The Many Ages of a Woman

Today I was officially declared by my doctor as being in menopause.

I was not surprised, of course. A woman knows her body. During the summer I started feeling those “heat waves” commonly described as a symptom. Not that they happened too often, or were too bad – the problem has been the dizziness I have suffered from in the last two months, and that I associate with it. Or maybe not.

As I looked at my doctor I remembered my many ages and how he had been present in so many of them. We first met when I was thirty and trying to get pregnant. I was going to have an x ray with an impossible name (it’s easier to say its purpose is to check if your ovaries are obstructed) and he was the gynaecologist accompanying the radiologist, following the usual procedure. Everybody said it was painful but I was ok, and his having a sense of humour certainly helped, so it went quite well and I even laughed at his jokes.

When we met again I had done a significant part of the “via crucis”of women who cannot, but want to, have a baby – done several exams, consulted a fertility specialist, more exams and then the final one, under general anaesthetic, that declared my problem was an endometriosis, an inflammation of the uterus that would not allow the egg to develop and so a baby to grow. I had undergone the horrible treatment with masculine hormones and had been in shock when I had read all the possible side effects but no, fortunately I did not grow a penis as it said I might, I had only had acne, some extra kilos and a terrible temper…and then I finally got pregnant and, as my fertility doctor was a scientist and his mission was to allow women to get pregnant, not deliver babies, after a few months he had passed me on to another, and I chose this one because he delivered babies at the private hospital I liked and, most of all, where my health insurance paid for the bill.

I had recognised him and again enjoyed his sense of humour. I welcomed his strictness, as he forbade me to eat sweets during my pregnancies, no more than two pieces of fruit each day, and sternly announced I could not gain more than 14 kilos – and this because I am tall!

He delivered my babies, both on Saturdays. On a February sunny day, my elder son broke my waters and my husband and I went to the hospital at 9 o’clock. It was an easy birth – for a first – and a natural one as I was more terrified of epidural anaesthetic than of the pain of childbirth! I was in “hard” labour for some 3 hours and at a certain point he took pity on me and gave me some morphine derivative which sent me to Heaven…the birth of my second son was programmed, as he was due around Christmas and neither I (whose birthday is on Christmas day in fact) nor my doctor wanted to spend it in the delivery room, so it was scheduled by mutual agreement for yet another Saturday, the last one before Christmas. It was a very easy and quick birth and before the final moments both I, my husband and my doctor were reading the newspaper and telling jokes to each other.

He was always there through the years – giving me the pill again (even if it had been so difficult to get pregnant, we agreed I should not take any risks of an unwanted pregnancy), then at 40 telling me I should stop and use an IUD, asking me some “awkward” questions when I told him I was divorced (such as if I had several partners and what precautions I should take – and looking relieved when I said I was in a stable relationship and very happy) then sending me to a very dear colleague when I found a lump in my breast – that fortunately was only a cyst, and burst as the biopsy needle touched it! -until today.

Today, after giving me the news he proceeded to remove my IUD, and told me to cough hard. Then as every other time he had done this, he lifted it in his hand and showed it, and I laughed and said “Goodbye, dear friend!”

Then he said I should take a new medicine (no, not the “traditional” menopause hormone treatment but a new one that not only relieves the symptoms but also helps delay osteoporosis for ten years). I said I will take it, but left in doubt, as I’m much more in favour of natural treatments and I’m in fact already taking something for that – prescribed by my quantum medicine doctor.

As I left the hospital I looked at the blue sky. Even if it was a November day, it was warm and sunny, what we call in Portugal St. Martin’s summer (usually the weather is quite mild every year around the 11th November, St. Martins day). I felt strangely happy. I briefly smiled as I remembered the day, long ago, when I secretly went to the University Medical services gynaecologist on a free consultation to ask for a prescription for the pill…and of the day I took some blood tests (usual procedure) and, as they had to be done before eating, I had to throw away my breakfast so that no one would suspect at home…then I had to carry my pill in my wallet all the time so that no one would learn I was taking it…

As I kept on walking to my car, I thought what a rich life I have lived. At fifty two, I can look back and see most of my dreams have come true, a successful career, the children, a failed marriage but still one that taught me a lot, a new loving relationship and, most of all, health…I have lived through so many wonderful moments, so many funny adventures, my share of heartbreak as well, dreams, optimism, learning to cope with life challenges…so much wisdom I have gained. I feel an enormous urge to share it, to become a storyteller, to tell the many stories of my many ages and also the many stories of the women I know, intriguing, wonderful, day to day beautiful heart rendering stories. Stories of how women cope with love, children, work, ageing, to share with other women. And some stories of men, too. Stories of people, after all. I think I should, as I love to write and I feel I have to do something about all these stories that are bursting inside me.

So, at 52, I’m entering a new phase in my life. Not because I’m in menopause – after all, I have known about it for months. I feel great, young and not in the least worried about it. This is a new phase because I have decided I’m going to do something different with my life. I am going to write – I’m going to tell my stories, my friends’ stories, my mother’s and grandmother’s and ancestors’ stories. The stories of so many women that have crossed my life. And my story, of course. And I’m going to share them with all the people that may want to read them.

Yes. I have decided. I am going to write a blog.