Senior year is always stressful. But as the mom of an adored “only child,” it has also become a time of fertile possibility … for both of us.
In the whirlwind of transcripts, test scores and campus visits, I have struggled to stave off the realization that my amazing son will be leaving home in less than a year. As a parent who confidently chose to have a single child for a dizzying complexity of reasons, ranging from cost of education to inability to imagine loving another child so frighteningly much, a semi-lifetime of conviction has suddenly imploded. And at the ripe old age of 46, I have begun to explore the prospect of starting again.
Despite being a mom, I find myself stunningly ill-prepared for a repeat performance. After all, the first time was a delightful surprise. I was in 28 and in grad school. My ex worked at a startup. We lived in a non-child-friendly studio in New York. We had huge career aspirations, filled with late nights, world travel, whatever it took. We thought we could balance it all – I bought the feminist dream, part and parcel.
Prior to my son’s arrival, we had it all figured out. I would keep my full-time job and continue to take classes at night. My not-yet-husband would continue to work around the clock. We found a daycare center around the corner from his office where we would blithely deposit our bundle in the early AM and then pick-up at closing hour. No problem. No compromises.
Needless to say, the universe has a twisted sense of humor. My son was born early, contracted meningitis and spent his first month in the NICU, teetering between life and death. This was followed by years of testing to determine whether he had suffered permanent brain damage. After that, we fumbled through endless intervention to remediate the “sequelae” of his traumatic earthly debut – a floppy neck, cognitive processing delays – the list went on and on.
All of this put an end to at least one of us pursuing an unimpeded career. And so we made that predictable calculus, determining that the opportunity cost of my husband leaving his job was greater than my earning potential as a first-year associate.
It all worked out, but not without imposing a heavy levy on my career. More than a decade of intensive physical and cognitive therapy sessions later, my son is a straight A student. A gifted musician. An extraordinary human being. And, as I tell him each and every day, I am the luckiest person in the world to have him as my son.
So as I now contemplate tackling motherhood for the second time, I realize I have no blueprint. And there are a sweeping set of challenges to consider.
For starters, conception would require us to pick out an egg donor. A crazy concept, to say the least. And one that has caused me to confront my deepest biases. What matters more to me, hair color or musical ability? Ethnic origin or SAT scores? I do admire a keen sense of pitch.
And there’s a new father by my side; one who is (*gasp*) even older than I am.
Then there’s a world of online and offline friends who insist on performing simple math for me – when your daughter is X age, you will be X+ [insert age].
In addition, there’s a veritable Pandora’s Box of medical concerns. While I worked, exercised and attended classes up until my water broke with my son, this time I would likely be consigned to bed-rest, with swollen ankles elevated above my knees for weeks, maybe even months, on end.
Once again, there’s the hit on my career. It took me years to recover from the first fateful blow. I doubt I’d bounce back so nimbly, which reminds me …
My body. My poor, aging body. If it took nine months for me to lose the baby weight in my twenties, how many treacherous years of low carbs and cross-fit would it take to get to the center of this Tootsie Pop? The world might never know.
Still, as I ponder how I want to seize the second half of my life – all of these resounding concerns mute to a dull whisper, drowned out by a symphony of hope.
Before I waddled down this prickly path, I decided to raise the subject with my son. He thought I was absolutely batty. Moreover, he was concerned about my health. It’s almost poetic in its symmetry.
And yet, as I imagine him packing up his dreams for points unknown, I cannot conceive of a better way to celebrate the gift of his life than giving this baby-making thang that old college try.