One of the podcasts I listen to always asks guests “what is saving your life right now?” It’s a good question. Frankly, a better question than I’m about to answer.
I’m going to answer “what is breaking your heart right now.” Brene Brown recently said if we would listen, really listen to each other, most of us have a story that would bring the rest of us to our knees. In my experience, that’s really true. So this is only one story-trend of many that could be bringing people to their knees, but here goes anyway.
I talked yesterday about the new president of my Toastmasters group seeing me coming and saying “I know, I know” and trying to outline the faults she had. And how I quietly assured her that I’m not here to criticize her or to pick nits. I know how hard it is to do this well and I’m just here to support her. (And for the record, I kept my opinions about the handsy past president to myself. She is legitimately and utterly free of having to hear my opinion on topics on which she does not request it. I should have no more say in that than anyone else at this point, and she has not requested my opinion about it.)
Something else happened. I’m having lunch with a friend, and in the course of picking a place, she had to rule out sushi, because she’s pregnant. I didn’t know, because we haven’t talked in a long time.
I’m super-overjoyed for her. I remember listening to her talk four years ago about wanting another baby, but it just wasn’t coming together. She’s of what they’d call advanced maternal age (mid 40s), and when I congratulated her, she said “I know— it’s maybe not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, to be pregnant at this age.”
This woman is a really good mom. I know her work ethic to be ridiculous. I know her to be a good friend, and I think I know her to have wanted a second baby really badly. I checked in and asked whether it was a happy thing that she was expecting. She said yes, but then gave me a laundry list of why she knew it was going to be a lot, but she did it anyway.
I wrote her back and said (I’m paraphrasing) “Here’s what we know. You’re an awesome mom. It was never going to be easy. And it’s not like you get a reset button at the end of your life to go back and do things again, so not holding back seems like a legitimate choice. I’m excited for you and I’m keeping a good thought.” And then, I bought her a whole bunch of spa stuff [hot/cold packs and herbal soaks that can be used for her feet if she’s not a bath person and herbal-scented relaxing linen spray] designed to make her a more comfortable person who is pregnant in July. That she can use after the baby is born also.
She wrote me back this morning and said “you are a very nice person.” (She doesn’t yet know about the spa stuff—she gets that when I see her at lunch.)
This is what breaks my heart. Because what seems clear to me is that when she tells people that this thing she has really wanted for a very long time is happening, they give her big long lectures about how hard it’s going to be. So much so that she feels like she’s got to apologize for having wanted it at all.
I understand the science about the dangers of having a baby after 35. I suspect she’s clear on it also— her first child was born after that age, and it seems clear to me that she had to go to a lot of trouble to get pregnant a second time. I’m sure that she knows how old she’s going to be when this baby graduates high school, and given that she has an elementary-aged kid, she knows exactly how much diaper-changing, fever-fighting, middle-of-the-night craziness awaits her in the next couple of years. And it was worth it to her to go through this anyway, because that’s not the entirety of motherhood for her.
I have another friend who got pregnant after a long time trying, about two years ago. Her daughter just turned one. The baby was born with profound delays and challenges. My friend seems no less overjoyed to be a mom, she loves her child no less. I celebrate her no less. Another friend has had two babies in her early 40s and both of them are in great health. I celebrate her no less.
It makes me really sad that my friend can’t just be allowed to be happy that she’s pregnant, without enduring all the opinions and pseudo-scientific certainty with which I’m guessing she’s being inundated. That she feels like she has to address the things I haven’t said after I said “congratulations! That’s awesome!” Because none of that was in my heart. She had a dream. She’s going for it. It’s worth it to her and it’s happening. I’m excited for her, and I’m keeping a good thought. Full stop.