Monday, October 3, 2011
In & Out: A Hormone Story
October again, my favorite month. I love the change of seasons. I love working outside in the cool, crispy air. I feel recharged by the light and warmth of the sun. I look forward to that feeling of being cool and warm at the same time. My yearly pattern went like this: when fall comes in, I go out; when its winter out, I stay in; spring brings me out to the 'In" door of the garden center, and so on. This year, fall feels a bit like the October of my life.
I am on the way out of the estrogen years. Things have changed dramatically recently. There once was clockwork and mayhem working hand-in-hand. Now it's kind of, well, warm/damp/cool all at the same time within 30 seconds. "That was spring" I will say to myself. "Oh, wait, here comes summer... " And on it goes several times in a row, night and day. My first hot flashes are coming as I leave the 'childbearing years'. A badly named term, I think. If women were meant to bear children in their 50s, our boobs would still be in the right place.
I have had all the typical peri-menopausal symptoms for the past 15 years, except for the flashes. I was also having children at the time, so maybe I was experiencing pre and post-natal hormones. Maybe all of the above. I had my first child at 36, my second at 38. That means we are now going through the big life changers at the same time. My 15 and 12 1/2 year old girls are coming into the hormone shower as I am leaving the pool. It's an interesting time. But not if you are my husband.
I wish my girls weren't so squeamish talking about these things with me. I know it's creepy to think of your mom as a girl, or your parents as teenagers, feeling things you might be feeling now. Luckily, my parents had me the old fashioned way, by way of immaculate conception, so I don't have to think about them that way. I have a lot of information that my girls are reluctant to receive. I totally understand their ups and downs - I am an elevator myself. I get the crazy craving thing, I am moody, distracted, forgetful, emotional. I am filled with empathy and irritation.
I tried humoring them with stories of my becoming a woman. There were eyebrows raised about brochures left on my dresser, and large boxes of mouse-mattress type things showing up mysteriously in my closet. They are lucky they don't have to wear the whole pad belts and five pair of underwear to conceal their fate. I was 12 when I came home feeling fluish and irritable. It was the time before modesty had been invented and people grew up in households with just one bathroom. My dad was shaving in the bathroom at the time. "Oh! I guess I am a woman!", I said. "Congratulations" said my dad through his shaving cream . I have a hilarious story of my attempts to use tampons, though my girls always seem to have something to do at moment that I try to share it. It was a big deal at the time. Now, the tampons are so sophisticated, they practically insert themselves. Just leave a box open in the bathroom, and before you know it, you'll be swimming, skipping, and dancing like the girls on the Tampax commercials.
I have always thought there ought to be a switch that could be flipped when you were sure you were done with this monthly nonsense: A female version of the vasectomy. I remember my husband's vasectomy as very straight forward: Do some manscaping (also referred to as 'shaving the octopus'), drive to the doctor's office, make a grocery list, drive to the pharmacy, the liquor store, then home. Easy. He remembers it differently. Why should women have to endure this ridiculous monthly curse long after bearing those kids? For pollution reasons alone, it's a major issue.
I thought it would be a lot tougher going through my exit while my girls go through their entrance, but it hasn't been that bad. I have some understanding about what they are going through so I try not to push too hard. Sometimes, I get a little understanding in return. If I am having trouble concentrating or have had a bad night, a bad day, or all of the above, my "I'm sorry, I had a really tough day", may be met by "It's OK, Mom, I know exactly how you feel."
My fifteen year old, back from three years away at ballet school, has had to integrate back into a regular family routine. This includes, talking to us, having meals together occasionally, participating in family events, and housework. She has had a smooth entrance into adolescence, but is now negotiating the passage into womanhood. It is just so terrifying to behold, I can't tell you. I remind myself how I felt when I was 15, how I wanted to be older, to be seen as a woman, to be mature beyond my years. I can tell you that my mother didn't have to see what I see in the laundry these days (keep in mind, this woman-child has been buying her own underwear for several years now). There are things smaller than I floss my teeth with, that are supposed to cover her assets. It simply can' be done. I just got rid of the princess panties, for God's sake!
The 12 year old is coming into puberty in a different way: she is as expectant as a mother bird sitting on her eggs. "Any day now, mom" she announces when she's feeling bad. She is ready. I am ready. Dad / husband is hiding in the basement. The big surprise of the summer is the forming of alliances. Our daughters seem to have an 'us against them' attitude. We are hopelessly embarrassing and out of date to them. They are agonizingly self-conscious and reclusive to us. Although we are together, we are fractured. It's frustrating.
I am anxiously awaiting the One Year Period Free certificate that acknowledges my having crossed over to the other side. I expect about the same time to have welcomed one daughter into the Womanhood Club, and possibly the other into the lobby of The Real Womanhood Club. Just to be clear, our oldest daughter is in public school for the first time since grade six, and has had more boys fall in love with her in the month of September than I have had in my entire life. This should be interesting. I was a pretty good shot in the archery segment of Outdoor Education; my husband can be pretty intimidating when he wants. I think we need to perfect our Scaring-Shit-From-You procedures for the parade of pursuers. We are in for it, indeed.