My mother was always vague about menopause. When I asked her what it meant she said, “Your baby basket dries up.”
“Is that the clinical description?” I asked.
“That’s what it amounts to.”
“Is it something to worry about?”
“Only if you hate dry skin, migraines, itching, palpitations, hot flashes, night sweats, depression, apprehension, nervousness, insomnia, and crawling sensations under your skin.” She called it “the change,” and she never took her eyes off me after I passed the age of forty.
Every time I’d say, “Could we open the door in the kitchen and get a little air? The oven has been on all day,” she’d give me the same look as she did when the neighbor had a premature baby that weighed eleven pounds.
“Maybe you’re going through the you-know-what.” It was as if she couldn’t wait for me to be miserable.
As the hot flashes progressed, I became the first human to survive a meltdown and make breakfast the next morning. After a visit to my friendly gynecologist, I said to my mother, “What do you think of hormone replacement therapy?”
“You can get makeup to cover the mustache.”
“The one you’re going to get without the hormones.”
“What are my choices?”
“You could go insane like the rest of us.”
A lot of the optimism for young people having babies in their late thirties nowadays is the fault of movies and television. How many films have you seen in which a serviceman picks up a girl at the USO, has a cup of coffee, and nine months later she is meeting his ship at the dock with a baby in her arms?
Many young women wait to give birth until they are fulfilled in their careers, they get the house of their dreams, their marriage is secure enough for them to have stretch marks, or their bad perm grows out.
A woman announces at a board meeting that she is going home to conceive a baby and will be back in exactly ten months. You would think she was ordering a turkey for Thanksgiving.
It doesn’t work that way, though. A baby is conceived when it wants to be conceived. Buy a two-seater sports car, go into hock for a home you cannot possibly afford, and diet until you reach your 1946 birth weight.