I just celebrated my 42nd birthday. I am proud of my age—for how healthy and fit I am aside from the ongoing lupus stuff. My face is free of lines and has a hearty glow most of the time (exfoliating weekly helps with that). I can run three miles, leg press 90 pounds, and do an vigorous, hour-long, vinyasa practice. But there is a price to all my healthiness: All my doctors refuse to listen to me when I tell them I may be at the beginning stages of menopause.
This morning, I woke up drenched in sweat. I mean, I was sleeping peacefully under my sheets and covers all night, like I do every night. The temperature was absolutely perfect. And then out of nowhere, I started sweating profusely—so hard, it woke me up. I threw off the covers and gasped for a deep breath. This wasn’t my first bout of night sweats; they have been happening from time to time for the last year or so.
And the sweats don’t only happen at night. I was at a business meeting a few weeks ago, and started to sweat uncontrollably. I was wearing only a sweater with a camisole. I fanned and fanned, but couldn’t cool off. As the sweat dripped from every pore, all I wanted to do was strip off every piece of clothing on me, but that would have quite been inappropriate. The meeting host noticed me fanning and offered to adjust the thermostat. Everyone else assured her the room temperature was just right. I was the one dealing with a hot flash.
My menstrual cycles also are becoming more erratic. For years, I could predict the exact date when my period would arrive. My cycles were exactly 25 days long, and my flow would last for five days. For 30 years, that was my pattern. But this spring, I didn’t bleed for six weeks, and then I got it again three weeks later. The flow is lighter and barely lasts three days now. I’m just waiting for it to end completely.
Menopause is defined as occurring 12 months after your last menstrual period
Science tells my doctors that I am too young and healthy for menopause. But they don’t know my family history. My mom started having flashes and other symptoms when I was in college—and she was in her 40s. For my family, I am right on schedule for perimenopause (the transitional period). My body clearly is making the slow but undeniable transition towards menopause. One day, the flow will stop completely, and my fertility will be at its end. I can’t wait for the day to be free of the painful cramps, bloating and acne breakouts that accompany my period. But I am just coming to the realization that I also may never get to bear my own biological children. It seems as if I may have waited too long, and now the window of opportunity is closing.
When I was a teenager, I knew I was too young to have sex and make babies. So, I waited—a really long time. Then, I waited again, wanting to save that intimacy with my future husband. I had been diagnosed with lupus right before my wedding. My doctors urged me not to get pregnant at that time, because my symptoms were so out of control. They worried a pregnancy would worsen my condition. So, I continued waiting. By the time the lupus was in remission, my marriage was over.
I’ve dated since then and had a few serious boyfriends. But none were serious enough to consider marriage and a family. And none of them lasted anyway. So, I have been patient, hopeful even, for much of the last decade, waiting for Mr. Right to come along. He apparently is taking a bit too long—and now my fertility is declining.
I am not the only 40-something, childless, single woman I know. Actually, most of my friends who are not married do not have kids. As we keep aging, we must all come to grips with the reality that our dreams of motherhood may never come true—or they will be unconventional. We may have to harvest some eggs now to use later, employ a surrogate to carry the pregnancy to term, or go the adoption route.
Last year, the guy I was dating asked me if I had ever considered surrogacy. He understood that I was in my 40s and may not be physically able to carry a child, but he still wanted his own biological offspring. In the end, we weren’t compatible, so it didn’t really matter. But he got me thinking. Previously, I had thought surrogacy was for celebrities and wealthy women who didn’t want to lose their figures. But I suppose it also is an option for older women who want to be moms.
I never could have imagined being here back when I was in my 20s, back when I was waiting to meet my future husband. I was convinced that love could find me, and I would have as many children as we both wanted. That was before lupus and divorce. That was before life showed me that happily ever after does not always show up by your 28th birthday.
So, it is time for me to start seriously considering my options and making some hard decisions about motherhood. Am I more inclined toward adoption, or egg retrieval and in vitro fertilization? It also means I have to consider whether I want to be a single parent—or if I can live without ever being a mother. These are some pretty hefty and heart-wrenching questions—ones I’d much rather not face. Yet, here I am, and I don’t have much choice. Not choosing to make a decision is a choice in and of itself—for continuing to be childless—and that was never a part of my teenage dreams.
Ladies, if you are single, childless and entering your fifth decade of life, know that you are not alone. Take some time to reflect on how important being a mother means to you, and the lengths to which you will go to have offspring. Research your options, including their costs. Then, make the decision that works best for you.
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.