Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Better with (R)Age

A few words of advice: If you wake one day to discover that you are a published author, that your finely wrought prose is being heralded throughout cyberspace, just gloat about it on Facebook and leave it at that. You waxed poetic about mucus plugs and someone out there actually liked it enough to foist it on the rest of humanity. Super. You're the William Faulkner of gyno lit.

Just don't read the comments.

A few weeks ago, one of my posts (a slightly altered version of "Pumps, Dumps, and Baby Bumps") was picked up by a news outlet and shared on their website dedicated to family topics (check it out here). Hot damn! I felt like a million bucks -- minus any actual bucks because no one paid me.

In the introduction to my post, I explain that I was an older first-time mom; Pork Chop was born just shy of my 37th birthday. From there, I went on to do what I do best: complain about stuff while also describing the output of our various body holes. It was a pretty light-hearted piece, peppered with equally light-hearted vagina references. Typical stuff.

In the post, I grumbled about alcohol-adulterated breast milk and "push presents," but steered clear of the big no-no topics: politics, religion, and TV spoilers. "Everyone's gonna love me! I'll finally be cool and popular," I thought to myself. So I gobbled up the comments on the post, soaking in every effusive "LOL!"

Yeah, there was that one dude who referred to me as a "typical American broad" bent on divorcing my husband and taking his "house, boat, train, [and] plane" for myself, but he was, obviously, way off base. I have no interest in the train; it takes up too many parking spaces.

Then, way down at the bottom of the comment thread, I spotted it. A comment that actually made my breath catch in my throat. To paraphrase: "We had all 3 of our kids by the time I was 32. How dare you endanger the life of your baby by waiting until you were middle aged to become a mom?"

I don't remember the hour or so after I read that comment, but when I came to, an empty bag of Tostitos lay on the bed, my face was slimy with wrinkle cream, and I'd composed a lengthy list of synonyms for both "heartless" and "super twat" in my dream journal.

Every middle-aged, baby-endangering fiber of my being wanted to respond to this woman, this mom, to explain to her that I hadn't married until I was 35; to tell her that my son was and is healthy; to point out that, by her logic, my child would have been better off never having been born than to have been born to a 37-year-old biddy like me. But that emotionally constipated crab bag didn't want to have a conversation about my choices. She just wanted to land the Internet equivalent of a sucker punch and then slink away. Furthermore, I don't owe some anonymous crotch snot an explanation for my procreational choices. I thought about responding. I really, violently thought about it. But the words, like my breath, seemed caught in my throat. And by the time I began processing how deeply hurt I felt, the comment was gone -- either deleted by the commenter or removed by the admin.

But, like it or not, Mrs. Mommier Than Thou got me thinking about what it means to have a child later in life. When my son reaches school age, I could end up in the PTA along with parents I used to babysit. Just when Pork Chop is hitting his teens, I'll be hitting the bottle, I mean my 50s. If my kid decides to marry one day, I might be enjoying our mother-son dance from the comfort of my Hoveround mobility scooter. And what if I have another kid? I'll need a daily Geritol infusion just to survive the sleepless nights, the demands of breastfeeding, and the toxically stupid judgment of self-righteous Internet thunder dumps.

Haha! Where did this baby come from and where did my walker go?

Yet, given the chance to go back 10 years, to have my son while I was still in my 20s, I wouldn't. Simply put, I am more equipped to be a parent now than I was back then. And here, for the benefit of that anonymous oozy wound of a human, is why:

