When the Pause Button Doesn't Work
“Aw c’mon, honey it would be great!” My uncle says to my aunt who is giving him the side-est of side-eyes as he giggles. He looks at me. “Don’t you think it would be great if we had a baby?”
If you could have seen the look on my face. Think wide-eyed shocked emoji. “Wait… what? Who? You? Her? Have a baby? Like haaaaave (making a pregnant belly gesture with my hands) a baby?”
“Yeah! Don’t you think that would be awesome?” He continues to giggle and my expression mirrors my aunt’s. Neither of us finds anything in the vicinity of awesome about her giving birth 33 years after the birth of her one-and-only-child.
We get why he’s saying this and why he finds it so amusing. It’s because technically she CAN still have a baby. My aunt is 58 and her body has yet to press “pause.”
There have been some signs in the last few years... or so they thought. She didn’t know if suddenly feeling a bit warm was a hot flash or just a reaction to the room’s temperature. Occurrences were too infrequent to establish a pattern. Then there were “moods” which my uncle was convinced were menopause related. My aunt is the owner of a daycare center. Additionally, snarky, sarcasm, and snappy-ness are engraved in my family’s DNA. Pinning down the cause of a particular mood would be difficult. Though in her case, she’s probably the most even-keeled leaf on the family tree, so if she’s in a snit, she’d be able to pick out the culprit in a lineup.
The closest she’s ever been to saying “YAY, it’s finally here!” is last year when her period stopped. “Sike! Just kidding,” chuckled Menopause. Then, she turned her cycle back on three months later and it’s been on ever since.
Dude, what gives?
Other women in our family hit menopause around 52, so she’s been prepared, poised, and patiently waiting. When’s it gonna hit her? More importantly... why hasn’t it hit her?
This is common and uncommon at the same time and just as with most natural bodily functions, there are possible theories as well as pros and cons.
Reasons Why Your Pause Button Might Not Work
Genetics - If there’s a family history of “late bloomers,” then most likely you’ll be one too. However, while you share the same gene pool, no two bodies are the same. You may or may not press pause on or around the same age as other women in your family. If you are approaching your mid 40’s, you might want to start asking around.
Obesity - According to the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, obesity can contribute to late-onset menopause because fat can produce estrogen. It’s not a terrible thing, but we all are aware that obesity can contribute to a host of other negative health issues.
Thyroid Disorders - The same journal above also states if your thyroid isn’t working properly, it can have a number of effects on your reproductive system. It can make menopause late OR early. It can also show up like “fake menopause” and have all the symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, etc. If you’re still having a period but pressing pause in all the other ways, you could have a thyroid issue and should seek medical advice.
The Downside of "No Pause"
Higher Cancer Risk - When our bodies press pause, estrogen production slows down. If we are still “playing,” we are still cranking out the estrogen full tilt. In several studies cited by Live Strong, prolonged exposure to estrogen can increase the risks of breast and ovarian cancers. Women with genetic predispositions to those cancers are at greater risk, but in general, the chances are very slim. Unless you’ve been expressly warned due to your personal medical or genetic history, don’t worry yourself.
Menstruation - Yep, still getting the monthly visitor. Nuff said.
Pregnancy - This is the biggie right here! The baby factory is still fully operational regardless of you having a sign on the door saying “Sorry, we’re closed.” Those of you with healthy heterosexual sex lives need to be sure you and your partners are taking precautions to prevent being mistaken for grandparents.
The Upside of No Pause
Pregnancy - Hey… to each her own, I say. Halle Berry is doing it, why not you? Flip that sign on the factory door to “Open!” Many a healthy baby has been born to a woman over 50. My maternal great-grandmother had a couple of her brood of 13 in her golden years… my grandfather being one of them! Let’s be real, it’s not easy when we're in (air quotes) normal child-bearing years, but younger bodies are better equipped for it. There are risks, but it’s not impossible. And if it’s what you want, I say go for it!
Longevity - If you don’t press pause, the song still plays right? Well, guess what, sister, the soundtrack of your life is now an extended remix! That continuous estrogen has greater rewards than risks. Delayed menopause means less risk of heart disease or stroke. It also means your bones are stronger so less risk of osteoporosis. Can we say hashtag winning?
But, back to my aunt’s story…
In this hilarious discussion about how un-fun it would be for her to have a baby at 58 and anxiously awaiting the arrival of menopause like an Amazon delivery, I did ask her what might be on your mind as well… “What does your doctor say?” Not that I believe anything is wrong with her, but I was curious about there being a medical reason for the apparent pause button malfunction. The doctor’s response… “Nope. You're good!”
Like, seriously… there is no medical reason for the delay. There’s no genetic reason for the delay. It’s just tardy for the party. It’s a diva and wants to be fashionably late.
An ObGYN told my aunt that her own mother didn’t hit pause until she was 59. So maybe she’s only got one more year? Guess we’ll find out!
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