One sure thing about human life is change is inevitable. Expansion and contraction are always happening all around us. And if you have a vagina, you’re especially familiar with this! Things are in constant flux beginning with our first period. Our hormones rise, and they fall. Each month we experience the eclipsing and waning of waves and phases. Menstrual, follicular, ovulation, luteal, repeat. Puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause, menopause, post-menopause. All very different but recognizable cycles.
For some households, these cycles are spinning (more like spiraling!) at the same time. Thankfully, more and more mothers are speaking out about the difficulty of navigating parenting and perimenopause. Some moms call it a “hormonal hell” or a house “surging and raging.” Sounds like a real party!? Ugly as it can sound, building awareness around parenting and perimenopause is important as the uptick in older motherhood becomes the new norm.
Yep, “older motherhood.” It’s a term used to describe (big surprise) a new trend in birth rates that pushed the U.S. median age for giving birth to 30. According to a new report by the US Census Bureau, fertility rates for women in their late 30s to early 40s have jumped while they’ve declined for women in their 20s. By doing some simple math, we can calculate later parenting plus perimenopause equals… well, a total collision of hormonal eras. Things can get crazy when puberty and menopause live under one roof! It’s something I like to call dueling hormones. This can be a perfect storm!
Picture this: you’re fighting night sweats, brain fog, and random things that have never bothered you now put you on edge. On top of all this, you’re dealing with a parched vagina. This is perimenopause, the transition before we fully enter menopause. It can be more emotionally and physically fraught than we were told or not told to expect. Personally, no one ever prepared me for perimenopause. I was shocked to discover that you can start experiencing symptoms in your 40s! The average age of entering menopause is 51– not 60-something! And perimenopause is surprisingly the most symptom-laden time.
A lot of change is happening in our bodies during perimenopause. As we regrettably remember puberty, our body, and mind feel disjointed. All engines are firing, and hormones are bubbling. “I just feel off,” you might find yourself saying more. For those of us also trying to parent teens– especially teen girls– we can feel unprepared and downright deranged. Are there doors slamming? Shouting matches? Breakdowns in communication? Don’t give in to despair; this will ring true for many of us. Try to stay optimistic and take this as an opportunity to make our hormonal households into a place of growth and connection.
Healing hormonal wounds
Many women, including my mother’s generation, were taught to always be “fine.” Finally, it feels like we’re emerging from the “I’m Fine” Generation and getting real about hormonal challenges. My heart breaks for these women because they did not receive the love and support they deserved as they went through their menopausal journeys. But it’s time we had our realities understood and put on our capes to save the sisterhood.
Remember, it starts with you. Like an oxygen mask, you must help yourself first if you want to save others. Don’t let symptoms fall to the wayside or give in to doctors offering dead-end solutions. If you or your girlfriends have any symptoms, you should get to a Menopause Specialist!! If you don’t have a menopause specialist, I have some helpful tips on how to find one here. Not a general doctor, a menopause specialist. A 2013 Johns Hopkins survey found that only 1 in 5 American gynecological residents receive formal training on menopause. That’s 20% of gynecologists!! Not general doctors… gynecologists!
Be real—no need to sugarcoat what you’re experiencing. You are amazing, but you can’t always be Superwoman. It’s ok to set that cape in the closet from time to time. Who in your life can reciprocate supporting you?? Your partner, siblings, older children, best friends, and colleagues can be wonderful support systems. Ask them to be there. Asking for help will encourage others to feel more comfortable asking for help, too! The sisterhood is a beautiful thing. Find time to schedule a walk/talk hour, chat on the phone, or meet for dinner with friends who can lighten your load and your spirit.
The best way to teach our kids is hands-on by example. Sit down with your teens and have an open discussion about some of the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause that you may be experiencing. I created a Menopause Mondays® Symptom Chart with the most common symptoms. Download it together and go over the chart! You may both find that your pubescent teenager is, sadly, also combatting sleepless nights, mood swings, anxiety, acne, heart palpitations, weight gain, headaches, or has felt overwhelmed and unusually tense. Finding similarity and closeness when you feel at polar ends can ease some of the tension you don’t understand! Let’s teach our future generations the power of radical honesty, open communication, and learning with love.
My Motto: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!
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