Sometime during the Spring, my wife, Alison, and I enjoyed a rare date night, a few kid-free hours when we go to a restaurant and choose menu items without hearing “Daddy, I don’t like it.”
It’s bliss. But on this particular date night, my wife brought up a subject I didn’t see coming.
“I want to have another baby,” she said to me, and then laughed because my face must have looked like she just told me we were moving to Greenland.
“You’re serious?!” was all I could muster after taking a long sip of Sauvignon Blanc. Affirmative. She wanted to have a third child.
And now here we are. I’m ecstatic to announce on Causing Dad’mage that Alison and I are expecting Baby No. 3 in June, the greatest unplanned planned event of my life.
Why “unplanned planned?” Because our vision of life together always included two kids. Just two. Always. We never deviated. Even after the birth of our second child, who wouldn’t sleep through the night until he was four, my wife declared, “I’m done.”
That is until now. Ding dong the biological clock went off like the Liberty Bell.
So when people ask if the tiny human growing in Alison’s womb was an “oops,” I say it was an “unplanned plan.”
You’d be correct to think we’re pretty zen about all of this, given how this is our third time. And we are. Except …
I resisted having a third baby at 40
I’m turning 40 next month. I’m no youngin’ any more. I was 32 for our first child, 35 for his brother, and as anyone 40 and older can attest, there’s quite a difference between 35 and 40.
So how did we arrive at choosing to have a baby now and what does it mean we’re going to be “older” parents?
The idea freaked me out a little, I confess. A resistance to the idea even began to manifest itself.
“Are you sure?” I asked Alison more than once during the weeks which followed. I had my reasons for doubting, which included:
- Given Alison was 37 years old, she qualified for “advanced maternal age.” Some of the docs and nurses have even used the world “geriatric.” This is a terrible way of way of saying she would be an older mom. And that puts us at a slightly higher risk of having a baby with developmental challenges like Down Syndrome and autism.
- I mean, I’m turning 40. Word is turning 40 means entrance into a club where muscle mass begins disappearing and we start having to do things like trim ear hair because hair strangely begins growing out of our ears. WTF is with that? Then there are the aches and supposed loss in metabolism. Makes being 35 when we last had a baby seem superhuman compared to where I am now.
- Our world was just starting to open up. Lemme explain. Let’s take a look at vacations. Before kids, for example, Alison and I honeymooned in Costa Rica, where we rafted down a Class III river, hiked up a dormant volcano, rappelled down waterfalls, and enjoyed some serious adventure. After kids? Not only do you stop adventuring, but everything gets planned around nap time. Kids are in bed by 8:30 p.m., which means you’re trapped in your hotel room before most of your childless friends have even chosen what bar to hang out in. But once they reach a certain age, the kids are able to do more. They can within reason hike, swim, endure long road trips, and so your world, which had pretty much shrunk to the walls of your house, begins to open. Having a baby, to me, means largely putting that off for another couple of years.
- I didn’t have a full-time job and was struggling as a freelancer.
And yet, this heart beating in my chest belongs to the woman who sat across from me during that fateful date night and said she wanted a baby.
“If this is something you want deep down,” I said, “Then let’s do this.”
We figured because of our age it would take a little while to get pregnant, so we’d have plenty of time to get ready emotionally and financially.
First try. Not kidding. The plus sign showed up in October.
the benefits of having a baby at 40
And as far as having a baby after I turn 40, as it turns out, it can be really good for a parent … and the child.
According to NBC News, there are seven benefits to having a baby:
- Older dads tend to have kids with higher IQs. Sorry to our new baby’s older siblings, but the newborn apparently has a greater chance of genius.
- Both older fathers and their children have a tendency to live longer. I’m not making this up. It’s science.
- We have a lot more life experience now than we did the first time we had kids, so in theory, I’m more emotionally prepared for fatherhood. Uh huh. Just go with it, okay?
- Children with older parents have fewer injuries, fewer social and emotional difficulties, and better overall health. Like in No. 3 above, experience counts.
- We’re more patient. We don’t lose our s*** as easily. That or we’re just too tired to care anymore.
- We’re more financially stable. That’s true in a sense. More on that in a future post, but for now, let’s agree most people in their late 30s or early 40s have more established careers.
- This doesn’t apply to Dads, but it certainly helps. To quote the NBC News article: “As it turns out, being an older mom can work in your favor when it comes to your mental state later in life.After examining a group of over 800 women between the ages of 41 and 92, researchers discovered the women who had their last baby after 35 had better cognition and verbal memory later in life than those who first became parents young.”
the journey begins anew
Our first journey through pregnancy, everything was new, overwhelming, exciting. We shared everything with everyone. Shopping for onesies and a stroller were milestones to remember. Every ultrasound image saved, heartbeats recorded, weekly pictures of Alison’s growing abdomen shared on Facebook.
The second time, while the fervor remained high, we also had a been-there, done-that perspective. We knew what to expect. We were much more laid back.
This time? For No. 3? It’s like a mix of the previous two.
We’re so much more casual now about things like telling people about the pregnancy. Before, we’d keep it a secret for months, even from family, friends, and coworkers, building to a large announcement on Facebook or with mailed cards from Shutterfly. Now, we’ve told people. We still built to a big announcement (this post being part of it). But we’re very relaxed about it.
I remember for the first two kids, the reality and excitement of having children stayed with me every day. I thought about it obsessively. Even for our second son because we could think for the first time about siblings and how to encourage a relationship between the brothers.
Now? We reach milestones like ultrasounds, and those days are special, but then I go back to the daily routines.
I’m not unaffected by the prospect of becoming a father again. I’m just, how do you say, cool with it. Really cool with it. Like anything else in life, once you’ve done the thing several times, instincts and muscle memory take over, confidence and comfort grow.
We’re still six months away from baby’s arrival. The closer we get, the more excitement and anticipation is sure to build. That’s natural.
Now if we can just agree on a name.
Dave Pidgeon is a writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa., who ran out and bought a fancy FitBit in hopes of being a healthy over-40 Dad for his new baby. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.