  1. I'm healthier now than I was 10 years ago. In 2004, I was smack dab in the middle of graduate school and, as luck would have it, also smack dab in the middle of a health crisis. The migraines I'd suffered off and on since early childhood had finally decided to make a full-time commitment. What had been an every-few-months inconvenience became an almost daily descent into excruciating pain. Doctors took my blood, shot me full of Botox, scanned my brain, sent me to physical therapy, suggested I have heart surgery, put me on a chicken and rice diet, prescribed a junkie's worth of medication, and then sent me the $10,000 bill. And yet the pain persisted. I didn't so much have a "come to Jesus" moment as I had a "bring it on, Jesus" moment -- I begged God either to heal me or to just give me a stroke and get it over with. Long story short: While I am not healed, per se, I am in a significantly better place, but getting to that place has taken years. I can't imagine trying to mother a houseplant, let alone a newborn, while I was in my old, sickly state. My breast milk would have been equal parts nutrient and narcotic. I would have had to slur my way through "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." By comparison, nowadays, I feel like a damn Amazon. Put some coffee in me and I can change a loaded diaper while doing the Hokey Pokey (true story). 
  2. I'm more financially secure than I was 10 years ago. Quaint though it sounds to pop out a baby while one is in graduate school and/or employed at a soon-to-be dot-com bust company, I prefer my present circumstances. In my 20s, I paid my dues -- taking classes, working at low-paying jobs, sometimes putting in 50- or 60-hour work weeks. Had my son arrived back then, I would have been forced to choose between finding daycare on my measly budget or quitting my job outright. But because Pork Chop didn't explode onto the scene (a birth metaphor I promise never to use again) until I was in my 30s, I had more money and more experience under my belt. Not that I keep money under my belt. I'm an editor, not a stripper. But some of the experience may be under my belt. Wink wink. My point being, of course, that I had the means to choose a really fabulous daycare for my son when I decided to go back to work full time. And when our family moved from Maryland to Virginia, my employer valued me enough to agree to a new, more family- and distance-friendly work arrangement: I telecommute part time. For my family, this is the best of all worlds: I have enough money to pay for part-time daycare, I can continue to work and keep my skills and resumé up to date, and I get to spend more time watching my son just be my son (i.e., throw metal kitchen utensils on our new hardwood floor and then cry when he trips over the garlic press).
  3. I like myself more than I did 10 years ago. In my mid and late 20s, my bod was a rock. A ROCK, I tell you. Washboard abs, sweet guns, a butt so fine my friends dubbed it "the glory." Now I have a frowny face where my belly button used to be, and "the glory" is looking pretty faded. But it's all good. No matter how many hours I spent on the treadmill, I always felt miles away from perfect. At some point in the last decade, I gave up on my dream of becoming the world's first short, pale, pear-shaped Victoria's Secret model and instead focused on what I love: my family, my writing, my career. And wouldn't ya know it? My ass got a lot squishier but my self-esteem grew some impressive muscles. In my 20s, I wouldn't have been prepared for the horrors that pregnancy and motherhood visit upon the body. And in the long, hard newborn nights, self-loathing is a miserable bedfellow. Yes, I'm softer. Yes, I wish my boobs would reanimate. But what I want more than a nice rack is to show my son that there is worth in pursuing what you love and in loving yourself for having the courage to pursue it.
  4. I still had a lot of dumb in me 10 years ago. Nowadays, I relish a date night with my husband or a night out with some friends. Give me a babysitter and a designated driver, and I'll show you a woman who knows how to throw down at a moderately fancy neighborhood restaurant. "Another glass of sangria with your tapas, ma'am?" Hell-to-the-yes (on the third Wednesday of every month)! But a decade ago, I'd be more apt to wile away an evening or seven in a bar called The Community Inn, where Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup was proudly featured on the menu and where I could sidle up to a drunken moonshiner named Dead Eye who carefully explained, while poking a finger into my boobs, that I  was a "squirrel with a small brain" who should "run far, far away!" Hypothetically speaking. What I'm saying is that I didn't always make sound choices in my 20s. I sometimes (often) put adventure before personal safety. And though I occasionally pine for the days of, hypothetically speaking, chatting up colorful would-be murderers, I know that I need to be there for my son. This means skipping a lot of late-night booze-a-thons, putting money into a college savings plan rather than into a pair of knee-high sexy frontier girl boots, and not eating cookies for breakfast (within view of my kid).
  5. I hadn't met my husband 10 years ago. I couldn't have given birth to my son without Shelby. Literally. I'm pretty boss, but I haven't quite mastered the art of spontaneously generating another human. When Shelby and I finally locked eyes across a crowded online dating site, I just knew. If it weren't for a dearth of available flights, we would have eloped to Vegas on our second date. But because the airlines conspired against us, we went a more traditional rout: engaged within 9 months, married 9 months after that, and pregnant 9 months into our newlywed bliss. It's not just that Shelby is an amazing dad -- the kind of dad who hogged time wearing Pork Chop in the Bjorn, who made pint after pint of baby food from scratch, who was more distraught than our son during vaccinations -- it's also that Pork Chop just wouldn't be Pork Chop without that 50% dose of Shelby genes. Our son loves to take things apart, to carefully inspect the pieces, and to make surprisingly good attempts at putting it all back together. That's pure engineer DNA. The boy is wildly independent, a bit easily frustrated, but always ready to tackle a new adventure, be it scaling a baby gate or fitting a golf ball into his mouth. That, albeit terrifying, spirit of adventure is pure Shelby. And, just like his dad, my kid makes me laugh every single day. Was waiting a decade for this family, the one I have right now, worth it? You bet your big, stupid ass-face it was, lady.

