It happened again. Just now, while I was sitting at a library computer minding my own business, I felt the familiar wave start to roll over me. There’s this undeniable routine to it now, an oddly comfortable awareness of what my body is going to do in the next five…four…three…two…one….second. There is the slightly irritating edginess that strikes without warning. I feel a mild agitation all of a sudden for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Next, a flush of heat rushes me….starting with my chest, feels like I’ve just stepped out of cold a/c onto a tropical island. I gasp a little, not really surprised but a little caught off-guard, and then I settle in for the full flush. My face pinks, my neck reddens, tiny beads of sweat pool on my arms, on my chest, under the collar of my polo. The room becomes impossibly stuffy. I imagine steam billowing wild puffs of humid heat straight from my long-suffering body. I close my eyes, letting it roll, riding the wave, accepting what is and what cannot be ignored.
I am menopausal. I am a hot-flashing woman, replete with warmed skin and tears brimming just below the surface of the woman I’ve become. I thought I would hate this. I have spent decades of my life dreading it.
Now, earlier than I expected, it has come. My own tsunami, a hormonal tidal wave come to change me from the girl I was into the woman I was always meant to become.
Driving to work the other night, as the heat rose hard and steamy through my nurse’s uniform, I was startled at the emotion welling up within me, right alongside the flash of hotness. It was a sense of comfortableness, a full-on acceptance of where I am in my life-stage. I can’t say I necessarily enjoy the prickly, itchy heat that takes charge of my body, whenever and however it wills, but I can say that I feel a tiny bit of pride every time it happens.
I am glad to be a woman, full and generous and wholly feminine. I am glad to have made it past the angst of adolescence, to have successfully maneuvered the uncomfortable detours of pimples and unrequited teenage love. I am thankful that I have survived the emptiness of infertility, with its questions and dead-ends and endless reaches for something many women take so for granted – the joys and pains of motherhood. I am especially grateful that my own journey into the world of infertility ended the way it did, after twelve long heartbreaking years, with the births – three in five years – of my sweet, precious, beautiful daughters. And, even now, I sit at the traffic light, my face now as red as the traffic light itself, and appreciate who and what I’ve become, and what it’s taken to get me here.
Yes, I am menopausal. I haven’t had a period for three months, two weeks and four days now. Last night at Wal-Mart, I had cramps so painful, I was certain that the long-awaited cycle was returning. It did not. I took two Advil, drank some very fresh, sweet orange juice, and let my ten-year-old daughter, Chloe, massage my aching back while we talked about her day – her cats and the earrings and lip gloss she wants and the boy she likes but doesn’t want anyone to know she likes. I fell asleep beside my already sleeping husband. Chloe read Bridge to Terabithia to help her fall asleep. Her sisters were already down. Zoe was exhausted from cheerleading and Caroline had done herself in skateboarding.
I lay there, the only one awake in the end, and thought about the wild, wondrous place I am in right now. I’ve come to a point of sweet full-circle-ness in my life. I’ve been in love, madly so, and am now just as mad with contentment over the steady, reassuring presence of my husband in my life. I’ve birthed three glorious daughters and they are out of diapers and into the place where we are best friends as well as mother and child. I am almost free of the dreaded monthly curses. I am exhilarated with being a woman, a mature woman, able and ready to face whatever life throws at me.
I’ve always thought of menopause as a curse. Now that it’s here, I’m actually considering it a miracle of sorts. It’s brought me a sense of wholeness. I feared the unknown. The known isn’t nearly as horrific as I’d imagined. Glory be…glory be! :)