Toni Hargis is a Brit who moved to the USA in 1990. Wife and mother to three YankeeBrits, Toni is also the author of “Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom”, (St. Martin’s Press), writes for BBC America’s Mind the Gap column, and blogs as Expat Mum.
THE ACCIDENTAL OLDER MUM.
Mine was a fairly typical life, – had my corporate career, married at 28, first baby at 31 and the second at 34; sat on the fence for a while before making the agonizing decision not to have another child. After all, there’d be a gap of more than four years between the second and third, and even worse, I’d be running around after a toddler at forty! Let’s just say, we took steps to prevent another arrival.
About eighteen months later I became so ill that I booked an appointment with my doctor, fearing the worst. My sister and I even joked in a “God-can-you-imagine” kind of way about me being pregnant. But I couldn’t be pregnant; not only because of the steps, but because this illness was far worse than morning sickness; there was definitely something seriously wrong. I decided to do a pregnancy test so that I could take the negative result into the doctor and get that discussion off the table immediately.
And yes, at the age of 41, I was pregnant. And devastated. This wasn’t in the plans. I was too old and my other kids were almost ten and seven. I was so unwell, I didn’t gain an ounce for the first eighteen weeks. (I somehow still caught up to the forty pounds I’d gained with the other two!) At twenty weeks, when I managed to get my head around things, I finally announced the big secret, which was exactly when the unexplained bleeding started. Bed-rest with two kids who need to get to school, need to be fed, helped with homework etc? Are you kidding me? Not to mention the anxiety. When you lose a baby at twenty weeks, you’re going to know about it.
Then came the emergency C-section because his umbilical cord was wedged between his knees and every contraction, sent his heart rate plummeting. I remember thinking, “I can’t lose this baby now; not after everything I’ve been through” although I heard myself yelling, “Just get him out”.
Surprisingly most of it has been wine and roses. Probably more wine than roses if truth be told. My husband says the Little Guy came with instructions to be kind to the old people. He’s a kind, happy, funny boy who makes us all laugh. The gap between him and his sibs has meant he’s more like an only child, which is something I regret for him although he doesn’t know any different. The amount of people I meet who are the youngest child by years is astounding, and they all assure me that they’re very close to their older siblings. As a mother, I’m probably more patient and laid back with him than I was with the older two, and I’m sure he’ll get away with a lot more when he’s a teen. He certainly got more of my time playing with him on the floor because once I got down there, I wasn’t getting up for a while.
Some of the statistics in my life make my eyes water, I have to say. Such as the fact that by the time he went to school full-time, I had spent SIXTEEN consecutive years at home with a small child for all or part of the day. Or the fact that if he stays at his current school (which goes from 4-18 years) we will have been parents there for TWENTY-FOUR consecutive years. And when his brother leaves for college in a few years, I will have to search for babysitters again after not needing them for about eight years.
One thing I learned through all this is not to plan too far ahead. Like many, I had my future loosely charted and like many, something came along to change everything. I was lucky; mine was a gift where many others have a tragedy to deal with. And it’s definitely a gift that keeps on giving!