Becoming an older mother is never easy---physically or emotionally---especially if there's no logical father-to-be on the horizon. Three Wishes: A True Story of Good Friends, Crushing Heartbreak, and Astonishing Luck on Our Way to Love and Motherhood (Little Brown, 2010) is an incredibly wise, witty and powerful memoir written by three brave and accomplished women who had the desire to be mothers---each one, on her own terms.
On their shared journey to becoming mothers, they forged an incredible sisterhood that speaks to the importance of friendship in women's lives and shows how empowering friends can be.
May I briefly introduce you to the authors---my new BFFs---Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones and Pam Ferdinand?
How old were you when you gave birth for the first time?----And what lessons have you learned as an older mother?
I was 41 when I gave birth to Emma, and I'm still learning the lessons of being an older mother. So far, I have found the downsides are that I definitely don't have the energy I once had in my 20s and 30s, and that my daughter will not know her great-grandparents, as I did. Nor will she likely have an extended amount of time with her grandparents and Mark and I (though we hope to stick around for a long while.) The upside is that I fully lived and worked, understand myself more now than I did as a young woman, and am having a new wonderful adventure at an unexpected stage of life. I don't take anything about motherhood or my daughter, or my relationship with Mark, for granted.
I was 41 when I had Liliana and 43 when I had Tully. I second all that Pam said: I feel tremendously lucky that I had the chance to fulfill my career dreams, which involved extensive travel and sometimes 24/7 work, before having a child. And I feel tremendously lucky to have my children and husband. My only regret is that, now that I know what being a mother is like, I risked missing it by waiting so long. If I had it to do over again, I would start trying earlier. Also, this is a little strange, but as a mother well into middle age, I'm deeply aware of my own mortality, and that helps keep me focused on how I most want to spend my time: with my children. I still work, but I'm far less likely to worship what one friend calls The Bitch Goddess of Success.
I was 41 when my son was born and all the cliches are true: I'm more tired, I have less time to take care of myself, I fear that I'll be gone before I could be a grandmother (and my body's never been the same). But, as with Pam and Carey, I lived a life before I had my son, and I'm comfortable with who I am. I have friends who had children in their 20's or younger, and they're trying to figure themselves out now, in their 40's and 50's. I feel like I might move slower than twenty years ago (I'm certain), but I'm more patient, and I'm far more settled, literally and figuratively, than I would've been if I'd had children during my first marriage or earlier. I'm very okay with how it all turned out, and for me, that's a lesson, too.
What effect have your friendships had on your desire to become a mother?
I like to think that I served as a kind of single-mother mentor for Beth and Pam, and a single-mother friend of mine named Sally had filled that role for me earlier on. It is a huge decision to become a single mother, and it helped enormously to be allowed in to the life of a woman who had already made that decision, a woman whom I deeply admired. She showed me that it was possible, and though demanding, deeply wonderful.
I always wanted to have a child. But Beth and Carey encouraged me to become a mother before it was too late and showed me it was possible even if our lives had not gone according to plan. I could see their joy as mothers, and we wanted love and happiness for each other as much as we wanted it for ourselves.
It's easier to do anything - hang-glide, ice climb, have a child alone - if you've seen someone else do it first, and seen them thrive (or merely survive, when necessary). I met Carey when her daughter was a baby, and I have many friends and family who are single mothers. I believed I could be a good mother, even if I had to go it alone. Carey was not only doing it successfully but she had the vials to make it possible for me, and offering them was a huge gift for a new friendship. Pam had introduced me to Carey, and she was on the same road as me. Knowing you're not alone is extremely powerful. I didn't end up as a single mother, but having friends who encouraged me in the direction of motherhood, by whatever means necessary, was a great motivation.
What effect has marriage and motherhood had on your close friendships?
Fortunately, second-time-around, I married a man who my friends like. Still, with a family, especially with a young child (my son is five) scheduling my life is harder, and being spontaneous - which I loved - is mostly out the window. No more driving off into the sunset alone or with a girlfriend. But my friends have always been, and will always be, an intrinsic and core part of who I am. Phil understands that, and isn't jealous of my friends and the time I spend with them (or at least I don't think he is). Motherhood has made me less available on a moment's notice, but even my single friends have confirmed that I haven't been lost to them, that I remain the same person I was for the majority of my life.
Time, of course, impacts all aspects of my life these days, including my relationships. But I try very hard to sustain close friendships from throughout my life, and not all of my close friends are married and/or mothers. (I am not married!)
With some of my women friends, marriage and/or motherhood are not and never were among the primary bonds we share; for a few, it's a source of discomfort or pain because they are still hoping to have one or both of those things, and it's been important for us to communicate openly and honestly about that. Others desire neither marriage or motherhood. And for the close women in my life who are/were married and/or mothers, it's added a new dimension to our friendships in terms of sharing experiences, understanding each other's lives, and spending time together as moms and women in committed relationships.
I've found that marriage mixes just fine with friendships; motherhood, however, is another matter! It is just so incredibly difficult to find the long blocks of time for talking and adventuring that helped build the basis for my close friendships in the before-children years. We can share outings that include the children, but then the children tend to make conversation difficult. My friendships have survived motherhood, and in some cases -- as I've found with Beth and Pam -- our mothering experiences, the anxieties and the joys, have even deepened the friendships. I've also found some new friends in the parents of my children's friends. But overall? I'd have to say motherhood is a challenge that friendship must overcome.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Carey Goldberg has been the Boston bureau chief of the New York Times, Moscow correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, and most recently a health and science reporter at the Boston Globe. She now writes happily at home.
Beth Jones is a freelance writer and educator who has contributed to the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and numerous academic journals. She plans to climb many more frozen waterfalls.
Pamela Ferdinand is an award-winning freelance journalist and former reporter for the Washington Post, Boston Globe, and Miami Herald. She remains an incorrigible romantic.
If you would like to know more about the authors and their wishes, send your email address to me at Irene@TheFriendshipBlog or post it in the comment section below.
Put THREE WISHES in the subject line by COB Mother's Day, May 9 (that's probably midnight!) and we'll randomly pick one person to win a copy of this impossible-to-put-down book!
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