Paradigm shift

Speaking of change…

Google says that people going through menopause may experience pain during intercourse, fatigue, night sweats, osteoporosis, hot flashes, sweating, early awakening or insomnia, absence of menstruation or irregular menstruation, dryness or loss of scalp hair, anxiety, dry skin, irritability, moodiness, reduced sex drive, and vaginal dryness. Mayo Clinic adds weight gain and loss of breast fullness. The site 34 Menopause Symptoms adds a few more, including difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, dizziness, brittle nails, headaches, joint pain, and digestive problems.

Of the above list, I don’t have osteoporosis. (I had a nasty fall a few weeks ago; if I had osteoporosis, or even osteopenia, I’d have broken something.) I was having hot flashes for a while there, but they went away after a month. And hair loss? Yes. You may question the hair loss, but believe me — this mop is a shadow of its former fluffiness.

Of course, I’ve also read that many (maybe all) of these symptoms are also attributable to breastfeeding. Which I’m still doing, and have no plans of stopping until Kai wants to stop. In fact, one of the (many, MANY) resources I’ve read on the topic suggests that the effect breastfeeding has on the body is a sort of menopause; it’s just not permanent. So the parallel symptoms make sense.

I have not had a period in three months. I occasionally have back pain, bloating, and cramps, but thus far they have resolved themselves without a period. I sometimes dream about finding blood in my underwear, but aside from a handful of weird cycles in the middle of last year, I haven’t had a single period. And I don’t miss them one little bit.

It’s not impossible that I am perimenopausal. Talk about life changes and new stages.

So…how do I feel about that?

Do I feel a pang when I see all the pregnant bellies around me? (Seems like everyone is pregnant right now.) Yes. Also when I walk past the tiny-baby section of the baby clothes. They stay that small such a short, short time, and you don’t get that many little ones to enjoy. (Unless, I guess, you are a Duggar.) I am not done cuddling sweet bundles, not ready to give up smelling that new-baby smell. But let’s be honest: A third baby was not happening. I’m older, and the risks are higher. We’re broke. I didn’t have such an easy time with the last pregnancy as I did with the first one. Giving birth, for me, requires major abdominal surgery, which seriously sucks. A third child would mean a bigger house, a bigger car. Someone would have to leave the family bed, and there would be resentment. Also, R and I would be outnumbered.

I’m not sure we are up for that. Any of it.

So let’s focus on the positives: Zero breast lumps. (For me, that’s amazing. I’m kind of surprised I have any boobs at all without them.) I’m not free of pain, not yet, but my monthly aches are much reduced, and I have hope that I will stop having periods all together before the excruciating periods return. (And before I eat a hole in my stomach with the pain relievers.) As someone who has planned her life around her menstrual cycle for the past 30 years, saying that I’m looking forward to not having them anymore is an understatement. How many people with chronic illness actually overcome those issues and go on to lead a normal life? With the exception of my pregnancies and this bout of lactational amenorrhea, I have spent roughly 2 weeks out of every 4 in excruciating pain from the time I was a teenager. I have been dreaming of menopause since I was in high school — not that I was wishing away my youth and my fertility, but that kind of pain really wears at you. I am so ready for it to be over.

I’m growing and changing in a lot of ways this year. This is not one of them; I will not be more or less of a woman when I go through menopause. But it’ll be different.

Just another sign that life goes on.


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