aging

I think I need bifocals. I find myself doing the classic hold-at-arms-length-and-squint thing, and I find I have to take my glasses off to do any kind of close work, like sewing a rip in torn pants or cutting out construction paper stars. It’s kind of annoying, but kind of secretly thrilling at the same time, like a rite of passage.

I’ve always longed to age – except for those barren years, when each month ticked away another chance at a baby, and birthdays became somber, tear-drenched affairs. But through my 20s, I was eager and excited for each birthday, and I find I’m beginning to feel that way again now.

When I was a little girl, my best friend, who was a year older than me, used to give me all manner of ridiculous commands (“jump in the sewer ditch,” e.g.) and then, when I refused to comply, would say “OBEY YOUR ELDERS!” (I’m sure she learned that from her older brothers.) We grew up in a tradition where age was equated with wisdom and authority, and I long to feel wise. I used to say, in my teens, “I can’t wait until I’m 50,” because I imagined that at 50 I would have achieved a serenity and confidence in myself, in my knowledge of the world, in my ability to meet ALL life’s problems with equanimity and self-assurance.

I remember when I first started noticing the wrinkles – first it was on my knees, as I bent over doing warm-up workout stretches. I was startled to see the finely textured quality of the skin there. Within a year I saw the lines being etched into my face as well – frown lines between my eyebrows, a deepening labio-nasal fold. They didn’t go away, and they changed the aspect of my face more dramatically than I could have imagined. I watched the backs of my hands growing soft and veiny, and I thought how much they look like my mother’s hands. Mom hands, I thought. I’m getting mom hands. But I wasn’t a mom.

So when my first baby was finally born, I at once began to feel more at home in my aging body. Mom hands felt right, now that I was a mom.

Although, I have to admit, I do feel like an old mom. The parade of new babies being born to former students is always a bit disconcerting. And here in Albania, the norm seems to be to get married young (19 or 20, for women) and then pop out a baby as quick as possible. Women of all economic classes seem to prefer to space their children a bit further apart than the 2-3 year preference in the US – a gap of 4-6 years between siblings seems to be the norm here in the post-communist era. But in any case, I’m definitely at the older end of the demographic curve. Even at the playgroup, among professional expatriate women, I’m the oldest in the group by at least 5 years, by my best judgment (although Marta wasn’t there last night, and she feels closer to my age to me, a judgment I make based entirely on her hairstyle).

Being an older mom does make me a little sad, sometimes. I can’t exactly put my finger on why – I guess just because it wasn’t by choice, entirely, and I’m still sad about those years we spent throwing BFN peesticks in the trash – the grim, hopeless sex; the dark cloud over every friend’s pregnancy announcement. That’s what my aging body reminds me of.

But then at the same time, my paunchy tummy reminds me of the fullness of the pregnant belly I once (no, twice!) had, and the ache in my back reminds me of the solid warmth of my children’s bodies as I carried them home from playgroup last night (our stroller is broken) – Oscar in the Ergo on my back, Illyria in my arms when she tired of walking. There is something immeasurably comforting in the warmth of their bodies leaning against me.

::

And age is catching up with me in other ways, too – yesterday I had my blood pressure taken, and it’s in hypertension range (154/110). The doctor recommended dietary changes first, and then if it doesn’t improve, some kind of meds. Since the constant walking here had resulted in dramatic weight loss last fall and winter, I’ve been pretty much eating whatever I want – and that’s not good. Pizza, hot dogs, butter, French fries – all off the menu now. Actually I’m kind of glad to have an external authority enforcing this change, it will make it more likely to happen.

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4 Responses to “aging”

  1. slowmamma Says:

    Before any of this actually happened, I thought that it was a great idea to become an older mom. As long as biology didn’t get in the way, ahem, you outsmart everyone by packing more life in before it is taken over by kids. I don’t really feel that way anymore. If I could do it over magically, I would have tried much earlier.
    Still, despite the extra pounds and the need to be more careful in regards to health and the eyes and all, we are not THAT old. And physical body aside, I think the kids do have a way of keeping us young.

  2. Heather Says:

    I am so glad that you do have kids, no matter how old you are that gift is precious. I am also going to be a mother long after my friends, but that was infertility for you…
    Oh and by the way I have had high blood pressure most of my life (since my twenties) (inherited from my dad) and it’s not a big deal to just take a pill every night. It helps me sleep too. Just fo to a doc and get the meds and it may help the sleeping problem too!
    I am here from the wishes, so I really wish for good rest for you, a nice date night and the books you wish for.

  3. Rachel Says:

    I don’t really think of myself as an older mom until I realize that my parents and grandparents both had pre-teenagers at my age. I think one of the nice things about being older before having children is that you appreciate them so much more. Other parts of life are more settled before children are added to the picture so you can really focus on being a good parent.

  4. tara Says:

    I’m glad you mostly enjoy aging- I’m having the opposite feelings… that I feel like I’m just so old, I’m likely to die any day now. But I think that is exhaustion and slight depression speaking.

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