The Irony of Menopause

Featured Illustration: Aishwarya Viswamitra

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My name is Aishwarya Viswamitra and I am a final year Master’s student studying lived experiences of menopause in India. Through qualitative interviews with menopausal and postmenopausal people, one of my study’s aims is to study social structures that play a role in an Indian woman’s menopause. One woman’s narrative of receiving zero family support during her menopause stuck with me. I wrote a poem about my perception of the irony of her life — one where she took care of everyone out of a passion for family values but when she needed to be taken care of the most, she realised her passion had been viewed as an obligation.

. . .

It was not easy. Especially when you could become the person in the chair opposite to you, it’s not easy. I heard stories of trauma; I heard stories of emotional abuse — women who were in loveless marriages and women who had thankless children. I heard stories of sacrifice, and I heard stories of self-acceptance. Most of all, I heard stories of women who were “managing.” Not because that’s all they wanted but because that’s all they could do on their own. It doesn’t matter what group of women you pick up from the face of the Earth. You will always find one who could have had a life much simpler than what could have been.

It feels as if a woman’s life revolves around her uterus. When her uterus begins to bleed, her life begins to be protected. When her uterus has bled for enough years, it’s time for her life to belong to somebody else. When her uterus is ready to conceive, her life goes out to her children, and when she is finally where she wants to be, her uterus is ready to stop. But it doesn’t just stop. It doesn’t just fade away. It takes more than just some estrogen when it closes its doors. It hollers and it screams and it yells and it shouts. It’s sad when it bleeds and it’s angry when it flushes. But how much ever it hurts and how much ever it pains, a woman doesn’t need much to prevail. After all, she’s endured a lifetime full of silent suffering on all levels.

But this time it’s different. You see, at this time in her life, she thought that everyone that her uterus had created a home for, provided for, and made a part of its family, would finally be there to pay it back. To shoulder the weight of what it means to age as a woman. To take the place of hormones that have completed their tasks. But on top of the hot flashes and the heavy bleeding and the missed periods and the mood swings, it’s now that she realises that everything may have been for nought. She turns around, hoping that an army of people she provided for is standing right beside her, but instead, she finds a dining table full of mouths waiting to be fed. She spent decades caring and somehow love was viewed as her duty. Somehow caring for others became a part of her job profile. Even if it was finally the time to be cared for.

So at the time when she needs her flesh and blood, she’s left all alone cleaning up her flesh and blood: All. On. Her. Own. It’s a kick to the stomach. Right in her damn uterus.

Women don’t need much. But they deserve so much more.

. . .

If you are an Indian woman with a menopause experience to share, please fill out this form. To follow my research findings you can follow me on my Instagram, website, or Twitter.