Shortly after midnight in the wee hours of August 22, 1987, our trusty springer spaniel, Gunther, needed the rest room facilities, and so I got my very largely pregnant self out of bed and tended to my pup. As I returned to bed, I felt the first of the contractions that would eventually lead Kevin and me to welcoming our first baby into the world, our Maria. Because I write everything down and basically am a bit OCD, I kept track of these contractions on a notepad that I had next to my bed. This went on for several hours, me sort of dozing in between contractions. Kevin snoozed peacefully beside me, Gunther at our feet. Just one big happy bunch of deep breathers. After several hours of this “labor,” I had an incredible thought . . .
“Is this it?!?! This isn’t so bad. What on earth were all those other women complaining about? Labor hurts? Not for me! Slight squeezes maybe, but intense pain?? Hardly!! Maybe I’ll be that one miracle woman who births babies with nary a twinge of discomfort. I’ll show the world what I’m made of!!” I practically heard trumpets sounding from the heavens and saw the headline of the Star & Tribune that next day announcing, “Miracle Woman gives birth with NO PAIN!”
Then my water broke.
OK, this is the point where I realized I was no miracle-woman. After a quick drive to the hospital and about 6 hours of REAL labor, we met our sweet Maria. (I know some of you are thinking “Six hours?? Is that all?? I was in labor for 6 days!!” I hear you and you have my utmost admiration.)
The point is this: Denial is more than a river in Egypt, it’s a place I reside on a regular basis. I took up residence there while charting my contractions and thinking I’d get by without it hurting, and now I find myself there again at another stage in my life as a female . . . . menopause.
You see, some of my friends are just a step ahead of me in this process and I’ve heard them talk about the hot flashes and the insomnia, the night sweats and the mood swings. But that wasn’t going to happen to me. Now it’s been a while (29 years, to be exact) since that night I sat up with paper and pencil in hand, and it seems I’ve forgotten I’m NOT miracle-woman. Dang it, anyway. I really thought I was going to get away with it this time. I’d even done some remodeling in my cute little apartment in “Denial Village.”
But then the hot flashes started.
Actually, I prefer to think of them as “warm surges” because (as of now) they are not the hot flashes I’ve heard others talk about that require sticking one’s head in the fridge or the like. It’s more of a “Hmm, I guess I don’t need my sweater on anymore” or “Does anyone else feel warm? Maybe I’ll turn down the A/C.” See the difference? Hot versus warm? “Dinner is now being served in the dining area of Denial Village. All are welcome.”
I heard talk of becoming more forgetful when menopause comes to call. OK, there is NO living in Denial Village on this one. This one I definitely experience, to the point I sometimes worry I’m losing my mind. A little foggy between the ears? Dear God, I hope that doesn’t continue to decline or I’m in big trouble.
The crepey skin is a little alarming. When you live in South Florida, it’s hard to wear clothing that covers all the flaws without causing heat stroke, so that crepiness is generally out there for the world to see. Not a lot a gal can do about that. But let me give you fair warning on something you should never do: Never, and I mean NEVER assume “downward facing dog” yoga position when you’re just wearing shorts. Your eyes will go straight to your thighs and that is enough to send you into a downward spiral of “oh-my-gosh-what-happened-to-my-legs?” I’ve made this mistake and by eyes still burn. There’s no erasing that from your memory banks.
Insomnia is not something I’ve had to deal with . . . yet. I have a night here and there when I can’t fall back to sleep if I wake up. Hey . . . do you think maybe I’m miracle-woman in this one small area??? “‘Denial Village’ . . . where you’ll live happily, albeit delusional, ever after . . . ” *sigh* I suppose not.
If there’s something that gives me comfort in all of this menopause business, it’s knowing that we women all go through this. Some of us have had babies, some of us haven’t. Some have gotten married, some haven’t. But we all have this place in common where we end up together: MenopauseLand. We may arrive at different times and some have harder times than others getting here, but when we share our stories, we don’t feel like we’re the only ones feeling this way, and it sure makes the journey easier. And actually pretty funny.
But now I hear some women start growing whiskers on their chins? Nope, nope, nope, not me . . . . I absolutely refuse to let THAT happen! “Denial Village would like to welcome back one of its longtime residents . . . Patti Thomas! Don’t put those little scissors away too fast! You might need ’em some day soon!”