Five years ago, freshly single on my birthday after a long-term relationship ended, I exclaimed to my mother when she called to greet me, “I have no man and no money, but damn do I look good for my age!”
Fast forward to 2015, and another birthday looms. This time, my age hovers just past a certain decade, and, give or take (okay, give!) a few pounds, I’d like to think that the status quo has been maintained, with an added bonus: I’m overflowing with them baby-spawning ova.
At a time when many of my friends are talking about hot flashes, weight gain, and hormone replacement therapy—the good news is, you can scratch tampons and birth control off your monthly shopping list, secure in the knowledge that the factory is closed for good; the bad news is, you get a little bit dry down there—my ovaries are nowhere near extinction. Because my fertility’s high, and it feels like I have superpowers.
Not that I’d like to get pregnant again. Been there, done that, I had the epidural. But it’s somehow akin to flirting with danger (among other things), to know that menopause isn’t likely to be knocking at my door for another eight years at least, according to my gynecologist, and that I could still conceivably conceive.
“Your sugar is a bit on the high side,” Dr. H. said, surveying the results of my long overdue blood test. “And your uric acid is a little elevated. I’m not too concerned about that; just be careful with your red meat and shellfish. But your hormones! Oh my, you should sell your eggs! You have the fertility of a 20-year-old!”
While I knew my baby-making days were definitely not over—hello, zero signs of menopause lurking—it still came as a shock to be as fertile as a woman barely out of her teens. Especially when you consider that there are quite a few women I know in their 40s who are having trouble getting pregnant with their first child.
“You should sell your eggs!” Dr. H. suggested, half-jokingly.
A tempting thought, especially since I still had teenagers to send to college, but no.
“Then you need to get back on some form of birth control, unless you want to get pregnant.”
There’s nothing more terrifying than waiting to see if you’re pregnant when you don’t want to be. Or if you want to be, but your partner doesn’t. Either way, the seconds of panic that accompany the emergence—or not—of that thin blue line can drive you insane, as can waiting and praying for your period to come, and freaking out when it’s delayed.
My previous doctor overseas clearly doubted my superpowers. When I went to see Dr. B., truly a Dickensian character in a lab coat, complete with a plummy accent, balding pate, overgrown sideburns that had turned white with age, beady eyes and a beaked nose, he assumed, based on my age, that menopause was imminent. There was no need to replace the IUD he had just removed.
“Are you sure?” I asked him. “I haven’t detected any signs at all. I honestly think I need another IUD put in.”
The IUD had been a lifesaver for many years. Period? What was that? A tampon? I’d forgotten what they looked like. PMS? Every day, if you counted my chocolate addiction.
He looked at me carefully, then looked at my chart. “Are you…” he paused. “I know you are divorced, but… Are you romantically involved?”
The answer would have been yes a few months back, but presently, no. Instead I said, “Is that relevant?”
He hesitated. “Do you… do you have… are you seeing… What I mean is, do you have a partner?”
“Do I need one?”
“I mean… are you… do you…” he was evidently having a difficult time explaining himself. “Do you…”
I thought the doctor’s own bashfulness in what was obviously a medical matter—c’mon, Reproduction 101—was gentlemanly but also slightly ridiculous. I mean, he just had his fingers inside my vagina!
“Am I still active? Is that what you want to say?”
“Er, yes,” I replied.
Yet he remained unconvinced that I needed protection from any of the overeager sperm that could someday in the near future be swimming up my cervix.
“Tell you what,” he said, regaining his clinical composure. “Do the FSH test that measures your hormones. That’s the Follicle Stimulating Hormone. If indeed you are not menopausal yet, I will insert the Mirena free of charge.”
Like he was the cable guy coming to install my satellite dish.
I decided I would wait till I saw Dr. H., who confirmed—and affirmed—that I was more in need of birth control than thermostat control.
Of course, I took her prescription, and blithely ignored her advice. And then I cursed the day my period came. That bloody thing, arriving on the dot every 28 days. So like a 20-year-old at the peak of her fertility.
A month later, resuming a truncated relationship with someone I’d met in New York a year before, I flirted with the idea of relying on just a condom (P.S. safe sex, people, safe sex). A whole lot of kissing later, I decided, no, it was too much of a risk, and left our relationship, truncated once again, unconsummated. Again.
Damn my superpowers.
He would have made a fine baby daddy though.
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published earlier this year by Anvil Publishing and available in National Bookstore and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
She will be speaking at the Philippine Literary Festival which takes place from Aug. 28 to 30 at the Raffles Hotel in Makati.
For comments and questions, e-mail [email protected]
Art by Dorothy Guya