For most women my age, menopause is not on the radar. It's in a distant future that we will come face-to-face with night sweats, hormonal imbalances and irregular periods. It's not something I've ever heard a woman say she was looking forward to. But I am. At 42 years old, I can't wait to go through menopause. And it's not because I dread my monthly period.
I'm looking forward to menopause because my feelings about having another baby overwhelm me. I feel guilty for wanting another when my husband and I already decided together that our family is complete. Then, I feel grief every time I use birth control that keeps conception from happening because I feel my third child slipping away from me. Actually, when I use birth control, I feel like I'm pushing the third baby away.
I hate this quiet battle.
I'm having trouble convincing my ovaries to close up shop, not just for the winter, but forever.
Until I go through menopause, I have good reason to believe it is possible for me to have another baby. Of course all of us know that pregnancy is tricky and ultimately out of our control, but having given birth to two healthy babies, I have a solid fantasy that I could give it one more go.
I could, but I probably won't. And writing that sentence brings up a lot of sadness and grief. And panic, because I don't have forever to make this decision. I have, at most, a few more years.
My husband is 100 percent sure he's done. We have a healthy and complete family of four, and there's no reason to push our genetic luck, run the gauntlet of sleep deprivation, and impoverish our resources (time, money and energy) any further. We've agreed on all of this. There's not a lot of extra money and energy lying around our house.
Intellectually, I understand that the most loving and responsible decision we could make as parents is to call the ball and say we are done.
But I'm having trouble convincing my ovaries to close up shop, not just for the winter, but forever. At a recent ob-gyn appointment, my doctor lectured me about using good birth control. "You know, 50 percent of pregnancies are unplanned and happen to women who thought they were done having babies. It could happen to you."
Oh, really? I stared at her in disbelief.
But all her warning did was confirm my conviction that it's still possible. Then, I read SNL alum Rachel Dratch's memoir "Girl Walks Into a Bar" about accidentally getting pregnant at age 43 and giving birth at 44. Suddenly, I was seeing signs all over the place that I could still have another baby.
"You will have to use birth control until menopause," my doctor said.
And that's how menopause became this magical land where I no longer had to make an affirmative decision not to conceive a child. By menopause, that ship will have sailed. When I'm up in the middle of the night covered in sweat and plucking new hairs from my chin, I'm still going to be sad my baby-making days are over. The difference then will be that there is nothing I could do, short of a major medical miracle, to get pregnant. My fate will have been sealed by the passage of time.
Until then, I have to carry the burden of knowing that I could conceive, but I'm not going to because of my own volition. It's that weight bearing down on me that has me looking to the distant horizon and welcoming menopause with open arms.