Here’s a piece to remind us that not all baby boomers are empty-nesters or burgeoning grandparents. Plenty still have young children at home, including writer MIichael Petrie, who reminds us that the boomer generation continues to defy labels.
I guess you could say I’ve always been a late bloomer. Adolescence for me lasted well into my 30s. I was in my late 30s when I finally graduated from law school; pushing forty when I married my darlin’ wife Laura; and now, past fifty for becoming a first-time dad!
Not that we didn’t want or try to have children sooner; procreational success just seemed to elude us. In fact, we spent the better part of a decade on the emotional roller-coaster ride of infertility treatments, trying every new procedure known to science, with no luck.
There we were, two healthy, otherwise happy, successful professionals with everything in the world going for us, except no apparent ability to do what most people probably take for granted: producing children. When Laura hit age forty, we finally gave up. Our fifteen-year marriage had produced no children. We were a couple of baby boomer empty-nesters who’d never had the privilege of actually experiencing a full nest.
To combat our disappointment over being childless, we made a list of fantasy goals and resolved to accomplish everything on the list. We bought a very kid-unfriendly beach bungalow with magnificent white-water views of the California coastline and waves crashing on the shore just outside our door, but zero backyard; a ridiculously expensive and impractical two-seater sports car that had long been my dream vehicle; several acres in California’s lush wine country where we planned one day to build our dream house, raise grapes, make vino, and retire early to the good life; and, we began traveling the world.
We spent a wonderful month touring the wine regions of France and Italy, number four on our fantasy goal list, with Paris serving as home base. Ahhh, Paris! The City of Lights was brimming with a spirit of romance, and we were as two young lovers once again. We had no idea how much our frolic through France would forever change our lives. As near as we can tell, it was probably Paris where we must have conceived.
Back in California, relaxing on the front deck of our home, sipping wine purchased in Tuscany, watching the sun set gloriously into the Pacific, the shiny sports car parked in the driveway, we might have seemed to all the world as possessing the perfect lifestyle. But it wasn’t what we had envisioned when we first walked down the aisle to become husband and wife all those years ago. We both thought by now there would be a house filled with kids.
It was a week or so later that Laura took a home pregnancy test, unbeknownst to me until she shared the results. “I think I might be pregnant,” she told me with a tone of indifference reflecting that there was no way the test could be correct. Not after all the years we’d tried so hard with no success. This was surely a false alarm. She took a blood test later that same afternoon at a doctor’s office just to prove the home test wrong.
A nurse called the next day: “Congratulations! You are pregnant.” My wife and I spent several moments just looking at one another, mouths agape. The nurse interrupted our telephone silence by suggesting a visit with the doctor the next day, “Just to be absolutely certain.”
The doctor did an ultrasound and pronounced us definitely with child. “A nice strong heartbeat,” he announced.
Laura and I smiled lovingly at each other.
“Wait,” he excitedly added, “make that two strong heartbeats!”
At that, my wife burst into uncontrollable tears and I felt the need to grab a chair to keep from losing balance and toppling over. “That’s impossible,” Laura sobbed, “there are no twins in either of our families.”
“Well, it looks like there soon will be,” the doctor responded gleefully.
At ages forty-something and fifty-something respectively, the doctor’s advice was to approach this pregnancy with the utmost care, especially since we were expecting twins. For Laura there would be no more travel, no more working . . . no more anything for the next nine months. My job would be to see to it that my wife was pampered and did not exert herself. We were more than happy to comply. Laura spent the first trimester feeling sick most of the time, so-called “morning sickness” that lasted all morning, all afternoon, and well into the night. It was not an easy pregnancy for her.
As for me? It’s weird. I’ve never really been much of a morning person, but ever since impending parenthood, I began literally “popping” out of bed around 5 AM almost every morning. For some reason, I also had more energy than I’d had in years. Lots of mornings by 9 o’clock I’d already run several miles on the beach, surfed a few waves, had breakfast, read the newspaper, fed the dogs, brought Laura breakfast in bed, cleaned the kitchen, gotten dressed, and arrived at work with a spring in my step and whistling whatever was the last tune I heard on my drive. Amazingly, this energizer-bunny condition continues even today, nearly three years after the birth of our twins. Perhaps this is nature’s way of endowing an aging dad to cope with the rigors of child-rearing. Whatever the source, it feels great. For any guy looking for the true fountain of youth, I would highly recommend having a baby after age fifty!
So, the two-seater sports car has been traded for a seven-seater van, and in short order we began eagerly looking to buy a house with less view and more yard. As for that notion of early retirement to wine country? Forget it! The word “retirement” has been purged from our vernacular. But none of that matters in the least. Our twins are now almost three years old. Watching the world anew through their eyes is truly our greatest fantasy goal come true.
January 22, 2010 at 7:03 pm
Wonderful story. Uplifting. After weeks of cold and gray weather with mood to match, this is exactly the lift my spirit needed. Thank you for sharing.
January 22, 2010 at 9:13 pm
As a fellow midlife dad in my 50s I salute you!
You are in for a terrific and most wild ride of your life.
