Back when I was trying to conceive, I constantly scanned my body for signs of early pregnancy. Was I more tired than usual. Moody? Were my breasts tender or swollen, and could my husband double check to make sure? Did cramps mean there was a party starting in my uterus? And most importantly, was my period late?
Those years were lots of fun, burning through hundreds of dollars worth of pregnancy tests while playing amateur OB-Gyn. But eventually, I had two beautiful kids, and my husband and I decided our family was complete.
Despite that understanding, we’ve been pretty lackadaisical about birth control. He has a mortal fear of vasectomies, and I have an equally stupid fear of IUD’s. I’m in my forties anyway, so I figured we’d just run out the clock on my fertility and never have to commit to any one form of contraception.
Except there’s a problem I didn’t anticipate. I am now experiencing every single one of those early pregnancy signs on an almost monthly basis due to something called perimenopause, which is the third least sexy word in the English language. (The second is “menopause,” obviously. The first is “moist,” because eww.)
I was reluctant to even write about perimenopause, because I still like to think of myself as a sweet young thing. But from what I understand, perimenopause–which typically starts in a woman’s forties–can last a super long time, like 7-10 years! So I’m holding onto that sweet young thing status as long as I can, at least in my mind. Just go with me on this.
Anyway, if you’re a younger mom who doesn’t have to worry about the big pause yet, let me explain. Your body starts to go through some crazy changes on the road to shutting down the baby factory. A few of my girlfriends are already having hot flashes and night sweats. For me, the main thing has been irregular periods. Aunt Flo used to visit every 28 days like clockwork and now she just stops by whenever, like Kramer. And that is extremely confusing for me.
One month, I was a few days late and immediately became convinced I was pregnant. Yeah, it’s unlikely, but people do have those “change of life” babies, so why not me? I consulted our family wall calendar, trying to pinpoint when my husband and I might have had sex, and there was the evidence for all to see: “Kids sleepover at Grammy and Grammy’s house.” Exactly two weeks earlier. I went into a panic, running up and down the stairs of our townhouse that has only two functional bedrooms, wondering where the hell I’d put another baby.
A few months later, I was early, but I mistook the beginning of my period for implantation bleeding. It’s amazing how hard PMS hormones will fuck with you. I was so delusionally certain that I was pregnant, I went through the entire alphabet trying to come up with a reasonable baby name, which was no easy feat since we’d already used up our two favorite names on our actual children.
Do I sound insane? Yeah, to me too! This is no picnic. And who knows how long I’ll continue to experience these roller coaster pregnancy fake-outs, given that actual menopause could be years away–maybe even decades. I am, after all, still a sweet young thing.