My period is late and I'm worried. I tend to be regular. I've never missed a period except when I was pregnant or nursing. In fact, developmentally speaking, I tend to be predictable. Even my eye doctor noted this a few years back when he said, "You're right on time. Forty-two is when it hits, presbyopia ..." It was depressing ? I could no longer read the small print of the phone book ? and right on time at that. I'd hoped I wouldn't be that predictable, that I could beat the odds.

At 47, I thought I'd beat other odds. My sex life had been difficult in the early years of my marriage, plagued with yeast infections and garden-variety vaginal irritations. With the birth of my first child, I had a hematoma of the perineum. Between nursing babies and pain with intercourse, I felt that my body no longer belonged to me. Sex lost its charm. In my early 40s I'd been divorced for a while and assumed I was doomed to the celibate life. I remember one Thanksgiving gathering of friends during which we each proclaimed our gratitude for something. I said I was grateful that I'd had a sex life. The nubile 15-year-old daughter of my friend said that she was grateful she was going to.

Within a year, however, I felt like the teen. Timid at first, in a new relationship, I discovered that sex was no longer painful. In fact, it was better than ever! I had a born-again sex life ? making love in romantic bed-and-breakfasts, in dew-covered grass and wrapped in the sail on the deck of a boat. Certain that I was the exception, I was surprised to read that women hit their sexual peak at age 47. Right on time again.

I'd wanted to take birth control pills, but my doctor advised against it because I have a slightly elevated risk for breast cancer. So, in my midlife sexual exuberance, I may have been a little lax in the birth control department. My period is late, very late.

Age 51 is not the predictable time for pregnancy. I guess it happens, but certainly I wouldn't be "right on time." I'm trying to remember the earliest signs of pregnancy. My breast are not terribly tender, nor do I have to pee all the time. Weren't those some of the signs?

However, 51 is the average age for menopause. I can't imagine having a baby at this time of life. There were years when I couldn't even look at newborns because I was so envious. But I'm beyond that. I've just survived the emptying of the nest and enjoy doing what I want. I can't imagine being a "Menopausal Mama." I don't even want the responsibility of a dog.