Oh, Mama! Elizabeth Adeney meets the stork at 66
Over the last few months, a couple of folks have asked me whether I was planning on posting about the Octomom.
'No,' I told them.
It's not that I'm so strict about sticking to topics at least vaguely related to business. I could, after all, have used the angle of Octo-motherhood as a business. While I was at it, I could have thrown in the business empire known as "Jon & Kate Plus-8," or the industrial-ous conglomerate Duggar Family (18 kids and counting). Which, come to think of it, I may well do at some point.
But the Octomom's story, while intriguing and lurid enough for Pink Slip, is so fundamentally sad - the mental health of this young woman, the mental-emotional-physical well-being of her 14 kids - I really didn't have anything to say about it.
But there is an odd-ball baby-related story in the news that I am going to jump on. It would be pretty pedestrian - single mom gives birth to single baby conceived via in vitro - if the single mom (mum? she's a Brit) weren't 66, pushing hard on 67.
And the real beauty is that Elizabeth Munro - Elizabeth Adeney (I've seen her referred to both ways) is a successful business woman, the Managing Director of a manufacturing concern. Thus, the story is nearly bespoke for my humble blog.
Career success was apparently not enough for Elizabeth, so she took herself to a Ukrainian fertility clinic that doesn't observe much by way of rules. And she's now eight months along. Here she is, looking every bit her 66 years. (I will acknowledge that 66 does look younger than it used to, but that's mainly because the hair dye is better, and the hair-dos and clothing are more youthful. Beyond that, we're kidding ourselves if we really believe that 60 is the new 40. It's not .) Yes, to me, Elizabeth looks 66 (i.e., a lot older than I am, let alone look) - except that she's sporting a belly-bulge that's not due to too many cupcakes and not enough minutes on the treadmill. (And she somewhat resembles Joan Crawford of Mommy Dearest fame, no?)
My first thought when I read about this woman was, "Is she crazy?"
Hey, I don't have any children, so - like Prissy in Gone with the Wind - I don't know nothin' about birthin' babies - but I have spent enough time around the little critters to know that they are exhausting at any age. And that the older you get, the more exhausting they tend to be.
I know a lot of folks in their 50's and 60's who are enjoying their grandkids, so much so that I wish I had some around to enjoy. But when the kiddies get picked up at the end of the babysitting gig, my friends take to their chaises longues, faint from exhaustion.
The other day, a friend - who's a good 5 years younger than Elizabeth Munro Andeley - told me that she was going to have to tell her son and daughter-in-law that she didn't think she was up to an overnight babysitting gig, now that there's a new little one (a second grandchild) on the scene. And this is an experienced parent/grandparent - energetic and fit, with tremendous stamina and professional drive.
The fact is that baby and child exhaustion is really and truly exhausting - on an entirely different level than work exhaustion, work-out exhaustion, and party-on exhaustion.
Some of it is the sheer dependence and need of children. Unlike with a cranky spouse, you can't just tell a teething baby to buzz off and leave you alone.
Then there's the excruciating exhaustion of eternal vigilance, especially keen when children are young. Are they breathing in the crib? Why are the so quiet? Where are they? Who's with them? Are they safe? Are they happy?
I really do believe that the older you are, the more aware you are that things can go wrong very quickly. Sure, you may be more relaxed on some things, but about so many things...
Elizabeth Munro Andeley can afford a nanny, and apparently has one lined up already. But does she get that her nice, neat, quiet home-as-a-refuge is about to get a bit messed up - more chaotic, messier, noisier, smellier. Hard enough to cope with when you're in your 2o's and 30's, let alone when in you're nearly 70 - and are used to coming home, putting your feet up, channel cruising, dining on a microwaved Lean Cuisine and doing whatever you damned well please.
Elizabeth, however, claims to have at least somewhat thought this through.
Adeney, who lives near Lidgate, Suffolk, in southeastern England, reportedly said that to be a mother, all that matters is how old you feel on the inside. And she claimed she is young and fit and feels like she is 39 years old. (Source: ABC News article.)
Sorry, Elizabeth. I'll grant you fit, and feeling like a 39 year old. (By the way, is nothing unique to you: most people I know pretty much feel that, in terms of personality and attitude, they're in their 30's. The first person I heard this from was my mother, who told me when she was in her 60's.)
But you are not - and, as I gingerly and reluctantly approach my own Big 6-0, I am somewhat reluctant to admit this - in fact young.
