Will you love me moving?

This quote, from Gretchen Rubin’s happiness quote of the day, made me smile:

“For me, the challenge of middle age was not to stand still.”

— Jon Katz, A Dog Year

More so than any age I’ve been thus far, middle age has been busy for me. I have so much I want to do and see and try and be. Just yesterday, in fact, I added two mini-goals: to find some smoothie recipes I like (thus streamlining my mornings and increasing my fruit consumption) and to wake Anya each weekday with a smile. I’m also planning to redecorate Anya’s room, putting together a wedding, plotting craft projects for the future (near and far), and stepping up my exercise routine.

Speaking of which, September’s theme is September Strong. Because we’re adding weights to our jog. I also thought that I’d lengthen the jog time, but our allergies are flaring pretty bad right now; we (okay, I; she doesn’t wheeze like I do) might have to hold at 10 minutes, especially with the addition of the hand weights.

I’m about to start a writing course on Coursera. And contemplating picking up some journalism classes. I’m learning to garden, and cook – both ongoing projects. All while staying on top of the laundry, the house, the bills.

Some days, the only time I sit down is when I am working. Some days, I don’t even get to sit while I nurse Kai. I used to sit for nearly all of my waking hours. Now I jog, and weed, and dance, and explore.

Wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve been still far too long.

And then she was six

It seems like yesterday (and also a lifetime ago) that I was staring, awe-struck, at the little person who’d been growing in my belly for the better part of a year. The baby I’d waited my whole life to have. I can still feel the weight of her in my abdomen, and the comparative lightness of her in my arms. So very tiny, so very perfect in every way — as a c-section baby, she didn’t have that squished head, and she emerged with nary a red mark, a pimple, or blemish of any kind. She was a porcelain doll of an infant.

Until she got angry — and angry she was. I had expected this, given her in utero punches and kicks. But I could not have prepared for the reality.

But mostly she was content. She laughed when she was four days old. She returned my gaze with wonder of her own. She studied everything, and absorbed it all.

I remember all of this, and more. The smell of her hair. The feel of her impossibly tiny fingernails. The soft weight of her cheek pressed against my breast. All of this is as clear to me as my most recent breath.

My angel face is a growing girl now (grown, she insists). She dances, and draws, and sings. She rubs my shoulders when I am tense, and rocks her little brother when he skins his knee. She lives fiercely, with everything she has. She is a force of nature, and I have spent the past 6 years swept up in her wake.

I can’t wait to see where we go next.

Loving:

Fall is coming. It’s not here, but I see it off in the distance. I’m so ready.

Reading:

More Goosebumps. I feel like I should create a reading ritual with Kai, too, so his books aren’t left out.

Watching:

Not much this past week. I’ve been swept up in wedding planning and birthday prep, and taking on extra work besides.

Listening to:

More Kesha than I ever expected.

Working on:

This week, it’s anniversary party time. My parents have been married 48 years. Forty. Eight. Years. Doesn’t leave much time to plan a 50th bash. But in the meantime, I have cake to bake.

Anticipating:

September. Fair season. I love September. Part of me really wanted to get married in September. But as slow as I have been in putting everything together, I’m glad I opted for November.

Making me happy:

I can fit into my wedding dress again. I don’t have to go wedding dress shopping! Such a relief.

Pausal updates

Hopefully I am close to starting my period; I started on progesterone this past Friday. Which means I should be starting within this next week, though my doctor did warn me it could be three weeks before it does its thing. Hope not, because I am miserable.

I saw my gyno last Friday; he told me he didn’t feel anything in my belly that shouldn’t be there (yay!), and prescribed the progesterone so I’d start my period. After one dose, I was already less bloated and swollen. (Cold, though. I remember that from my pregnancy with Kai; large amounts of progesterone make me cold.) So apparently my issue has been a hormonal imbalance? Let’s hope this course will set me back on track.

Extra progesterone also gives me pimples, apparently. And here I thought I was all but done with those.

Other updates from the checkup: It’s not possible to say whether my crazy periods are the result of perimenopause or lactational menopause. Not that there’s a huge difference in terms of symptoms now — the end result is the same, regardless of the cause — but the game could renew once I stop nursing Kai. Which, given how I’ve felt as of late, means I could have a fair amount of endo suffering ahead of me. Sigh.

On the up side, I don’t have to have a mammogram until I stop nursing. Pleased to hear that.

Especially pleased to hear I’m healthy, though. Having missed last year’s checkup due to my layoff, I was pretty nervous…especially when all these weird symptoms started cropping up.

Anya has started cooing over nursery furnishings again, and Kai has started loving up babies. And I’m just not there this time. Oh, I would adore having another baby. But it’s not the time, and I don’t think it will be again.

