The Long Goodbye: Parting Ways with My Period Is Not as Easy as I Thought

long goodbye new

I’m 48, soon to be 49, and last year I went six months without getting my period. I thought to myself, this is it! No more dealing with PMS bloat, or cramps or worrying about having to change myself like a baby every few hours during that time of the month. As weeks, then months went by without so much as spotting I was sure this was it—menopause. Since the average age of menopause is 50, it would have been a little early, but considering that I had an ovary removed due to endometriosis a few years ago, it totally made sense that I could be experiencing it a little earlier than most.

With no menstruation to deal with, I was very happy with the way things were going. It was nice to not have to worry if I was leaking through my jeans (haven’t we all sported the sweatshirt-tied-around-your-waist look?) and to not have to count dates on the calendar to see “when it was coming.” For decades, my period was an impending disaster on the horizon, and I had to arm myself with the necessary products, a combination of tampons in various absorbencies from “lite” to “regular” to “giant torpedo of cotton inside your vagina” sizes. Now without this nuisance I began to plot the Caribbean trip I would take with all of the money I’d be saving on Tampax Pearl. There I would be, carefree on vacation with no worries of a white string peeking out to ruin my poolside style. I would get an extra shot of rum in my pina colada with all the cash I’d no longer be giving to Always.

And yet…something inside me felt a little weird about the idea that I’d no longer be fertile. I have two kids—11-year-old boy/girl twins—and there is no part of me that wants more children. Our family of four is complete, a decision that was made not long after they were born when my husband got a vasectomy. Objectively I knew that I could be “no longer of childbearing age” and still be a sexy, vibrant, viable woman. So many of my female idols are over 50—from Rachel Weisz and Lisa Edelstein to Emma Thompson and the AbFab ladies. All of the Spice Girls are my age, and there’s no way they would ever lose their spice. Although I knew this, the truth is that part of me couldn’t shake the image of my anatomy as something withered up and old, no longer able to perform its purpose.

Then just as I was beginning to feel wistful for those pads with wings, my period came back with a vengeance. There I was, just like old times, curled up in a ball on the couch, holding a heating pad over my uterus and praying to God to bring me relief, or at least some dark chocolate Bark Thins.

With Aunt Flo back in town on a pretty regular basis now, I’ve had some time to think. I know that “the change” is coming—it’s a part of life and it’s inevitable. Instead of thinking of it as the end of something, I’m trying to see it as a new beginning of this next phase of life that will be awesome in its own way (see: sipping cocktails by the pool care-free). And most importantly, I think that if more of us started to talk about it out in the open, we’d realize that this next part, while period-less, is still so full of possibilities.

The other day my daughter and I went shopping to buy her first box of pads which I know she’ll be needing soon—all the signs are there and it’s on the horizon. We picked out one that looked just right for preteens. The Always Radiant pads are individually wrapped in pretty pink paper with palm trees on them (part of the Sunset Daze collection!) and are worlds cooler than the giant sanitary napkins I had in the ‘80s. I’m glad that things are a little better now. And while I know what’s in store for her—the cramps, the bloating, even the inevitable accidents, I also remember that this means she gets to be part of something sacred, divine and mysterious. When menstruation comes to an end for me, I’ll be ready to pass the torch to her, wings and all.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Ronnie Koenig is a writer with 20+ years’ experience who got her start at Playgirl and went on to write for Cosmo, Redbook, The New York Times, The Atlantic and many others. She’s...