When I was 46, a long-coming fate finally caught up with me.
One sweltering July day, I realized the date of my period had come and gone at least a week earlier. I felt a flash of horror — what could it be but menopause?
The master procrastinator had finally done something early, and it was THIS? But the alternate explanation — that I had a late-life bun in my aging oven — was ridiculous.
I'd never had kids. I'd never settled down with a guy. I'd only been a homeowner a few years and still hadn't even painted the place. I was still busy opening and emptying personal baggage filled with the unachieved dreams and goals of my younger years. Writer — nope. World traveler — nope. Master gardener — nope. Artist — well, maybe a little. And now, this moment marking the end of youth.
I worked on gracefully accepting my new identity as a biological has-been. Then I started to feel weird. Woozy. Breathing deep but feeling like I couldn't get enough air. I put it down to the summer heat.
One day in Tai Chi class, my teacher saw me struggling with faintness. He said "Chi sometimes isn't where you expect it to be." And suddenly, I knew.
Acutely aware of the gray streaks in my hair, I went and bought a pregnancy test. Feeling foolish, I took it. Of course there will be one pink line, not two. Except there were two. I was… two.
And then, I was three, as I had a wide-eyed "I'm pregnant!!!" Skype with my long-distance boyfriend, and we decided he would move to Milwaukee to play Dad to my Mom.
Is capital-f Fate real? This was the only guy I'd ever wanted to have a child with. My college flame. I had pictured our life together when I was a naïve young thing, before life took us separate ways. Then, he improbably came back into my life after a 22 year absence.
And there we were, actually having a child, so many years late for the life together I'd once imagined.
I'll pass over the horrors of pregnancy. If you've been there, you know. If you haven't, you don't care. I look back with shame at how oblivious I was when my friends were pregnant in the past. I treated them as if they were NOT living through a surreal, body-hijacking nightmare, and for that, ladies, I am now so sorry!
Miserable as it was, my pregnancy was totally normal, and so was the birth of my son, a week after I turned 47.
I spent 2 days in the hospital ordering enough room service to make up for the fact I'd never have enough time or money to eat out again, and then we went home in utter terror with our little red-faced stranger and to live out a midlife plot twist I never could have foreseen.
A gray-haired woman who'd given up dreams of motherhood years ago, nursing a baby for what felt like 48 hours a day. Two middle-agers with bum knees, crawling on the floor building towers with a toddler. Poor folk who once were prosperous, putting careers on hold to spend time with a sunny, loving little boy.
Our son is about to turn 3. I'm about to turn 50. In the years between 47 and 50, I've learned all those life lessons normal women learn when they are still young, fresh and flexible.
How to live with another adult. How to overcome my hatred of housework and tidy (a tiny bit) without swearing. How to wear pajamas for bedtime privacy, yet poop with a spectator.
How to accept myself as somebody's mother, even though I'm nothing like my own mother.
And now, my man and I have started discussing the need to provide our lad with structure – doing things the same way from one day to the next. Neither of us has tried it before. The change is not coming easily.
So are we better or worse off than our younger selves would have been? Are we wiser, or are we wearier?
Our parenting journey and our journey into old age are happening simultaneously. That's scary. Our son's teachers, doctors and dentists will always be younger than us. The parents of his friends will find us old-fashioned. Our boy will get used to explaining we're not his grandparents. When he's in college, he'll worry as much about our declining health as about his grades and girlfriends.
And if he's as big a procrastinator as we are, we will never meet his eventual life partner or see his children. We joke about hoping he gets a teenage girlfriend pregnant — only I'm honestly not sure I'm kidding.
But heck, old age is still a long way off for a talented procrastinator like me. For now, I'm using my carefully honed skills to make each day with my charming, beautiful boy last as long as possible. In a couple weeks I'll earn the label "over the hill", yet I know Fate and I are still just getting started.■
Amy Butterfield is the designer of Metroparent magazine and would-be artist. She has one gorgeous son, one sweet mate and loads of good luck.