59 comments:

  1. Love you just the way you are! Thanks for the rant.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Okay. Now that I said that, I have actually been in an internal war with myself about comments so I know how you feel...debating about whether or not to turn them off on my site, trying desperately not to read them when I get something published on the bigger sites. I know those negative comments shouldn't bother me but I am a sensitive soul and one bad or just plain not "you're the greatest thing in the world" comment can throw me off for days. I just virtually punched that judgy woman in the groin for you. I had all three of my kids before the age of 32 too and let me tell you, it's no better for them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, lady, I am right there with you. I don't know what's worse: feeling bad when I get a mean comment or how pathetically good I feel when someone says something nice. Thank you for the virtual groin punch. She totally deserved it.

      Delete
  3. Mike Cruse from PapaDoesPreach.comJuly 30, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    I want to make some silly comment here, as we share a very similar brand of comedy, but instead, to shall rather show my affection for you by saying, you're awesome! You're a great writer, a better person, but far and away you are a great mom to your Pork Chop (I love that name b-t-dub), and let no anonymous troll ever make you feel otherwise. Tell that keyboard failure at life to Keep on truckin'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! "Keyboard failure." That is just the right kind of ridiculous. Thanks, Mike. You know I think you're the Grand Poobah of dad bloggers.

      Delete
  4. She is a big, dumb ass face. Those commenters are everywhere. I stopped reading my Scary Mommy comments after I encountered the first of what I can only assume were many negative comments (which, surprisingly, didn't appear as soon as I'd expected; I used to write for Yahoo, and wowsas are those readers both crazy and merciless, so I learned long ago that Mr. and Mrs. Bitchface McGee are ready to pounce at the sight of your first word). Just FYI, I think you're hilariously entertaining, even if you did endanger your child's life by waiting until you were an old hag to cook him up in your cavernously web-infested uterus (I jest! I jest!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh snap! Now I'm super sad that I waited so long to read the comments on THIS post (because I am a big puss). So many days have passed without my having heard the phrase "cavernously web-infested uterus." I had no idea what I was missing. (And thank you!)

      Delete
  5. I saw the comment. I was appalled (and you know me, not much appalls me!) that someone would hate their own situation so much that they would dispense half-baked medical advice to a stranger. Everyone knows that you aren't middle-aged until you are 38.

    And twunt is a personal favorite of mine. Feel free to use it as needed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And you win at comments. Twunt. You are the foulest of the foul, and you know I love it.

      Delete
  6. Isn't that just like a typical American broad. WHAT DID YOU DO WITH MY TRAIN???? Seriously, dear, this is pitch perfect. I find that often when people criticize my choices, it's almost entirely about them, not me. Maybe homegirl was sitting home with 3 whining kids hanging off of her, wishing she'd taken more time to develop a life plan for herself because she'd like to spend a little time each day not wiping butts. Easier to be angry at you for daring to be happy for your choices. Asshattery most foul.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kathleen. I knew you'd have my back. Your train is in the mail.

