I recently had an eye-opening experience. After completing a recent Martinis & Chocolate class, I turned to one of the attendees to get some feedback, and she had a look of disgust on her face as if she’d just had a horrible experience. After sitting through the presentation, she wanted to deny there was actually any evidence that she, too, was going through some of the symptoms I mentioned. I questioned her about why it was so difficult to face the fact that she was entering peri-menopause. While her answer concerned me, I totally understood.
She had very vivid memories of when her mother went through the “change,” as it used to be called. Her recollection included major mood changes– I think she actually used the word “bitch.” I imagined her memories of that time in her mother’s life made the thought of what it might be like for her a nightmare. I must say, I can’t discount her concerns because if you were to ask my own daughter what it was like living with me during that time, she would probably say the same thing. Her fears made perfect sense, and it helped me to understand all the 40-something women I’ve met who agree it’s an important topic and then never show up for class.
Driving home, I considered that many women probably had similar feelings about peri-menopause and were hoping that, if not discussed, it wouldn’t exist. This mirrors girls’ experiences in my puberty classes. They also often want to deny what is happening to them. When I ask, “Who is excited about going through puberty!?” I get a unanimous, “NO!”
When I ask them why, the answers are typically: “It’s scary,” “It will hurt,” “It’s disgusting,” “I don’t want to grow up” or “I’m going to bleed.” You get the picture.
I let them know I understand and hope that taking Puber-Tea should bring a sense of normalcy to something they all seem to be so uncomfortable with.
Funnily enough, it is from these interactions with mothers and daughters that I got the inspiration to write Martinis & Chocolate. As we discussed the different changes the girls could expect to experience during puberty, I observed the moms echoing similar symptoms. With delayed childbearing, it is not uncommon for a mother to be entering peri-menopause while her tween daughter is just beginning puberty. Just image that household…
Let’s face it: “denial” ain’t just a river in Egypt. Women need to face the reality that they will go through peri-menopause — one way or another. By becoming more informed and proactive, women can write a new narrative for themselves, just as they are doing for their daughters’ puberty experiences through our classes.
Twenty-plus years ago, there was very little information about peri-menopause. Not only that, doctors often told women that most of what they were experiencing was in their heads. Women were given Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT) or anti-depressants and told to live with the symptoms until they reached 50, when menopause would kick in. I remember my own mother having a very difficult time while she went through peri-menopause. Hers ended abruptly when she had a total hysterectomy at 40 due to many of the issues I experienced myself.
I realize things have changed tremendously and women have the opportunity to be informed about their bodies and what is happening during peri-menopause. I do want to address one key misconception. Often, we refer to this time as going through “menopause,” and that’s incorrect. Peri-menopause is the transitional time, usually between 35-50, when hormones are shifting from baby-making towards menopause. (Silly word… nothing to do about “men” and it’s not a “pause.”) Officially, a woman is in menopause when she hasn’t had her period for one full year, and usually her doctor will confirm this with hormone tests. One reason she might enter menopause sooner is if she had a hysterectomy. If you’re interested in learning more, I invite you to attend or host a Martinis & Chocolate event in person or online, or you can now access this and some of our other classes through archived recordings.
The point I really want to make clear is that no matter what memories you may have, if you think it might be difficult for you, know that it was many times more challenging for your mother. In many cases, she went through peri-menopause without any relief or understanding about what was happening to her body and mind. Think of a teen girl with all of her emotional ups-and-downs without any understanding of what’s causing it or what she could do about it– that was your mother.
Your mother’s experience doesn’t have to be yours. There is enough information out there (God bless the Internet) so that you can be well informed and a master of your own body. One of the first decisions that every woman should make, even before changes start to happen, is to find a gynecologist she can trust, who will listen to her and give her options. You don’t want a doctor who will tell you what your body needs and not give you adequate and appropriate support. Be an advocate for your own health and wellbeing.
To all my 40-something readers I say: Face the denial and resistance that you are entering peri-menopause, and know that you don’t have to be a “bitch” like your mother might have been. This is a different time.
I believe women go through five major stages:
- Puberty and adolescence
- Adulthood & motherhood (if they choose)
- Menopause—the years where they are free of the emotional ups-and-downs
- Finally, the later stages of their lives
Each stage has its own rewards and challenges and, ultimately, we have no choice whether we’re going to go through each. It’s a foregone conclusion; it’s a given. What isn’t predetermined is how we choose to experience it.
As I enter this last stage of my life, I’m faced with the same fears and concerns. I realize, especially after writing this blog post, that I can choose to do it as a warrior or as an adventurer. The choice is mine and I choose adventure.