Menopause. It’s one of those words you know you’ll use eventually in your life: like pension, retirement, parent’s funeral or ingrown toenails. Let me tell you, it’s worse than all of those words put together. As a young adolescent, you wait with wonder at your impending period, not really knowing what’s right or normal. As the years progress, your body settles into a routine which forces you to eat chocolate 2 days before your period, and cry for 3 days afterwards. Or that could be just me!
As a teenager I awaited each month with apprehension, praying and pleading with God that next month I’d be a good girl and not take stupid risks with pregnancy. In my twenties I loved having my period, it meant I was a woman, and fertile, and I looked forward to the day I could begin my family.
Once married, our two sons came along 2 and a half years apart, and life was good. We were a happy family, things seemed to be settling into familiar routines and my body behaved itself. My flow was much heavier though, and I came to dread each month. My normal 3 day period stretched out to a week-long effort, and I came to resent it.
‘I’ve had my family now; can we turn off the menstrual tap please?’
Women: rowing up the river of life
In my late forties things began to change. Regular became irregular. My flow stopped after 3 days. I fist punched the air and thought ‘At last!’ and I looked forward to being free of tampons and pads, and sleeping through the night without having to get up and change.
And then it happened, or didn’t happen. One month, nothing. No period. Nothing also happened the next month and the next. I congratulated myself on how easy that was, and felt a tinge of regret and sadness at the thought of no longer being fertile. My chin sprouted enough hairs to keep me busy for a good twenty minutes each morning. I bought a 7+ magnifying mirror and shrieked at my reflection. Who was this tired old bag and what happened to my face?
My skin dried and wrinkled as I watched it. My boobs dropped, no longer swollen each month with hormones. Men no longer looked at me. I had become our teenager’s mother and not my own person. I became invisible. I even began to refer to others as middle-aged, afterwards noting with horror that they were in fact younger than myself!
Then one day, it happened. My first hot flush. Standing outside talking to other parents at a Scout reunion, I suddenly heard myself yell “Hot! Hot!” and I quickly tore off my jacket. My cheeks burned like they were on fire. It only lasted a few minutes, but was to become a part of every day, each flush appearing without warning; and sending my body temperature up so quickly it always caught me by surprise.
Other women nodded in sympathy, but no one could ever warn me enough about the night times, when I would have to stagger out of bed and into the bathroom, splashing my face with cold water, and towelling off the night sweat from under my breasts. I think that was the worse of it, being drenched in sweat, and kicking off the doona, only to then cool down and become chilled. Blanket on, blanket, off, blanket on, blanket off. Night insomnia also became a constant companion, and I found myself tapping away on my computer updating my Facebook status: Sleep is overrated! My body only needed 2 or 3 hours sleep at best and I leaned to go with the flow and work at 3am, to catch up on extra stuff, rather than lie in the dark for hour upon hour of total boredom and frustration.
Repeat for 2 years, nightly. I drove myself mad, almost bursting into tears at the conversations of my two sisters who were five years and 12 years older than me. They were still experiencing hot flushes themselves!
Now here I am three years later, and my flushes seem to have settled down for now. I feel a new freedom, and no longer worry about the aging process, or my grey hairs. Attending a few of my friends’ funerals cured me of that! What I don’t like is my complete lack of interest in sex. I could cry! I suppose I could take hormones or some menopausal treatments, but I am a natural girl and I figured that it’s all a part of life. My nails are more susceptible to breaking, and I try to use more hand lotion and give myself a facial each weekend (if I remember!). My memory is short too, I seem to spend half the day trying to recall what I did yesterday, or what I was about to say. It can be very frustrating.
Low self-esteem, irritability and weight gain have all visited me, but really, I have little to complain about. I accept myself and my body, and rage against time when I can, otherwise I am well, my health is good and my life goes on. I can still burst into tears at a memory or a conversation, but now look forward to the next stage of my life which may include grandchildren! Yay!
But that’s another chapter, right?
Our Guest asked to remain anonymous. I am sure you can see why…Is this your reality? Can you relate? Is it your mother, sister, aunt or friend? Care to share a best/worst experience? * Comment anonymously if you like and and I will publish as The Editor. Just indicate and I will copy/paste your comments only. Want to declare and share? Go for it…
Our next Guest is a fantastic young mother from Indonesia. She has faced some interesting challenges.