When motherhood comes late

Colleen Elisabeth Chao is an editor and author. She enjoys dark-dark chocolate, side-splitting laughter, and half-read books piled bedside. She makes her home near Boise, Idaho, with her husband Eddie, their son Jeremy, and Willow the dog. 




When motherhood comes late

When motherhood comes late

When motherhood comes late

[When I wrote this over three years ago, I knew of only one other “older mom” of younger kids. I was in uncharted waters. Since then, I’ve met many more women in this same boat. If you’re feeling at all “late” or “laughable,” I hope this will encourage you….]

September 2013

From four years old on, I dreamed of nothing less than growing up to marry and have kids.

But the fact is, I got started late—at least according to my preconceived ideas and biological clock. And due to some ongoing health issues, I’m not able to bear more children.

But God gave me a son.

After years of wondering whether I’d ever get to be a mom, I experienced the glory and pain of pregnancy, and then in one miraculous moment, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy whose name means, Appointed by God. Exalted by God.

It was as if someone handed me the sun, moon, and stars when they lifted Jeremy from my womb and into my arms. I was forever changed.

To be sure, though, it’s different starting a family at age 35. Friends my age have multiple kids much older than my two-year-old. I’m knee-deep in diapers, ABC’s, and 5:00-AM wake-up calls, while they’re navigating karate lessons, homework, and the early teen years.

I’ll admit, sometimes I even feel a little dumb. I walk into a mom’s group as a 37-year-old with one toddler, and the 28-year-old next to me has twin babies strapped to her chest, a 3-year-old tugging at her pants, and a 5-year-old dancing circles around her.

When moms exchange stories and advice, I keep silent. What could I possibly contribute to the experts’ conversation? I’m light years behind, and I know it.

Even simple math can intimidate me: when Jeremy is 15 years old, I’ll be 50. When he’s 25, I’ll be 60. That’s weird.

Or maybe it’s just weird because I’m looking around me to define normal. It’s weird because I spent over two decades of my life dreaming of an entirely different reality. And it’s weird because I’m shortsighted and I forget to “set my mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

I’ve been entrusted with the care and nurture of an eternal soul, so my work as a mother must be eternally minded. God wanted me to be Jeremy’s mother, and He wants the story He’s written in my life to be part of Jeremy’s spiritual heritage. My long wait for marriage and motherhood is integral to His good plan for my son. In the end, my motherhood won’t be evaluated by my age, number of children, or how I compared to others. It will be evaluated by my faith in God, by what I did with what He gave me.

That looks so different for each of us, doesn’t it?

The more I’ve rubbed shoulders with a diversity of women, the more I’ve come to realize that regardless of age, stage, or number of children, most moms feel like I do: a bit of a misfit, trusting God through unique challenges, and sometimes feeling isolated by the nonstop needs of parenting. It’s in our human nature to think that no one else could ever understand our particular set of circumstances or the unseen pressures we navigate each day.

But what makes us unique can also bind us together. I can learn from the mom twelve years my junior. I need the input of my wise single friends. I seek practical advice from the older woman who raised an only child. I listen intently to the dear friend who mothers a special needs child—and to the one who grieves her ongoing infertility.

And at the end of the day, it’s just me and my husband on our knees before God, seeking His heart for our little man, asking for the wisdom He promises to give us.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Centuries ago, God took a husband and wife whose bodies “were as good as dead” and gave them a son. It was an impossible, laughable set of circumstances—so much so that the old husband and wife named their newborn “Isaac,” which means he laughs. When that miracle son had a son himself, and that son gave birth to more sons, and they in turn became “many and mighty,” God said to them:

Listen to me…. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him. For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.

I wasn’t old like Sarah when I gave birth to my son, but I still have pangs of grief over what could have been (those three or four older kids I would have had by now). Yet I feel the weight of God’s glory in this altered reality. Motherhood isn’t an arrival—it’s another way I get to worship God. The God who knows best. The God who gathers me up in His arms and gently whispers,

“I am never late. I am never wrong.”

Scriptures referenced: Colossians 3:2; Genesis 21; Romans 4:16-25; Exodus 1:1-8; Isaiah 51:1-3

Photo credit: Karen Race McCutcheon Photography. Lorelei Conover Photography.