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How the Ostrich Really Felt

By Alisa SingerA few months ago, a touching story was reported in The Chicago Tribune about Kristine Casey, the 61 year old woman who acted as a surrogate for her daughter and son-in-law, successfully delivering her own grandson, Finnean. Kristine is probably the oldest woman in the state of Illinois to give birth which, even without the surrogacy, is obviously quite remarkable. But to give birth as a surrogate, and then to your own grandson, is truly astounding. The background to this miracle of modern science is the daughter’s sad history, having tragically experienced the loss of stillborn twins and a miscarriage. By the time Kristine made her incredible proposal the family was clearly due for a real blessing, however bizarre.

Maybe the only acceptable emotion to feel as one reads this amazing story is profound satisfaction for the fairy tale outcome. But having gotten past the warm fuzzies (and I really am happy for them all), a host of other less PC feelings crowded onto the scene. I’m wondering if you can relate as I tick them off, more-or-less in order of occurrence:

humor-ostritch1-copy1. Admiration ~ Undergoing pregnancy and delivery at the age of 61 is quite a courageous undertaking, not even counting all of the painful fertility procedures that led up to the pregnancy. (I’m afraid to get a flu shot.)

2. Mild revulsion ~ To tell the truth, this was my first reaction. You have to agree it’s a little cringe-worthy – a bit Harold and Maudish. Somewhere Mother Nature is shaking her head.

3. Delight ~ The idea that a carefully concocted cocktail of hormones can cause a senior citizen’s uterus to cavort like a teenager’s is quite entertaining. I wonder how the hormones affected the rest of her – did she develop pimples and the urge to sneak out of the house at midnight? An unexpected craving to watch a Justin Bieber video?

4. Curious ~ So many questions: How will little Finnean handle Mother’s Day? Does Hallmark make a card: “To the best grandmother mother ever.” (How about to the only one, ever.) And what about the family tree project in third grade? And then there’s the question of Kristine’s husband – is he Finnean’s grandfather or his stepfather?

5. Defeated ~ Casey has now set the bar for meaningful second acts laughably over all of our heads. Think you’re going to get any kudos for volunteering at the local hospital or library after retirement? Huh! And offer to babysit your grandchildren for a weekend? Until now that may have seemed mildly heroic, but after this, any stint shorter than nine months will barely earn you a “thanks mom”.

6. Concerned ~ Talk about helicopter parenting. This is a far cry from helping with the homework. And though Kristine’s family’s circumstances were uniquely compelling, there’s no telling where this may lead. Our kids may develop a whole new claim of entitlement: “Come on mom, just this once. You know how I feel about stretch marks.”

7. Resentful ~ Remember how you felt toward the kid that set the curve in high school? Kristine, you annoying over-achiever. Was this really necessary?

8. Guilty ~ Here I am with an unoccupied womb and not even a vacancy sign hanging around my waist. What a slacker.

So what prompted this extraordinary act of selflessness? According to the article, after her retirement in 2007, Casey was seeking something more meaningful than the traditionalactivities of a woman of leisure – long walks, meditation, socializing, etc. She found her answer after attending a class which included an exercise in creating life goals. That particular exercise somehow involved a collage featuring the image of an ostrich which, according to the article, wore “…an expression of wonder and joy.” Casey made up her mind that she, too, would experience the feeling that ostrich felt, and so, quite naturally, she decided to give birth to her grandson.

So what had the ostrich actually done to produce the ecstatic expression that Casey found so inspiring? The article doesn’t provide more details so I painted my own mental picture: I visualized a large, post-menopausal bird with skinny legs looking down at an enormous egg lying between her feet. “Whoa! How did that happen? Well that will teach me to keep my head in the sand too long!” And I think Casey got it wrong – it wasn’t wonder and joy the old bird was feeling. More like stunned bewilderment.

Which leads me to my final emotion ~ relief. My son recently brought over to the house the adorable puppy he had bought for his longtime girlfriend. I watched the new parents with amusement as they fussed over his toilet training and argued about approaches to discipline. (My son favored a firmer approach; his girlfriend, having raised the pup’s older brother, was more forgiving.) And when I offered to babysit the little tyke for an afternoon I was quite relieved by their response: rather than finding my offer to be paltry, they actually seemed both grateful and pleased.

Well, I suppose that’s the advantage of having a puppy for your grandson ~ you’re not expected to give birth to him.

Alisa Singer’s humorous essays have appeared in a variety of print and online newspapers and magazines across the country and in Canada. She is the author of various gift books designed to entertain and amuse baby boomers. Her newest book, When a Girl Goes From Bobby Sox to Compression Stockings…She Gets a Little Cranky, is available at You can learn more about her work by visiting her website: or contacting her at

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