I have 2 teenagers, but also a daughter who is 4. Kids will keep you young forever. enjoy!
Laura Lee says :
January 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm
Congrats on your luck, your story and your energy! Proof positive that life only gets better and better if we go for everything we ever dreamed of!
January 25, 2010 at 12:14 pm
I enjoyed reading every moment of your journey. Congratulations to your beautiful new family. You have begun an exciting journey that will be like none you have ever traveled. There is simply no other experience like it. May God bless your happy home forever.
February 2, 2010 at 1:09 pm
you are so lucky and so blessed. a miracle happy ending for you. we tried to have children for years. failed infertility procedures destroyed our savings and almost destroyed our marriage. its wonderful to read a story like this. i hope you know how trully blessed you are. enjoy those wonderful wonderful babies. they are preciouse. god bless.
February 2, 2010 at 4:35 pm
I had my first child at age 44. My husband was 49. We now have 3 beautiful children ages 3,5 and 6 and I just turned 50. That your wife had babies in her 40s and you in 50s does not surprise me in the least. What shocked me is how many people at my 30 school reunion were already grandparents! I thought we were the generation of women who were supposed to go for it all, college, grad school, career, living life, travel, and then after all that get married. More like Sex in the City and less like our mothers. That’s precisely what I did and my circle of BFFs. No you don’t seem like a late bloomer, you seem pretty normal to me. But be careful, once you’ve completed a pregnancy it seems like repeats are more frequent!
February 3, 2010 at 12:23 pm
Retirement is highly overrated,kids are not. ENJOY!!
February 3, 2010 at 12:33 pm
If I were to run several miles on the beach, surf a few waves, have breakfast, read the newspaper, feed the dogs, and clean the kitchen at 5 in the morning they’d be delivering me to work in a hearse! lol. Congrats on a wonderful story and family.
February 6, 2010 at 1:45 pm
Great story!! My husband was 49, and me about 10 years younger (much like my parents before us) when we had our 1st child and I can concur, it keeps us young! Now, I secretly hope they don’t delay their child birthing too long cause I want to be a grandma and hold a baby and see it grow again!!!
Jennifer S. says:
February 7, 2010 at 2:01 pm
Michael, you have great talent and skill for telling a true story that reads better than fiction. Keep up the good work, and I am looking forward to MORE.
Ron Ignatuk says:
February 8, 2010 at 2:08 am
Great story! My wife had our first son when I was 46 and twin boys when I was 49. My oldest just turned 10, and I am now 56. I don’t feel a bit too old to be rasing children, and I suspect that is due, at least in part, to our generation defying convention.
February 8, 2010 at 3:43 pm
We were 44 and 59 when our first children were born. IVF worked just fine for us. I’m now 62 and the proud father of 3 year old twins! It must be true that kids will keep you young because I feel and look better today than I did a decade ago. Also I have far more patience (and hopefully wisdom) now. I wholeheartedly concur with this writer that watching the world anew through the eyes of our children is a truly wondrous thing.
February 13, 2010 at 8:18 pm
My parents were early 20s when I was born. My father was a fine man, but always working, came home tired and cranky and never had time to spend with his kids. A good provider, but he paid a price. He never came to a single little league game, never threw a football with me and we never went on any of those bonding fishing trips that dads & their sons are supposed to do. There was a lesson to be learned from this. I married older after I had my shit together. My first son was born when I was late 40s and two more sons when I was in my 50s. At this stage of life my career is established and it allows me to be more than just a provider. It allows me to enjoy my childrens childhoods and really enjoy being a dad, things I don’t think my dad really enjoyed much. I just turned 60 and having 3 kids at home really does keep ya young! Much prefer ball games, fishing trips, or whatever with my family over taking a cruise on some luxuryliner with a bunch of old retired folk!
February 15, 2010 at 3:00 pm
Baby Boomers always think they are defying labels, blazing new trails, taking the path less traveled and all that … and maybe there is some truth there, but there is nothing new about waiting to have children. Especially for men. I’m a good deal younger than my husband – by 25 years. Neither of us are boomers. My husband, who turned 90 recently, fathered our youngest child at age 62. He always had plenty of energy and was an excellent father to all three of our children. I keep hearing that “kids will keep you young” and it most certainly is true. Even today my husband has more vigor than men 30 years younger. Congratulations and welcome to parenthood. Cherish those babies.
Michael P says:
February 16, 2010 at 8:37 pm
Thank you so much for so many very nice comments in response to this article. I do appreciate anyone who takes the time to not only read my work but to leave their thoughts as well.
And I truly enjoyed reading about all of your experiences at becoming parents and the ages that you did so. Very interesting & enlightening.
Perhaps what surprises me most in reading your comments, however, is the number of MEN who took the time to type out their thoughts. I would have thought an article about babies might appeal more to women than men … but the men make up about half the comments that appear here. A pleasant surprise and a big thank you to all my fellow Boomer dads!
Thank you for reading!
Michael S. says:
February 17, 2010 at 1:10 pm
Comrad!! … Proud father of TRIPLETTS at age 57!!!! My wife also in mid-forties. We should start a club!
