I love how Carla owns being an older mom, even though she’s not that old by today’s standards!
Her story shows us what can happen when we embrace the unexpected. She’s real about all the feelings, struggles, and joys that come along with a surprise pregnancy later in life.
I bet many of us can see ourselves in some of the doubts and fears Carla expresses about motherhood. You’ll want to read to the end for some really sage advice from this mom who’s been around the block. I think she’s pretty amazing.
Thank you, Carla, for sharing your story!
Check out the rest of the Mom Triumphs series for more inspirational stories of how real moms have overcome serious challenges.
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Tell us a little about you. Where are you from? What do you like to do? What is your family like?
I’m Carla, a middle aged mom. Might as well get that out of the way up front and admit that yes, I have been asked if I’m my youngest daughter’s grandmother. My three daughters are 23, 21, and 9.
I’m a Midwesterner, through and through. When you grow up somewhere and raise your children there, it kind of becomes part of who you are.
My husband, Richard, and I are teachers at an alternative high school. In his “real life,” he’s a bass player and I love to watch him play music. As a family, we spend a lot of time outside, riding bikes, hiking, and puttering around our yard.
What is a major challenge you’ve experienced during your time as a mom?
My biggest mom challenge was my surprise pregnancy at age 42, something I was completely unprepared for. I had just come through a divorce after a 20-year marriage, and my older daughters were 11 and 13, vulnerable ages for such big life changes.
It had taken me until my girls were around the ages of 4 and 6 before I quit feeling like I’d made a big mistake having children. I’d spent my 20’s pretty sure I was never going to have kids, and when I did, I felt ill equipped to do all the mom things. My best friend actually had to explain to me what onesies were for!
I also saw other moms who seemed to be completely fulfilled by motherhood and I felt like there was something wrong with me that I wasn’t. I now know I just hadn’t found my mom groove yet, but at the time, I was sure I never would.
What were your thoughts when you first encountered this challenge?
When I first saw the positive sign on my pregnancy test, I was by myself and I said out loud, “Please, this can not be true.”
But it was.
I had struggled so much adjusting to motherhood when I had thought I was ready. I wondered how in the world I would manage doing it again when I wasn’t prepared.
I called my best friend, thinking I could talk to her about it, but I couldn’t say the words because it felt like that would make it true and I wasn’t ready for reality.
I couldn’t even bring myself to tell Richard until the next day. And one of the great regrets of my life is how I handled that moment. He didn’t have any children from his previous marriage, so he was thrilled with the news that he was going to be a father. I, however, started crying as soon as the words were out.
How did you figure out what approach to take in facing your challenge? Did your approach change over time?
The first part of my approach to my new life story was working on acceptance. The first step in this was sharing the news and that started with my older girls. I had a fear induced breakdown in the car on my way to tell them. Richard had to pull the car over while I sobbed, almost hyperventilating from the fear of their reaction.
The first words from my oldest daughter when I told her was, “I don’t want a baby.”
The first words from my dad? “I thought you were smarter than that.”
But they came around. In fact, my dad called me the next day and asked, “Your mom and I woke up so excited today. Did we really hear that?”
What helped you during times you were struggling? Did you have any support?
As I expanded the people I told about my pregnancy, I began to approach it with a better perspective. In fact, within a few weeks I managed to move from acceptance to excitement.
This came from a lot of encouragement and support from my mom friends. Without them, I’m not sure I would have been able to shift my mindset so quickly. They helped me realize that embracing the change was really my only option.
It also really helped that my husband was so thrilled. I was able to watch him treasure his journey to fatherhood and be completely involved and supportive.
How do you take care of yourself?
Honestly, starting my blog and channeling my journey to feeling like a “good mom” has given me an outlet I never expected.
Also, going out with my husband to watch him play music gives me a reminder of our lives separate from being parents. It helps us reconnect when we need it and music is always good for the soul.
Did this challenge affect others in your family? How did you balance addressing their needs and your own?
Whenever life changes directions abruptly for us, so many people around us are affected. It was tough at first to help my older girls make the adjustment, and I wondered when I would have time to deeply process it all. I sometimes still question if I truly have.
How are things today versus when first encountered this challenge?
At this point, my older girls are out of the house and it’s just our little family of three living our daily lives. I do a lot more things like buy slime supplies and go to 3rd grade basketball games than I’d ever expected to be doing at age 52.
And I still haven’t figured out the whole “they keep you young” phrase. I know I’m doing things I never would have if I wasn’t a mom of an elementary age girl. I also know when she asked me to help with a knot in her shoe last week, I heard myself say, “Can you sit on the bed so I don’t have to lean over so far?” Spoken like a true older mom!
What advice would you give other moms going through something similar?
The one thing I would tell a woman with an unexpected pregnancy at an older age is that the early years will be tougher than they were when you were younger, so line up your supports.
But I’d also want her to know that everything you learned from your earlier experiences in motherhood will serve you well, and you’ll know how to focus on what really matters. It’s easier to let some of those things go that aren’t worth worrying about.
Are there any helpful resources you would recommend?
At one end of the spectrum are those personal resources–the friends and family you know will always have your best interest at heart and will support and guide you. Start with those because you need personal relationships to get you through these unexpected times.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are professionals you may need to call on if things are especially complicated. Now is not the time to be too prideful for a counselor or other professional to help you through.
In between are books, blogs, and other places you can go for information on what you’re facing. But vet them carefully. If you read something that seems like good advice to you, see if you can verify it with a trusted source before you dive into something that isn’t actually helpful in the long run.
What’s your superpower as a mom?
I can raise strong girls like nobody’s business. Both my older girls have studied in Spain, my oldest is attending an Ivy League law school, and my middle daughter serves her community in so many ways I can’t even list them all.
My youngest is already working to create places online to help girls develop their self esteem and believe in themselves. She’s only nine so I can only imagine how far she’ll go with her older sisters as examples.
What have you learned or gained from this experience?
The most important thing I’ve learned with my late-in-life child is that I’m a really good mom. When my older girls were her age, I would have laughed at anyone who tried to tell me that.
But being able to use what I’ve learned from parenting with another child at this point in life has taught me that we moms are so much better than we know. We don’t realize we have what I like to call our “Motherhood Zone of Genius.” We often don’t discover it until we look back on our years of raising our families and can see how we parented our children in ways that were perfect for them.
So I want moms to learn to believe in themselves earlier than I did. They, and their kids, will have so much more joy and happiness if they relax into their motherhood experiences instead of worrying so much about what they think they “should” be doing or feeling.
Carla Burgess, The Older Mom, had a baby in her 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. Her blog, www.theoldermom.com, offers resources to help moms manage motherhood, find themselves, and keep their lives together. She can also be found on YouTube and on Instagram and Facebook @theoldermom.