From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Déjà Vu

“Menopause is tough, right?”

When I’m asked that question, I’m not so sure. One day in 1973, I discovered I was pregnant. In my mid-twenties, it felt like the right time to start a family. My husband exhibited his pride by sticking out his chest, while my tummy began to pop a special bulge. Almost from day one, my olfactory senses revolted if they encountered the untoward smells of frying bacon or smokestack cigars. Oh, the horrid stench! Yuck!

Nausea and spinning rooms rocked my tilt-a-world head each time I staggered across the floor. No healthy-looking motherly glow for me; my tout ensemble consisted of a pickle-green face, reddened, road-map eyes, and overstuffed ankles. Neither saltine crackers, prescription drugs, nor anything else alleviated the misery of my bubbling caldron of soured stomach acid and my achy head.

After much pleading, my physician allowed me to take Dramamine for the nausea. Only then did I find any measure of relief. I gave daily thanks at the altar of my simple desk job, hiding behind mounds of papers and books propped up in front of me. Not being able to keep my eyelids open, I snoozed away oblivious to my surroundings. Surely my supervisor observed my antics but found it easier to laugh and ignore me than fire me.

That entire winter I never donned normal-weight maternity clothes designed for colder weather. Oh, I wanted to wear them. In my sleepy repose, I dreamed about buying cute corduroy pleated tops with little bows and pretty ribbons, or wowing everyone in a sleek, demurely fitted pantsuit.

It didn’t happen. I could not stand anything that added warmth tomy body. From May through January, I dressed in light cotton, short-sleeved blouses, and thin skirts or slacks. Even then I suffered from normal room heat and my brewing, internal inferno. As the days and weeks progressed, I took on the appearance and ambling motion of a Sherman tank draped in damp attire that hung stoically from ample bulges.

I can laugh about it now, especially remembering my husband and our bedroom. I controlled the thermostat at night, and it never ever strayed above 60 degrees. He complained to anyone who would listen he might freeze to death before the baby arrived. I felt too bad to offer him sympathy.

Still, he found great sport in referring to me as “hot mama”, but not because I acted particularly amorous in the bedroom. Baby-doll-style pajamas adorned my barrel belly. I could only sleep (if you can call my fitful, crazed-woman repose “sleeping”) with a light sheet over my body. A fan continuously blew on my skin. Why? Because nothing helped the toughest pregnancy symptom of all—when I went to bed, rolls of sweat cascaded down my neck, torso, legs, and toenails, soaking my clothes and anything near me. Each morning I crawled out of bed in self-defense, leaving behind a three-foot-wide swath of sweat on the mattress. My body didn’t return to normal temperature regulation for twelve months after giving birth.

Many years later in 1990, I developed a serious, physical illness that looked as if it might never go away. My body revisited my former sweating, uncomfortable, aggravated persona. As I moved from room to room, my body broke out in a sticky, stinky ambiance. If I took a shower, I perspired afterwards and needed another bath before putting on clean clothes. Tired. Sick. Grouchy and grumpy. And the same old, sweaty symptom.

In 1998, I turned fifty; I should have been in menopause. For a while that summer, I scurried from air-conditioned house to air-cooled car and back. Uninvited weeds grew to spectacular heights in my flower beds. Thankfully, I rediscovered the wisdom of purchasing a lightweight, basic wardrobe in different colors according to the season.

Each successive year has afforded me better health. In 2006, my long-term illness abated entirely. Now I perspire less, enjoy more energy, and take fewer medications. My memory and cognitive skills have returned to sharper levels than I enjoyed twenty years ago.

“Don’t you suffer with any menopause-related symptoms?”

Not really. Sometimes I get warm, but I maintain a wardrobe that suits me: loose garments for everyday and layered items for dressy occasions. I wear flat shoes and less hosiery. My hair stays short and easy to fix. No more sitting under hair dryers or standing at the sink hot-rolling shoulder-length hair for me.

“Okay. One more question. Does it bother you to be labeled as menopausal?”

Oh, surely you jest! Fewer hormones mean I shave my legs less often. And since I am retired with no job requirements or responsibilities to my grown children, I have more time for me,my husband, and some fun hobbies. I do sport a spare tire that makes me look atypical of a “hot mama,” but I’ve joined the gym, and I figure I’ll have that conquered soon, too.

It’s a new day. Me? Unhappy with menopause? Nah. I’m fine.

Cinda Crawford

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