An old joke goes something like this: “All of women’s problems start with men – menstruation, menopause, mental illness . . .” I forget the rest. Which brings me to my point. Menopause. A dear friend just refers to it as The Pause, which led me to the title. Those of you around my age will remember that soft drink slogan – the pause that refreshes – though like me you may have forgotten the brand name.
I am 48. I had my first child at age 41, and the second (and last, thank you) at 43. About 6 months ago my body completely freaked out. The rest of this paragraph probably qualifies as too much information, so feel free to skip to the next one whilst I give you some background. I spent 21 years on birth control pills before trying to get pregnant. With the pills my periods were very light and not terribly painful. We used other methods for 3 months as instructed, and I was advised by several doctors that because I was 40 it would be very difficult for me to get pregnant, which I fully expected, particularly as I had a history of ovarian cysts when I was young. Well, it wasn’t difficult at all, which made me feel terribly guilty, since I have many friends who suffered severe infertility problems for a number of years, and some who still face issues. At any rate, the periods didn’t really come back with a vengeance until after the second baby. And vengeance it was. Doubled-over, agonizing, heavy, and lengthy vengeance. Then starting in June I had a very heavy, very painful full week period, followed by one week without, then another week with, and this pattern lasted until August 6. And I didn’t have another one until January 1. There for awhile I was hopeful I was permanently done, but no such luck.
I hear you all asking, “Why didn’t you go to the doctor?” My doctor is 3 hours away. Therefore it’s a full day for an appointment. And did I mention the small children? Only one of them is in school. The 5-year-old missed the cut-off, so he doesn’t start kindergarten until this fall. And I have no one who can keep him during the day. I do take him to my rheumatologist appointments, since I get to keep my clothes on, but I don’t think he needs to be with me during a pap smear. Just sayin’. I will go, but it takes some major planning.
Then in mid-September I started having what I can only assume are hot flashes. I heard all about night sweats and being hot, but I wasn’t doing that. I would just suddenly get so hot I felt like someone stuck me in an oven. Suffocating-variety hot. Usually opening the freezer door and sticking my head in would take care of it. However, once the weather turned cold, I stopped having them. My mother told me she doesn’t have them in the winter, only during hot weather. And she’s been having them for 15 years now. (I am not a candidate for HRT, because she was on HRT when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which she has had twice now, and thankfully has recovered from both times.)
So that’s where we are. My husband and I often joked about the fact that we were afraid my daughter would be going through puberty at the same time I was going through menopause, so I guess we’ve avoided that problem! I am realizing, though, that it’s probably better to go through this without your children as witnesses.
I think this column, feature, what have you, will probably be about my journey through this process rather than giving anyone any kind of advice. I will say this, though, don’t panic! And we’ll see where it takes us.