She was named even before I got married. I thought about having my own little girl to nurture and mentor. A little mini-me. Since I was 30 and Eddie 35 when we got married, we had children right away. With each child, we opted to find out the baby’s gender at birth. No gender-reveal parties in those days anyway. My first child was born in 1991, a son we named Nathaniel. My second child was also a son, Nicholas. My third child was, you guessed it, a son Jeremy. When I unexpectedly became pregnant at age 39 with my fourth, I was pretty sure God was about to bless me with a daughter. In September 1998 I gave birth to my fourth, and final child, Joseph…..a son!
Given the number of children I had and my age, I pretty much gave up on the idea of ever raising a daughter. God knows best, right? I did LOVE my sons and settled into being a “boy mom”—living with all manner of reptiles, skateboarding mishaps, rough-and-tumble play, jokes about farting…a mother’s dream. Well into my 40s, I secretly fantasized about being one of those late-in-life pregnant women showcased in the local paper. Sure, I already had a busy household, a full-time career, international travel, a growing Bible study group….but what about my long-held wish? Had God forgotten?
I was nearly in my 50s and realized the odds were against me—way against me. We considered adopting a child internationally but were discouraged by the realization that some countries had a rule that the combined ages of adoptive parents could not be over 100. At the time, my age and my husband’s age combined was already over 100. Not to mention the time and expense that is often involved in international adoptions. Still, I found myself drawn to stories of people becoming parents later in life. Besides I didn’t feel my age.
And then, in January of 2011 when my sons were 12, 14, 17, and 20, we got a phone call from the Child Protection Services in Ohio asking if we would consider becoming a family for our 10 month old niece Ja-nia who was in foster care in Ohio. Really? God did not forget my desire! But weren’t we too old by then? The child agency in Ohio didn’t seem to mind about our ages (I was 51 at the time and Eddie was 56) or ask any questions about whether we could handle a baby at our stage of life. They were happy to find some relatives who would consider taking a 10 month old. With hardly any hesitation, we said, “Yes!” I started praying that Ja-nia would be able to join us by her first birthday in March. Surely since God set this up, it would all go smoothly. Paperwork, clearances, home visits, finger printing, background checks, more paperwork….was there no end to the documentation?
We were on an emotional roller coaster wondering if she would ever join us. When Ja-nia’s birthday came and went, I felt angry and impatient with the child welfare officials, and a bit disappointed in God. Nevertheless, I picked a new goal to pray about….maybe she can be with us by Mother’s Day in May. That would be great! We drove six hours one way on three occasions for visits with Ja-nia at the child welfare agency in Ohio. It was great to get acquainted with her, but each visit intensified the desire to bring her home. Mother’s Day came and went. “But God, didn’t you set this up? Why the agony of waiting? She is in an unrelated foster family. WE are her family. She needs to be with us! I need her!”
In early June 2011, we got a call. “You can come pick her up on June 7th.” Finally! The day drew near with great anticipation. But, then, there was another phone call. Some sort of paperwork glitch. We could not go pick her up. What else could go wrong? A week went by with no word. Then another call. “The paperwork is all approved. You can pick her up on June 14th.” The next week we loaded up and drove the six hours to pick her up. After a brief meeting at the child welfare agency, we headed home with our new daughter. The next morning I realized that Ja-nia’s first full day with us, June 15th, was my birthday! God’s perfect timing! He meant her as a gift to me. What a wonderful and gracious Father! And you know that thing about liking 'N' names? Well, two of my sons have names beginning with 'J' and two have names beginning with 'N'. And my new little girl came with a two-part hyphenated name, Ja-nia. Her name was a combination of J and N! How cool is that!
And my fears about being an older parent? Turned out they were just that, F-E-A-R: False Expectations Appearing Real. Yes, I am 50 years older than my daughter. Yes, people sometimes ask if I am her grandmother. When I pick her up at school and the children hear her call me mom, they don’t quite believe her and they ask me, “Are you really her mom?” Not sure that is all about age though since I am white and she is African American. One day I was expressing concern about being five decades older than my daughter, and the person I was speaking to shared that she was raised by older parents and she benefited from their maturity and wisdom and really came to appreciate them. That perspective encouraged me.
Based on my experience for the past six years, I have come to believe that raising a young child while I am in my 50s keeps me young! I am more motivated to take care of myself so that I can be around for Ja-nia as she matures into adulthood. I eat healthy (mostly) and exercise regularly. I am energetic and am able to keep up with all of her activities. To be honest, since Ja-nia loves to spend time on a digital device, it is I who has to convince her to go out on a bike ride with me or do some other physical activity.
While we did forgo having an empty nest when my youngest son went off to college this fall, the opportunity to have and raise a daughter is a special blessing and we look forward to watching Ja-nia blossom into the young woman God intended her to be. After all, God knows best.