At the ripe old age of 35, I am, to the medical community, of “advanced maternal age.” At my first OB appointment, my doctor warned me that I may hear the term “geriatric pregnancy” every once in a while. I think I sprouted a few gray hairs just in that one appointment.
We have about eleven weeks left in this pregnancy—closer to nine if this baby is on a similar timetable as our first child. I don’t know if it has to do with my geriatric condition or not, but this pregnancy has been quite dramatic, to say the least. From our first ultrasound, flags ranging from pink to red have popped up, alerting doctors of possible chromosomal abnormalities, to include Down syndrome. I’ve cried leaving appointments and phone calls with doctors, and I’ve counted literal minutes on the clock waiting for test results to return. I’ve prayed, pleaded, and prepared, doing my best to readily accept the outcome of any test, whatever it may be.
A few weeks ago, a friend I’m loosely connected with reached out to offer support and understanding as we awaited an answer regarding whether or not our child has Down syndrome. Almost four years ago, her son was born with Down’s and so she, more than most, could empathize with what my husband and I were experiencing. Her son is bright, funny, adorable—and he has completely changed the trajectory of her life. Now she works at a Down syndrome achievement center and is a prominent voice within the Down syndrome community. She can’t imagine her life looking any different.
As I watch her interact with her son, I can’t help but feel guilty for praying that my child turn out differently than hers. Sure, something like Down syndrome presents a particular set of challenges that I don’t wish for my child to experience, but if it’s not an extra chromosome they’re faced with, there will be something else. I suppose the tension I’m feeling is that I want to protect my child from all difficulty, heartache, and pain (because of course I do!), but I don’t get to choose all of the obstacles they’ll encounter. Because there will be obstacles—so very many of them. It’s easy for me to pray and plead that they enter the world physically “perfect,” but even having the standard number of chromosomes can’t save them from hardship.
I pray for health and wholeness over this baby but, if I’m honest, I think my real ask is that they are safe—bubble wrap safe—from pain and difficulty for a lifetime. I know this is both wildly unrealistic (my oldest is currently getting her molars, so I get it) and totally unhealthy of me.
Hardship will shape and grow my child more than any hope or lecture of mine ever could.
I still remember one of the first times my heart was broken; I cried on the couch next to my mom. “I wish,” she said earnestly, “I could protect you from this pain.” It sounded crazy to me back then because I knew the alternative to my heartbreak would be a life lived sheltered and secluded. Even in the midst of my heartache, I knew I wouldn’t have chosen seclusion instead.
Now, however, it’s my kids that are vulnerable to pain and suffering. Suddenly, seclusion sounds like an increasingly attractive option—for me, at least. But for them? I’m guessing that they, like their young mom, would choose to live a vulnerable, unsheltered, messy, and abundant life. It’s not the tame ride that will help this momma sleep soundly at night, but it’s the ride that will make this momma’s heart so proud.
I don’t know what all is in store for this sweet baby of a geriatric and ambivalent mom, but I know it will be a bumpy, exciting, difficult, and glorious life. Whatever the count of their chromosomes and the shape of their eyes, I will love them with all that I have. Let’s be honest, I’ll probably offer to wrap them in bubble wrap and seclusion every once in a while, but my prayer is that both God and ice cream feel near with every obstacle they face. May it be so.
Mallory Redmond embraces anomalies–she is an adventure-loving homebody who keeps a clean house yet always makes a mess while eating or brushing her teeth. She loves dry humor, clean sheets, and gathering around the table with friends. Mallory and her husband, Darren, live in Ohio with their beagle, Roger, and daughter, Evelyn. You can follow her writing here, where her stories are told with the hope of further uncovering the places of connection in our humanity.