It’s 4:08am. I’ve been awake for almost two hours. It seems to be my new routine. As I lay here with a million things running through my mind, I suddenly remembered something I’ve been quietly excited about for months:
Yesterday marked one year since my last “monthly visit”, “that time”, or as I came to refer to it as “my monthly hell”.
It was never an easy road. I started when I was 12. I remember waking up one morning, seeing the evidence, and being angry. This was not something I ever wanted to deal with. I certainly had never looked forward to it. I had awful cramps all day, and I had to go to school and suck it up. I remember being so nauseous and in so much pain I could barely concentrate. I was miserable.
When I get home, the mother had called EVERYONE she knew to tell them “the exciting news” – I was woman!
Actually, I was humiliate. She became irate. She told me I was being stupid, that I should be proud of “becoming a woman”.
H U M I L I A T E D.
I told her that it was nobodies business and she had no right to announce it to the world. It was my personal. It was embarrassing and I was miserable. She told me to grow up. She told me I was a child and had no rights. I told her I was supposedly a woman. She told me to shut up before she slapped that look off my face. Oh the warm memories…
The next 39 years were mostly hell where this was concerned. Severe PMS hat dragged on for two weeks. Extreme cramps that often left me sick for two days every month. Heavy flow that left me exhausted and wondering how people ever survive such blood loss.
In high school, the cramps were so bad my doctor prescribed Vicodin. Yes, I said Vicodin! WTH?? Who does that???
I was never allowed to stay home with a migraine or cramps. I was told at an early age that I had to learn how to live in the world with these things, and that I was never to use them as an excuse. I won’t say as an adult that I followed that advise. Rarely did I call in sick, and if the mother got wind of it, she gave me hell.
I had an abnormal pap about 19 years ago. Precancerous cells were caught early and dealt with. I asked for a hysterectomy, and was told no. I was serious, but the doc didn’t take me seriously.
At this point I will mention that I am the only female on the mother’s side of the family to have a uterus after the age of 30. There was no family history to compare me to. There was a lot of cervical cancer, cysts, hardening of the uterus, and generally not healthy female parts.
In my late 30’s/early 40’s I asked again for a hysterectomy. I was told that would be “elective surgery” and insurance doesn’t cover that. Instead she put me on the Depo Provera shot and for four glorious years I had no “time of the month”.
H E A V E N.
The PMS was gone. The severe nausea and other symptoms that arrived on day one were gone. It was amazing. Then my job situation changed and my insurance changed and they were no longer covered. Heavy sigh.
Then they got sporadic for several years. Every two weeks…every six weeks…every few months…every two weeks…you get the picture.
Finally, I skipped several months. I started keeping count. On month six? Surprise. Mother Nature did that to me three times.
This time, I wrote the start date down and forgot about it. A couple months ago I checked to see what it had been. June 19, 2016. It had been heavy, ugly, made me sick as a dog, and lasted a full seven days. Then nothing.
It is now 4:45am on June 29, 2017. One year has officially gone by. One year, which marks the official start to menopause.
Perimenopause has been here for several years, as have hot flashes, night sweats, and the like. I can live with that.
I will make a doctor appointment to get checked out and make sure all is well. Then I may call my friends and suggest a celebratory drink.
This bears celebrating. The horror that began 39 years ago is no more.
Welcome menopause!! I’ve been anxiously awaiting your arrival!!
This holiday finds me a bit retrospective. The meaning of the day often gets lost in the picnics, pool-parties, barbecues, boat outings, and family gatherings that go hand-in-hand with a three-day weekend. I always take some time to reflect, remember, and honor those who have made it possible for me to live in this wonderful country with the freedoms that I have.
My grandfather on the mother’s side served proudly in the Pacific during World War II. He was a long-time Merchant Marine who found himself in San Francisco the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. Upon hearing the news, he went straight to the Navy recruiting office and signed up. He left his wife and newborn son behind to serve and protect our country and our way of life. I remember him telling me he was angry that we had been attacked, and he felt he needed to do his part.
He was awarded a Purple Heart and bore the scar on his stomach where he was shot. He would show us grandkids his scar now and then. It looked like a second belly button, and we grandkids thought it funny that he had a second belly button. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized the seriousness of his war wound. He also lost a good part of his hearing, the result of being too close to an explosion, and I never knew him without hearing aids. He served his country with pride. When he passed in the mid-80’s, we honored him with an honor guard and a tombstone which reflects his service in the Navy and his rank. He was especially proud that he was not an officer. He always saw himself as an every-man, and he would say that most of the officers we jerks (although he did once confess that he had a few friends who were officers, with a twinkle in his eye.)
My other grandfather was one of four or five boys (my memory is foggy on this one,) who drew straws to see who would go to war. They were afraid that no one would be there to care for their mother or families if they all were to die in the war. He drew the short straw and stayed behind to take care of his mother and his brother’s families. He was proud to serve in that way.
One of my grandfathers had a brother who died in the war. I can’t remember which one, and I don’t really have anyone to ask. I think it was the mother’s father, but I can’t be certain.
Ironically, both of my grandfathers were raised without fathers. They both had a fierce sense of honor and family.
The father who raised me served in the Army during the brief period of “peace” between the end of the Korean War and the beginning of the Vietnam War. He eventually landed on Guam, where if I recall correctly, he was the company clerk. “Kind of like Radar,” I was told when the TV show MASH was popular. We hear they had a really good time on Guam. I never heard him speak much about that time. When his four years were up, he returned to the states, got a job, married, etc.
I learned two years back that my biological father was in the Air Force. He was a medic. I don’t have a lot of details, and I’m not sure if he served during wartime. I think he spent most of his time in Alaska. My aunt his sister, sent me his Air Force photo for Christmas two years ago. It’s a wonderful photo of a young, handsome man who I never knew. The only photo I’ve ever seen of him.
I have friends and acquaintances who have served our country over the years, both in war time and peace. I recall hearing that a number of boys I grew up with served during Desert Storm. Timing is everything, and we were the right age for them to go. I recall at the time the mother telling me, “Every generation has been in a war.”
To all the men and women who have served our country, to all who have given the ultimate sacrifice, a simple thank you does not suffice. I am humbled and forever thankful for your service to ensure our freedom.