ken) she said that she didn’t have any Ken dolls. But she WOULD occasionally borrow her brother’s G.I. Joe doll and Joe, as if on a covert mission, would quote: “infiltrate the Barbie mansion.” Nice. It’s good to know that even Worker Bees like Amanda like to have fun. Even if it IS on the down-low, after a long, hard day at the office.

LISA
The other co-worker, let’s call her Lisa, technically HAD a Barbie to play with. But she didn’t really LIKE her Barbie all that much. Rather she tortured her Barbie from time to time. She would cut off all her hair, strip off all of her clothes, grab her by her teensy plastic foot and swing her around and around the room until she went flying into the wall.

———————————————————————

The most fascinating part of this colorful dialogue was the concept of our “Barbie play” amazingly hinting at the kind of women we’d each grown up to be. Thus my theory was born: What little girls do with their Barbies can offer a fairly accurate glimpse into the personalities of the women-in-waiting.

Now, I am NOT admitting to being a grown-up “bitchy, lazy, self-absorbed tramp”… though some may beg to differ. But I definitely DO like to have FUN above anything else. To me, work is a necessary evil and a means to much more important aspirations like partying, vacationing, shopping and working on my tan.

Some people, like Amanda, LIVE to work. And Amanda, to this day, remains one of the most devoted, hard-working employees I know. She put herself through school while working full time, earning not one but two degrees and has climbed the ladder in her organization. Most importantly, she is completely happy and fulfilled as that person.

Though I’ve lost track of Lisa over the years, when I knew her she was a dedicated athlete constantly railing against typical female stereotypes. She believed that women can do ANYTHING that men can do and to indicate otherwise got under her skin like nothing else. She valued fairness and equality in all walks of life and her work and leisure remained consistent with those beliefs. I doubt that she’s changed.

So perhaps it is a stretch, my theory. But I believe I’m on to something. If only I could find a generous benefactor to grant me the financial resources for the necessary research. I could quit my job and travel the globe interviewing women everywhere to obtain their stories. Naturally, this endeavor would require me to do quite a bit of socializing and patronizing lavish resorts along the way. I’d then publish my findings, resulting in a best-selling book, thus allowing me to fully retire before the age of 40… making way for nothing but F-U-N.

Are These… MOM JEANS!?!?

MomJeans I have this terrifying feeling that I may, in fact, be in possession of a couple pair of (gulp) Mom Jeans. Yes, that’s right. I said it. And I shudder at the thought. My fingers are trembling even as I type these words. And no, these aren’t jeans from the mid-eighties that I’ve managed to hold on to or a pair of jeans that my mom (or anyone else from a previous generation) just so happened to pass down to me that I—in order to be polite—quietly accepted and later planned to burn.

These are relatively new (purchased within the last year or so) and currently (gasp) in the wardrobe rotation! I know, I KNOW! You are probably wondering, as am I, how such a horrific thing could possibly come to pass. Especially when not two years ago, I wrote a post here about how I will NEVER, I repeat NEVER be caught dead in a pair of mom jeans.

For those who don’t know… Here is a definition of Mom Jeans: Mom jeans are a style of jeans consisting of a high waist (rising above the belly button), making the buttocks appear disproportionately longer, larger, and flatter than they otherwise might. It also tends to have excess space in the zipper/crotch and leg areas. The jeans are usually in a solid, light-blue color, with no form of stone washing or fading. Other attributes of the style often seen are pleats, tapered legs, and elastic waistbands. The style is frequently accompanied by a blouse or shirt that is tucked into the jeans. This style was popular with women in the United States until the mid-90s, when lower rise jeans started to become fashionable.

See? Most of you can relax now. Just being a mother, does not a mom-jean-wearer make. I know my own mom was scared when I first uttered the phrase “mom jeans” in her presence. I mean, you don’t even need to be a woman for this crime of fashion to happen to you. Mitt Romney was often spotted (and ridiculed for) sporting mom jeans on the campaign trail…

Mitt Romney - mom jeans

But alas, I suspect I may have fallen victim to the lure of comfort… and marketing. Yes marketing. It’s not like the store is going to place a neon sign over a rack of women’s jeans flashing the words: “GET YOUR MOM JEANS HERE!” No, they are going to place the denim abominations in amidst the rest of their latest offerings and label them “relaxed fit” or “slimming” or some other load of persuasive crap aimed at us women trying to find something akin to fashionable that will not squeeze the ever-loving-$#it out of us OR sit so low on our person so as to produce “muffin top” or cause us to have to buy a whole new batch of low rise Victoria’s Secret underwear lest it show every time we sit or bend.

So in the name of fashion AND comfort, because yes—somewhere between the ages of 32 and 38—a gal decides that it IS worth it to not only look good, but also continue breathing or consume bread and wine in a restaurant without feeling like a human sausage casing. We want to enjoy a nice meal absent of the fear that we could potentially cause serious bodily injury to fellow diners by suddenly popping our rivets, raining zipper teeth down like shrapnel. Therefore we shop. And we shop with laser-like focus for a pair of jeans that accomplish all of the above AND… are anything but mom jeans.

mom-jeans

But occasionally, as I may be experiencing, due to the combined needs for comfort, coverage and style… a pair of (yikes!) mom jeans could possibly slip in without us even noticing… until it’s too late. You’re standing in front of the mirror one morning, taking a final glimpse at your reflection before heading out the door and it hits you. A thought that has never crossed your mind before suddenly looms large: OMG! Are these MOM JEANS!?!?

And the terror grips you. The clock says it’s time to go, you look OK from the waist up and yes, your footwear is adorable but aside from the shoes, your bottom half looks like you should strap a fanny pack to it and head to the casino for a day of fun with Madge and the rest of the bridge club gang. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN!?!? Why didn’t I see it in the store? Can I actually go out in public looking like this? What other questionable decisions have I made in the last year? The list goes on and on.

At this point I’m not sure what I’m going to do about the denim conundrum. But there is one thing I DO know. I can’t even begin to think about my potential relationship with skinny jeans. That’s a whole other subject. One that perhaps I’ll tackle… when this fashion crisis has passed.