Aging, Menopause, Menopause Symptoms, No More Periods, Periods

Menopause: Save the Sisters!

Menopause + Definition

Although the subtitle of this blog is “Encouraging Words for the Menopause Roller Coaster,” I must give you a

Whine Alert!

I thought the great day would come when we’d stop having periods.

No cramps.

No worrying about going sailing for six hours at that time of the month.

No birth control.

Just free wheeling.

I figured the definition above, which I snipped from a Google search of “menopause,” was an honest one.

Not!

 Menopause is so much more.

No cramps slips into other concerns: achy feet, insomnia, extra dry skin, weight gain, bloating, and on and on….

No birth control remains a blessing, but one’s enthusiasm can wane when vaginal dryness and atrophy appear.

I was tricked!

No one warned me, really.

Or maybe they did, but I missed it.

Menopause, physically, is not simply the cessation of periods and the end to the possibility of pregnancy.

I cry NOT to the definition above. Or perhaps that should be “THAT’S NOT ALL!”

Do I wish I had known?

Yes!

I’m of the forewarned is best persuasion.

The Girl Scout motto “Be prepared” stuck with me.

What about  you?

There’s plenty to celebrate with The Great Pause.

Liberation from some of the “shoulds” and “musts.”

A willingness to toss out what’s not working.

The courage and confidence to find new hobbies, activities, travels, relationships, and even careers.

The mind-changing stuff rocks.

But to the physical stuff I say

Yikes and Yuck.

So what are the encouraging words?

Point one is that there are remedies, at least in part, for some of the ailments.

Point two is that the mind-changing stuff is cool.

Point three is that I think it’s time we

Save the Sisters!

Just like an older sister informs a younger one about periods, we should let those who come after us know what lies ahead.

I wish I’d been warned.

I would have appreciated my youth more.

And not been so shocked by the changes to my body.

So it’s time, with encouraging but honest words, to clue in the sisters.

Agree?

Disagree?

Menopause, No More Periods

Hysterectomy: Leslie’s Story Part Two–The Surgery

When blog reader Leslie Lockwood told me she was scheduled for a hysterectomy, I asked her to record her experience for Friend for the Ride.  She’s presenting her story in three parts.  This post recounts the first hours and the first two weeks following the surgery. Thanks, Leslie!

I awoke from my surgery to the best news ever-the doctors had been able to do my entire surgery  laparoscopically and  had left the colon alone because there was no endometrial involvement there.  What a blessing!  I immediately knew my recovery would be much, much easier than I had anticipated.

I stayed in the hospital overnight, but most of us know that is pretty pointless because it is impossible to get any rest in a hospital at all.  (When I had my babies, I was one of those moms who actually sent them-I know, shocking-to the nursery so I could get some rest and even then I didn’t sleep.)

Anyhow, I was hooked to an IV, had a pulse thingy taped to my finger, had the things on my legs to keep blood flow and prevent blood clots, and had oxygen in my nose.  Basically, I could barely move because I was so connected, it made it impossible to do anything but lie still. Add to that the fact that people are constantly coming in to check your vitals, give you pain meds, and take your blood (that guy showed up at 4:00 am).

I went home about 24 hours after the surgery.  I was amazed at how good I felt, sore, but good.  I settled into my couch with my water bottle, pain meds, books/magazines, and the remote control.  Family, friends, and neighbors had signed up to bring meals (many of them at my pre-hysterectomy party), so we were all set.

I had been given advice by more people than I can count, to rest, to take it easy, and to accept any offer of help that came my way.  So although that really is hard to do, I listened to my doctor, my friends and my body and did pretty much nothing for two weeks.  It felt almost decadent to be lounging on my couch, watching Netflix, enjoying meals from friends*, playing with Pinterest and Facebook on my Ipad, and even napping while a friend tidied up my home and organized my Tupperware cupboard, but I did it.

Yesterday was my two week check up, and I think my “vacation on the couch” has paid off.  I feel great, my wounds have healed, and I am now allowed to drive again and resume most of my normal activities**.

My next check up is in four weeks and at that point, we will discuss things like how I am doing being on Estrogen (I am on a patch right now because I now have no ovaries) and if my endometrial pain has gone away (I still have sporadic pain in my left side but it could be phantom pain).

I can say now that I am feeling really good, almost back to normal.  I am glad to be on the other side of this surgery.  So far I have not grieved my uterus and ovaries at all.

I definitely won’t be missing the periods or the spotting I had for weeks at a time.  I am excited to plan my 25th anniversary beach vacation without having to check a calendar and cross my fingers and hope and pray that I won’t be bleeding at that time.  I truly feel a sense of freedom and excitement and I look to my post-hysterectomy future!

*My doctor had advised me not to eat too much.  It took me about a week to get my appetite back so I listened to him and just made sure I had a little food with my meds and took a few bites each night of the lovely dinners we received.  Added note for those of you who go through this: I took two Colace every day for about 6 days and drank lots of water.