My little chatterbox

All last weekend, Anya chatted with strangers. Mostly babies (and their parents), but also older people. The cashier at Panera. The staff, volunteers, and visitors at the Dixon Gardens. I swear she stopped and cooed over every single baby in Target on Sunday afternoon, and half the babies in the grocery store later that same day. We actually created a few traffic jams when multiple babies passed by at once. She tickles them, asks their names, tells their parents about her baby brother Kai, and announces to anyone and everyone just how much she loves babies.

But her friendliness is not limited to people under the age of 3. As I was debating buying red lip gloss in the cosmetics section of Target, she approached a teenaged girl and started jabbering. The girl was friendly, though reserved; I heard her say “I’m not so good at talking with people.”

Welcome to the club, kid.

On my more introverted days, I can’t stand going out with Anya, because I know she is going to drag me into conversation with someone — even if I’m just translating, and explaining why my child is accosting their baby. I have days (okay, most days) when going through the checkout line with a live cashier is too much social interaction. Asking me to talk to a total stranger is absolute overload. But running out of food tends to override my hermit heart’s desire to hole up in my living room indefinitely, so we go.

To the teen’s credit, she held her own with Anya for nearly 10 minutes, and I think ultimately she enjoyed the exchange as much as Anya did. And I didn’t even have to say a word, so I was happy.

To Anya’s credit, she really knows how to talk to people. She compliments them on some aspect of their appearance, asks their name, tells them hers, and then engages them in conversation on some topic of mutual interest. This appears to be an inborn talent, evidently from her dad’s side. Lord knows I don’t have the small talk gene. But I’m watching her and taking notes, in case the need arises.

I notice that the people most uncomfortable with her advances are other children. The whole stranger-danger thing, I guess. We have raised a generation of children who find it alarming that a stranger would speak to them. I get why we did this to them, and I wish my own child were more reticent. I have had, and continue to have, the stranger-danger talks with her. For all the bloody good they do.

But on the other hand, I see the joy my daughter brings to people she’ll never see again, simply by noticing them. I see the joy these conversations bring her. I think back to her younger days, when she was all but nonverbal and I would have given my left leg to hear her speak. And I take her to the store, the park, the library, and let her chat some more.

Sunrise smile

This week marks the beginning of the school year proper. Anya will be going all day every day from this week on. Last week went very well; I even managed to make her smile upon waking both days. Here’s hoping I can continue that into this week, and beyond.

Loving:

Kai is growing. His hair is growing faster. He is growing taller, heavier. His feet are noticeably bigger. As are his ears. And he says a new word almost every day. This morning’s word was “Yeah.” He’s had “no” down pat for a while now, but today when I asked him if he was cold and wanted me to grab him a shirt, he thought for a moment, then said “yeah.” Like he’s been saying it his whole life. I miss my baby, but oh, how I love to watch him grow.

Reading:

Goosebumps. Anya has fallen in love with the series (how could she not, considering her parents?), and I read her to sleep each night. They’re cheesy as hell, but she’s a bit young for Stephen King yet. She’s happy to turn the TV off now, and pouts when she thinks she might not get reading time.

Watching:

I am all caught up on Jane the Virgin now. Revisiting Gilmore Girls for a bit; it’s comfort food for my frazzled brain. And, as always, I seriously envy Lorelai’s wardrobe.

Listening to:

Reading Chillout. Mellow, but not sleepy.

Working on:

I’ve signed up for a course on novel writing from Coursera, in anticipation of NaNoWriMo. I’m going to use some of my former blogging time to take it, then to write…things might get a little quiet around here. I’ll try to at least keep up with the Monday updates.

Anticipating:

Birthday girl turns six this Saturday. Six loves rainbows, and unicorns, and cake, and fun, so the weekend will be full of all four. Friday, there will be fireworks (a make-up show from the 4th), and snack time cupcakes at school (rainbow, of course, baked by yours truly). Saturday we’ll be having a rainbow unicorn party, complete with a rainbow layer cake (also baked by yours truly). And we’re going to putt-putt. And if we still have energy after that, we’ll stop by Dixon Gardens for their family ‘do. It’s a whole lotta partying (not to mention cake) for one weekend, but it’s not every day one turns 6.

Making me happy:

My calves are sore. I’ve not been pushing the ab exercises because I’ve had a lot of back/scar pain lately, but I’ve been sticking with my routine: 30 jackknives, 2-minute plank, 10 minutes of jogging. My abs get a little sore immediately after the jackknives, but otherwise are fine. However, my calves are sore. They feel more solid, too. Took me 40 years, but I’m starting to build some calf muscles.

