New Moms – Young and Not So Young

babyTwo well-known women have made headlines recently for giving birth in their 40’s. Not their early 40’s, their late 40’s. The 49-year-old singer who just had her first child kept it a secret from the media, no doubt to avoid all the hysterical comments about selfishness, health fears for mother and baby and the usual drip, drip of negative opinion. Babies are beautiful and motherhood is beautiful whenever it happens. Having had babies both early and late, it is interesting to take stock of differences that age makes in mothering. And there are plenty.

If I could have the physical stamina I had with my first two babes along with the experience I have now, it would be a perfect match. But you can’t have both. I watch my daughter-in-law with our two grandbabies and marvel at how easily she does things. There is a lot to be said for being able to lift a 16-pound 4-month-old or carry him in a sling on your chest. I watch her do that and think, “Wow! Strong back, Laura.” It is amazing to watch how she does it all, and does it all so well.

Babies test you physically like nothing else. The cumulative loss of sleep, the lifting, the stress of determining why a baby is crying and crying with no visible cause, the constant vigilance, all of it is draining in a unique way. If you care for your baby full-time without child care help, it is a 24-hour a day job. Emotionally, it can be exhausting. Add a toddler and preschooler or two or three, and the challenges increase exponentially. Youth is a definite advantage!

I remember the first time the full job of caring for two babies hit me. Charlie and Sammy were 13 months apart. I was changing newborn Sam with 13-month-old Charlie in his crib watching. Sammy started crying with that little, funny newborn cry, and Charlie was terrified. Who was this little red-faced creature making that noise? He burst into tears, and for the first time I had to figure out how to comfort both babies. Quite a trick! In time, moms learn all kinds of tricks, and that’s the benefit of experience. I had youth on my side, however.

When our surprise baby came along in 2009, I was 42.  With more older women having babies these days, it wasn’t as rare as it once might have been. (The number of even first-time older moms has shot up in recent years.) But it was shocking to me to think of starting over. And start over we did. How am I different as a mother with Emily than I was with the others? For one thing, things that concerned me years ago don’t anymore. Crumbs on the kitchen floor? Oh well. It will be cleaned up eventually. She wants to wear what combination of clothes? So what? We’re at home anyway. Who cares if she wants that polka dot t-shirt with striped leggings and bright red socks? Children’s television? Now that’s where I have significantly changed.

I loathe commercial TV and all the ads and trash cartoons, etc. I will never let Emily watch that junk. But I have found value in certain PBS programs that I heretofore dismissed. Charlie, Sammy, Will and Mary never watched TV. I checked out educational DVD’s from the library and that was about it. Emily is alone a great deal as a caboose child, and while she plays for hours on her own, she sometimes gets restless. I discovered that our local PBS station airs Thomas the Tank Engine at 11:30. She loves that one and also Super Readers which deals with letters and sounds. But her favorite is Daniel Tiger, created by the makers of Mr. Rogers. The little songs on there about helping, sharing, sleeping, manners and so forth I sometimes hear during the day when she she starts to sing them. It’s a gentle program, and it’s perfect for little ones. Her vocabulary has grown from these programs and letter sound skills have really taken off. So, yes, as an older mom, I am not panicking at the thought of certain TV programs, and it gives me a little break.

I don’t fool around on the floor as much as I once did with my preschoolers and toddlers, but once in a while, I can do a piggy back ride or tickle/kiss attack which she likes. Folding socks sometimes turns into a balled-up sock war. Times like that remind me of the early Mom-me and make me smile. Em, of course, gets a kick out of it.

Tom and I joke about being Team Emmy because getting her to bed sometimes seems to require both of us. You take the jammies, I’ll take the teeth, you help her with clean-up of toys, and I’ll read the story. Together, we get her into bed with her prayer and the little rituals that make bedtime sweet. But how I once did it with two toddlers at a time, I do not even recall. Two baths, two little bodies running around. Amazing. Come to think of it, I sometimes do look rather worn out in those old photographs! (There is one funny home video taken by Sammy, where I’m washing the kitchen floor at night on hands and knees- how I did that after a long day, I’m not sure – and Will is running around in just a diaper, taking cereal boxes out of the hutch and throwing them on the floor to the snickers of his older brothers. Yes, I remember those days!)

I’ve heard people say that late-in-life children keep you young. Despite the inevitable decline of energy, it really is true in the inside sense. How many times have we laughed at something our little girl has said or done? You see everything with fresh eyes and fresh appreciation. Emily comes running into the bedroom mornings to point out the sunrise or spots the moon through the little octagon window in our upper hallway. I would never have even seen that beauty without a young child to point it out.

In the middle of survival mode when Emily was a baby, both Tom and I tried hard to appreciate her babyness as much as possible. It is over in a blink of an eye. Every stage of life is so precious and so fleeting. Without a doubt, you are aware of the passage of time more acutely as older parents.

Never will I forget the phone call I made to a friend of mine in radio when I found out the news that Emily was on the way. I was in doom and gloom mode, full of worry, and the wonderful lady just went off on a joy jaunt on the phone. “FANTASTIC NEWS! PRAISE GOD! This is wonderful. Everything will be OK, just watch! How blessed you are.” That was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. So hats off to the new moms who are deemed “too old” by the detractors. Your challenges will be many, but the payoff of those beautiful babies is worth every moment.

P.S. On a separate but related note, here is a column from one of the young women our vile culture has produced. The poor thing suffers from embarrassing ignorance on so many fronts, my intent to respond to her point for point was replaced with too much disgust.  All the work I have described above is not worthy of respect, according to the author. Amy Glass says that caring for children and husband is something to be looked down on. The poor girl has a lot of growing up to do, and I do wish her luck on finding a good man. That may actually be the source of the woman’s bitterness in the first place, and that’s sad.