**No lifting, baths, hot tub, or sex. (I still have my cervix, but it was stitched up and needs to heal.)

Photo Above:  Leslie, her husband, and two girls grinning for the camera. Leslie thinks this picture was taken at the Balboa Peninsula in California. She loved going to the arcade there as a kid because you take a ferry from Balboa Island.

Photo Below:  Leslie, her husband, and her youngest daughter.  Leslie’s oldest daughter is now away at college.

Leslie Lockwood has been married for twenty-four years and is the mother of two teenage daughters. She’s a southern California girl who’s been in Oregon for the past eighteen years.  Leslie teaches music to preschoolers. She loves her book club, girls’ night out, and trips to the beach.
Menopause, No More Periods

Menopause: Breaking Free

There’s something about menopause that’s freeing.

I’ve heard it from others. I feel it myself.

So let that freedom, help free you even more! Take it up a few notches!

What’s the barbed wire in your life?

What can you give up?

What can you break free from?

Feel the spring as you bounce off that wire and soar!

Picture:  Shout out to my friend Susan, who posted this neat graphic from Interested Engineering on her Facebook page.

 Susan and I and our friends Ann and Karen are gym friends. We spend meaningful minutes analyzing our lives (including what barbs hold us in) as we walk the treadmills.

And I bet some of you have the same credo we do: What’s discussed at the gym, stays at the gym.

A Story: A few summers ago, one of Susan’s daughter’s friends worked at the gym. She told Gwen in the fall, “Your mom and her friends sure talk about some interesting stuff.”  Hmm. Since then, we try to analyze our lives in quieter voices.

Grandchildren, Menopause, No More Periods, Periods

Is God a Girl?

In my Lutheran childhood, I always thought of God as a man, with a grandfather-like appearance. White hair. Beard. (But a robe instead of the blue seersucker suit my grandpa wore.)

Then, as the woman’s movement took hold, we began to hear God referred to, sometimes, as a SHE.

About that time, my PMS and cramps set in.

Would a woman/God do this to another woman?

Not a prayer!

There is no way, I figured, that God could have even an ounce of womanliness. If God were a she, SHE would have designed us a different way. I like the baby part. I liked being pregnant and of course, am nuts over my grownup babies.  But really, couldn’t God have skipped all the cycle stuff?

I’ve been a Presbyterian for thirty-five years now. I asked our minister, Dr. Brizendine, a few months ago, if God was a she or  even part she. This is what he wrote:

Male and female are genders of the created order.  God is … “other” than the created order.  Thus, it would not be appropriate to attribute any gender to God…  As we attempt to describe our relationship with God, we may use figures of speech, saying that God is like a mother or a father, but this does not mean that God has a gender.

So God is an OTHER.

I like the concept of “other.”

God is not a man who stuck all this to women.

God is not a woman who ditzed on her own sex.

Good, that works to some extent.

I was contemplating this post in church on Sunday, when we sang the old hymn, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy.”

A line goes: “For the love of God is broader, than the measures of the mind.”

I think that means my limited mind just can’t wrap itself around the whys of God’s plan for making babies.

But I will say, now that I am finished with periods, and now that I have a grandchild on the way, (who got his start in the uterine lining), the plan is seeming better to me. Babies and grandbabies are worth a lot of periods, all in all.

Thanks, God.

We women sure do love babies.

Maybe you have just a little bit of girl in  you after all?

Photo Above: Hillsborough Presbyterian Church, in the center of my little town, was founded in 1816.

Photo Below: My daughter Katherine, mother of my soon to be born grandson, was married to  Matthew Monson at the church in June of 2007. Dr. Brizendine officiated.

Photos were taken by Acorn Photography.

Dry Babe!  In thanks for your enthusiastic response to the Dry Babe giveaway, Wendy Collettt is offering Friend for the Ride readers a 15% discount on their sleepwear. When you check out, use the code Friend15.

Menopause, No More Periods

Menopause. Decisions. Yes!


With menopause, comes plenty of reflection.

Well first comes shock:  What no more periods?  After all the years, all those tampon purchases, all that wondering how you were going to manage the twelve hour sailboat excursion.  After the shock, comes reflection.  And some of that reflection focuses on decisions.

What’s the best decision I ever made?

What’s the worst?

Which one took the longest?

Which decision made me dizzy with glee?

I’m naive enough, or goofy enough,every now and then, to think I might get to go back in time and change stuff, fix those decisions that weren’t so great.

No, Barbara.  Sorry old girl.  Can’t do it.

But menopause is really about moving ahead, isn’t it?  Deciding new stuff!

Some of those new decisions will be serious:  When do we downsize? How do we make our money last?

Some will be lighthearted: Butter pecan, the old standard, over Chunky Monkey?  Or a scoop of each?  Waffle cone, sugar cone, wafer cone, or cup?

The one thing I know is, difficult or fluffy fun, any time we get to make a decision, we’re the lucky one.  The opposite of choice is no choice. No good. Even in tough situations.

