The preciousness of ‘late’ motherhood


I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I wasn’t sure exactly how many kids I wanted, but I knew, with complete certainty, that I wanted to start my own family. I didn’t realize, however, just how early I would begin the process.

I was 18 years old in 1998, when I discovered I was pregnant with my first child. I remember that day well: it was a chilly, late November day as I sat in the waiting room, listening to my ancient Walkman. The song playing was Aerosmith’s Dream On.

When I received the news – pregnancy test positive– I walked out of the clinic and slowly to home, slightly dazed. This was not planned.

I had been in a three-year relationship with my high school boyfriend. We were pretty serious, but not child-planning serious. Not at 18 and 23. Neither one of us was prepared, but, as the old story goes, we were being rushed, headlong, into the realities of parenthood.

This was a pivotal moment in my life. It wasn’t long before I made my decision – to keep the baby – and soon thereafter, my relationship fell apart.

But with family support, and a fierce determination to finish high school with good grades and go to college and pursue a career. I knew, I vowed that I would build a good, prosperous life for my baby and me.

And that’s what I did. Over the years, I studied hard, worked hard and I graduated from high school with honours, then began

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working various retail and fast food jobs until I enrolled in journalism school in 2002. In between my fast-paced, urgent pursuit of my goals, I enjoyed my baby boy.

We got to know each other well during the amount of time we spent alone together, just me and my red-haired boy with blue eyes and a winning smile, taking long walks along the Ottawa River or going out for meals together. I so enjoyed those moments, but reflecting on it now, I should have slowed down to enjoy many more of them.

My early parenthood spurred my relentless pursuit of achieving more, faster so I could give my boy the life he deserved. Back then, like so many teens and early-twenty-somethings, I felt invincible, like I could do anything and had forever to enjoy life. I was so young, energetic and determined.

In 2002, I had my second child. I was in the midst of my journalism studies at college. Life was even more fast-paced.

I was almost as devoted to the pursuit of a journalism career as I was to my two young children. I was continuing to work a variety of jobs to build work experience and earn extra income. Life went on, and moved even faster for a young mother of two. It was a frantic time.

I loved my new blond little girl, who was beautiful and spirited and a pure delight in so many ways. But I was working even harder, and stopping even less to savour the small, precious joys of motherhood. I was laser-focused on our future, the future I wanted to build for my young daughter and son.

Shortly after graduation, one of my dreams was realized, when I began to work part-time at a daily newspaper. I was exhilarated by the newsroom experience, and had some amazing opportunities to report and write on a variety of subjects, just as I had wished.

Meanwhile, my two children grew and flourished, though my newsroom job was demanding, required unusual hours and often took me away from them. They became well-mannered, interesting and well-adjusted children. I loved watching them grow and develop their distinct personalities.

As I became more established in my career, and really kind of grew up along with my children, I eventually began to feel that distinct yearning, a yearning for one more child. A chance to slow down and take a break from speeding on the career track and focus more on childrearing.

In November 2010, my third child, another daughter, was born. And this time was completely different.

I was 30 years old at this point, which many may not consider late parenthood, but for me it was, seeing as I was 18 and 22 when my other children were born.

When my third daughter was born, I felt a sense of calm and serenity, a self-assurance that surely came in part from my previous experiences, but I also knew that this time, I wanted to stop and truly relish each moment, from birth on.

For the first time, I took a break from everything but my job as editor of a parenting magazine, which I work on from home. I breastfed my child for the first time – with the others, I’d had to immediately return to work or school – and it was an enchanting experience that I never wanted to end.

My baby and I enjoyed a real maternity leave, consisting of long, leisurely quiet days of nursing, playing, dancing, songs and books. I started making her first foods from fresh vegetables and fruits at home. For once, my focus was entirely on my baby and older children, and it felt amazing.

And now that my last baby has become an energetic, precocious and feisty toddler, I find I am still having an unbelievable amount of fun with her, focusing so intensely on every moment, every game of hide-and-seek, every meal, and every bedtime story.

I’m older, and I pay much closer attention to my health and my work-life balance. I want to be there for her. My greatest fear is not being able to see her through to her adulthood.

This is not a rational fear. There are many women who give birth for the first time at a much older age; for example, my mother and grandmother were both in their mid-forties when they gave birth.

But I feel more vulnerable, as I suppose most people do as they age. I realize how fleeting these beautiful moments of parenthood and childhood are. I want to be sure I’m making the most of these years with my toddler, tween and teenager.

I’ve come to realize how lucky I am to be raising these healthy, beautiful children and, as much as I love my career, I don’t want to miss a thing.

Photo: © huntun