By Bonnie Jean Feldkamp
My daughter’s shriek from inside the bathroom stall echoed against the standard-issue gas station tile. We’d just made an ordinary pit stop on our drive home, but now I froze mid hand-wash.
She swung open the stall door and pointed to the toilet. Tears trickled from beneath the hand clamped over her eyes. My eyes shifted to where she pointed. It all seemed a bit melodramatic. Did I have to look? Couldn’t she just tell me? No. She was speechless.
My brain latched onto any probable explanation. Was there a dead mouse in the toilet? Had my daughter dropped her cellphone into a mess and she expected me to fish it out?
I looked to her one more time for help. Her nose slightly upturned. This was all beneath her.
I grimaced, sure I’d find her phone swimming in a pool of nastiness. I leaned over to peek inside.
My Baby is A Woman Now
Blood. I looked at my 12-year-old.
“Ah, honey,” I said and pulled her to me. “You started your period.”
“I don’t want it!” she wailed. I sighed.
I bought supplies and delivered them to her in the bathroom. In the car, I gave unsolicited advice on hygiene. She stared out the window.
“Do you have questions?” I asked.
“No.” Her gaze fixed on the scenery.
Later at home, I was the moody one.
“What’s for dinner?” my husband asked.
“Why must I be responsible for what everyone else puts in their mouths?” I snapped at him. He had asked some variation of this same question almost every day of our relationship. That’s how it worked in our house. I remembered to feed us, and he remembered to mow the lawn. But tonight, the question grated my nerves.
“What is going on with you?” he asked.
My throat tightened, and the tears bubbled. I told him what happened, how our youngest was a woman now, too. He groaned at the thought of his life in a house of three women.
A Baby at 40
All I knew was that I didn’t have any babies left. I had thought I’d have a few more years with her. Unlike her sister, an overachiever and always early, this one was born a week early and has been late for everything ever since. She was late to learn to walk. She wore Velcro shoes until the third grade, refusing to learn how to tie shoelaces. At age 9, her bike had the largest training wheels known to man. I figured at this pace, puberty would coincide with legal drinking age. I’d treat her to a beer at the local pub to celebrate.
“I’m not ready for this part of my life to be over,” I cried to my husband.
“You’ll always have me to take care of,” he beamed.
I sulked for a few days. My husband, on the other hand, saw this new development as the light at the end of the tunnel. “We’re so close,” he’d say. “Our kids are almost grown. We’re almost done!”
“We’re parents,” I said. “We will never be done.”
He sighed and then admitted that he, too, missed hearing little giggles and pattering feet in the house. We had discussed one more child, but life and other circumstances always got in the way. Our youngest hitting puberty seemed to shake the sand in the glass. Time was running out. But a baby at 40?
“Does it have to be now?” my husband asked.
“No, but soon.”
An “Older Mom”
We decided to let our oldest finish high school and our youngest get through middle school without the added stress of a pregnant mom in the house.
It was the first time I had ever planned for a child so carefully. Our older two, who both lived with us full time, were both born from previous marriages—our eldest from his and our middle schooler from mine.
Though we never thought of them in terms of “his” and “hers,” my husband and I had never experienced being new parents together. The process brought new joy in our relationship. We chuckled about my going off birth control, joking that we had “pulled the goalie.” Urine stick ovulation tests—a new concept for us both—felt like practice runs for the pregnancy tests we were hoping to take.
“Don’t get discouraged if it takes a while,” my OB-GYN had said.
If we got lucky, I’d officially be an “older mom.” But as an older couple, we were also more financially secure—and after creating a family from two single-parent homes, we knew this challenge was one we could handle with love and grace.
“Oh my gosh!”
It was my turn to exclaim from the inside of a bathroom. My hand shook so badly, I was surprised my stream even hit the pregnancy test. The test read positive before I even finished. It had not taken a while—we were pregnant on the first try. It was really real. We were going to have a baby.
Our parenting wasn’t “almost done” like we’d once thought. Not anymore. And so, in the fall I turned 40, with my husband by my side and his older sisters in the waiting room, Ezra was born. And it all felt perfect.
Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a writer and the director of Media, National Society of Newspaper Columnists