Dear Reader: This is the origin story of This Old Mom, and happened in 2012. Since I’ve been blogging on Huffington Post, I’ve been going back to the beginning, before two kids took over my life.
Clarification: Babymama is NOT my biological mother, but a birth mother we met two days before she gave birth to the infant we hoped to adopt.
While chatting up potential Babymamas over the phone, I knew precisely when they emotionally hung up on me. It was when they asked my age. I could tell they were just waiting for me to finish ranting about what a ‘young 48’ I was, so they could cross me off their list. I knew in their young pregnant minds, I went from sounding energetic and fun to having a wattle, a tight perm and Easy Spirit pumps. Basically, I became their moms… or even older.
No one asked me Canada’s age.
Yet another a sexist double standard- everyone chuckles when a Pleistocene-era Mick Jagger fathers at 74 but Janet Jackson’s pregnancy at 49 invites sanctioned social media judgment.
Yes, I’m politically furious that an over-40 new mom is unnatural but an 89 year-old dad is adorable.
I could have lied. And I should have lied. But I didn’t because I’m trying to end ageism in America. And how’s that working out for me? Ask my toxically frozen forehead.
After having been denied momhood by six Babymamas, I wanted to give up. Question? What is harder than cold calling a complete stranger at possibly the worst moment in her life and attempting to charm her into giving you her child? Answer: Knowing you are also competing with younger women and gay couples who are not only also calling the same Babymama but also who actually like Disneyland. See you on the ice, Tonya.
Dreading rejection, I didn’t call the newest Babymama. Then I ran into my ex-husband and his current wife, seriously large with child. I’m not competitive, but seeing them easily achieve my unachievable dream inspired me to give less of a shit about being rejected.
I called her. Her voice was feather soft, like she was used to not being heard. Her two children were playing all around her.
I was a little put out that her kids were distracting her from my attempts to impress her with what an awesome mother I’d be.
Even though it was painfully awkward and awkwardly painful, we talked for hours.
She asked if I wanted a girl. All my arm hairs stood up, like eagerly raised hands. She asked if my husband was okay with a Black baby. If it stung me like a slap that she said that, I couldn’t imagine how it felt to have to ask that question. Unused to discussing race with Black people, I blurted out that our white skin was overrated – I called our marriage “When Eczema Met Psoriasis”.
I asked if I could send her a photo album. If Adoptive-mama and Babymama connect, Adoptive-mama makes and sends Babymama a photo album of Adoptive-mama and Adoptive-papa, so Babymama can judge Adoptive-mama and Adoptive-papa’s looks, decorating skills and parent-ability.
I was so determined to make a damn ‘Give Us Your Baby Book’, mainly because we had spent September staging perky Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas photo shoots depicting ourselves as stable, loving and fun. I had the glitter, glue sticks and construction paper- all I needed was one mildly interested Babymama.
Then she asked my age. Feeling faint, I told her. She still wanted a photo album. That night, craft scissors, Elmer’s Glue and a bottle of Malbec executive produced my “Give Us Your Baby” book. Fedex whisked our album to Babymama the deeply hungover following morning. Then Babymama told us we were the ones and the baby was DUE in a month.
Suddenly four months of adoption paperwork was to be completed in three weeks. Parenting classes, fingerprints, physicals, Infant CPR certification, tax returns and home inspections were squeezed into the corners of our full time jobs. During this time our dog-walker lost our dog, our cat died of cancer and we were evicted from our home so the landlady’s daughter could move in.
By the time we were ready to meet Babymama, my face resembled my soul, which had gone to hell and wasn’t quite back yet.
Since we live in LA, it’s harder to avoid plastic surgery then giving into it. Letting oneself age naturally is like eating gluten-filled, non-artisanal toast. No one here does that.
So we underwent Wizard of Oz-ish makeovers. Metal was buffed, straw restuffed, Canada came perilously close to using Grecian Formula on his chest hair. I Botoxed my mug until my over-eager injectionist hit a blood vessel. I looked like I had been popped one in the kisser and paid for the privilege.
My Botox bruise was so deeply defiant that it scoffed at mere cover-up. Short of going to an undertaker, I tried every concealer in cosmetic existence. Friends gently suggested, “Maybe put some concealer on that hematoma”. They were stunned when I replied, “I’m WEARING concealer.”
Two days later we met Babymama and her kids at the local Red Lobster. Babymama, beautiful and profoundly pregnant, was wearing the maternity clothes I had picked out for her a month earlier. Even though we had been texting each other at least six times a day for a month straight, like obsessive tweens in love, meeting face to face was intensely awkward.
Suddenly, I blurted that my dog head butted my face and that’s why I was bruised. Then Babymama noticed my bruise, which she hadn’t until I lied about it. Then, I was mortified about my vanity in the face of a young woman with 2 kids, no safety net, and about to give up a baby.
Turns out, Babymama was concealing things too. She quietly told us she hadn’t told anyone she was pregnant. Then she gave me a bag of newborn baby clothes, which almost made me sob into the Crawdad Bites.
If only my ovaries still worked and hers had taken the day off, I wouldn’t have had to buy maternity clothes for her, and she wouldn’t have to buy baby clothes for me.
Full of sorrow and hope I ordered every dessert on the menu, hoping sugar might help where words failed. I buried my chin in my hands, ashamed that my bruise would heal and agonized that hers might not.