Get a Clue

One of the things I wish had been around when I was younger is period trackers. I tracked my period on a paper calendar, but all I noted was the day it started. I have random anecdotal evidence (letters, journal entries) that refer to the occasional symptom or period duration, but otherwise I’m relying on my memories for details of my periods up until the age of 35, when I was introduced to Fertility Friend. I used FF faithfully (even when I wasn’t trying to conceive) until I resumed my cycles (such as they are) after I had Kai.

I use Clue now, hence the post title. If you look at my tracker, you’ll see I track mostly custom symptoms.

Screenshot_20170804-092950
The black squares are custom symptoms. (I have a lot of symptoms.)

When I was younger, tracking things like how my hair and skin were on a given day, whether I was productive or not, or how energetic I felt (all built in to the Clue app) would have been extremely useful. I remember from my TTC days that days in which I crushed my to-do list were sure-fire indicators that Aunt Flo was en route. Now I track other things: If I have trouble deciding what to wear. If I eat alllll day long. (Toying with adding “sweet or salty?” to that one, on the off chance that there’s any significance.) If my joints hurt. (I’m noticing a connection between achy joints and hormone surges, though I don’t know yet what it means.) If I had hot flashes that day. (Ditto.) If I’m cramping, or if I merely have pain in my lower back and/or my cesarean scar.

I wish more than anything there were a menopause tracker. That I could drop in these symptoms and it’d compare me to other women going through The Change and make predictions for me, like FF does with fertility. I could especially use peer comparision — matching my cycles with women my same age who also are breastfeeding. But alas. So I track my weird little collection of symptoms. Who knows — maybe I’ll notice a pattern to these crazy cycles after a while. Right now they seem so random.

It’s not that I need to track. I’ll start or I won’t, whether or not I track anything. Tracking used to give me a ballpark range for when my period might start. That sort of thing is utterly meaningless now. But it’s interesting to me to see the patterns from the 30,000 feet view. It’s also giving me a greater understanding of the inner workings of my body, much as trying to get pregnant did. (I learned a lot when we were TTC. And I thought I was well educated already!) Which means I’ll have a solid knowledge base when my daughter starts having periods. That’s coming up sooner than I can deal with.

Wishful pausing?

I’m beginning to wonder if I really am in perimenopause, or if my body is simply confused by all this breastfeeding. I haven’t had much in the way of hot flashes these past few weeks, and the rest of my symptoms could simply be related to breastfeeding. Or stress. Or endometriosis.

Let’s be honest: My body never did figure this menstruation thing out, and it’s far too late to worry about that now.

I’ve always assumed, based on my mother’s experience, that I would go through menopause early. There’s no firm basis for this belief; my maternal grandmother died at the age of 49 without having gone through The Change. But as my menstrual experience has closely mirrored my mother’s (we even started at the same age — 4 months before our 14th birthdays), I figured my end would also come at roughly the same age as hers.

But then I threw a curve: Two late pregnancies, and one extended breastfeeding experience. Even if I were close to menopause, I might have altered the end date by continuing to nurse Kai.

It also occurs to me that my interpretation of my symptoms might all be so much wishful thinking. I want to go through menopause. I love being a mom, don’t get me wrong, and it wouldn’t be awful (thought it would be rather inconvenient at this point) to have another child. But I am done with endometriosis. Done with the pain. Done with the swelling, the bloating, the mood swings. Done with wearing a panty liner day after day for months on end, just in case I might start, for fear of ruining my clothing. (Also done with ruining my clothing.) Done with periods that last 10-14 days, draining me emotionally as well as physically. Done with scheduling my life around a natural bodily function. But really — it’s the pain. The constant, unrelievable, never-ending pain. The pain that, at best, makes my entire abdomen feel like a hand that’s been slammed in a car door. The pain that feels like a spike in my tailbone. The pain that makes it hard to bathe, dress, walk, hold my children, think, breathe, be. The pain steals my hours, days, weeks.

I’m ready for the next stage. The stage in which I can produce something other than children and blood and pain.

The media bombards us with women who fight time. Who resist aging both inside and out. Women who turn to science to produce children when their bodies are past the age at which they can do so naturally. The women who nip this and tuck that. What of the women who accept it, embrace it, and move into their new role with grace — with enthusiasm?

Because there is a place for women who can’t reproduce. In the animal world, and in the human world, too. (What, you didn’t think animals went through menopause? Honestly, neither did I.)

I want the time and space to create. I find myself brimming with more creative energy than I’ve had in years, and I want to feel well enough to use it. I want to write, make jewelry, paint, garden. This morning, as I lay awake in the predawn hours, I found myself planning sewing projects — me, who barely knows how to use my own sewing machine. I want to try my hand at cooking new dishes, take up new hobbies, learn. I want to put more time and effort into the Etsy store I created with my daughter.

If I weren’t laid up in agonizing pain for great portions of my life, just think of what I could do with all that time. It could be the start of a whole new life for me.

Is it any wonder I’m ready to begin?