      Delete
  7. Baby, I'm so proud of you.

    You spelled judgment right.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What is it with those "emotionally constipated crab bags" anyhow? (I'm totally adding that to my regular rotation.)

    I adore you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I adore you. The Crab Bag is the name of an actual restaurant on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The minute I saw the sign, I knew I would use those words for nefarious purposes.

      Delete
  9. Um, later in life? I refuse to accept this definition! I was once asked by a lunatic E.R. doctor "why I had waited so long to have a child" because "it was pertinent to assessing my mental health." I was 36. 36! At first, I thought he was joking. When I realized he was serious, I stared at my husband, wondering if I was about to wake up from a nightmare. He was insane. Women have children in their mid to late 30s ALL THE TIME. Anyway, people are crazy, is my point, if I have one. And nasty commenters must be dreadfully unhappy crazy people. She wanted to feel superior in some way, to out-mommy the mothers who wait or happen to have kids later. It's a really odd thing, this trying to feel better about yourself by tearing someone else down. At least you get the last word, and a finely polished one at that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What the mothereffing hell? Your doc asked why you "waited so long"? That's grounds for a nut punch right there (or a vulvar swat, if she was one of those lady docs). Well, Leslie, I guess we're just a couple of old, mentally unstable, baby procrastinators. Thanks for backing me up!

      Delete
  10. I love this and you. I'm ready to lead the gang of foul bitches to go take that woman down ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It wouldn't be a gang of foul bitches without you, red. And you know I say that with love.

      Delete
  11. Mean people suck. Loved your rebuttal (not that such a rude, judgy comment deserved one).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Holly. Indeed, meanies suck. But it did feel cathartic calling her a "thunder dump."

      Delete
  12. Wow. As a 30 year old woman who is successful in her career, has fulfilling relationships in her life except for a boyfriend (and she's *gasp* not married yet), your post has given me so much hope for my future. I do want to marry and have two kids, and you have reminded me -- at 30, it's not too late.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A 30, I had just finished grad school, called off an engagement to my long-time boyfriend, moved back home, and taken an entry-level job at a publishing company. If you are happy right now, sans-baby, sans-boyfriend, then booyah! You are winning at life. Getting married and having kids won't make you feel fulfilled if you aren't already doing your part to pursue what you love. Keep kicking booty, young 'un!

      Delete
  13. Ah, Dead Eye. At (just shy of 35), I'm only now starting to function as an actual adult (barely) by doing things like buying the SECOND cheapest toilet paper and doing awkward yoga. But you, my dearest love, are an amazing adult I want to be like when I grow up. Plus, you had a lot of practice mothering yours truly. Let's hope that eejit raises those three kids she had prior to age 32 to be as kind, compassionate, curious, and all-around awesome as you are raising your son to be. And if you need to tp a house or something, you know who to call. And it ain't Ghostbusters!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are my special lady, Mer, and I mean that despite how creepy it sounds. I knew you'd appreciate Dead Eye. And, for the record, you are the grown up I'd want to be if I weren't so busy being unshowered, tired, and covered in baby snot.

      Delete
  14. First of all, NEVER read the comments. People are a-holes. Own your choices. It's what makes Pork Chop your perfect bundle.

    I'm 34 and have never wanted kids, but so many of my friends are just starting to talk about it. I think it's great they've waited. They have btter jobs, they've seen the world and they've enjoyed each other.

    I say you're doing it right....and screw what everyone else thinks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I knew if anyone could appreciate my shitty comment anger spiral, it would be you. And, yeah, I feel pretty grateful that I was able to do and see so much before settling down to have my son.

      Delete
  15. WAY TO GO JESS!! I believe this post sufficiently put that bitch in a head lock and told her to go f-ck herself. The only thing I would have added, is that you have a sister with a serious anger problem and huge biceps. You make advanced maternal age look so hot sista. Love you, mean it. -Sarah

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You continue to be the only person willing to drop an eff bomb in my comments. And I love you and your bulging biceps all the more for it.

