I breastfed my beautiful baby boy for one year. I was fifty-one. When I stopped breastfeeding, I realized that somewhere in that journey, my body had gone through menopause. Lactating had kept my hormones at a level where my period continued until I stopped, and then boom, all of a sudden, I was done. I was hot, sweaty, and chasing a one year old. Delightful, uncomfortable, and surreal.
I had my kids by means of invitro-fertilization (IVF), my first child at age forty-six and my second, at age fifty. To make that possible, doctors tune the hormone level so that the body thinks it’s pregnant, implant the embryo, and if it takes, support the pregnancy with hormones for the first twelve weeks until the placenta takes over for the rest of the pregnancy.
There are many things to love about having a baby twenty years after most of my peers had theirs–the amazing advice that I get from my more experienced friends, that my friends’ kids (who are awesome because my friends have done fantastic jobs raising them) can babysit my kids. But most importantly, the lived experience that “the order of things” is complete fiction.
This is the order of things for women that I believed early on in life: grow up, start a career, get married, have kids (keep the career or give it up), and when the kids are gone, dabble in things that have meaning.
Nothing about my young life said I would buck the trend–except that I intuitively knew not to have kids with the man I married. I’m not sure which thing it was picking up on–that he had a hard childhood, no good modeling for being a parent, that he was very needy himself, or that the marriage was shaky–but for whatever reason, it wasn’t until I got divorced that I wanted kids.
Sometimes, it feels as if I’ve lived my life backwards. I climbed mountains and got married in my thirties. I got divorced and learned to listen to my inner voice in my forties. (Just imagine how it might have worked out if I’d learned to listen to my inner voice before marrying).
The order of life is just fiction.Tweet
Now, I have young children as a single parent in my fifties. Hitching the expiration of my biological clock to the beginning of these vibrant young lives has taught me that while menopause might signal the end of fertility, it also rings in the beginning of an amazingly creative phase of life. One, that for me, is inspired by the uninhibited expression of my two little ones so fresh from the Source and also one that requires digging deep into my creative well for inspiration and energy to keep up.
My atypical journey has taught me that life is not shaped like a mountain where you climb up, hit the top at about middle age, and then slide down. The arc of life is instead an endless staircase going up. There may be times we stop and rest on the landings, and other times where we have to go back down because we forgot to learn something, but there are endless flights to climb, until we are no longer able to do so.
A few months before I had my second child, I sat down for lunch with one of my friends to tell her I was pregnant. She told me she had similar news to share. I was surprised that she was going to have another baby when she had a son, who was about to turn sixteen years old, and it must’ve shown on my face. She quickly clarified, “I mean doing things that nobody would expect.” The news was that as soon as her son graduated from high school, she and her husband were going to sell their house, buy a boat, and spend a year doing a circle tour of the great American waterways.
The order of life is just fiction. We are due as many plot twists as we can think up. Here’s to all of us doing things that nobody would expect.
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Read Wynne’s memoir, Finding My Father’s Faith, a memoir about spirituality, solace, and her relationship with her beloved father.
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