Everyone warns expectant parents about how much their lives will change when the new baby arrives. “You’ll never have a good night’s sleep again,” they say. “Good luck even finding the time to brush your teeth in peace!”
Even if I didn’t realize that having my first child at 41 would be very difficult physically and mentally, more than a few friends pointed it out to me. At that point in my life, old routines would die hard. Keeping up with a little one would be exhausting. And as I shifted my focus to family and motherhood, I’d miss the intellectual stimulation of my professional work.
But for all the warnings and fears over how much a new baby could drain a first-time mom, my experience turned out to be very different. Rather than being lost in the monotony of naps, feedings, and diaper changes, being a new parent required every mental faculty I could muster. The stakes were high, and I found myself absorbed in all the details. Though I did lose plenty of sleep as a new mom, I found God used motherhood to deliver on his promise to “renew our youth like the eagles” (Ps. 103:5).
Now that my daughter’s 12th birthday is around the corner, I’ve been reflecting on the last dozen years and how God keeps his word. Psalm 103 has long been a source of comfort for me in difficult times, including when I did not think I would ever have a family. But it never occurred to me that the miracle of a child also would be God’s gift to revisit, recast, and yes, renew my own youth. Aren’t children supposed to age you?
From the very start, being with Anna as her world unfolded was just plain fun. Like most babies, she was an early riser. I’d feed her, sing to her and read books with her as the sun came up. We watched squirrels chase each other around the tree outside her window. In those snuggly morning moments, we fell in love with children’s books and reading together, an experience I rarely had as a child. We saved all her books, old friends now.
As Anna started toddling, we hunted for snails in the garden. We dug around a patch of dirt to uncover its variety of life. She picked up rolly-pollies and worms. We splashed together in puddles. My little toddler noticed life around her like I never had before. She drew me into her magical world. We built houses for fairies to visit—and they did! We were sure of it.
More than once, we released a container of ladybugs as we sat on the sidewalk and let them crawl all over us. A lone ladybug on your arm is cute, but when there are so many of them, it gets a little creepy. Yet I learned to love the ladybug army because Anna did. My five senses reveled in these new experiences. I was grateful for them.
Through Anna’s childhood, my husband and I had a constant source of laughter and joy. We watched her in her bouncy seat while we ate dinner. We called her “Kid TV.” As parents know, little kids can turn into mini-comedians. One of our funniest memories: On our first visit to an art museum, I instructed Anna to use her eyes, rather than her hands like at the children’s museum. She walked right up to a sculpture and pressed her eye against it.
These fun times with Anna gave me a window into what it must have been like for me as a young child, everything new and wonderful. But it also confronted me with some of the difficult aspects of my own childhood. My mom had three children by the time she was 23. Not long after our dad was sent to serve in Korea for one year, and our family always struggled to recover from his absence.
With God, my husband, and my child beside me, the new memories we formed gave me a chance to finally mourn the parts that I wished had, or had not, been there. Jesus peeled away the years and lightened an un-nameable load. God renewed my youth because he gave me a new life—a new perspective on my past and a deeply meaningful present.
Brimming with the joys of motherhood, I found it easier to let go of past hurts. I recognized, too, my parents’ heroic efforts to keep life together. They only parted when my mother died a year ago. She was the best grandmother ever. Looking back now, I am more grateful for all the things my parents did right. I pray God gives Anna a similar forgiving heart toward her father and me some day.
Though having a baby after 40 may seem “late” to some, I trusted the timing and circumstances because I knew that God ordained them. Now I see how all the pieces fit together to fulfill his purpose. All the fun, laughs, discoveries, adventures—memories—that Anna and I shared are stored up in my heart and mind forever, part of the person God made me to be. But I also believe that had he chosen another way—one that did not involve having a child—God would have given my life an equal meaning and renewal of youth, just as his Word promises.
Looking ahead, I relish the idea of being a grandmother years from now, and playing with ladybug armies again.
Callie Grant heads Graham Blanchard Inc., which creates board books for children and families growing up in God. See the books and other parent resources at grahamblanchard.com.
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