Things Good Southern Girls Donâ€™t Mention in Mixed Company
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Contrast.
The house is looking massively bigger since I began my major overhaul of the front yard and started cutting down the roofer-damagedÂ shrubs. Hours of business and motivational podcasts playing, breezy sunshine in the
80â€™s in mid-January, and me with a chainsaw? Yeah. And Shannon unexpectedly getting in a few extra hours in the office for gas money. What could be better? Not having cramps Â when Â Iâ€™m Â hauling Â around Â power Â tools, Â thatâ€™s what!
Yeah, I was one of those girls who got killer cramps from Â Day Â One. Â About Â the Â only Â reason Â I Â ever Â missed school or church as a teenager. Just let me lie face down for a few hours with a heating pad Â and Â leave me alone and let me try to sleep through the worst of it. By Â the time I was 14, I was in my family doctorâ€™s office every three months Â for a new Â prescription Â of painkiller Â so I wouldnâ€™t Â miss schoolâ€”and Â given that my family didnâ€™t believe in medical insurance, you had to be really hurting to go to the doctor. We settled on Motrin as one that alleviated the pain, but the side effects were worse than the cramps, so it was out.
At 15, I sat embarrassed Â in Dr. Stewartâ€™s office while he suggested to my mom that maybe Iâ€™d been reading too many Ladies Home Journals (hardly!) and maybe it was in my head. I got pissy about that. Iâ€™d never heard of cramps before they struck me down. He never again suggested it was in my head and I never again called him a dolt.
Before I turned 16, weâ€™d exhausted every painkiller he could think Â of Â to prescribe and still have me upright. I will never forget the look on my motherâ€™s face when he suggested Â that Â after Â I Â had Â a Â baby, Â the Â cramps Â would probably subside. Â Yes, Â suggesting Â childbirth Â as Â remedy for cramps.
Fortunately Â for Â meâ€”and Â some Â years Â laterâ€”Nuprin hit Â the Â shelves Â and Â at Â last Â Iâ€™d Â found Â something Â that workedâ€”ibuprofen Â that didnâ€™t eat a hole in my stomach. And gone were the worries that Iâ€™d never be able to hold a job without taking off 3 days a month.
Dr. Stewart retiredÂ and died before I could let him know that childbirth did not, in fact, eliminate or even reduce my Â cramps. I was well into labor with both girls before my contractions hit the same pain threshold, and if Iâ€™d relied on the pain getting worse than cramps, I probably would have given birth in the car. The cramps were just as bad after I had kids, but at least I had better drugs!
Nowadays, if a female friend sees me pop an ibuprofen and the subject of cramps comes up, I get a strange look, then â€œOh, cramps. I remember those.â€ I know very few women over 35 who havenâ€™t had hysterectomiesÂ and only a handful Â over 40. Iâ€™ve beenÂ tempted Â myself, Â but somehow I donâ€™t want to mess around with my chakras unless they mess with me first, and major surgery on the second chakra just sounds like a bad idea, so Iâ€™m letting things just take their Â course. Â Besides, Â I Â always Â thought things would just stop on their own, in accordance Â with my family medical history
Early menopause Â runs in my momâ€™s family. We have plenty of stories of women who had 3 to 5 kids, couldnâ€™t get their husbands off them, and then suddenly, poof, no more monthly cycles, no Â more babies, and then all the symptoms of menopause. Â Which might not have been a bad thing in the early 20th centuryÂ for a woman at 23 with a house full of little ones and an unambitious mate. Other women in the family lost their cycles at 25 to 31. I always thought Iâ€™d take after my momâ€™s side of the family, but she never had cramps or short labors, and Â it Â looks like I inherited some different genes.
On my last visit to Dr. McKnight for a checkup, he ran through a list of menopausal symptoms and got Noâ€™s all the way down except for hot flashes and some insomnia, the latter of which was from too much caffeine. I explained that I had a couple of hot flashes but theyâ€™d mysteriously stopped when my ex moved out. Dr. McKnight paused and laughed, saying â€œThat doesnâ€™t speak well of us men, does it?â€
So itâ€™s Â funny. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â I have Â fewer Â menopause Â symptoms now Â than Â I Â did Â when Â I Â was Â stressed Â out Â in Â my Â 20â€™s. Whenever Iâ€™m around Â women my ageâ€”thereâ€™s Â a group of us writers who are all within 6 months of each otherâ€”Â the talk centers on night sweats, libido loss, racing pulses, tear bursts. I have nothing new on the list and a lot less of any of the old. My friends talk of little else as they struggle to deal with the symptoms, and Iâ€™m feeling a little left out.
Iâ€™ve decided Iâ€™m not going to join them just yet.
Even if that means I have to keep the cramps for a while longer.