You are so happy! You see the finish line before you and are racing toward new older motherhood with joy and trepidation. However, you haven't thought out the rest of this journey. In fact, I'll bet that you haven't thought much past the blessed event.
Whether you are marrying into a family with children, adopting, fostering, having children through a surrogate, undergoing natural childbirth or IVF, or becoming a guardian, the end result may be the same.
Here are nine tips for planning in advance:
1. Shore up your support team -- whether it is friends, family, a therapist or support group. You are about to embark on the ride of your life. Having cheerleaders around you cannot hurt.
2. Consider the toll this will take on your finances. No matter which way you pursue midlife motherhood, you need to think about the possible short-term ramifications. You are about to enter a foreign territory. Have a contingency plan in place in the event that: you stay home from work longer than anticipated, you have physical complications, or your child/children have unforeseen emotional, physical or psychological issues.
Your plans for retirement will, most likely, need to be adjusted. Unless you've stored a bundle of money away, you will need to keep working long after you may have anticipated. Think college and you'll understand. Share your intentions with your financial analyst/accountant/stock broker well in advance of embarking on the final stretch.
If you have not already done so, create (or change) your will. There's no better time than now. None of us knows what the future will bring.
3. No matter what age you are over 40, you are probably about to undergo hormonal changes. This can range from common hot flashes and insomnia, to more serious physical and emotional issues. This will definitively impact your mothering experience. You may have hot flashes and physcial ailments while you are raising an infant or young child. You may become overly anxious or depressed for the first time in your life, not related to embarking on new motherhood (although this can also cause emotional issues). Become familiar with the potential possibilities and some remedies for them.
4. Make peace with the fact that for the remainder of your life you will be faced with an overwhelming number of other mothers who are somewhat to significantly younger than you are. This can create generational differences in perception, approach and outlook. You may be called "Grandma" when you are still the mother. Have a quippy response prepared to combat the comments you may receive, and that includes the comments from your own children and their friends.
Check your biases at the door. You will need to get along with the mothers of your children's friends.
5. If you are lucky enough to give birth to your child/children, you will undergo one set of issues. If you have chosen another path to motherhood (adoption/fostering, guardianship), your child may not look (or act) like you, especially if you've decided on a transracial adoption, or the fostering of older children. Know that people will knowingly or unknowingly say stupid things. Approach this with humor -- your children will be watching your every move and response. Your aim should be to convey an attitude of tolerance and love for all, even when you are angry, humiliated or shamed by others.
6. Know that this time in your life may bring many personal and professional changes, especially around the "50" mark. The "reinvention" that your contemporaries are facing, brought on by an empty nest syndrome, a midlife crisis or anything in between, may cause a rift, or foster alienation between you. Prepare for this possibility. Your "reinvention" is new older motherhood. If you are the only new midlife mother you know (or one of the few), note that others may not understand the turmoil/excitement/changes this new life has brought you.
7. Traditional family life (a la Leave It to Beaver) is no longer here, especially if your own parents are no longer alive or very ill. The model and importance of having an extended family will, in many cases, no longer be at your disposal. The coveted and beloved grandparents may not be available. Consider how you can create your own "family" in ways that support your life choices and the lives of your children.
8. Know that even in the best circumstances, you may not be able to secure enough medical or psychological information about your child/children's family. Without accurate information, you may be unprepared for issues which will surely arise. Consider utilizing whatever methods you need to obtain this information. If it is not possible, have a team of support services around you so that you can seek help easily.
9. You are not alone. While you may not see other new older mothers in your neighborhood or community, they are readily available online. Support groups exist for every form of motherhood. Find comfort and camaraderie on any number of sites. Form your own support group either online, through organizations like Meetup, or in person. Place flyers in your local library, daycare centers, etc. If you are strong enough to embark on new older mothering, you can easily create a network around you.
Although you may not know this yet, your struggles in getting here are not unique, just challenging and different from the experiences of many of our younger "sisters." But, if your heart desires to become a (new, repeat, last time) mother at this stage of your life, go for it. It can be the most rewarding thing you'll ever do.