As a woman in my late forties, I am definitely approaching menopause. I feel in that ‘peri’ state. Even though I am perpetually altered by chemical hormones, due to suffering from pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). My doctor tells me I can’t be feeling this because I am on the pill, but I know my hormones are still there. Just masked. I feel them every month as I move through my cycle.
And I am also childfree. Purposefully so. It’s not that I didn’t want children. For many years I did. But for my husband and I, we couldn’t bring them into the world that we will hand on. Couldn’t create another little westerner who consumes more by the age of two than a Sub-Saharan African person does in their lifetime. Not when Earth is bursting at the seams. When our life support systems are fracturing, other species are hurtling to extinction and there is so much suffering amongst poeple. No. We decided to focus on memes, not genes. To put our efforts into nurturing what is beautiful in the world, rather than tiny versions of ourselves. It hasn’t always been easy, but I know it was the right choice.
Having heard that October is International Menopause Awareness Month, I got to thinking that I am very close to this being my time. They say that if you want to know what your experience will look like, ask your mum. My mum had a difficult time of it, with symptoms for years. So, this is what I expect too. And from my perspective, I also have horribly messy hormones to overcome as things change. I am dreading the day when I can’t have the combined pill anymore and I must live in my own body. I feel so bad saying it, but it’s true. I really hope that coming out of the other side will be a blessing. Only time will tell.
The key aspect of the menopause is that your childbearing days are over. I know this sounds obvious, but it’s significant for me. I have spent my whole adult life avoiding getting pregnant. My body has yearned for a baby at times and I have grieved the lost experience of parenthood on many occasions. I have watched my friends, cuddled their babies and enjoyed the antics of their youngsters as they grow. Often with a tinge of sadness for myself. Knowing that I made the right choice for me, in this time and this place, doesn’t make it any easier. But I also know that having kids is hard work. That I have a lovely life and can do what I please in ways my friends can’t. And some of them envy me and the freedom I have.
In many ways I welcome the onset of menopause. It takes the choice out of my hands. Will let me come back to my body and learn it anew, without the rollercoaster ride of being a PMDD woman. This is a rite of passage that everyone living in a female body will go through. Not one we talk about or celebrate, but it is surely an important moment in our lives. I love the thought that on the other side of menopause I will emerge as the crone. A wise woman, who knows herself and can support future generations. Push forward without constantly feeling the need to justify my childfree choice. It’s done then. Nobody will be interested. Or maybe they will. Perhaps the conversation will begin to turn from ‘have you got children’ to ‘have you got grandchildren’. I don’t know how I will feel about that. But what I do know is that I feel more powerful and at peace with who I am than ever before. I know I have value to bring to the world. That sharing my experience of being purposefully childfree can help others grappling with the decision of whether to procreate or not. And I truly hope that more women make the choice I made. We might be driven by biology to reproduce, but we don’t have to follow those urges. In the worlds of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins ‘our big brains can help us overcome our selfish genes’.
Perhaps the most radical act we women can take for the future of humanity is to take charge of our bodies. Listen to them. Hear the hormones and recognise biology at work. Realise that biology is what drives us to want children so badly and really think about what a good life looks like for us, in the context of the world we actually live in. Maybe that doesn’t need to include reproducing. If you decide to have children, then I wish you well and all the joy in the world. But if, on reflection, you think the purposefully childfree life might just be for you, I would encourage you to pursue it. There is also much joy to be found.
Ultimately it comes down to the yield you want to achieve with your one, short, precious life. Your legacy. Will it be more people, or will it be something else? Whatever choices you make are yours alone and not for me to judge. However, I would argue strongly that they should be purposeful. Part of a design for your life that sees you becoming your best self in service to the greater whole. Your unique niche in the web of life. Anxiety and guilt don’t help anyone. Make your choices and then focus on loving your life. I can attest to how joy sapping vacillating between different options can be and I don’t recommend it. Of course, doubt is a normal part of life, but we must learn to trust ourselves and our decisions. That we can make a good life for ourselves, our loved ones and the wider communities we are part of and then get on with living them.
For the world needs women to bring their full selves to the service of helping society to learn to enjoy living in harmony with our Earth Mother and each other. Otherwise all children will suffer. It’s happening already. Just not to those of us who are privileged. Yet. But it’s in the post. Time is running out for us to turn the ship around. And we can’t rely on our menfolk to sort this for us. It is clearly not happening. So whether we are raising the next generation or putting our energies elsewhere we all have a vital role to play in building a society that supports life, rather than one that destroys it.
So, I conclude that I will celebrate my menopause and the childfree life I am living. Put my focus into living with purpose and relax into the fact that I am aging. Enjoy the opportunity to become more outrageous as I embrace my inner crone. And believe fiercely that even little old me can make a difference. You can too and together we can change the world.