From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

No More Babies

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.

Douglas Adams

I can remember the exact moment—where I was, what I was wearing, even how my hair was styled—when I truly realized that I was a menopausal woman.

It was in the cereal aisle of a busy supermarket, and I was passing a young mother with one of those babies straight out of a catalog: thatch of blonde hair, enormous blue eyes, dimpled arms, sturdy little legs. I stared at that mother and baby for a long moment, then felt tears spring to my eyes. No more babies. Not for me. Not ever again, I said to myself. I left my cart in the aisle and bolted outside to my car, where I sat and wept.

I was forty-four years old, had three children, a wonderful life, an interesting career as a journalist—and a body that would never again carry a child. And suddenly, I felt the total impact of that reality. I was blindsided. Mind you, I hadn’t planned to have any more babies. Oh sure, it would have been nice to finally get that little boy my husband and I would have called “Jonathan” after greeting Jill, then Amy, then Nancy; it was after Nancy’s birth we realized that a gender trend was definitely developing.

But back in that era—the early 1980s—women in their forties weren’t in the full bloom of pregnancies the way they are now. And presumably enlightened doctors might even have counseled against so “risky” a proposition. But emotions don’t go to college. And what pushed forth that day in the supermarket was some deep, almost paralyzing, sense of loss.

I loved having babies. I even loved being pregnant. And slipping into menopause rather early and quite suddenly had felt vaguely like an ambush. How ironic that I was the last girl in my crowd to get “it,” as we euphemistically called menstruation, and the first to go through “the change,” another term my generation inherited. In both instances, it felt odd.

For months, I never told my husband about my meltdown in the supermarket. But I thought about it often and briefly found myself avoiding places where babies would logically be. Inevitably, of course, they seemed to be everywhere. For months, I had dreams of tiny ones. I didn’t need Dr. Freud to tell me that my subconscious was working through something vast and deep.

And then, just as unexpectedly as it had begun, my sadness lifted. Life was back on an even keel, and I could rejoice once again at the sight of babies. I could reach out and touch their fat cheeks and delicious little arms and feel pleasure.

Yes, I was a menopausal woman. There would be no more babies for me. And at last, that was exactly where I belonged. My soul had come into alignment with my body.

It didn’t hurt that within the next few years, I would receive the spectacular gift of motherhood-once-removed, that euphoric, love-crazed state called grandparenthood. It didn’t hurt that we even got some boys in the mix— none named Jonathan, alas, but oh what treasures!

And just recently, I stopped in my tracks at the supermarket to admire another of those dream babies. It was in the cereal aisle again. This time, I felt nothing but soaring joy at the sight of this perfect little specimen in her snuggly, close to her mother’s heart. That mother and I, perfect strangers, smiled at one another as we shared that sisterhood we mothers automatically have. Without words, we somehow spoke volumes about what it is to bear and love a child.

And menopause can’t change that one bit.

Sally Friedman

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