The miracle of becoming parents in mid-life
By Anu Celly Narula, Ph. D.
We thought we had lost the chances, but we continued to nurture the dream up against some intimidating odds. The strength of our belief in the power of prayers and the might of medicine backed up our desire to bring children into our lives. Our nine year old marriage was beautiful, but the “real thing” was missing. It was the very same dream that we had discussed on that magical evening when we first met each other, across the span of continents. We had gotten married in a jiffy, almost in a fairy tale fashion, just a week after meeting each other. What brought us together in an “arranged love” match typical to our native country was not just the commonality of our humble beginnings, or our career graphs in diverse disciplines, but our desire to have a family.
There was no time to lose. As our life ahead beckoned us, we had lot of catching up to do in our mid life, not only in the aspect of conjugal bliss but also in our pipe dreams of parenthood. Tinkling laughter and toothless smiles, soothing lullabies and cooing sounds, velvety feet and pudgy hands, petal soft skin and sparkly eyes… and a host of other images crowded our imagination as we started doing the rounds to fertility clinics. The reality check offered by the numbers and tests done by the doctors did not bring us back to earth. We continued the endeavor to become parents amidst raised eyebrows and hushed whispers. And then, it was as if Providence decided to reward us two times over for our nine long years of undying hope and relentless patience. Perhaps, God Almighty weighed in the karmic account of all our deeds and demeanor, and decided to perpetuate a miracle of sorts.
Two years ago, our twins came into this majestic and mystical world, after faith got wedded to technology. It felt as if Santa Claus unlocked a treasure house of unplumbed wealth in our lives, and all our “assets” in the life before faded out into insignificance. Our twin boys, nicknamed Mowgli and Maharajah, became the center of our universe. The first three months of our lives together were packed moments of delight and a wonder that we had never sampled in the three decades of our pre-parenthood youth. The occasional sniffle of cynicism over our age did not cause a ripple in the pool of our joy as we dipped in and out of new parent blues. The smiles and the blessings that our boys invoked from all our friends and family reinforced our determination to vanquish both age and judgmental norms, as we strived to be fit both in mind and body to take baby steps on the path to parenting.
The first few months did look like a world full of hidden treasures and unsettling surprises. The night-long vigils were nerve racking but stopped short of being a nightmare, changing diapers sometimes only to check the color of poop were a pungent necessity but stopped short of being annoying, those gut-wrenching bouts of inexplicable crying seemed weird but stopped short of being intolerable, the endless rounds of doctor visits could be impossibly fretful but always stopped short of causing depression, and the interminable schedule of feeding bottles that we shared with friends-turned-nannies became an enterprise but never stopped short of being a life-saving grace.
All in all, parenting infants has been tougher and more fulfilling than any other assignment that we have taken on in life. At times, it has felt as dizzying as a roller coaster ride, or as full of awe-struck wonder as a safari, or as uplifting as the attempts of children to acquire all the basic human skills. So, as we witnessed our boys utter that first sound, and gobble up that first morsel of baby food, and sit up in that collapsed posture, and take those first few wobbly foot steps, so also we felt like kids who fall off the wagon several times a day and finally learn to walk with sure-footed resilience.
Right now, after our twins’ second birthday, as we take turns to play the role of the good cop and the bad cop, and implement a system of points for reward and admonishment, parenting has become a catalog of rewards that cancel out the stress with smiles, and crowns unflagging effort with moments of purposeful fulfillment. What makes us “different,” however, is not the number of years that we’ve spent on this planet, but those that beckon us forward like a rainbow on a perfect day in East Tennessee. Knoxville, deemed as “heaven on earth” by my sister from India, does seem like a perfect place to raise our kids, amidst the comfort of all four seasons, and the beauty of a landscape that is as diverse as the spectrum of joy and sorrow, peace and strife, color and shade, mountains and rivers, and smiles and tears that make our lives complete. The canopy of faith above our heads and the values that our parents bestowed on us, seem like a precious legacy that we can shower on our boys who will go on to be big Bunyan trees some day, and bring comfort and protection to their own little saplings.
Dr. Anu Celly Narula is an English Professor turned Full Time OCD Mom, married to a cerebral scientist. Her husband, Chaitanya works for the Oak Ridge National Lab. They have two boys, Krish and Rishi, who are “miracle babies,” coming into this world when they were in their midlife and at the peak of their dreams and expectations for a family. Anu is currently writing a book titled, “The Fighting Spirit: Life Reinvented” with a Segment on Parenting.