Only the females of three species—
killer whales, short-finned pilot whales,
and humans—outlive their fertility.
So menopause is a biological rarity.
They also call it “climacteric,”
as if it were weather, a storm passing
through your ovaries. I read recently
that the death rate from pregnancy
and childbirth in the U.S. is rising;
no one knows why. It’s more than doubled
in the last 25 years. Michael Cant,
who studies killer whales,
says, “You have to not only look at the gains,
but the costs the species would suffer
if they continue to breed.” Once I told
my doctor if only I was not estranged
from my mother, I’d know what to expect
from menopause. “That’s ridiculous,”
the doctor said. “Your mother had children.
You’ve never even been pregnant.
Her experience would have no bearing
on yours. Feel badly about the estrangement
if you like, but not because of this.”
All women are different, but the basic menu
(what the Japanese call konenki)
remains the same: hot flashes, bone loss,
fluctuating estrogen levels, poor memory,
sleeplessness, vaginal dryness,
higher risk for heart disease. The mystery
is why I feel better than I have in years.

Kim Roberts is editor of the anthology By Broad Potomac’s Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of Our Nation’s Capital (University of Virginia Press, 2020), and author of five books of poems, most recently The Scientific Method (WordTech Editions, 2017).