Different this time
I'll turn 42 in a couple of weeks. Honestly, I don't mind it, but the implications catch me foolishly off guard every once in a while. For example, I just hired an accomplished young professional and realized with a cold start that I have virtually no common history with her: she was a young teen on 9/11 and during Gore v. Bush; the music of my youth was all passe before she was born. She's of a generation with my nieces, not me, and I'm sure she sees me as what I am: middle-aged. I remember my own 40-something bosses and mentors and the wide, wide chasm I saw between us. How strange to be on the other side of that divide. And how strange to be here and pregnant. Discussing early retirement strategies and playpens in the same breath. Age-related hearing loss and diaper brands. Mammograms and Medelas.
I was already of "advanced maternal age" with Olivia back in 2005, and an "elderly multipara" with Josh in 2007; now I'm one of the oldest expectant patients in a very large OB practice, if the girl who took my (excellent!) blood pressure and (protein-free!) urine is to be believed. Health-wise, I am releived to say, that appears to be my only new risk factor: simply being old. It's enough.
Physically, there was the hyperemesis that lasted through the sixth month and which I certainly cannot blame on age, but there has also been a deep tiredness that wasn't there with the last two, at least until the very end. It's the kind of achy, short-of-breath exhaustion that brings to mind a frail white-haired lady patiently slogging her way up a steep flight of stairs with a Safeway bag. I keep looking around for help: Wouldn't it be nice if some strong young person would carry these groceries to my door? And there are a host of indelicate conditions that may not be purely age-related but did not afflict me before and are not exactly associated with a feeling of youth--I'll not disgust you with the details.
Mentally, emotionally...how to splice and dice the differences wrought by a few more years versus simply having done this twice before? I am less paranoid that something will go wrong before or during birth, and much more acutely aware of all the things that could go wrong afterward--not just to the baby but to our family dynamics. How will Jeff and I cope with the stress? What if the baby, like Olivia of old, does not sleep? What if Josh becomes resentful at not being the baby anymore and acts out toward his fragile little brother? What if I go into another two-year funk and cannot fully enjoy the three of them? I am also more concerned about my career momentum, possibly losing the drive and energy that have allowed me to make a reasonable success of it so far. I get a perhaps unhealthy amount of my self-esteem from doing my job well, and I am not confident that I can continue at the same pace. At the same time, I am concerned that I won't be able to detach from work enough to totally immerse myself in family while I'm off, and stay focused on them as much as possible when my leave is up. And there's that whole generation-gap "relatability" question, which I've pondered ad nauseum both in my head and here, that makes me picture the future with a certain wistfulness.
One other difference this time is the absolute certainty I have that it is the last time. I'll enjoy his kicks and hiccups for seven or eight weeks, and then that will be that. It is...freeing, in a way. I distinctly remember crying at some point in labor with Olivia because I didn't think I'd get to feel a baby inside me ever again. I feel so privileged to have this late and unexpected opportunity.