– BY BARBARA YOUNGER –
On my thirteenth birthday, my dad gave me a transistor radio. My mom gave me spring clothes. Mother Nature gave me my first period. Loved the radio. Loved the clothes. Hated the period. I couldn’t believe I’d now face menstruation (a yucky word to my seventh grade ears) month in and month out. How could my body betray me like this?
On that birthday, not once did I think about the time when my periods would end. I’d never even heard the word ‘menopause’. But forty years later, menopause arrived. I’ve been period-free for almost ten years now. Time for some reflections.
Five reasons I’m sad
You never know which period was your last period until long after it’s gone, especially since you can skip months at a time during the menopausal transition. There’s no banner announcing: ‘Pay attention! This is your last period!’ I don’t remember my final one. That makes me wistful. I’m a traditionalist, and I like ceremony. My period just fizzled away without goodbye.
Periods mark your month, which helps you mark time. Life speeds up as we age, and the loss of a period makes my days blur together a bit. As much as I hated PMS, I did like that each week of my cycle felt different, distinct.
No more periods means no more body-made estrogen. My hair seems more brittle. My skin has creeping alligator pocks. My vagina is dry (but the remedies really do help). My metabolism has slowed. My memory, once quite good, is not so sharp. I long for the body I once had.
‘Waaah. No more periods means I’m that much closer to the grave’
My PMS each month was so awful that when I finally got my period, a sense of contentedness washed over me (after my cramps abated on the second day). My sleep was better. My thoughts seemed sharper. I even loved how much thinner I felt when the water weight came off. On Day Two to Four of my period, I had a sort of One with The Universe Feeling that I miss.
Waaah. No more periods means I’m that much closer to the grave. Yikes. I’d better get cracking. Lots more to accomplish.
Five reasons I’m happy
I made it! I survived forty years of menstruation. My body produced two lovely daughters who have given me adorable grandchildren. Three years ago, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer, which called for a complete hysterectomy. This time, I held a ceremony: a Goodbye and Thanks Ceremony for my reproductive organs. I’m now a grateful cancer survivor.
No weird, creepy feeling during ovulation. No swollen breasts once PMS sets in. No Mean, Grumpy, Sad, Barbara the week before my period. No chocolate cravings that forced me to devour scoops of M&Ms in one gulp.
No more cramps during work presentations or on an easygoing Saturday or at an elegant wedding. When I meet a waitress who acts rattled or a younger friend who seems on edge, I remind myself that she might be experiencing cramps. Even though I’m finished, I try to be mindful that other women are still struggling with period issues.
‘I made it! I survived forty years of menstruation’
No worries about leakage. I can wear white pants whenever I want and spend hours in a sailboat. Any day of the month is a period-free day. Need I say more? Oh, and yes, no more running to the store when the tampons supply runs low.
But mostly, it’s the zest that menopause brings that makes me glad to be finished with periods. Anthropologist Margaret Mead was the first woman to officially use the term ‘menopausal zest’. And it’s real. There’s a power in making it to menopause. A new energy. A new freedom. A new vantage point on life. And in order to get to menopause, you need to say goodbye to periods. Forever.
About the author
Barbara Younger (USA) is the creator of the blog Friend for the Ride: Encouraging Words for the Menopause and Midlife Roller Coaster. She’s also the author of twenty books, some for kids and some for adults. Barbara writes from her home in Hillsborough, North Carolina.
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