NOTE: When I asked Heidi Loomis to be interviewed (See posting for May 7th in Profiles), I sent her this story about my midlife mom experience.Â I scanned the photo from my college newsletter, so it is somewhat grainy. This is me with my daughter Basha, who is just turning 32. I was 43 when this was taken and the article was published in my Douglass College alumna newsletter in 1984.
The caption reads: A happy Mom and Basha, at age 1 1/2 years.
My horoscope says that Sagittarians are late bloomers. This must be so, for here I am with a four-year-old child at age 45 and loving it!
My early years of motherhood in the mid-sixties were a mixture of delight and depression. Because I felt ill-prepared for my new role, I found the daily chore of dishes, diapers and constant care of two babies overwhelming. As a young girl, I was never exposed to babies and had very little experience as a babysitter. Neither high school nor college prepared me for motherhood. The closest I ever came to a program in baby and child care was a sociology course entitled “Marriage and the Family,” but to my disappointment, we studied native cultures with emphasis on the structure of the family, rather than on the care of its tiny members.
There I was, alone daily with two infants, 17 months apart, and new to the neighborhood. Seems we were always newcomers in those early years, because my (then) husband’s rising star seemed t require what is known in the corporate world as “career moves.” I make friends easily, but by the time I’d find a new friend to share some of my daily doldrums or delights, we’d have to move on, my babies in my arms with cribs and high chairs trailing behind.
Basically, I was exhausted, bored or depressed. I could never seem to get ahead of the laundry, the cleaning and the 24-hour needs of the two children. By 1973 both my husband and I began to feel uneasy and discontented. He had worked his way towards a middle executive position, with hopes of climbing higher, yet he felt he was climbing to nowhere. I was unhappy in my role as middle-class mother, despite the attractive split-level house in a lovely neighborhood, the air-conditioned station wagon, a loving husband and two beautiful children whom I loved.
After months of discussion, we left the good old USA and the American Dream and traveled to Israel to live on a kibbutz. War broke out (Yom Kippor War of 1973), my mom died and we were generally disillusioned with communal living. Returning to America after a school year, we decided to try a compromise: no communing but no commuting. My husband was hired by a large mail order natural foods company in a small town in central Pennsylvania. We moved to a nearby semi-rural college community and set up house as simply and inexpensively as possible. Eventually we opened up our own small natural foods store and eventually converted that to a wholesale sprouting business. We changed our lifestyle, our attitude, and our diet.
By the end of the 1970s I was well versed in nutrition, natural childbirth, breastfeeding and the “good life” and decided to have another child to reflect this new way of life. I was 40 when this decision was made and felt younger and stronger than I had in years. I rode my bike every morning, took walks every day, at more wholesome foods and generally kept myself healthier.Â As part of our new attitudes came the decision to have our baby at home with the help of a midwife, Mary. I did go to an obstetrician all during my pregnancy to make sure all was going well.
Naturally my friends thought I was a little crazy*(See poem below.) Not only did I get pregnant at the once- considered old age of 40 to have a baby, but I was going to have my baby at home. How quickly memory fades. My grandmother gave birth at 40 and my husband was born at home. My notions weren’t so crazy, just against the new norms established in the last two or three decades. Thus, on May 18th, 1979, Basha came into the world, in my own bed with the help of my wonderful midwife Mary and my family— no doctor and no medication administered. It was not easy, but it was fantastic, the most incredible physical, emotional and spiritual moment of my life.
As the months and years unravel, I realize this child is growing up in an entirely different space from my older two children, who were 14v and 16 when Basha was born. I nursed her for four years, fed Basha no commercial baby food, no meat, no junk food.Â While there are frustrating and exhausting times, there is also a feeling of better control over my life, less worry about being a super mom, and more patient with myself as a person—not perfect, but certainly creeping closer to it.
I love my older two children who are now in college, but my love for my “bonus baby” is couched in the knowledge that my husband and I are fully aware of our needs, her needs and the family’s needs. We work at home, so Basha sees her father throughout the day. Her older siblings add another dimension of total love and my own growth as a mother, wife, write and person makes me a better companion, helpmate and parent.
To say that life is a bowl of cherries would be an exaggeration. Frustrations are part of daily life. But the worries and fears of my early days of motherhood have all but vanished and I relish my role as a mid-life mother more than I could have imagined. For the first time, I really feel I am fulfilled as a woman and mother and complete as a person. I highly recommend a later-in-life baby for any mother who feels she has not had a total mothering experience, including a positive pregnancy and birth experience, as well as the early important months that follow birth.
While my husband feels some lack of freedom now that the older two children are in college, he seems to take greater pleasure and time with his third child because he realizes what he missed with the older two. I am grateful for the changes we experienced, even the painful and difficult ones, for they culminated in a new way of life and a change-of-lifestyle baby who has enriched all our lives.
My memory’s somewhat hazy
But I think they called me crazy
When I announced, “I’m having a baby”
At the age of 40+. (Foolish maybe?)
In their minds they really thought
That somehow I must have “got caught;”
After all, my last child was fourteen.
Wasn’t I a little old for the “Mommy scene?”
Alas and alack, they were wrong from the start:
I wanted this child from the bottom of my heart.
And I planned all along to have this baby at home,
Surrounded by family, like a storybook poem.
Here is a recent picture of my three children. Older brother Ira on the left, my bonus baby Basha in the middle and Older sister Eileen on the right.