I’m a firm believer in sharing. When we share our stories, we help others who are in the same perimenopause and menopause boat. If you’d like to share your story, please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is Becky’s Story:
I always knew I wanted to have kids. When I was thirty-five, I watched a “60 Minutes” segment about women’s fertility declining precipitously at age thirty-five. And so I went from thinking that I had ten years to find the love of my life and get married and have children, to thinking I had zero time left.
I was beyond blown away because I kept hearing about all these celebrities having kids much later in life, and I didn’t know those celebrities who were having babies at forty-seven didn’t have their own eggs. I knew fertility declined a little, but I thought that you could have a baby with fertility treatments if you could afford it. On the show, they basically said that’s not true. I researched on the internet that night for several hours and this was 2002.
But I believe if I hadn’t watched that show, I wouldn’t have my daughter today. She’s now seven.
I started making decisions differently. At thirty-seven, after I got out of a relationship, I knew it was really important to me to have a child, so I decided to have a baby. I didn’t want to wait to try to find another relationship. I didn’t have any fertility problems. The artificial insemination worked on the second try. I was 38 when I got pregnant. My daughter was born in August 2005.
I had post-partum euphoria. I felt better than I’ve ever felt in my entire life emotionally for eighteen months. It was extraordinary, because I felt awful in the pregnancy. I was so sick. I thought it was the pregnancy but now I realize it was chronic fatigue.
All I could think was, When can I sleep next? Or, When can I eat some sugar next?
I was twenty-eight when I got chronic fatigue syndrome for the first time, and I never had the same energy as other people after that. But it had been kind of in remission until I got pregnant. I now understand that I had chronic fatigue during the pregnancy and after the pregnancy. I was really tired. Even though I was so happy to have a baby, I actually thought, I can’t believe the human race continues because this is too exhausting and it’s not possible to do this.
Since there are a lot of people out there with the symptoms of chronic fatigue, I should actually be more specific. I have something called virus induced central nervous system dysfunction. I still call it chronic fatigue because no one’s heard of the other thing. It took me many years to find out what I actually had.
I didn’t seek treatment for it during my pregnancy, because I thought the exhaustion was from the pregnancy. After I had the baby, I thought it was because she was up all the time, and that I was an older mother. It was only years later, after first trying to be treated for perimenopause and having it not work, that I found out I had this virus induced central nervous system dysfunction.
About two years later, I started wanting to have another child. By this time I did have fertility problems. I did a Chinese medicine fertility diet where I cut out wheat and dairy and sugar. And I felt phenomenally better. The best I physically felt since I first got chronic fatigue in 1998.
I did the diet for a hundred and twenty days and felt extraordinary. It also included acupuncture, meditation, yoga, herbal teas, and supplements. Now, Chinese medicine doesn’t say you can have a baby at fifty, but they seemed pretty clear that if I did all these things, I’d have a good chance at it even in my early forties.
This time, I moved on from insemination and tried IVS. I froze my embryos so they could be tested.
I did seven rounds of IVS and each time I had really low quality embryos. Traditional medicine would say it was because my eggs were old and there’s nothing you can do about that.
But after I did this Chinese medicine thing, I had completely different results. I did another round of IVS and I had large amounts of eggs, large amounts of follicles develop, large amounts of eggs retrieved, large amounts of eggs fertilized, super high quality blastocysts. They were genetically tested and the results were normal, meaning the eggs were not too old, the eggs were not genetically abnormal.
It’s clear to me that western medicine is wrong in saying that you have no control over those eggs and that age irretrievably changes them. Age is clearly a very large factor, but according to Chinese medicine, the eggs go through a process that begins about a hundred and twenty days before fertilization. And all the things I did in the hundred and twenty days clearly made a difference for those eggs.
But at that point, after that diet, I never tried to actually get pregnant. I was tired by the time I got through that summer and I just didn’t feel very well anymore, so to have another child would have been much harder.
I had hormone tests done that showed I was in perimenopause, with decreased levels of hormones. Perimenopause must have hit at the same time I got sick again with chronic fatigue syndrome, more sick than I’d ever been. Each has exacerbated the other, and I’m having more of a problem because I can’t just find a chronic fatigue doctor who knows anything about perimenopause.
One of the new hormonal symptoms was the inability to find words. I’m pretty articulate and have done a lot of public speaking. And all of a sudden, I just couldn’t find my words. So I’d be searching for a word and I couldn’t find it. My daughter, who was probably five at the time, noticed. “Mommy, how come you can never think of the word you want to say? You just go, you know the, the, the, you know, this, uh, you know, the thing, you know, the thing.”
That was very scary and upsetting. It’s gotten better in the past couple of years; I’m a little calmer but still really frustrated by it. I have odd spatial problems too, but that apparently is the virus induced central nervous system dysfunction thing. I have trouble remembering things, too. That had not been part of my experience in any of the previous times that I was sick, so I attribute it to perimenopause.
I feel that doctors have not been trained in a women’s hormonal lifecycle. So it’s not just menopause they don’t understand. I got a lack of information and advice on my biological clock when I was in my childbearing years. And then I’m finding the same thing now in this next phase. So I think that doctors need to be trained in the cycles of a woman’s hormonal life. If they were, I would have gotten better advice fifteen years ago as well as be getting better advice sooner today.
My advice is, whatever your issues, there is help. You cannot give up because you definitely have to find it.
Click here to download my free eBook, MENOPAUSE MONDAYS: The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause.
Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!