There is a period in a woman’s life, once the fog of early motherhood is lifted and the soul-depleting job of parenting of a toddler is over, that she dares to think about herself again. Perhaps, while showering, she detects the lack of an audience of little people staring at her. As she peacefully listens to the sounds of the warm water hitting her skin, she realizes it is not muted by the screams of hungry children hitting her nerves. She notes how rested she feels after a full night’s sleep with no one under 3 feet in her bed taking up all 5 feet of space.
As she goes to get dressed, she discovers that she owns zero bras without detachable flaps, though she stopped nursing two years ago. She recognizes that this means a trip to Victoria Secret and, perhaps, the beginnings of the much anticipated shift in time where she can regain control of her own life. Inexplicably, this moment is not met with jubilation (as expected) but with a complex set of emotions as she clings to those torn and tattered bras like they are the only link to a physically trying time that suddenly seems so perfect and so long ago. As the tears begin to flow, “momopause” officially begins.
For most women, momopause hits at about the three year mark after their last baby was born and is, in fact, no longer a baby. In the early stages of the condition, the brain begins to override the logical thoughts that led to permanent or temporary measures to end fertility and now rapidly interjects them with memories of new baby smells, baby snuggles, favorite onsies, rose-colored glasses, and first smiles — combined with horrifying images of herself old, alone, career-less, and surrounded by a dozen of apathetic overweight cats.
As the mind savagely presents this melange of imagery, it is not unusual for a woman to emotionally shut down, overshare, question all her life choices, consider adopting every starving child in Syria, consider leaving her existing children to pursue saving the world, and consider tattooing a “closed for business” sign onto her womb. Unfortunately, these emotions occur several times throughout the day, often resulting in the consumption of an entire bottle of wine as soon as her kids are in bed.
The standard duration of momopause is indeterminable as it varies greatly from person to person. It is known, however, that much like the Kübler-Ross “5 Stages of Grief,” momopause follows a similar path as it inches towards acceptance/conclusion. The “Who the Hell Am I Now That I Am No Longer Just Trying to Survive Each Day With My Baby and My Sanity Intact” Model with examples is as follows:
Fertility Denial: Partner has undergone a vasectomy but woman is keeping/wearing decade old pregnancy yoga pants just in case.
Anger at New Life: Woman reflects on successful pre-children career she gave up for babies. Woman realizes that babies now gave up on her to grow-up and attend school. This incites rage at current life situation and a general hatred of pathetic maternity leave policies and flexible work options in America.
Bargaining: Woman begs partner to have one more baby in agreement that she will then be satisfied and happily commit herself to self-edifying pursuits as soon as that baby is three.
Depression: Woman realizes that she doesn’t actually want another baby. She knows with certainty that she is ready to take control of her life again. She makes glorious plans for herself that involve travel, career successes, and devoting her life to saving baby seals. She then quickly realizes that she still has kids to take care of and no freedom or time to spend even 30% of her energy to set the groundwork to build a successful and fulfilling second half of her life.
Acceptance: Woman resolves to discover who she is now and how the scars and new grey hairs of motherhood have made her a better and stronger person, but no longer solely define her. She acknowledges her limitations and resolves to uncover her identity and set goals that fulfill both her responsibility to herself and to her family.
Once the “acceptance” stage is reached, a woman can expect to begin to make a full recovery with little to no permanent damage. The post-momopausal woman emerges a strong, competent, emotionally stable and productive woman, friend, partner and mother..….just in time for perimenopause.