3 Things Your Mother Never Told You About Menopause
If your mother was anything like mine, she never told you anything about reproduction. I had to figure out on my own where the pads and tampons were hidden when I got my period the first time. I learned about where babies come from in sex ed at school. But, I vaguely remember being a teenager and having a moody mom making decisions about what I was and was not allowed to do.
I’ve gone through puberty, multiple pregnancies, months (years?) of breastfeeding. I’ve always appreciated the ways that my body changed and adapted to each new phase. Now that I’m hitting middle age, my body is changing yet again.
I thought I’d be glad to stop having periods, and move on my merry way into my silver sneakers and golden years. This time in between - called perimenopause - has me no longer marveling at my body’s versatility and cursing the glowing euphemisms for post-menopausal bliss.
I had heard all the clichés … hot flashes top among them. I certainly didn’t think, however, they’d cause the soles of my feet to feel like they were on fire for hours at a time or require sheet changing and sleeping on towels during mid-winter because of the amount of sweat I was producing. And other changes are happening that are less-than-pleasing, to put it mildly.
Here Are the Top 3 Things I Wish My Mom Had Shared With Me About Menopause
1. You may think you’re losing your mind.
Sometimes I will be having coffee with a friend and not be able to remember a simple word for a common object - “Yes, I’d love more … hmmm … that stuff we’re drinking … not tea ….” “Coffee?” she’ll say. “Yes that.” Thankfully, she’s going through the same stage of life and completely understands.
My kids, not so much. When I need to go through a whole catalogue of names before I get to the right one (sometimes including my brother’s and the dog’s names in the list), the effect of reprimanding them is lost in gales of laughter. I know at one point in life I giggled at my mom doing the same thing - this is, quite obviously, karma paying me back.
2. You may think your entire body is against you.
My periods, unfortunately, didn’t just stop even though that is the actual definition of menopause - the very last period you’ll ever have. First, they got really heavy, really yucky and really long. Then they got irregular.
Sometimes I’d go months without any bleeding and I’d praise the heavens that it was finally done. Then I’d have 3 weeks of bleeding as punishment. In addition, hair started growing in new places, and falling out in places where I’d had it before. While my luxurious locks weren’t as lush as before, I no longer had to get a Brazilian wax before heading to the beach.
I do need to get my upper lip waxed more often, though. Dry skin, “age spots” and brittle nails round out the sometimes painful reality that you’re no longer young. I didn’t think I was old enough for heart problems, though. But one day, my heart felt like it was fluttering in my chest. I honestly thought maybe it was a heart attack.
What I found out in the emergency room is heart palpitations are a symptom of hormonal changes not necessarily of heart disease. The doctor assured me it was an indication worth having checked by my healthcare provider, though I think he was perhaps telling me I should have checked there first.
3. You may think of taking a vow of chastity.
Well, why not? You’re not interested in sex because you’re way too tired all the time, and when you do decide to have sex you’re not as naturally lubricated as you once were. You don’t feel attractive - I mean, your hair is falling out, your skin is dry, and you feel bloated all the time.
Your partner takes this as a sign that he’s no longer attractive, and gets offended. Now he’s self-conscious and not able to perform as he used to. So, he’s seeing his urologist to try to figure out why but really it’s just that your libido is all out of whack. You’ve read about women who are friskier with the surge of estrogen during perimenopause, and you envy them. I’m right there with you!
The good news is shifting hormones cause most of these changes, and you will eventually regain some equilibrium. It may be different than in the past, but it will be your new normal. Many of the symptoms of menopause can be treated with simple interventions.
Regular exercise and a healthy, plant-based diet can be extremely rewarding for overall health. Supplements and medications can be added for more persistent (and annoying) symptoms. Add a tincture of time, and you’ll be past “the change of life” - as my mom is apt to call it - and enjoying romantic vacations without period supplies!