Monday, October 15, 2012

Mid-life reflections

A few months ago, one of my friends pointed out to me that I'm middle-aged.  I was approaching my 35th birthday and he suggested that based on the average life expectancy for women, I was officially entering the the half-way point of my life.  I blew him off, figuring that he was trying to get me spun up about my impending birthday.  I never really stopped to consider what "middle-aged" really was.  I had heard of mid-life crises, but I always associated that with people in their late 40s and early 50s, when their kids are moving out of the house and they're possibly re-evaluating their career, spouse, etc.  But as I thought about it today, for most people 50 years old is not the middle of their life - most of us won't hit 100.  I never seriously thought about my mid or late 30s as the middle of my aging process, but I guess statistically speaking, it is.

I've loved being in my 30s.  I was glad to kiss goodbye to my 20s.  Good riddance.  They weren't an wholly awful time, but as I transitioned into my 30s I finally felt comfortable in my own skin.  I was happy.  I felt confident and excited.  I felt like a lot of drama, self-doubt and confusion got left behind when I turned 30.  I still didn't have all the answers to the game of life, but I was feeling settled.  Hopeful.  The idea of aging and moving in to my 40s and beyond still doens't bother me much.  Yes, I notice more wrinkles around my eyes every few weeks.  There are a few more gray hairs that get colored every month.  I have a right knee that causes me discomfort if I sit too long.  But I've been lucky to know people that have lived to an ripe old age and they still had energy, humor, curiosity, and and overall enthusiasm for life.  That's how I aspire to live however many years I have left.  

All this age stuff came up this morning as I was composing an email to a friend back in MN.  She had asked how I was doing.  She asked (without actually asking) how the fertility stuff was going.  [Answer: No success.  Feel confident, dear reader, that I would eventually post something about being pregnant if that were to occur.]  As I wrote her about the schedule for the potential next treatment, I realized that if that treatment were successful, I would be 36 when the baby was born.  36.  I sat and stared at that number for a few minutes and it is the first and only time in this decade of my life that I can honestly say that I felt old.  Not old in a "I do not understand why young women dress like that" way, but in a "My human body is reaching an expiration point" way.  I'm not discussing my mortality - instead I mean facing the fact that my ability to produce an egg every month is rapidly coming to an end.  It's weird to think of your body being too old to do something anymore.  But that's the truth, isn't it?  Our bodies don't last forever - systems start to break down, or in the case of  menstrual cycles, cease to exist entirely.

The idea of being a 36-year-old mommy also made me feel old.  I would be 40 when that Imaginary Kid would be four.  Do I want to be 40 years old chasing around a four year old?  My sister's oldest son is four.  He is bundle of energy and emotions and keeping up with him is exhausting.  Thrilling, but exhausting.  I'd be 50 years old when my kid entered high school.  You think a parent in their late 30s is out-of-touch with their teenagers?  I would be 50.  I would be 33 years removed from high school when Imaginary Kid went to his/her first homecoming game.  I remember when I was in 6th grade one of the girls in my class had a mom who was in her late 40s and a dad who was in his early 60s.  I remember thinking how incredibly weird that was.  They were so much older than everyone else's parents.  What kind of people have kids when they're old like that?  I'm not sure I want to be that weird "old" parent.  Yes, there are many more people waiting until their mid to late 30s to have kids now than there were in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Imaginary Kid probably wouldn't be the only kid in school whose parents were old.  But I still consider old parents as the exception rather than the rule. 

So here I am, sitting at mid-life, trying to figure out when to bail out on this baby-making-pursuit.  It's not exactly a mid-life crisis, but it's still a big question that I don't have a good answer to.