… is my plan for surviving the menopause.
When my preternaturally youthful paternal grandmother died of a stroke at 87, it was discovered, by going through the medications in her crammed bathroom cabinet, that she was still on HRT. Ah! So that explained the shiny hair and supple skin. On my mother’s side of the family, early menopause has always been a thing. My other grandmother went snow white and menopausal in her thirties. My mother started almost as early and, in my late forties I am ancient as far as she’s concerned to just be tipping into the peri-menopause.
Before I start to think about the practicalities of this, I’m just going to divert for a quick musing on periods and intrinsic womanliness. Now, not that I want to start slipping into Jenni Murray/Germaine Greer ‘what makes a woman real’ territory (that’s a whole other post) but I think it’s clear that an underlying sense of fecundity (or lack of) plays a huge role in women’s self-perception. When you struggle to conceive, it’s not just the lack of an actual baby that’s distressing, it’s the sense of attack on your female essence; the point of your existence. For the women in my family who lost this ability very early on in adulthood, whose time as fecund and “fully” womanly was brief, there has been a definite result. Instantly they became both transported to crone-hood whilst remaining trapped in an eternal girlishness. It is definitely another post, possibly even a whole book, in which I explore what it was like to be brought up, as female, by women who had little experience of being women.
I defied them in all ways – I grew huge boobs. I liked being sexual. I’m attracted to all that ‘get in touch with your inner goddess’ stuff, perhaps because it was so absent from a world in which women ate boiled sweets and wore hair ribbons. It was a world in which the rigid chic of a Jackie Onassis was as saucy as you’d dare to be. Meanwhile I wanted to waft around in kaftans, getting in touch with my lady garden. Yes, I am Barbara Streisand from Meet the Fockers.
It’s taken me years to reconcile the notion of womanhood I was brought up with and the kind of woman I want to be. After I had my son, I had secondary infertility and a number of miscarriages. There was no physical cause for this and I also know how strongly my fear of giving birth affected the actual birth process when I had my son. As such (and I’m just musing on this rather than claiming it as fact) I wonder if my inability to recognise myself as fully womanly rather than a pubesecent girl playing at womanhood, impacted on my ability to carry a second baby to term.
And of course, just as I begin to come to terms with being a woman, I hit the peri-menopause. I’ve been trying to ignore this pre-menopausal moment for the past year but the symptoms are becoming unavoidable now. I’m wiped out ten days a month, currently, with exhaustion and migraines. Today is the first day my brain feels clear of the ‘pink fog’. So I’ve been confronted with the necessity to do something about this. And any advice or suggestions would be extremely welcome…
I’d prefer not to take HRT. I don’t really like taking any medication and although I know it’s made a huge beneficial difference to many women, I’ve also seen people have real problems coming off it. At the moment I’m of the opinion that I’d prefer to deal with the symptoms at the age of 50 rather than when I’m 15 years older and more tired. Don’t hold me to that, though. There could soon be a photo of me posted in which I’m guzzling my HRT pills with relish.
For the moment I’m embracing the kaftan and lady garden loving me and putting my faith in creating a natural balance. I think understanding what’s happening to my body is vital, so reading up on all those boring hormones is the first step. So much evidence suggests that soya plays a huge role in diminishing menopause symptoms, as does exercise and reducing stress. Which is where sex comes in… The right sex, with the right person (or people…or battery powered toys) is a huge mood boosting, pulse-raising, self-esteem enhancing activity. After my husband’s cancer operation, as a couple we were forced to confront sex in our marriage in a way that many people prefer to sweep under the carpet. It wasn’t an easy series of conversations (and, once again, it’s a whole other post/book!) but in the long term, it’s proved to be one of the best things we ever did. To be my age, facing the challenges of the next decade, without knowing that I have access to really great sex, would be heartbreaking and I feel somewhat evangelical about all women being able experience it.
I intended to write something really brief and snappy about tofu – we’ll come back to that (I’m experimenting with ways to make it taste less like wet cardboard). instead you’ve had a jolly good ramble from me. Hope it hasn’t put you off your morning coffee xxx