I've combined and shortened two posts into one (below) however, realizing that while the brain dump that became a series of posts about this was helpfully therapudic to me, readers tire of stranger brain dump unless it is endlessly fascinating in its own right. This is not.
If you're interested:
1: The Stick Turned Pink
2: I’m Impressive
3: The Sucker Punch
Dr. Lovely said what is happening is not perimenopause, a normal pre-menopausal time that would be appropriate for a woman in her 40s. Mine is actual menopause. It’s pretty rare for it to happen this early without cause.
My level of estridial, the main hormone ovaries produce, is extra-ordinarily low (my ovaries have retired, little suckers). And my level of FSH, a hormone released to stimulate the ovaries in preparation for releasing an egg, is ridiculously high (indicating it is working overtime to stimulate something to no avail, since my ovaries are apparently living in a retirement condo in Florida).
Estridial level of a "normal" 40-year old woman = 200-400. Mine? 23.
FSH level of a "normal" 40-year old woman = 2-13. Mine? 64.
I went back to the doctor after taking a 10-day course of the-pill-that-would-cause-a-period. It didn’t cause one, as she predicted. She wasn’t talking to me about my options, how to get me pregnant, how to fix it. She was talking about doing a bone scan because of my newly increased risk of osteoporosis; she was talking about symptoms; she was talking about hormone replacement therapy. And about what a blessing Honey Bear is; more than any of us even knew. This last one made me cry. Again.
And so it was over. I changed and I didn’t even know it.
In the days following her phone call I recalled some important information. Before I got pregnant with The Bear (it took 10 months to conceive; we conceived without Clomid or “intervention”) I had hot flashes. At the time I thought how weird it was that I’d get hot all of the sudden. I’ve always been cold-natured. It didn’t happen a lot and I never dreamed it was hot flashes. I also had night sweats, though again, I didn’t know what it was and figured I had too many covers on. These things stopped when I got pregnant and I forgot about them.
This past summer I had hot flashes again, still not knowing that’s what they were, and I also began having a lot of trouble sleeping (highly unusual for me - my Indian name is Sleeps Like A Stone). And I kept misplacing my keys and my cell phone, setting them down in weird places (like on the tool chest in the garage!). I’ve felt “foggy.” These are symptoms of menopause. I thought it was hormonal shifts due to being pregnant, having the baby, breastfeeding, stopping breastfeeding, etc… Maybe if I hadn’t just had a baby the symptoms would have caught my attention. As it was, I really just blew them off.
The average age of menopause in the U.S. is 51. As I keep trying to remind myself or my body or the universe, I’m barely 40. I will now have 10-12 years where my body does not produce the levels of estrogen I should normally have and this has health consequences. Much of it will be managed through hormone replacement therapy.
I can change my diet, my exercise patterns, my vitamins, and slap on a hormone patch. None of that will fix the fact that part of my body has done an inexplicable fast-forward to the tune of a dozen years. That's as much an emotional impact as a physical one. I feel really incredibly sad. Disapppointed. Shaken.
My challenge is what to do about how I feel; the part that is in my head and breaking my heart. I have struggled in the past with depression. I don’t want to go there. I can’t, especially now when I feel like I have less time left.
See? I don’t have less time left. That’s crazy! But I find myself thinking that way. I feel like I have had time taken away. I find it embarrassing too. I told my husband I didn't want anyone to know about it. I feel like I'll look older all of a sudden and people will feel sorry for me if they know. If I’d had surgery or if this was caused by another medical treatment, I could at least know why this happened to me. But my body just crapped out in regards to reproductive function. For no apparent reason my baby-making parts decided they were 52 instead of (barely) 40.
The reality is that it feels like a death. I'm grieving. Who would ever have thought I’d mourn for periods? Think what I'll save at Walgreens not having to buy that stuff. But their absence means babies I still could have had, one especially that I wanted, are lost to me. What did I get in exchange? I have to do weight-bearing exercise regularly (ugh) or worry that my bones will turn to sponge before I'm 50. (Honey Bear is a 27 pound 11-month old – that should help.)
I never knew how much my fertility was part of who I am (was?). It’s not like I’ve had 10 kids. But I see now that it doesn't matter. I feel robbed. I’d feel robbed even if I had 10 kids, or even if I’d been completely done having children.
You know one of the things I think of when I think about menopause? Edith Bunker, Archie’s wife on All in the Family. When Edith found out she was going through “the change” Archie said, “OK Edith, you’ve got 5 minutes. Change!” Apparently that’s how long it took me, 5 minutes.
Yep, me and Edith Bunker.
Next in the series: I’m the One with the Baby
(Yes, I'm almost done harping on it! But isn't this better than a week of more Christmas posts?)