I finished medical school and became a medical doctor at the age of 25. Throughout my residency and early medical career, I cannot count how many times someone looked at me and wondered when the doctor was coming in. I cannot count how many times I was thought to be the nurse. And when I assured someone that I was, in fact, their doctor they’d often look at me skeptically. “Really? How old are you?” So. Many. Times. Grays Anatomy was just getting started then and I used this analogy to make myself more plausible. I’d say things like, “Have you ever seen Gray’s Anatomy? I’m like one of those doctors…” Ha. I bet that helped a lot.
I get it. I really do. I started in my own clinic with my own patients all on my own at just 28. I’d waltz in the room with my supple young skin, wrinkle and sunspot free, and try to tell 70-year-old men that they needed cholesterol medication or they needed to drop 20 pounds or they needed to start exercising or they needed to have their yearly prostate exam. I had all the science but not a lot of life experience. And I could just see their minds turning, “Who does this young whippersnapper think she is?”
I remember thinking I couldn’t wait to turn 30 so I might be able to pull it all off. So I might be just a little more believable. So I might be able to look the part.
And I also remember knowing that one of these days people would stop asking me how old I am. They’d stop saying things like, “You’re the doctor??? Really? You have three children? You don’t look old enough for all that!”
That day is now.
No one asks me anymore. I have enough laugh lines and forehead wrinkles and sunspots and sagging body parts to make me look like I have enough wisdom to know what I’m talking about. They just let me examine them and then take the medicine. I’m legit.
I’m also legit enough to have the following conversation while at a soccer tournament for my 10-year-old this past weekend.
We sat with some of the other players and their families having lunch and waiting for the final game to start. I chit-chatted with one boy’s grandmother about how much I enjoyed watching the boys play soccer. And I commented how much I hope Lizzy, who is 19 months, will want to play soccer.
This woman turned to me and in all seriousness said, “Who’s that? Your granddaughter?”
Whaaaat in the actual???
My brain was firing away, “Granddaughter??? How old do you think I am lady?? I am 38 years old and I most certainly am not talking about a granddaughter!!!”
But I just answered, “No, my daughter.”
I tried to imagine that perhaps this woman just misspoke. She couldn’t have meant to say granddaughter. That’s preposterous.
But her follow up question was, “You have a 19-month-old baby??”
You guys. Really????
I’ve been mistaken for pregnant before and that is pretty embarrassing and demoralizing.
But a grandmother? This is new.
And I realized right then and there this will be the new question.
When I take her to kindergarten or soccer tournaments or I’m snapping photos at prom or dropping her to college. When all the other moms are in their twenties and thirties and I’m there in my forties and, yes, fifties someone will inevitably ask me, “Are you her mom or….??”
I try to justify to myself that this is happening only because I live in Utah where the average age of marriage and average age for starting a family is at least three years earlier than the remainder of our country (it is, I checked). I suppose if I’d had a child at 18 and that child had a baby at 18, I could theoretically be Elizabeth’s grandmother.
But, no. I’m her mom.
I hadn’t planned to have five children. I always, always thought four was the number. I thought I’d be done having children before 35 (Luke was born when I was 33). I had hoped to avoid that label “advanced maternal age”.
But you know what??
I wouldn’t change a thing.
She wasn’t part of the original plan but I can’t imagine my life without my Elizabeth Grace.
It’s as if I was waiting for her.
And she came not during my twenties which were filled with angst. Angst over finishing residency and starting a new career. Angst over a floundering marriage. Angst over completing our family and finding our family home and debating which state we were meant to live in and deciding how many days a week to work. Angst over figuring out who I am.
She came in my later thirties. And my thirties are so much better! In my later thirties, I have a career waiting for me and a strong marriage. In my later thirties, I know where we live and who our people are. And in my later thirties, I’m beginning to know exactly who I am and feel comfortable in my own skin, however wrinkled.
This time I’m not nervously trying to figure out how to take care of my first newborn baby or juggling three little boys alongside my work in both clinic and inpatient medicine or mourning all the ‘last times’ of my last little boy.
Elizabeth is my one more time. And with Lizzy I just get to take it all in. Enjoy all I can.
Elizabeth is the unexpected perfect little caboose at the end of our family.
Sometimes life doesn’t go according to our plans. But sometimes we are handed something so much better…something we couldn’t even dream of.
So the next time someone asks me if I’m her grandmother, I’ll just smile big and wide so all my laugh lines show and reply, “Nope. She’s all mine!”
I wouldn’t have it any other way.