This story is part of our End of the Childbearing Years series, exploring the experiences, decisions, and feelings of Mormon women around this pivotal transition. Each story is a generous and vulnerable offering. We ask that comments be sensitive and nonjudgmental toward any woman’s choices or beliefs.

By Luana Uluave

My childbearing years ended abruptly in the Fashion Place Mall parking lot in 2008 with a call from my doctor’s office, “Yes,” the medical assistant told me, confidently, “Your FSH levels show that you are fully postmenopausal.”

“What?” I asked. “I’m in my thirties!”

She paused. “Um, just a minute.” And then, “This is Dr. Behr. The MA said you’d like to go through your lab results?”

And that was that. I had known I’d had irregular periods, known they had run a couple of extra lab tests at a recent physical. I was not prepared to learn that thanks to some misfire with my autoimmune system, at 38 I was diagnosed with the menacing condition, Premature Ovarian Failure. At 38, I was a premature crone.

I hung up my phone, drove home, made dinner for my family, and went to bed that night at the regular time.

Fortunately there was no mourning for lost fertility. Baby Emma had arrived right on cue in 1994, followed by a precisely planned Thomas in 1998. Meredith debuted in 2001; exactly nine months and twelve days earlier we had decided to invite her and she had RSVPed promptly. No miscarriages. No long waits or longing, no poorly timed newborns squalling into winter storms or disrupting cross-country moves. After Mer, both Jason and I felt complete. We’d kneel for family prayer at night, look around the circle, and everyone was home. Our family was whole.

We had years of organic baby food, Little Gym, and carpool. We had the good sense to relish those terrific middle years for travel—the Golden Era of baby out of the car seat, before the oldest gets a driver’s license—and we hauled them to Mexico and Italy, Disneyland and the Grand Canyon. Turns out, to my delight, I was pretty good at babies, but I’m amazing at teenagers. Nothing was better fun than a teenage son, grateful that I had made him spaghetti. My girls grew into confident, fantastic young women. Now at 16, Meredith has a driver’s license, a debit card, and a cell phone—which equals full emancipation. My children don’t need my physical care very often these days, but they welcome my companionship. I am honored by the loveliness of the adults they are becoming.

My friends are perimenopausal now, and I’m startled sometimes at reminders of mood swings, PMS, cramps, and the calendar. I somehow neglected to actually experience menopause in 2008, only registering it once it was over. A decade later, I feel grateful to have closed that chapter early, without warning, without any fanfare or dismay. I admire the wise women I know, traveling solo in Scotland, enjoying their lives and marriages with hefty, sturdy love that grows slowly over time and experience.

Once Mer moves out, I have plans. I think I’ll go to divinity school, or visit Guatemala. I might sit down and write a book, or read one all day long on a Thursday, just because I can.

Luana and her family