Meet Later Mom Dina Lewis

AGE:  53

Did you always want to be a mom?  I always wanted to be a mom, I just didn’t know when it would happen.  I spent my 20’s and 30’s figuring myself out and then building a career.   When I was 42, my father passed away very unexpectedly.  I realized my parents filled the role of family for me, but that they wouldn’t be around forever.  It was then that I decided it was time to create my own family.  I was single   and so I made the decision to have a baby on my own.  I have honestly spent more time debating if I should buy a pair of Louboutins than I did deciding to try to have a child.  When I was ready, I was ready and that was it!

What was your road to parenthood like?  It was like riding The Cyclone, at the age of 44!!!  A friend of mine had success with a doctor at Columbia, so I went in for an appointment and literally began the process that day.  It started with a series of tests and procedures and fortunately, all of the results indicated that I would be able to use my own eggs to get pregnant.  Because I was single,, I  had to choose an anonymous donor, off of a website!  I literally scoured the internet for months, every night, trying to choose half of my future child’s DNA off of a brief profile.  Once I chose my donor, I joined the early morning monitoring crowd at the fertility clinic.  Announced only as “Dina L” I went  in for treatments, ultrasounds, bloodwork and IUI’s nearly every morning for months.  I injected myself with a drug called Menopur and took Clomid, all in hopes of producing a good egg and closely monitored my ovulation.  In the course of a year, I had 5 failed IUI’s and one heartbreaking miscarriage.  I always told myself that I would become a mother, in whatever way it was meant to happen (and explored adoption throughout my cycles), and that promise to myself is what got me through that year.  When I became pregnant, I suffered through my fair share of pessimistic “high risk” OB’s until I finally found someone who truly believed the pregnancy would be a success.   My pregnancy was difficult.  I had gestational diabetes and developed a very serious case of OCD in the beginning of my fourth month.  I found a wonderful prenatal therapist who I worked with throughout the rest of my pregnancy (and in the first few months after Hannah was born.)  The journey was, at times, agonizing, but the end result made it more than worth it.

Do you think it is challenging to balance parenting, a personal life and professional pursuits?  Yes!  When I first had Hannah, I was determined to parent like I didn’t have a job and to work like I didn’t have a child.  I was lucky to have built a successful real estate business in NYC prior to being a mother, and that career gave me some flexibility and control over my own schedule.  But I was also a workaholic and was terrified of becoming  less productive and losing the reputation and client base I’d worked so hard over 20 years to build.  That fear drove me to head downtown and pitch a new listing only 6 days after giving birth to Hannah.  But I quickly learned that I was going to have to say “no” to people more than I had in the past and that priorities were going to have to shift.  Ultimately, I left real estate and recently launched Minor Details, a line of sustainable and sensory friendly kidswear (and a few upsized “My Adult and Me” pieces) that was inspired by Hannah, who lives with a condition called Sensory Processing Disorder.  It has been wonderful to develop a brand that celebrates children and allows Hannah to be involved in my day to day work.  This is not to say that I have the balance figured out, and I definitely still find myself pushing through exhaustion to enjoy the alone time that staying awake until 4am affords me.  I’ve learned to cut myself some slack, to abandon the notion of being a perfect, to accept that something has to “give” and that sometimes a relaxed mom who serves Uncrustables is better than a stressed out one serving home cooked organic chicken breast and steamed broccoli.

What do you see as the positives and challenges of having a child at age 35 or over?  For me the positives are that I am a far more stable and confident person than I was when I was younger.  At this age I care very little about what everyone else thinks about me and that allows me to approach motherhood with a sense of calm and humor that would have been impossible years ago. Financially, I am able to provide for Hannah in a way that I never could have in my 20’s or 30’s.

The main challenge of being an older mom is accepting that I may not be around to see Hannah have children or a career.  Knowing that she will be parentless earlier than many of her friends makes me even more determined to raise her to be independent and self assured.

Has anything about motherhood surprised you thus far? I think that my own strength and resilience has surprised me.  When Hannah was 2 and a half years old, she was diagnosed with developmental delays.  I remember the fear of what that diagnosis meant and the feeling of helplessness when she would have violent meltdowns that would have her banging her head against the floor.  In addition to being Hannah’s mother, I quickly pushed the fear aside and became her advocate as well.  I attended hearings with the state and many evaluations to be sure that Hannah would receive the occupational therapy and speech services that she needed and that as she got older, she would not “fall through the cracks”.  I have continued to be Hannah’s advocate and have watched her develop and thrive in a mainstream school.  Motherhood has taught me just how strong I can be.

What do you most want to teach your daughter? I want to teach Hannah to be kind and confident!  To leave people and things the same, or better then she found them and to have the courage to take risks!   I am a big believer in the Golden Rule and also in the fact that failure is just proof that you tried.

Are you conscious of raising her to be a Mensch (decent, responsible person)?  Yes! I am very conscious of raising her to be a good (and grateful) person and of showing her the joy in helping others.  In addition to volunteering together, I make a point of discussing how grateful I am for all of the people around us and for the ways that they help us.  We thank our Uber driver for the safe ride, we thank our door person for keeping us safe and we call our grandma at least three times a week.   I am also conscious of raising her to be a kind child.  I read a quote that said “my greatest fear is not raising a child with special needs, it’s raising a child who makes fun of children with special needs,” and this really hit me.  We make a point of discussing how “different is beautiful” and how important it is to respect each other and what makes each person special.  In my clothing line, I put Braille color identifiers on the back of the tee shirts.  This is meant to help visually impaired and blind children get dressed and to remind sighted children of the challenges that some kids face and conquer each day.

Do you have any particular memories from your own childhood that inspire you to make memories with your daughter? My memories are all of the seemingly insignificant moments, watching a movie with my head on my mom’s lap, a “talent show” for my parents in our living room, giving the dog a bath and getting a back scratch before bed..  I make a point of not losing sight of the importance of those little moments with Hannah.  One thing my mom always did was take me for a girl’s lunch once a week, and I loved it.  Hannah and I go out for special meals together, and it is one of my favorite things.

How do you practice good self care and role model for your family? I make sure to take time for myself and go to the gym at least three times a week.  I hired a personal trainer, and it is so wonderful to have an hour of the day that is completely dedicated to me and my wellness.  I find weight lifting to be meditative and calming, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment that carries through my day.  During the pandemic, I bought a treadmill for my home, and this has been wonderful as well.  It allows me to zone out and go for long walks without leaving home and Hannah likes to cheer me on!

What words of wisdom would you like to share for someone contemplating parenthood over age 35?  Most importantly, I would tell them to surround themselves with positive people who support their choice to have a child later in life.  If I had allowed all of the critics to get into my head, I never would have Hannah, and she is truly the greatest gift in my life.


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