A Lifetime Decision

by Nina Rosoff, PhD '65

Buddha says, “Do not even listen to me. Listen to and do only that which your own reason and good common sense tells you to do.”

I beseech you to follow these words to resolve your own questions about “when” or “if” to ever have children. Within each of your own good heads, hearts, spirits, and bodies you hold the answer. Babies become children. Children grow up to become healthy contributing citizens as adults, (we hope). Children are a lifetime choice, a forever commitment, nothing less; a job, responsibility, and career.

I was not programmed by societal or parental pressures about, if, or when to have a child. But I always knew I wanted one. I’d adored babies, kittens, puppies, and families as far back as I could remember. Family images in Cheaper By the Dozen and Father Knows Best all fit into my heart like the feel of a soft pair of bedroom slippers. I would snuggle into these images for comfort and warmth. Babies fit. Comfort, warmth, and full of life. All natural feelings in my heart and soul.

Even so, getting pregnant at almost 40 was a major decision. I was a full-time professor, and my jobs at several top business schools across America came one after another. This was in tandem with my work throughout the world with my own organization/management firm, Kre8 Consulting, Inc., along with researching and publishing.

Life was fruitful. I was “rich” in every possible way. I was married to the 22 man of my dreams. I was a respected, successful professional. Yes, I was even happy and healthy.

My husband and I had been together six years. The time seemed right to have a baby. Still, the decision came with much thoughtful consideration: my advanced age, and the fact that my husband had been diagnosed two years earlier with Parkinson’s disease (one of the youngest persons ever). I sought advice from various professionals, family, and friends. One question hung at the center of every conversation-an unanswerable question. Would our baby have Parkinson’s one day? No one knew. The most that was-and still is-known is that gender seems to be a transfer agent. If “it” was a boy, he might one day have Parkinson’s. If “it” was a girl, perhaps not.

The phone rang as I was vacuuming our Connecticut home. Four months of pregnancy had passed; the results of the amniocentesis were in.

“Dr. Rosoff, the baby is healthy.” I heard the nurse’s report and immediately I burst into uncontrollable tears. I kept repeating, “Oh, thank you, God, thank you.”

The nurse waited patiently. “Would you like to know if it is a boy or a girl?” I abruptly stopped crying. I was already quite “certain” the baby was a boy. “Sure,” I said.

“Congratulations, you are going to have a healthy baby girl,” she said.

As I write this, our daughter, a Duke sophomore, is a healthy 19-year-old. Me, I’m returning to my additional “careers”- consulting, teaching, researching, and writing. She is still my full-time career.

I wouldn’t choose to do anything differently. Not the heartache of divorce, the challenges of raising a child alone, the laughter, the tears, the disappointments. Not the fatigue I experienced as I cared for my daughter-and for the past 10 years, my aging mother as well, until her death a year ago at Christmas. Being a single parent, with all its attendant responsibility and work, all were more than worth it.

I have been blessed indeed to have “had it all”-and then some. I wouldn’t have felt this way had I “given up” my favorite job-being a mother-by placing it second to my other “careers.” They all paled in terms of personal satisfaction; still do.

The challenge, reward, joy, tears, terror, elation of watching her move into the world were worth the wait. As I’ve always told her, she’s “the love of my life and the life of my love.”

I believe my decision to “wait” made me work even harder to develop a stronger identity, to become even more feminine, effective, and powerful as a woman and mother. I worked hard to stay balanced and keep my perspective. I learned patience melded with persistence, despair modified with hope, flexibility strengthened by boundaries. My faith in God often got me through.

Most important, perhaps, I learned from my own precious daughter. “Mom,” she has said more than once, “You’re not always right. You don’t have all the answers.”

Now she searches for her own answers, and just as I did, she’s finding them one by one. She will now answer for herself the critical question: Does later mean never?