Meet Our Grandson!

Today is the annual March for Life in Washington, and it is appropriate to post a story about my own unborn grandchild. My son Samuel and daughter-in-law Laura learned on Friday that they are expecting a son in June. The 20-week scan photos are the first portraits for Peter Samuel Guzman. We are so excited to know that it will be a boy. He put on quite a show of wiggling and leaping and yawning for his parents. Nothing drives home the reality of becoming a parent like those scans!

I still have Sam’s first photos. The wonder of life and God’s creative genius is something that I will never get over. The sacredness of life in the womb has been denied in our nation for 39 years as millions of babies like Peter Samuel have been murdered in abortion clinics.

We thank God for babies, whenever he sends them. Our own miracle baby, Emily Frances, was a shock to us, and completely re-ordered our lives. A more delightful re-ordering could not have been engineered. I spend my days making purple play-do wiener dogs, coloring and listening to the same Wee-Sing songs I was listening to 20 years ago with Sammy and Charlie. And I feel privileged to have such a high calling.

Children come into your life like small tornadoes in pastel blankets, and you are never ever the same. Never again will your own desires and wants and goals have the same importance. Your well-being is caught up with that of those children. Your heart walks around outside of your body. Mothering has been difficult, sometimes heart-breaking, frustrating, and exhausting, but, for me, the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.

(Parenthetically, the reason I never succeeded in an outside career was because I didn’t possess the single-mindedness to do it. My heart has always been at home, my mind wandering to what my children were doing and needing. Because I can’t do an outside job from home at the present time, I do my mommy job and write on the Hope Blog instead!)

We cannot wait to meet Peter Samuel. God bless our little grandson and all the babies in the womb in the dangerous era in which we live. Life is precious. God created it. We must do all we can to protect it.

Peter Samuel Guzman, Age 20 weeks

Our Baby is 2 Today – Soli Deo Gloria

Emily Frances was born two years ago this morning. After a terrible, long night hooked up to a fetal monitor, maternal monitor, with a pulse-ox on my toe and an IV in my arm that was pumping magnesium into my bloodstream, a pretty young nurse with a pony tail bounded into the room at 6am. “The doctor is here. We’re ready to go. I have your baby’s ankle bracelet and wrist bands in here.” she pointed to the bag in her hand. I’ll never forget that nurse as long as I live and the happy sight of those ID bracelets.

The relief those words evoked is hard to articulate. Emily’s arrival a short time later seemed like a dream of some kind. All those months of being on bed rest, the weeks in the hospital of having my finger stuck for blood sugar checks, having insulin needles four times a day, baby monitoring, blood pressure checks, and then that long night were coming to an end.

Emmy was chubby with very chunky cheeks and dark hair. Had she gone to term, the doctor said she would have been a ten-pounder due to her weight gain from the gestational diabetes. She was a perfect 7 pounds, 7 oz, and 20 inches long with a very distinct cry. In the NICU where she was for 3 weeks while she learned to eat and breathe right, you could always tell her cry from the other babies. (I think all moms can do that, though…)

This is where I finally got to hold her. Magical moment.

I didn’t get to hold her or even really see her for a long time after she arrived. For 3 weeks afterwards, my blood pressure was dangerously high, and I was re-admitted twice, once after Tom called 911 when my blood pressure was 200 over 100-something. I was so frustrated. All that time, I couldn’t be with my new daughter. I cried so many times, because I was afraid she would wonder where her mother went. Common sense told me that she’d be fine, but a heart doesn’t know common sense, and I just wanted her in my arms.

They stuck me back on magnesium, which makes you feel like your eyes are crooked and that you’re burning up. One night in the hospital, I got so fed up, I told the nurse to take me off the mag or I would take the IV out myself. I told her, “I haven’t had seizures, I’m not going to, take it out, please.” She called the doctor, and they must have believed me, because they stopped the mag. (I don’t recommend this, but desperate times call for desperate measures.) After several more ER visits, 2 transfusions and more drama than anybody wants, I went home.

Emmy was able to come home shortly after, and what a day that was! When we got home, Tom had us all surround the baby, give a prayer of thanksgiving that we were both OK, and sing the Doxology together.

Emmy practices her favorite word, "No!" at the household paparazzi.

Two years later, Emmy is a tall for her age (not sure where that came from), thin for her age 2-year-old with a fun and silly sense of humor. There’s a party tonight with 15 loved ones here. We have Aunt Kris who came all the way from Oklahoma, Sam and Laura flew in from Colorado, Mary got here a week ago, and Charlie will be heading out to our house for the cook-out as well. All seven kids will be here, plus all six of Lisa’s family. I think counting Jon, Will, Emmy, me and Tom, that makes 15.

God knew we needed Emily in our family, especially now. She has brought so much love, so many smiles and laughs and so much joy, that words could never do justice to describe it. She sings her “Daddy” song regularly. (The lyrics are, Daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy DADDY, daddy, daddy..” all sung in an up and down sing-song voice.) I’m so thankful I have been able to spend time with her, pretty much 24/7 the last two years. She is entering the “no!” stage, and she keeps me on my toes. Next up: potty training!

I’d like to give all glory to God for preserving her life and mine, and for giving us two years of joy with our little Moppet (as Sam calls her.) The first phrase I always taught my babies was this: “I’m…a…blessing!” Emmy greeted me this morning with those words as I got her dressed and we were talking about the party to come. She is a blessing indeed.