February 20, 2010 at 12:34 pm
Reading all these replys amazing how many people waited until older to have kids. kind of wish I would have in a way. We had ours in our twentys now I am fiftyseven with grown kids. I’m to old to backpack through Europe or the other crazy things I always wanted to do and gave up to raise a family. but too young to retire, take up quilting and rock in a rocking chair. A very strange in between time of life I think. It would be nice to still have chidren at home to take care of at my age. my oldest son in his thirties and a bachelor so grandchildren won’t be anytime soon. I envie in a way this writer but other times am kind of happy.
Karl Metzenberg says:
February 21, 2010 at 1:43 am
I’m 77, but our son’s only 25. Perhaps it does keep one young; I sail most Sundays (weather permitting), & do crossword puzzles to stay young (at least in mind). Don’t worry about matters about which you can do nothing. Don’t worry. Love.
Alison Bell says:
February 22, 2010 at 11:20 am
I thought I’d pretty much settled into being a single New York City woman. I had a career on Wall Street and a lot of friends, and was happy with my life. But I ended up meeting a great guy and getting married at 44. My husband was certain he wanted to have a baby; I was a little less sure. I worried, “Am I too old? Am I too set in my ways?” I got pregnant at 48, my husband was 53. Luckily, my pregnancy was easy and I felt great the whole time. I delivered by C-section three weeks early because of some complications, but my baby was perfectly healthy. We are in a financial position where I could make the choice to stay home, which I wanted to do. I also think I’m a much better mom than I would have been when I was younger. I’m more even-keeled and I don’t get thrown by little things the way I used to. I’m satisfied taking each day as it comes. We aren’t going to have a second child — mostly because of my age — though my husband would still like to. I feel that might be pushing it. I would not necessarily advise any woman to wait as long as I did, but there are so many advantages to being an older mom — not the least of which is that I was able to enjoy a rich and full life before and have so much more to offer my child now.
February 23, 2010 at 12:04 pm
WoW! This is such happy story. I have no children but can truly feel your joy. Hang on to your hats though, my class mate from med school had twins at 41 (her husband in his 50s too). She is super fit, a runner also, and they sure do keep her busy. It seems to be a totally non stop job. She and her husband are also affluent and can hire sitters, but she is so thankful that they attend preschool now so she gets a few hours off each day.
February 24, 2010 at 6:38 am
Wow, what a great story! We just never know what great things may be around the corner.
February 24, 2010 at 11:21 am
Your description sounds very similar to what we experienced with our boys, now 11 and 14. Like you I was 50s when our first came along. Stay healthy .. and flexible.
February 25, 2010 at 1:05 am
what a fabulous story! It’s kind of like our fertility story except longer wait and many more procedures than me before getting pregnant! We were around same age as you two when our first was born. Doesn’t all that waiting make getting up in the night with them so much easier? I used to remind myself how lucky I was every time they got me out of bed, and I genuinely felt lucky when I got to their crib and saw their little faces. And I still do even tho they are no longer babes.
March 11, 2010 at 10:27 pm
I spent a life on the road building a business. Over 300 days a year in hotels, planes, trains and automobiles. Absolutely had a wonderful crazy fun life. Wouldn’t trade it for the “world”. That is until I found out what the “world” really was. My two year old son Brady is the “world”. Trade made, happy, life complete.
By the way I was a confirmed bachelor til age fifty and I am now 53.
March 14, 2010 at 7:03 pm
I’ve had a lot of adventures in my life, but the greatest & most fun adventure of all is being a Dad! Mid-fifties when my twins were born, and every day is a grand adventure. I could not have choreographed it better!!! Cheers to all the mid-life dads out there being reborn through their children.life is good!!
Boomer54 Mark says:
April 11, 2010 at 9:23 am
My son is 33 and I turn 56 this year…I have been married to the current wife, I just could not get it right the first 2 times, for 12 years. We will not have any kids but can relate to being late bloomers.
I always enjoy reading stories like this, it just confirms that we are not like any other generation. In the last 2 generations, having kids at these ages was unusual to say the least.
We, baby boomers, are turning the notions of kids, grand kids, and retirement on its ear.
What a great way to stay young! 50 really is the new 40!!
Thanks for sharing…
May 1, 2011 at 2:27 pm
Being an older Dad is the greatest! I’m 60, my son is 5. I’m not saying all guys should wait so long, but I truly feel sad when I see very, very young dads …like late teens/early 20s … with their kids. They just don’t realize what they are giving up. They’re giving up their own youth and forced to immediately grow up to raise kids. Far, far better to wait until you’ve lived a bit, established a career, developed your own sense of self. You’ll have so much more to offer as a husband and a father. I would never recommend anyone to become a father until at least 30. As long as you’re healthy & active, the older the dad the better the dad. Just my opinion ….
December 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm
Nice story. Just goes to show you that all Baby boomers arn’t alike. I can’t stand it when we are all lumped together. My baby girls are all grown up now and I miss the growing years. Oh well, that’s why God gave us grandkids.