This is my inaugural publication and I got to say I am a little nervous.
Who do I even think I am writing a blog about anything? Granted, this subject matter is near to my heart. Me. On Being 50 something. Being right here, right now, in my 52nd year is providing me with so many insights. Admittedly, I am self centred and pompous enough to think that you may find some learning and enjoyment from my words.
That opening paragraph alone will act as a deterrent to the 20 and 30 something’s. Maybe even the 40 somethings will hesitate and think to themselves I’m not ready for that yet.
The start of each decade of my life heralded some kind of profound change. Some of them good, some not so good- all a learning experience. Marriage, divorce, health issues all showed up at the beginning of each decade. It happened when I was 30, 40 and then again at 50. This time around it is the onset of menopause. The official cessation of my reproductive capacity. I stopped having babies two decades ago but I was still getting invitations to party. I was just turning them down. Menopause. IF that doesn’t spell old woman, I don’t know what does. Your ova are all used up and your uterus retires.
My identity for a very long time was wrapped up in the notion of me as Mother- The Knower Of All Things. Even when I decided I was not having any more babies, I still HAD actual babies to care for. Being a mother infused every minute of every day. I had other activities, friends and responsibilities outside of the house and away from my children, but every decision I made, every plan laid out, every consideration, was made with the view of my children’s well being in mind. This is what we do. Your living and dying is tied up in how it will affect your kids. Am I right? So, yes, the end of such an all-consuming job most definitely is a big deal. I had been thinking about this for years. I looked at menopause as it loomed down what seemed like a long, long road. Eyed it with curiosity and a bit of defiance, never really believing it would happen to me. Maybe I would be the one woman in history to remain fertile in to her 90s. My cousin and I both super fertile and both in our late 40s, would always say “I bet I could get pregnant right now” We would joke and although I am a birth support professional and know perfectly well the slimness of the chances of a 48 years getting spontaneously pregnant, I still kinda sorta believed it.
When I was 46 and still having regular periods, I had a friend who was a year or so older than me and she missed her period one month. She just happened to be dating a younger guy at that time and they had been having unprotected sex. This particular friend had no children; had never even been pregnant and so the chances of her being pregnant at that age were remote to say the least. But she bought a pregnancy test anyway. I was with her the day she took the test. We perched the test stick on the edge of the bathroom sink and stared intently at it as nothing happened. No little sign in the window indicated that a baby had started to grow inside of her. She wasn’t pregnant. For her there was a mixture of disappointment AND relief. This is a common combination of emotions for a lot of people when a late period shows up and then turns out to be just that- a late period. In this case, that late period signalled the Beginning of the End. I remember giving her a hug and feeling sad for her. Never having had children was a source of sadness in her life and it reminded me of how the question “did you get your period” is a question that we ask each other throughout many of the decades of our lives and it means something different at each stage.
AT 12 YEARS OLD- “did you get your period?” You ask your friends this to find out if you STARTED your period for the first time. Are you worthy of being initiated into the club of Kotex and tampons? Are you grown up enough to moan and declare “God, I have the worst cramps ever”?
AT 21 YEARS OLD- “did you get your period?” You ask your friend who is having a pregnancy scare. And there is celebration when her period comes. Oh my god, the relief! You are NOT pregnant. Back to regular life! But now, be more careful….
AT 30 SOMETHING YEARS OLD- “did you get your period?” you ask your friend who is trying to get pregnant and if they did not get it and the absence means pregnancy, Yay! You celebrate that. If they do get their period, you encourage and support them in their efforts to conceive because infertility is real and it is a bitch of a process to work through.
AT 40 SOMETHING YEARS OLD, the question- “did you get your period?” is still relevant. Sure it may be that your friend is pregnant but alongside that possibility stands the notion that this might be it. The END. The end of ever needing to ask your friend that question again or of anyone asking you.
After my friend had her negative pregnancy test, I remember feeling very detached from her experience. I had 5 children and 2 grandchildren at the time. My periods were still like clockwork and I truly looked at her as if she was someone experiencing something I would never feel. Something I would need to support her through but that would never affect me. I couldn’t relate. Well…fast forward a couple of years. My period was due on a particular day…and it didn’t come. It continued to not come for 4 days. Not a huge amount of time to be late but still noticeable for me. A few months later, I had a period that showed up 10 days late. Then another one 5 days late. This up and down continued for about a year and a half (don’t’ let me tell you about the anxiety and hot flashes and insomnia that went along with that…that’s another post). Then about a month before my 50th birthday, I missed an entire period. WTF. NOW, I was IN it.
As of today, I have answered NO to the question “did you get your period?” 9 times. No one asks anymore. Because it is fruitless. Like my uterus.
Another 3 missed periods and I will be through it. The transition. The menoPAUSE. I am planning a party. A Crone Party. There will be cake. And I will dispense wisdom. Because transitions need to be marked. If we believe that we should always learn and grow through all stages of life, then Rites of Passage never end. I feel unready but deserving and I’m going to tell you all about it.