I'm not hot. Not yet anyway. I work with a bunch of women who are though. They're turning the thermostats down until it's snowing in the middle of July. We're all at different stages of estrogen, waxing or waning. I call it being Pre-, Mid- or Post-Tribulation. I guess I'm Mid Trib, otherwise known as perimenopause.
When you're young menopause is not something you want to dwell on. I really never much thought about it. I kind of figured you could get pregnant right up until your last period, the last hurrah. I asked my grandma how old she was when she was done. Grandma said 54. "Wow, Grandma, you could've had a baby in your 50s!" To which she replied, "Grandpa wasn't an old fool." I kind of surmised what that meant and it couldn't have been good for Grandpa.
In my early 30s, a coworker prompted me to think briefly about the big M. I had just returned from work after having my last baby. I was nursing at home and pumping at work. She was hot flashing. With her hair plastered to her forehead, she told me I better get ready for it. Good grief. I was on the other spectrum of estrogen--raging, not diminishing. I was lactating, for crying out loud.
Nope, menopause would be here before I knew it, she told me. She gave me a book called something like The Change. On the cover was a photo of a trail leading into a misty woods. Suggesting, I guess, that menopause was mysterious, a journey into the unknown. Kind of like those nifty little pamphlets we got in fifth grade that smelled like baby powder and had pink daisies on them. The pamphlet led you to believe that getting your first period was magical and you'd smell like baby powder.
I skimmed a few pages of The Change and got vaguely depressed. What I took away from it was the word dry. Dry hair, dry skin, and dry... well, yeah, dry. And hot. Very, very hot. Hot and dry. I decided not to think about it any further until I went through The Change. The day I entered the misty woods.
What I didn't realize (maybe I should have finished the book) was there was all this stuff that happened beforehand. In my early 40s my brain started to short circuit. I'd be talking to my kids and mid-sentence I'd blankly look at them and ask, "What?" They'd look at me funny. "I don't know, Mom...what?" I'd respond, "I dunno. What were you saying?" They learned this was the new normal for their mother and would just roll their eyes.
I also started to get words and phrases mixed up. Like instead of "pass the salt, please" I'd say, "pass me my shirt please." And, I couldn't seem to hang onto people's names. I worried I'd forget my own name.
I requested prayer at a women's Bible study. I was pretty sure I was going into early onset of Alzheimer's. My friend, Deb, told me it was perimenopause. She said symptoms could start 10 years before you actually were menopausal--loss of memory, insomnia, depression. Goody. But at least there was a reason I couldn't remember things. I mistakenly thought it was a temporary condition and I'd get my memory back after I went through menopause. Not true. It just meant that the memory was gone for good.
Two years ago strange stuff started happening with my plumbing. I'll spare you the details. The gynecologist told me my problem could be fixed with with ablation, but I had to be sure I didn't want to have more babies. Pregnancy would be out of the question. Huh? Really? That hadn't been in the plan.
I asked what the procedure involved. She said the inside of my uterus would be cauterized. You mean you're going to fry my uterus and then leave it inside of me...like an old, dried-up piece of bacon? That's just wrong. If you're going to do that, just take it out for Pete's sake.
She said a hysterectomy wasn't necessary. She'd put in an IUD instead. I wouldn't have any periods for five years and by then I'd have already gone through menopause. Cool. But I also felt somewhat sad. I went home and told my husband that we really were done having babies. He was fixed 15 years ago, I was getting an IUD, plus I had a rotten, old uterus.
Since then, it's been good. The flashes haven't started. The memory loss is still there, but I don't think it's gotten any worse (I don't remember). I may never really know when the magic ends and I enter into the misty woods. But if I get lost, come find me.