Today is the last day of summer. Perhaps figuratively, too. This week, a piece I wrote appeared on the Huffington Post, 44 and Pregnant?, and it stirred a flurry of comments, emotions, private emails, and lot’s of questions and speculations on my Facebook pages. (No, I’m NOT pregnant!) The punchline, it turns out, is menopause. Fitting that September is Menopause Awareness Month!
So as summer creeps into fall outside, it seems it’s also happening within me. Many women reached out to me saying that they have experienced the same moments of wondering and worrying, dreaming and freaking out, that I talk about in 44 and Pregnant. Did you know that women between 40-44 years old account for the second highest unintended pregnancy rate? It’s shocking to think I’m even in the age category to be talking about the “M” word let alone be experiencing the precursors to “The Change.”
Menopause is medically defined as cessation of menstruation for one full year, but every woman’s different and our bodies may start seeing a range of symptoms in the decade or so leading up to menopause, called perimenopause. The Menopause Awareness Month site says: “There are 34 different symptoms of menopause. Some physical. Some physiological. Some psychological. All frustrating and debilitating.”
On the list of exciting possible symptoms: mood changes and mood swings (that’s always a joy), joint pains, irregular and erratic periods, insomnia, memory loss, itchy skin, headaches, weight gain, and the ever-so-famous hot flashes …. And have you ever experience night sweats? There’s nothing like waking up slippery and soaking. (If it happened to you after your babies were born, you’ve gotten a peek into the future fun.) Oh, and as an added bonus, with menopause, women’s chances of osteoporosis and heart attack increase.
As a northeasterner my whole life, I’ve always said that I love the four seasons, the changing air, temperatures, colors, and ways of life as the year circles round. So on this, the last day of summer, my optimistic nature also makes me look at perimenopause with a positive lens. What comes next? While the symptoms might be difficult, annoying, and worse, what will life bring as I age? I enjoyed life with three of my four grandparents all of whom lived into their mid-late 90’s. I want to live long and see my grandchildren have children, I want to be a great grandmother, too. I feel very blessed that my own kids knew my grandparents so well.
I watch my mother and women her age, and older, who are so vibrant, active, and who are living life fully and giving much to others and the world around them. The autumn of life brings an easing of the daily tasks that life with children at home and active schedules brings, it affords more leisure, more time to slow down and do things you care about most. That’s a lifestyle I aspire to, and I try to implement those lessons now, instead of waiting for later.
My point is, menopause and perimenopause can be a time we welcome, just as we can celebrate a young woman beginning her menses and all that it means, all the hope and joy it holds. I’m working to embrace this change, this transition, and one day, maybe I’ll even be able to see it as a transformation.
So, happy Menopause Awareness Month! Whether you’re far from this time, still having babies, or if you’re on its doorstep as I am, it’s part of being a woman, it can be empowering if we allow it to be.
Screw the hot flashes and night sweats, here I come, watch out!
© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014