Saturday, May 08, 2004

Every year around my birthday, my body reminds me of my mortality. Some years it's a few more gray hairs or a few more lines around my eyes and mouth; but this year, I received the mother of all aging symptoms: a late period.

You have to understand, this never happened to me before in my life...well, once, when I was pregnant; but any other time, my menstrual cycles have been 28 days--almost to the hour. Synthetic hormones couldn't even suppress ol' Aunt Flo regardless how much progesterone I shot through my veins every month. Sure I felt like a Foster Farms chicken but by god I never missed a period.

I have reason to believe I threw myself into early peri-menopause because I forced my body to ovulate through the use of synthetic hormones...and not to produce just one egg a month either, mind you...I really WAS a Foster Farms chicken producing nearly 20 mature eggs with each fertility treatment I suffered through. We women are born with as many eggs as we will produce in our lifetime. I'm sure my reserve is nearly tapped dry by now.

Last year, I began to suffer through a series of premenopausal symptoms: the hot flashes; the heavier periods; the heightened PMS; the sleepless nights; you name it. Clinically, this is what happens to most women who hit their mid-30s and it could last anywhere from 6-15 years until full-blown menopause sinks in.

So my doctor suggested I go back on the pill to regulate my cycles and ease these symptoms, though what she neglected to recall was the initial reason I went off the pill five years ago. I had the most intense migraines which basically put me at risk of stroke--and given my family's wonderful medical history (read: sister dead at 40 of a heart attack), I decided to seek a second opinion from a naturopath.

Of course the minute I told the naturopath my peri-menopause diagnoses, she replied, "That's bullshit, you're too young to be going through that." She prescribed me four types of vitamins along with a tablespoon of ground flax seed every morning to get rid of the symptoms.

The results? I no longer have hot flashes, thank God, and I can sleep through the night. My periods are still pretty heavy, though...which totally grosses me out beyond belief and they also hurt like hell (which has always been the case), so I'm hoping that too will diminish over time.

During those first few days of my cycle, I often wonder why I put myself through this ordeal. Why not use another form of birth control to regulate my cycles? Why not opt for a hysterectomy? It's simple, really. To me, these are not options. My husband and I have a 1% chance of getting pregnant over the course of my reproductive years. Why ruin that chance? Given that we just adopted our first child in January, we're not actively trying to have a child---but when a couple is as infertile as we are, you're always actively trying to have a child. It's kinda like being addicted to the lottery and buying a ticket once a week for the rest of your life. You may never win the lottery, but your chances are still good so long as you keep playing.

So you can imagine my bewilderment when, after day 30 hit, my "monthly bill" never came. I spent most of that day wondering if I should run out and buy an EPT or call my naturopath and ask her what in the hell was wrong. It was the same type of rollercoaster ride I put myself on four years ago and jumped off of, vowing never to return after spending close to $30,000, putting on 40 pounds and having a miscarriage. Lucky for me, though, this ride was a short one...and as the evening wore on, the cramping started and I was back to day one.

Incidentally, that same week I had just a shred of hope...and an equal shred of disappointment, I learned of two dear friends who got pregnant. Two years ago, the news would have crushed me. Now I'm hoping to host their showers.
I'll be ok if I never give birth to a child and I realize this every time I look at my son (I know my husband and I can't do any better than that!!) But kidding aside, I resolved my infertility issues two years ago when I actively called it quits. We could have kept trying...and probably could have succeeded finally (my gosh look at Courtney Cox, who I believe has done something like 6-7 IVF cycles) or...since the problem doesn't lie with me but with my life partner, I could have decided that carrying a child for nine months was much more important than staying married to him.

In the meantime, I'm doing everything I can to defy the aging process...or at least try and reverse some of the damage I've done.

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