Scarlet Letters

If you have actually seen MomBrain in the flesh, then you know I am not one of those extremely cool 20-something dude-moms snowboarding with her kids and sporting a nose stud. Alas, I am not nearly that young, hip, or energetic. Also snowboarders scare me.

What I am is most kindly — or at least euphemistically — worded by the big red words on the chart my OB carried into each appointment with me while I was pregnant: Advanced Maternal Age. Those big red words still feel like a hot embarrassment, my very own scarlet letters, as if I had sinned by getting pregnant when a smart woman my age would be helping her teenagers with their college applications. But in fact, my pregnancy was a triumph, my own personal miracle. After eight years of failed infertility treatments, I had somehow become pregnant the old fashioned way — despite the many reasons my body couldn’t get pregnant, and despite my “advanced maternal age.” It was mind-blowing, like waking up one morning and speaking fluent French when I’d never uttered so much as an ooh la la.

That force of nature was so much bigger and more powerful than me. So it’s hard not to believe in destiny, that I was fated to be the older mother of a single child. Does it make me ungrateful that I question it? That I still mourn for the second child I never had, the child that destiny never intended for me? All these years later, I still have trouble looking at the empty fourth chair at dinner; sitting in an awkward threesome at a square restaurant table; looking in the rearview mirror at my son, alone in the too-wide back seat. My family is not complete. And yet it is.