You may not be old. But you aren't young.
And from the perspective of being a new mother, you are really, really old.
But why not, someone might ask, you're only as young as you feel.
To which I call bull-shit.
Look, there are very few women past the child-bearing age who failed to bear child who don't have at least a few regrets about their decision, or lack of decision, or ill-health, or bad luck, or good career, or poor timing, or neuroses, or procrastination, or whatever it was that kept them from having children of their own.
But most of the women I know who fall into this category at least somewhat made up for it by becoming super-aunts to the children of their siblings, or virtual aunts for the kids of their friends. They volunteered, they became Big Sisters, and some of them even became Big Mamas. But they took care of that piece of business when they were in their 30's or 40's - when they had a lot of energy, and more to the point, when they stood a really good chance of seeing their child into adulthood.
Because that's my problem with Elizabeth Munro Andeley. Not that she's a single mom. It's that, for her child, there's a pretty good probability that he or she will be orphaned young.
Sure, things can happen, a parent can die early, whatever their age when they have their children. But to blow on the dice and assume that your crap shoot is going to work out, deliberately exposing your child to a high probability risk that you won't see them into adulthood?
This strikes me as the ultimate in narcissism, child-as-accessory, selfishness.
Some of the comments I've seen floating around make the point that we turn a blind eye when the aging parent is a man.
I really hate to see old goats have new babies. It's just not fair to the kids. Yet, in their defense, most old goats are making those babies with their much younger trophy wives, who will likely outlive them. (I know this isn't always the case. I used to see an older man - well into his 70's - walking a couple of kids to school. I assumed he was the grandfather. Wrong I was. Turned out, he was the father - and the much younger mother had tragically died of brain cancer. He didn't outlive her by much, and the kids ended up living with their much older half-sibs, who were at least age-appropriate as parents.)
I know what it's like to have a parent who dies when you're young. Fortunately, in my case, I had made it to my21st birthday (just barely) when my father, who had been ill for many years, died. Unfortunately, the two youngest kids in the family were still kids: 11 and 15.
By the time his life ended, all my father wanted out of it was to live until his baby turned 18. He missed by 7 years. And one of the reasons he wished this so fervently was that his own father had died, age 48, when my father was 11.
Losing a parent is so beyond hard for young children, why would you ever set yourself up for the possibility?
The older I grow, the more I understand that growing old and dying are made somewhat easier if there are people around who will care for you and, more important, care about you.
Maybe this is what Elizabeth Munro Andeley - who reportedly has no siblings and very little extended family - was looking for.
But it's one thing to hope that your adult children will be with you at the end. This is what my mother got - 4 of her 5 children were with her when she died, and for all of us (all at that point in our 40's or 50's), being with my mother in her final days, hours, minutes was sad but okay. This is what grown-ups do: they help the people they care about live, and they help the people they care about die.
My mother was 81 when she died. In Elizabeth Munro Andeley lives to be 81, her child will be 14.
Forget that kids will make fun of him/her for having a mother who could be his/her great-grandmother. Forget that, however youthful she is, Elizabeth is not likely to have a lot of energy for or disposition towards kicking a soccer ball around, racing up and down the beach, or playing endless games of Candyland.
The heart of the matter is this: Does she really and truly want the person at her death bed to be her 14 year old child? A child with no father, no older siblings, no aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins to assure him or her that it's going to be alright?
There are a lot of things that technology enables us to do that enhance well-being, individually and collectively.
But there are a lot of things that technology enables people to do that maybe they shouldn't.
For the sake of her little one, I wish Elizabeth Munro Andeley cent anni. I hope that she stays fit, vibrant, and engaged. I hope that she keeps all her marbles, and never has a senior moment. I hope she doesn't need cataract surgery when her kid is 8, or hip or knee replacement when he or she is 12. I hope that when she does go, her 33 year old child says, "She was so youthful, I always forgot she was actually quite elderly."
But, truly, wouldn't this have worked out better if she'd figured out she wanted to have a baby 20 years ago?
And how's this for a nice upper-crust tidbit. Elizabeth was married briefly, a number of years ago:
...to Robert Adeney, the ex-Chairman of Swaine Adeney Brigg and Sons - the London-based luxury leather and hunting goods firm, which supplied horse whips to the Royal Family. (Source: TopNews.)
Horse whips to the Royals...now there's a thought I want to shake right out of my head.