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.

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.

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.

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.

The Miserable

the miserablePlans to dine at the charming French bistro had been made since the trip was set into motion over 2 months ago. Lee’s friend is a chef who’s vacationed on Hilton Head Island since childhood, and he’d given the place his trained culinary stamp of approval long before our hotel was ever booked.

But there were simply too many things to see and do on our last day at the beach and I had waited too long to eat and was feeling weak and nauseated. I needed some crackers and Sprite STAT to settle my stomach or else I feared I would not be able to enjoy the epicurean delights of the wonderful little estlablishment where we had just been seated.

I looked up at the waiter with great desperation and even greater embarrassment as I asked him to bring me those items as soon as he could…. “I want to enjoy this wonderful food, but my stomach is a little off I’m afraid… perhaps some crackers or rolls and a Sprite will help me feel better. The menu looks amazing! I interjected a little over-dramatically so as to compensate for my poor form as I removed my silverware from the elegantly-folded napkin.

As I mowed through the French bread and sucked on the Sprite like my plane was going down and it was indeed my final meal, we began looking around the restaurant and noticing how much older the other patrons were. We were easily the youngest people in the place by a robust 40-year age gap. Small tables of white-haired octogenarian couplets dotted the entire space. The men all were impeccably dressed in tidy sweater vests and the women carefully wrapped in fancy scarves secured with decorative pendants. They sipped their wine or coffee, making sour faces and taking infant-sized bites of their food.

The place was small and quiet and the interactions of our fellow diners were easy to see and hear what with our youthful, 30-something eyes and ears and whatnot. And every table (TRUST ME — we kept track) had some sort of a complaint to register. It was too cold, they didn’t like their souffle, the table was placed in too conspicuous of a spot (I am not making this up), they wanted to be seated by a window, parking was too far, they couldn’t understand the French waitress’s English, the lovely young lady at the next table was eating her bread too fast… blah, blah, blah… blah, blah.

With each grievance filed, Lee and I would exchange glances that quickly evolved from wide-eyed stares to stifled snickering and silently-mouthed OMG’s. We knew we were  in an area largely populated by white, wealthy, retirees with an obsession for golf — but had not yet encountered such a situation as this. Needless to say, we felt a bit out of our element amidst the disgruntled frosty-haired, Cadillac-Lincoln-Buick Bunch.

“I don’t want to be like THAT when I get old!” I declared to Lee after our entrees arrived.

“Like what?” he said, drawing out the “uuut” in what with a cheshire grin, goading me.

“You know… All ‘irritated’ and ‘grumpy’ and ‘complain-ey’ and ‘demanding’ and full of ‘special needs’ and ‘specific requests’ and what-have-you” I said in return with great animation, abusing the use of air quotes the entire time and completely ignorant as to the reasoning behind his ever-growing curious smile.

You don’t? he asked slightly sarcastically, raising one eyebrow and directing his gaze toward the empty bread basket and trail of crumbs that led all the way across the table and stopped… immediately in front of my plate. “Oh, by the way… Here comes our waiter… do you need another Sprite?

Damn.” I said aloud as the irony of what had just transpired hit me right between the eyes. “It’s too late. It’s already happened. I am apparently already one of ‘those’ people. And as soon as we get back I should trade in my sporty little Pontiac for a boat-sized Buick and hit the links. By the way… don’t you think it IS a little cold in here?”

The Non-Traditional Student: Lessons In Irony

EPSON scanner imageAs a “traditional co-ed”—i.e. someone who enters college in the same calendar year that he or she finished high-school—I thought I was so cool walking to the art building in my oversized flannel shirt and shredded jeans while listening to Pearl Jam on my headphones. Yes sir, in the mid-nineties, grunge was in and being between the ages of 18 to 22 was even more so.

The “non-traditional” students were a phenomenon my friends and I could not wrap our heads around. Thus, we enjoyed making fun of them. We thought they were musty, crusty and old and we wondered why in the world they would CHOOSE to put their ancient, arthritic asses on the hard wooden seats in the same stifling lecture halls that WE had no choice but to drag our hung-over selves to at the ungodly hour of 11 a.m.

I mean, they had jobs and houses and families and cars and probably unpronounceable medical conditions and doctor’s appointments for crying out loud! Why did they feel the need to spend their “spare time” with us intentionally exposing themselves to the likes of English Comp, Abnormal Psych or the Geologic History of the Dinosaurs?

I remember at the start of each new semester taking a passing glance around my new classes, trying to get an overview of my fellow attendees while simultaneously looking for hot guys. And each time my gaze got snagged on someone sporting a fanny pack or grey hair, I would roll my eyes in bitter disgust, groaning and dying a little bit more inside. I would be stuck with the know-it-all geriatrics for the better part of five months.

It was incomprehensible. And it was annoying. Because fifty bucks said they were always going to have the answers FOR EVERYTHING. And another fifty said they’d have a nice long-winded story to accompany said answer. AND they asked a TON of questions. It was excruciating. The only saving grace was the possibility that I’d be paired up with one of them for the final class project — since they had, in fact, roamed the earth WITH the very same dinosaurs we were studying. I bet they had some real side-splitters about that ornery, ‘ole Velociraptor.

Imagine now, if you can, the calendar pages flying as I invite you to travel with me briskly into the future to a new chapter called “Irony’s a Bitch” … or “Getting What You Deserve” … or “Here’s To Me and MY Arthritic Ass” … whichever title you like best, go with it. The point is that since I’ve enrolled in a course at a local college of art and design, the irony is not lost on me that I have become the very butt of my own joke. I am the punch line. I am the “non-traditional” student.

I am the one with the answers and the long-winded story to accompany them. I am the one staying after class to ask the professor “one more question” in order to “get my money’s worth.” Yes, I have a job and a house and a family and a car and the pharmacy on speed dial AND I just happened to have a doctor’s appointment this very morning…

But I implore you, Dear Beautiful Young Blonde Coed Who Sits Beside Me With The Bright Red Lipstick and Super Trendy Glasses Looking Stunning Even Though You Are Totally Hung Over… please try to forgive me when I launch into a lengthy story about my recent vacation and the amazing architecture, rich history and Spanish moss of Savannah… For I—the non-traditional student (sans fanny pack and grey hair, of course)—am NOT too old to learn stuff too.

Deep Freeze

ice-crystals
Like armies taking to the fields in battle, the ice marched steadily onward. Starting at the edges and meeting in the middle, its frozen grip grew briskly downward crystallizing all movement and solidifying that which was fluid mere hours ago.

Once again I stand in awe of nature and the uncanny way it has of taking over. It gains control of everything without ever having checked with us.

So too, life goes on without regard for our plans, our ideas, our dreams, our schemes. Time advances on us, like a freeze to unsuspecting open water, and we have no choice but to withdraw… to surrender… to survive… and to wait.

We wait—with overwhelming anticipation—for the sweet, sweet mercy of the thaw.