Many decades ago, there was a classic episode of “All in the Family”, which was a classic sitcom, where Edith was going through menopause. Back then, menopause was referred to as “the change” or “the change of life.” Anyway, Edith’s hormones were all over the place, and she was going from happy to bursting out into tears to irritable and grouchy, all within one hour. At one point in the episode, Edith’s daughter Gloria tries to explain to her father, Archie Bunker, why Edith is acting this way. “She’s going through the change, Daddy” – Gloria explains. Archie’s reply is gold. He yells with confusion: “The change? Well, then, could she hurry up and change already!”
I am now 48 years old, will be 49 on Saturday, and will be 50 next year. For the past year or so, off and on, I have been experiencing all kinds of symptoms that have been described by my doctor as either peri-menapause, pre-menapause, or menapause. It doesnt actually matter which one of those things is happening, because one leads to the other and they all lead to another death: the death of any possibility that i might be a mother. The cramps, excessive bleeding, migraines, hot flashes, and about 25 other things that all come and go and , at times, leave me lying in the fetal position in my bed in massive amounts of pain – all signal the nearing end of my body’s ability to concieve or give birth to children.
My husband Don died just over 9 years ago, and at the time, he was 46 and I was 39. Even then, I was getting close to the “too old to have kids” years. We talked all the time about having a family. We used to lie in bed at night and talk about what it would be like, where we would live, would we leave NY and go back to small town Massachusetts, how cool it would be for our kids to play with my brothers son Brian. We talked about saving up money, and putting ourselves in a place financially to be able to afford a family. We laughed and dreamed and predicted who our kids would look more like , him or me. We Discussed the possibility of adoption, and how we both loved the idea of helping a child who is already here and needs a forever home. We were 4 years into our marriage, we were just getting started with our dreams to come, and we were excited and naive and hopeful.
Then he died. The dreams never came, and I had to rebuild a life that I didnt want or know how to build for a long, long time. Years went by. I didnt date or have any interest in new love for a long, long time. Much later, when I finally was brave enough to find love again, just over 3 years ago, I was 45 years old and way past the time to have children. Besides that, it just didnt fit into my life anymore. The life I had was gone, and having that family was part of those dreams in that life.
But now, going through the physical changes my body is experiencing and actually feeling myself “changing” and coming into a different place in my womanhood and aging process, it is very sobering and sad and really, a whole new level of grieving. It feels like the final nail in the coffin, so to speak, of that life. It makes me feel so far away from everything I knew of that version of myself, and it makes me so damn sad that Don will never be a dad, and I will never be a mom, or a grandmom, or any of those things.
Im happy with the life I am building and the life I have created. Its a life I fight for and a joy I fight for every single day. I love the life that I am making. But none of that takes away the very real pain and sadness and grief that will always exist, from that other life that was left unfinished. The wondering of what could have been or what might have been, where that road would have led me. What would my child be like? What kind of family would we have built? What would I be doing for work right now? What would me and Don have been like as parents – as grandparents? So many unanswered questions. So much life, not yet lived. Every time my body hurts from these changes of going into the next phase of things, my emotions hurt too. I know it will get better, and I know I will be okay, but right now, it just hurts. Right now, there is a spotlight on my non-motherhood, and on Don’s non-life, and the unfairness of it all.
There is nothing quite as sad as dreams unrealized, especially when the reason is because a precious life was cut short.