      Delete
  16. I loved post maternal age pregnancy - so many ultrasounds!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ya know, I hadn't even thought about that. But it's true! I got to hear my son's heartbeat and see him wiggling around at almost every visit. Thanks for the reminder!

      Delete
  17. She probably removed her own comment because another commenter responded to her by telling her what a dumb twat-face she is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is it wrong to hope so? Well, I hope so. Thanks for having my back!

      Delete
  18. Hahahaaha, omg I LOVE YOU! And screw twat face! You are always spot on, and I adore you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I knew Balboa would stand up for me. Thanks, lady!

      Delete
  19. Bravo Jessica. All I can say is your grandmother, my mother had me at 40 and I think I turned out pretty good. Anyone who can write such a scathing comment has some serious issues and I guess we should really feel sad for her since apparently she's not too happy in her life. Carry on diva mom---you da bomb still!!! Love you A.D.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's true. She probably does have serious issues. But I called her an "anonymous crotch snot," so I may have a few issues of my own. But you knew that. Love you!

      Delete
  20. All I have to say is, did someone not take history classes. Prior to modern birth control, woman had babies well into menopause...you know, when biologically, the body says to stop having babies...regularly. I mean, it was commonplace for woman to have babies while their youngest daughters were pregnant. Not that this is something I want to do, but when did doing what women's bodies were evolved to do become irresponsible or wrong? Ignorant, under educated, twat face.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Boom! Way to lay the historical smack down on that jerk. This is a truly great point. My grandmother had kids well into her 40s, and it wasn't because she "waited." Geez, you make me wanna go back and rewrite my intro and use lots of data to balance out the number of times I said "twat" and "thunder dump." (Thank you!)

      Delete
  21. Sounds like that Mom of 3 is a little jealous that you got to live up your single, independent, stay out late days longer than she did. I'll sit next to you at PTA and give her dirty looks and talk s* about her from the back row.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I'm gonna need someone to sit by me in PTA (probably because I'll be deaf by then and I'll need you to tell me what's going on). And, ya know, I did get to do a lot of living before I became a mom. No regrets there.

      Delete
  22. First, congratulations on having your wonderful words more all over the internet because that's big and awesome and makes me unbelievably happy. Second. WTF. I can't believe some meanass woman said that!! So so insensitive and stupid. I had my son about seven weeks before turning 41 and only once did somebody ask if I'm his grandma, and that was in Georgia. Everybody knows that only teenagers are allowed to have babies in the south.
    Bravo for writing this, Jess. You and Pork Chop are exactly as old and squishy and justright as you're supposed to be. xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It WAS insensitive and stupid, wasn't it? And 41 is the new 21. But with nicer booze. Thanks for having my back, and for saying "only teenagers are allowed to have babies in the south" -- because that was all kinds of wrong and I loved it.

      Delete
  23. This is awesome. You're a great writer.

    ReplyDelete
  24. It's your life, awesome post, and BTW I was 44 when I gave birth to perfectly healthy twins!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! And rock on, mama of twins. Having kids at any age isn't easy, nor are we ever guaranteed good health, but I'm happy to hear from so many women, like you, who have had positive experiences as "older" moms.

      Delete
  25. I was 45 when my last child was born. Sorry to say this, but I'm gonna...that commenter is just stupid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well I'm not sorry you said it. In fact, I like you better for it. Thanks!

      Delete
  26. Um, I'm calling it now: "anonymous crotch snot" is the best.insult.EVER. I heart you Jess!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ashley. Yeah, "crotch snot" was brought to you by unfettered rage and a bottle of very cheap sauvignon blanc.

      Delete
  27. Hi, a new blogger here. I didn't want to blog for a long time for the exact reason mentioned here -- some people are very mean on the internet. Fortunately, I've met more good than bad responses so far and I've come across many inspiring writers like you. Thanks for sharing this and for the advice "Just don't read the comments." That'd be hard to do but at least I'll pretend I didn't read the bad ones. :) Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  28. I love that you pepper your pointed bitchslap with perfect giggle nuggets. So much love for you!!

    ReplyDelete