The first time it happened was when the checkout woman at Grade A asked me how old my adorable grandson was. It was a shock—considering that my adorable grandson was actually my brand-new baby boy, but I gave her a pass. 

Related: Mom has first baby at 50 after trying for over a decade 

I had run to the supermarket after three hours of sleep. The bags under my eyes bulged uncharitably, I was still bloated from pregnancy, and makeup was a pre-Covid distant memory. But the comment jolted my resolve to get myself into shape and be more aware of my appearance, as I had sworn I would be when baby Oz was just a seed of an idea two years earlier.

My husband Jeff and I had recently lost our 10-year-old son, Emmet, to a rare blood disorder when we decided to try to have another child. The catch: we were both almost 48 years old. We carefully weighed the pros and cons of having a baby in our late 40s.  

Pros: We weren’t new parents, and we felt like our older age would make the “baby” phase less formidable than the first go-round.  

Cons: Our baby’s friends’ parents would be a good 10-20 years younger than us. Milestones (like bar mitzvah, graduation and college) would happen in our 60s. But I was desperate to fill the gaping hole that my only child had left in his untimely death. 

I wasn’t done being a mom.  

Thank goodness for science and caring doctors with positive outlooks and cutting edge techniques. Our family and friends rallied around us, conspiring to make our dream of having another baby come true, knowing the heartbreaking reason why we wanted him so badly. My pregnancy progressed without issue and Oz was born the day after Thanksgiving last year. We were beyond grateful for our eight pound little turkey.   

Jeff and I had made a commitment, during that seminal conversation, that we would do whatever we could to stay physically healthy. And since Jeff didn’t carry and nourish a human being inside his body for nine months, it’s been easier for him. He’s never looked better.

Now, a year after giving birth, I’ve shed the 45 pounds that rounded me out post-pregnancy. A few weekends ago, I even had the opportunity to wear a flouncy dress and sparkly high heels and dance my tush off at a family bat mitzvah. 

I felt confident enough, for the first time in over a year, to post a picture of Jeff and me on Facebook—one in which I didn’t worry about the angle of the camera. I’m sure the Titos and cranberry juice didn’t hurt, but the comfort I felt in my own skin was liberating.

Still tingling from the night before, I took Oz to swimming class the next morning. Usually, the pool is Jeff’s realm, but he had other plans. So it was Oz and me. We were blowing bubbles, laughing, kicking and splashing until the swim teacher—a legendary 70-something instructor—looked at Oz and bellowed in his deep Russian accent, “Swim to Grandma!”

Related: 5 lies I believed about being pregnant after 40

Screeeeeechhhh. The steamy natatorium went silent. Even the babies ceased howling, or so it felt. I looked at the dad next to me—sucking in his breath, eyes wide, waiting for my next move. I cleared my throat. 

“I’m actually his mom,” I eked out, trying to be lighthearted, but feeling deflated and embarrassed.

Technically, I could be a grandmother. But we are in a suburb of New York City, where more than half the births last year were to women ages 30-39. While the previous night, I felt the most confident, was there simply no room for doubt the very next morning that I was a doting grandma? If you weren’t 100% certain a woman was pregnant, would you ask? (Please say no). 

The rest of the swim class passed in a blur, and I swear that Oz could sense the shift in the air. He started wailing, and no brightly-colored balls or magic bubbles could distract him. We were both miserable and relieved to escape the pool.

I know intellectually that I shouldn’t be embarrassed, but it’s hard to discard decades of caring how people think I look. I support the anti-aging industry enthusiastically: I color my hair every month, I apply expensive moisturizers at night and I have even considered Botox once or twice (that’s between us). Emotion and vanity often trump reason. 

I realize that age is truly irrelevant to who I am, especially to my child. 

However, I do think our society could do better. Older women are having babies. In fact, my fertility doctor told us that the largest demographic increase of women having babies is the 50-plus set, while women under 30 giving birth has decreased dramatically. 

So if there is even a glimmer of a question about whether the caretaker in question is mom or grandma, can we err on the side of assuming it’s mom? If wrong, grandma will do a happy dance. If right, you’ve potentially avoided adding to the emotional distress that many older moms have already endured. 

Because most older moms have traveled a long, agonizing road to welcome that bundle of joy into her arms. Science is incredible, but it is not foolproof—and there has almost certainly been heartbreak along that journey. 

An unintentional, yet insensitive remark can trigger painful reminders of why she is an older mom with a baby. If my life had gone the way I planned, I would have a 14-year-old son whom no one ever mistook for my grandchild. But when people plan, God laughs, right? So we plan again, and maybe something beautiful is revealed. 

And I have discovered that that is my story, and it is powerful. I am older than most new moms. But sometimes what we perceive as our weaknesses are actually our greatest strengths.  

Related: I became a first-time mother at 46 after a lifetime of being told I couldn’t have kids 

Yes, I have wrinkles and the gravitational pull of ten-plus years. But I also have wisdom, some of which I hope they will never know. I have walked through fire and lost everything, yet somehow surfaced with the most precious of treasures. The lines on my face are a map of my history and testament to my story, which includes pain and heartbreak, but also joy and miracles. I realize that age is truly irrelevant to who I am, especially to my child. 

I am young enough for Oz. We play on the floor together and read books in a rocking chair. I stay up at night when he is sick and rub his back to soothe him. I take him to playgrounds and playdates and music classes. 

In a few years, I will teach him to play tennis and Jeff will bring him to the woods to learn disc golf. We even threw a raucous first birthday party for him with music and cupcakes and tattoos bearing his face. We are cool parents, regardless of our age. 

I am also old enough for Oz. I give him a nap when he’s tired and feed him when he’s hungry. I’m less scheduled, more relaxed than I was with Emmet, knowing that even the most regimented mama can control only so much. 

We take him almost everywhere we go: synagogue, hiking, restaurants. We even took him to a party this past weekend where he was passed between our friends on the dance floor, head thrown back gleefully. He is happy and healthy—and so am I. What more could I want?

Grand Mom. Yup, I’ll take it.  

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