So, today I discussed menopause with my doctor. I discuss menopause frequently lately, whilst dripping with sweat and forgetting the names of people I know. There was something simpler and better about speaking directly to a doctor about it rather than repeating what I have learned by swimming alone or online upon a sea of mythology. Menopause is real, but by this point in life I have been through harder and achier and worse.
I left feeling quite sad. I have changed so much. I was aware of this as I meandered the winding little streets of Downtown Manhattan. It is as if I were looking for something from my past there, just to rule out the fact that the past is over. This is the neighborhood where I went to graduate school. There was the five- week cram of pre-teacher training, part of a recruiting program, followed by a couple of years of night classes. This was before motherhood, but by the time I was almost finished I was big and round with my firstborn and waddling in, putting my swollen feet upon a chair during class. Across the street was the hospital where my kids were born and where I frequented that OBGYN office. I left feeling sad but my heart is full of gratitude for this body, this life which provided the finest two things I have ever done.
I remember so many of my dozens of trips here, and the exciting and frightening things they entailed. The drinking of the sweet glucose drink to check my blood sugar. The blood pressure cuff, the urine tests, the ultrasounds. I remember what seems like every detail of both births. I could write volumes, yet still it seems like a flash. The crux of it, the two children emerging. My son by surgery, the kind anesthesiologist holding my hand while the drugs made me feel like I was drifting away from the earth. The primal scream that finally sprung from my psyche to push Susanna out. No matter what tragedies or indignities life has and can ever again send my way, I would accept this mission a million times over to be here and give birth to them.
I am not usually prone to drifting into “what if”, but I did. I imagined sitting with the doctor in front of an ultrasound machine, one which could have shown the brain aneurysm. What if there were such a thing, and a surgeon could reach right in and repair it, erase it, rather than leaving it to slowly bleed. She might have been at camp with her brother today, instead of in the other realm, reaching for me with her ghostly hand.
I remembered having the IUD inserted, a few months after Susanna was born, on the suggested second day of my first post-Susanna menstrual cycle. And I remembered, two summers ago, crying with my doctor and her assistant when I told them what had happened. I spoke and then my sorrow became our sorrow. I spoke of how I wished I could still have another baby, and heard the tiny plunk when they removed the IUD and dropped it into a bowl.
I wished, today, when leaving, that instead of menopause we could have talked about Susanna. Maybe I wanted to hug the doctor and cry again, maybe I wanted thank her for being there for the best events of my life. What I really wanted was to be there to talk about a life first starting, not the beginning of an ending. I dreamed of a cheerful greeting from behind the curtain, a matchstick with two red lines. Apparently, this is never to be again. I wanted to be free to move through time, maybe. I can taste the eternal continuum and sometimes I feel frozen, limited by the directions in which I can move. Yet I made it quickly home to see my two guys, who do not say much, but who I know understand this line I straddle, living in two worlds.