ERIE— Eight months into her pregnancy, Wendy Fott often appears to be talking to the walls or the windshield as she putters around her home or drives to work.
This chat might sound like the one-sided conversation of cell phone users and some people with mental illness. Instead, the 36-year-old first-time mom is speaking — lovingly, earnestly, hopefully — to her first child, a baby due June 8.
From 1980 to 2003, the number of Colorado women age 35 and older jumped from 21 percent to 39 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Those statistics do not break out the number of first-time mothers. But chances are Fott represents a swelling percentage of women pushing 40 and finally shopping for maternity clothes.
By contrast, the data show the rate of births among 18- and 19-year-olds holding steady and dropping by 1 percent for those age 17 and younger statewide.
What does Mother’s Day mean for women on the bookends of reproductive life and now pregnant with their first baby?
“Older moms know more. They’re more fearful. Younger moms just go with the flow,” said Kim Fuhrman, a childbirth educator at Longmont United Hospital. “But they’re mostly the same. They want to be the best mom out there.”
Motherhood at 19
Despite the generation gap, both first-timers wonder what their baby’s favorite color will be and worry about what the teen years will bring.
They look down at their bellies with satisfaction and some anxiety. What is it going to take to birth the person outgrowing the womb?
“I’ve never been so scared in my life for the next three weeks,” said Raechel Hurt, 19. “Usually, when you’re 19, you’re thinking about finals at this time of year.”
But the Longmont woman has seriously pondered pregnancy since August, when she shopped for prenatal vitamin supplements at K-mart.
By late September, Hurt and her fiancé, 24-year-old Brian Koob, had a whole different kind of date to anticipate: May 28, their baby’s due date. This restaurant server recently put her notepad and tray away to wait exclusively on Mother Nature.
Koob stocks grocery store shelves from 11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. to keep the money coming in. But he has rolled out of bed in their apartment during business hours to make her doctor’s appointments and childbirth classes.
Both feel happy and excited about the baby on the way. But the news left their peers puzzled, Hurt said. They considered the planned parenthood a little out of order for someone like Hurt — a white, middle-class woman with a year invested in college.
She sees it differently.
When Hurt found Mr. Right and fell in love, she said, her maternal instincts flowered. And instead of turning her life upside down, she credits the tiny life within for putting her right side up.
Motherhood’s many responsibilities — getting checkups, eating a balanced diet, and walking with Koob and Honey, his yellow Lab — have motivated her to reconsider her priorities.
College seems more of a cherry because picking it can help her land a better-paying job to help support her family.
Partying seems more of a dead end because smoking, drinking and snacking on junk food won’t help her look and feel as good as she can.
For now, though, her priority is hanging miniature clothing — shower gifts and hand-me-downs —in the baby’s walk-in closet.
One little hanger held a Halloween costume — a zippered fleece lion’s suit with a tail attached to the breeches and ears sewn to the hood. Another supported a lemon-colored chiffon dress with matching bloomers.
It’s been fun pulling them out and hanging them up. But Hurt is ready to wrap them around Sammantha Skye Koob and show her off.
On Mother’s Day, ideals about motherhood get tossed around.
Who is her ideal mother?
“Betty Crocker,” Hurt said, smiling. “No. Probably someone who grows up with you. ... My mom took us swimming in the summer and sledding in the winter.”
Motherhood pushing 40
While Hurt finishes feathering her nest in Longmont, Fott is doing the same thing in Erie. But this pregnant woman with gray-streaked hair has lived nearly double the life of the teenager.
At Hurt’s age, Fott had just left the family farm in Madison County, Iowa — a pretty place renowned for its covered bridges — to finish her education and then land a marketing job in downtown Denver.
She never wanted to be a teen mother. Yet the thought of pushing 40 and being pregnant for the first time did not occur to her until life unfolded that way.
“Well, I wasn’t married, and I wasn’t dating anyone,” she said of her many years as a single woman. “So what was I supposed to do? Stand on a street corner and say, ‘I’m really not that independent and career-minded?’”
Last May, when she married engineer Wade Fott, 39, the two glanced at her biological clock and figured they would “let whatever happens happen,” Fott said.
Now, the couple are packing bags for a hospital dash and assembling a portable swingset.
She talks to the baby throughout the day, and he reads his dirt bike magazines out loud to the baby at night.
Still, accepting that her time has come — that she’ll be a mother on Mother’s Day next year — seems surreal.
“I tried to stay out of maternity clothes for as long as I could. But after a certain point, who are you trying to kid?” Fott said, laughing with her now-Santa Claus-sized belly.
She added that coming down the home stretch of her pregnancy makes Mother’s Day mean a little more.
Who is her ideal mother?
“I guess if I would be like anyone, I’d be like my own mother,” Fott said. “She’s classy. She’s appropriate, and she can throw a party.”
Unlike Hurt and Fott, 38-year-old Kimberly Rutt — now three months pregnant — is not rotund.
She’s got the glow, though.
And this Mother’s Day means more because she got pregnant Jan. 28, 10 days after marrying Paul Rutt, a 40-year-old nuclear physicist.
The baby is due Nov. 1. The couple have not yet painted the room or shopped for baby things. But they have made peace with their long years of singlehood and opened their hearts wide to parenthood.
Rutt, a lawyer who worked in education policy, said she quit to settle into a fast-change lifestyle that in the same year includes a husband and a baby on the way.
She still consults some, but nothing is the same — including her energy level.
“One of my (pregnant) friends said, ‘My body’s very busy dividing cells all day. You may not see it, but I’m working,’” Rutt said.
When she feels a little lazy about grocery shopping or housework, she teases her husband by telling him, “The baby doesn’t want to.”
However, the discomforts and uncertainty of a pregnancy at 38 don’t matter much to this mother-to-be.
The couple agreed before marrying that they had “front-ended” their life with education, travel, career-building and sound sleep, night after night.
“I’m ready to give,” Rutt said.
Who is her ideal mother?
“Somebody who instills confidence in children, who’s strong and lets kids know it’s OK to make mistakes,” she said. “Mother’s Day does make me appreciate my mom. I just want to go back to Louisiana, give her a hug and say, ‘I’m so sorry I didn’t appreciate you for so many years!’”