Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’ Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
“Here, you hold him for a second,” my friend Peter said, handing me his 6-month-old son.
I reached out with feigned confidence, like I actually knew what I was doing. This baby is actually truly very cute (unlike the more alien-looking variety), with chipmunk cheeks and butterfly lips and very, very fat legs that look good enough to eat.
But within like six seconds, he started fussing and then crying and then full-on wailing.
“Here, let me try,” said Carrie, the baby’s aunt, who is also a mother of two. “I think he might be one of those babies who likes it better when you stand.”
I handed her the infant, and she expertly held him to her chest and started bouncing up and down like someone who had actually done it before. Her two daughters were out playing in the yard, running joyfully through the grass and squealing and giggling like the soundtrack for what life in your 40s is supposed to sound like.
“Are you going to have more?” I asked Carrie later as we sat on the patio sipping iced tea, watching our husbands from Minnesota play their beloved yard games.
“I always thought I wanted three, but I think I’m done. I just feel so old, you know? My body can’t take it. I mean, it’s been two years since I had my last, and I’m still so fat.”
“How old are you?” I asked, only because I’m sure she doesn’t look nearly as old as she feels.
“I’m 40,” she said, rolling her eyes.
I didn’t tell her what I was thinking, which was that I’m 42 and I haven’t even gotten to the getting-pregnant part yet.
I have always been a late bloomer when it comes to conventional milestones. Sure, I was way ahead of the curve on doing unconventional stuff, like tongue kissing boys, being the first to wear a bra, getting my belly button pierced and crossing the international time zone. Doing the stuff other people did? Not so much.
The funniest part about the whole “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” syndrome that plagued my 20s and 30s was that out of the 687 weddings that I spent like $8 million to fly to, I was only asked to be bridesmaid once. (Thanks, Deens.)
Then came the babies.
When a friend has a baby, it is time to say bye-bye to them for at least a year. It is like the body snatchers come and steal my friend away and replace them with a zombie-like creature whose vacant stare is unable to focus on much of anything other than the child and whose utterances have little to do with anything more than their child’s bodily functions.
Of course there are exceptions, friends who sort of glide through it like champions, who lose the baby weight in five minutes and can function with no sleep and continue with their aggro workout routines and skiing 100 days a year and working a full-time job. But in a way, they’re even scarier. I mean, I have enough trouble doing those things without a baby.
Now I’m at the stage in life when my Facebook news feed is riddled with first-day-of-school photos and happy-birthday photos posted by my friends whose kids are turning 6 and 8 and 10, who are growing into actual people who can do stuff like ski and ride bikes and skateboard, and soon they’ll be driving and dating and going off to college.
My friend Cara posted a photo of her daughter today that I took in 2004, just days after she was born. I’d flown all the way to London to see Cara before the baby came, so naturally, the baby came early. She wasn’t premature, but she was so tiny – she was the size of my shoe. I was there the first day Cara took her out into the world, and she carried her in an arm sling because she was too tiny for a regular baby carrier.
“Happy eighth birthday, Sydney!” she wrote with her post.
And I’m going, “Holy cow – she’s 8?”
Then, just the other day, I got a call from my friend Scott, who told me his wife was pregnant with their first child. He is 43, and his wife is 27.
“You’ll probably end up having more kids than anyone,” I said. “I mean, when we used to say that your wife hadn’t even been born yet, we were sort of joking.”
He laughed his hearty laugh and said, “I know, dude! It’s so trippy when I have to fill out paperwork for her and stuff. She was born in 1985!”
“That’s, like, three years before I graduated high school,” I said.
A few hours after talking to Scott, Ryan and I were driving down the Fryingpan, and I was staring pensively out the window. I swear, Ryan can read my mind, because he asked, “What’s wrong? You look sad.”
“I don’t know. I guess talking to Steve sort of depressed me.” Oh, if I could just come back in my next life as a man with a high metabolism, that is all I ask for. Amen. “I mean, he’s so lucky. He can have as many kids as he wants, and he doesn’t have to worry about his age.”
“I don’t know why you feel the need to compare your life to other people’s.”
But doesn’t everyone do that?
I remember thinking I’d never fall in love until I did. I thought I’d never get married until I did. Maybe it’s the same thing with having babies.
That’s when my dear friend Catherine reminded me, “You pull everything off at the last minute. I’m sure you’ll pull this off, too.”
I guess if I’m going to be a late bloomer, I’d better start thinking about planting that seed.
The Princess is in desperate need of some Botox. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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