What I want you to know about the fear of premature menopause

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Christina.

Whenever I hear a joke about a woman freaking out about her ticking biological clock/dwindling egg supply as she approaches 30, I fight tears. It’s not funny for me; it’s real. Both my mother and my grandmother experienced menopause shortly after the age of 30. Statistically speaking, women tend to go through menopause at the same age as their mother did, so I have known from a young age that there is a high probability of the same thing happening to me. I’m 19 now, and it’s an extremely sensitive subject for me. I’ve looked up support forums for women who have experienced or are experiencing premature menopause, but I had no luck finding anything that spoke from the perspective of someone expecting it to happen to them. It’s extraordinarily painful to feel that you are living in the small space of your fertility window that will likely close around the time many of your peers will be just starting to get married. I’ve never told anyone about this because it feels like menopause isn’t really something young women in university, who aren’t even officially out of their teen years, are really supposed to be thinking about. I mean, jeez, I just survived puberty, right? I often feel ridiculous for being so concerned about this, but there it is. I never complain about my period. I’m not more virtuous/less whiny than other women, it’s just that I know in just over a decade from now I could very well want a period more than anything else. I’ve never been very popular with guys. I’ve never had a boyfriend. I have very rarely been asked out and am shy enough to balk at the idea of doing the asking myself. But I know that I want to get married and have kids, and I often feel like a sort of time bomb. Other women can usually spend their twenties exploring themselves, pursuing their interests and building their career and educational profiles if they so choose. I want all of those things too, but for those others, they can usually expect to settle down in their late twenties or early thirties and then begin building their families (I realize this is a HUGE oversimplification, and I in no way mean to minimize the struggles of couples experiencing unexpected infertility, I only mean to point out that it is commonly assumed that women will be able to bear children throughout their twenties, thirties and into their forties). I’ve wondered about stuff like what happens if I don’t find the right man until I’m fast approaching my 30th birthday –or even well afterward. How am I supposed to explain, not only that I may not be able to have children, but also that this is because I am postmenopausal? His mother might not even have reached that life stage at that point. I cringe thinking about it –I fear entering that stage of life we commonly associate with being so old- when I may only be 30. I worry about the time my education is taking up. I worry about whether I’m silly to consider attending grad school, and I worry that maybe I should have learned a trade instead of taking the time to do a university degree at all. I also worry that I worry about these things. I don’t want to be a woman whose primary goal is to get a MRS and have kids. I don’t want to be in such a hurry to find a husband that I fail to make good choices. All I ask is that you be aware that premature menopause exists, and that it affects 1-2% of all women under the age of 40. So far I have never been able to find anyone who is like me, an anxious daughter of a prematurely menopausal woman, but I at least I know my mother and other women like her exist, and this issue affects not only the women themselves, but also the children, spouses and family members involved. I dream of being a mom someday, and it is a deeply personal sadness as I struggle to know how much hope is “safe” for me to harbour, and how much I should try to let go of now before it is wrenched from me. In case you couldn’t tell, this is not something I have made peace with, and I often find it difficult to even think about this subject without crying, but I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to share and for taking the time to read my story.

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