Tuesday, 22 January 2019

A No Kidding menopause: The emotional issues (Part 1)

After my quest to conceive was over, I had mixed feelings about my period. It was insulting and pointless to have it every month when I couldn’t conceive,. But at the same time, that wasn’t unusual for me, or for all the women my age (and that would be most) who were, for whatever reason, not trying to conceive. I had tried to conceive for several years, but had not tried to conceive for decades. So it actually made me feel normal, for a change. It was, for all of us, a waste of time and money, and was a huge inconvenience. For a while there, I liked just being normal for a change.

Likewise, as perimenopause came along, cycles became erratic and symptoms began to make themselves known, I at least knew that this was normal and to be expected. I could join in on conversations – though to be frank they were few and far between – with women my age and it was irrelevant whether we were mothers or not. Perhaps I was lucky, but I didn’t have to listen to any of my friends rue the loss of their fertility. By our mid-late 40s-early 50s, these issues were in the past for us all. The reasons why were irrelevant.

I remember taking a pregnancy test at about 45, after an unusually long cycle. I knew that, with two blocked tubes, pregnancy was physically virtually impossible. But still. After two ectopics, I did not want to risk ignoring a potential third ectopic. The thought of being pregnant filled me with dread. Because I knew that in the unlikely even that I was, it would a) most probably be another ectopic, b) if it wasn’t ectopic then a pregnancy at that age would bring higher risks of miscarriage and foetal abnormalities, and c) I realised that, at 45, I didn’t want to become a new mother either (and my husband, at several years older than me, felt the same).  It’s a weird feeling realising that what I had wanted so very much only five years ago was something I would not welcome now.

Time helps. Yes, it’s a cliché, but in those four to five years, I was able to recognise and almost even celebrate that what would have been right for me back then was not right for me now. So it wasn’t a contradiction to not want it any more. Still, I can’t hide the fact that the relief I felt at the negative test result was punctuated by some tiny little questions in my head. “Maybe you didn’t ever want it enough?” It can be hard to escape those thoughts. And I still missed the four and five-year-olds I would have had by then had my pregnancies worked out.

Perimenopause inevitably continued. However, as the physical issues became more complicated, I experienced a lot of frustration. None of my friends were experiencing quite the same level of inconvenient symptoms. Was my reproductive system once again letting me down? Was I having these problems because I - or my body - was abnormal, in the way my ectopics and infertility weren’t “normal?”

I tried not to dwell on this, and for the most part I succeeded. Fortunately, infertility and coming to terms with having no kids had taught me how to shut down some of these doubts, self-accusations, these unhelpful negative thoughts. I liked to think that my reproductive status was irrelevant to this situation, and by experiencing these issues I was simply being normal for a woman my age. (Though again, taking that point of view did mean I didn’t seek help early enough.)

Still, I did experience anger and frustration at once again being inconvenienced by my reproductive system/body. It wasn’t a self-hate issue, but just sheer frustration at the injustice of these issues. And yet, because of the experience of childlessness, I’ve learnt that even when I say “its not fair” it’s more a general complaint than a question of “why me?” I know the world is not fair. I accept that.

And if I’m honest, and put things in perspective, for most of my life my cycles had been reasonably well-behaved, with the exception of regular cramps one or two days a month. I know a lot of women haven’t been so lucky. And so I realised that feeling frustrated at the bleeding, at the menopause that wasn’t coming when I was well and truly ready for it, was probably not an unusual emotion for women. After 30-40 years of monthly periods, pretty much every woman on the planet would welcome their cessation, surely! In that, I was part of a much bigger group. Part of the majority. Normal, for once.

3 comments:

  1. I'm really glad you're writing this series. It's something that doesn't get talked about enough. I'm very open with P and E about what my periods mean and why they happen, but I caught myself in the grocery store pulling E aside into a quiet aisle to answer his question about what the pads were in our shopping cart. Afterwards I realized I should have just answered the question right where he asked it- I don't want him to think there's something secret or shameful about menstruation.

    Your physical symptoms that you described in your last post sounded awful. I'm so glad everything was eventually resolved safely.

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  2. I’m so glad you are diving into this topic. Menopause is an issue most don’t want to talk about (why, I don’t understand), but your perspective adds a needed element. I often wonder how many women have been silenced into suffering with difficult symptoms under the guise of “this is a normal process” without much consideration of both the physical and emotional aspects. It’s hard on levels few are willing to talk about, so thank you for leading the charge

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  3. I had one of those long cycles in my mid-40s. I've written about it before on my blog, but (long story short) I wound up sneaking into a drugstore to buy, & later take, a pregnancy test (negative, of course), while visiting my parents over Christmas, like a guilty teenager, lol. I was actually quite pissed off that my body was jerking me around like this (AGAIN), & it showed me that I most definitely did NOT want to be pregnant at this point in my life, and that I had come a lot farther in my grief/infertility recovery than I had thought!

    Anyway, I am loving this series and am so glad you are talking/writing so frankly about these matters!

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