Bloomin’ Mom: A Later Mom Shares – By Cat Reilly, Motherhood Later Blogger
As I write this, my perfect little son, now 20-months old, sleeps upstairs. He’s got the first cold he’s had since being old enough to understand and communicate that something is wrong. Yesterday he ran to me about 100 times, angry and scrunched and crying, pointing to his nose so I could wipe it. You could see the offense: “what is this stuff that keeps leaking out?!” So sad and cute.
My kind husband is sleeping on the hard mattress in the spare room, because I’m still getting over the same cold, and he wants neither to catch it, nor to listen to me cough all night.
And so the house is peaceful. And when “Doodle” (his nickname) wakes up, runny nose and all, we will know what to do. I know there are many parenting challenges to come, but this we can do: handle the common cold. Just 20 months in…I feel at least this much mastery of parenthood.
I met my husband just before I turned 30, and we dated for 4 years before we were married. Getting pregnant took a little while, and I finally gave birth to our son when I was 35.
We didn’t take to parenting like ducks to water: we took to it nervously, slowly, with relentless and anxious attention to our son. We’re both the type who want to do everything just right, and we had never experienced love like we had for this baby, so we wanted to do everything right by him, most of all.
But we’re from that group of parents, you know? The ones who don’t live anywhere near our families, who live in cities surrounded by same-age, childless, career-minded friends. As much as I love children and babysat constantly as a teen, it had been years since I had been around babies in more than a “just visiting!” way. And my husband had far less experience to draw from. He was terrified of everything from diaper changes to head-holding to how you dress and maneuver this wobbly creature.
And so, slowly, we pieced this parenthood thing together. By the time I gave birth, my work had brought us to a smaller town where we had no friends or family, and were in the minority having our first child so late. So, everything was up to us to figure out in relative isolation.
We went through more than our share of 3 a.m. fights, both delirious with lack of sleep. Without consciously choosing to, we fell naturally into attachment parenting methods, fully aware that they sometimes stressed Doodle less, but stressed us more.
And he was worth it. And we got through it, and eventually came out stronger, having done it all without help. I know we’re luckier than a lot of couples.
And my life changed drastically! I went from running a large mental health program, with dozens of direct and indirect reports to staying home all day, alone, with only a baby to talk to. There was no way to define success anymore, and no one handing out awards. I, busy pleasing authority figures since first grade, now had to be entirely self-motivated, every exhausting day, even though no one was watching, and no 5-star reviews would be given. Postpartum depression and I flirted across the room quite a bit and danced a tango or two before she thankfully left the party: I believe that this massive role-shift and redefinition was the biggest reason.
And, as life goes, many things have happened that I could not predict, primarily the astounding toll parenthood has taken on my body. Doodle was a very large baby, and a very late walker. He also has low tone, so holding him is much like holding a 32-pound fish: he doesn’t cling by himself, so you are left doing all the work. The eventual impact of hauling him around, lifting him up and down, and spending hours on the floor each day resulted in two herniated discs in my spine.
Months of back pain grew into steady, screaming sciatic leg pain. Currently, it’s excruciating, and it’s 24/7. Heavy meds take the worst edge off the pain, but make me feel sluggish and drugged. My daily life of constant bending and lifting only worsens the problem. A long string of doctors have not yet helped.
And, saddest of all for me: I really hoped to have been pregnant again by now. The scary part of all this pain is that even if I eventually get it to recede, I’m left wondering how much of a fool I’d be to try for baby #2, walking around with this compromised spine of mine.
So, I’m left with the unknown, and I can’t say it’s my favorite thing, particularly where living with pain or growing my family are my choices. But as a new blogger for Motherhood Later I hope to find some community with other moms, and possibly find a few, like me, who have (or have had) children later in life, or who are having physical problems with mommyhood.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; I’d love to hear your story or blog reactions anytime.
Tags: Cat Reilly