And once you’re through with periods, you get to choose  sailboat rides into the sunset, white jeans, any day of the month for a gyno appointment, and the funky cheap earrings instead of the box of tampons.

Magnifico!

Photo:  The decision-maker above (not near menopause!) is daughter Laura at the Commonwealth Restaurant and Sky Bar in Charlottesville, Va.  FYI, she decided on the red fish with a spicy Creole sauce and had no regrets. Photo taken by her brother-in-law, Matt Monson.  And so you can plan ahead for your next visit to the ice cream store, do study the assortment of cones below.

This fine selection  can be found on the website of Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream and Yogurt.  


Aging, Menopause, No More Periods, Periods

I Didn’t Mean to Mourn

Writer Jane Yolen graciously offered to share this poem with Friend for the Ride:

                                                  The Last Time

I didn’t mean to mourn,

I meant to laugh,

But my bloodline

Dribbled away so slowly,

So silently,

I hardly noticed it had gone.

The biological clock having long since

Stopped ticking,

There was no alarm.

Only silence

And a kind of wistful death.

©2002 by Jane Yolen

If you had told me ten years ago that I would feel any sadness over the end of periods, I never would have believed you. No way!

Like Jane, I planned to laugh. I also planned to drink champagne and sing to the Period Goddess in the Sky, “See ya, sweetie.  I’m done!”  I did drink champagne, and I said my goodbyes to the Period Goddess.  (She’s the one who, sometimes, gives you a break and helps you NOT get your period on the cruise to the Bahamas.)

But I understand the “kind of wistful death” that Jane describes.  I feel it too.

Am I mourning  the college girl, long gone, who dealt with periods as she juggled research papers, boyfriend, and dorm conversations that ended in happy hysterics?   Am I missing the possibility of one more sweet baby?  Am I grieving for a body that amazed me because it could count the days?  Am I worrying about the body now, which certainly seems less efficient, and the one to come?

For those of you who are finished, what are your thoughts about no more periods?  Any sadness, or just glee?  And for those of you not there yet, any idea how you will feel?

In Take Joy: A Writer’s Guide to Loving the Craft, Jane gets to the heart of why we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard: “We write to know ourselves.”

And so a challenge for you:  Write your own period poem!  Please do.  Silly or serious or anywhere in between.  Or perhaps simply jot down some words that capture your thoughts about periods and/or not having periods anymore.

Be bold and brave!  You can even use red ink. 

Email your pieces to me, (BKYounger at gmail.com), and I’ll gather them together for a fun, literary post on Friend for the Ride.  

You’re welcome to substitute a pen name for your real name or just send your first name. 

Thanks from me AND the Period Goddess, who loves to read poems on her favorite topic.

The Poem:  “The Last Time” is posted here by permission of the author. The poem was first published in Women.  Period.  Edited by Julia Watts, Parneshia Jones, Jo Ruby, and Elizabeth Slade.  Spinster’s Ink, 2002.

The Poet:  An opening page in Take Joy describes Jane Yolen as “America’s Hans Christian Andersen (Newsweek) and a modern-day Aesop (New York Times).”  You can learn more about her as well as follow her  insightful journal on her website, http://janeyolen.com/

Photo:  I used Take Joy by Jane Yolen (Writer’s Digest Books, 2006) in critical essays I wrote while studying for my MFA in Writing at Vermont College.  Now I read it to recharge my writing soul.  The cover illustration was done by Linda Holt  Ayriss.

Women. Period is a collection of poems, essays, and short stories about menstruation. The forward states that the book “celebrates both the diversity and the universality of the female experience.  We are many; we are one.”   The cover was designed by LA Callaghan.  (And that’s some cover!)

Aging, Celebrations, Menopause, No More Periods, PMS

The Girlfriend Gala



Party!  Invite your girlfriends to a gala in honor of menopause (and impending menopause for those not there yet.)  Here are some hostess tips:

Decorations:  Create a tampon garland to festoon the front door.  For an attention-grabbing centerpiece, fill a glass bowl with tampons, pads, a bottle of pain reliever, chocolate kisses, birth control, a paper fan, moisturizer, and anything else that strikes your menopausal fancy.

Refreshments:  These need to shout: “Craving!”  Ask each guest to bring a snack she devoured during PMS, pregnancy, and/or menopausal moments.  You may want to provide more nutritious snacks, since most craving foods are high in sugar and salt. For liquid refreshment, pink punch, since this is all about being a girl.  Spike if you choose.

Entertainment:  Begin by asking everyone to share the story of her first period.  Vote on the most dramatic account and reward the winner with a soothing prize to help her recover from that long ago trauma—perhaps a bar of luscious soap or a bottle of mellow wine.  Then let your girlfriends wax poetic by sharing their feelings about menopause and the period-free years to come.

Favors:  Send your guests home with every girl’s lifesaver, in any stage of life, a bit of chocolate wrapped with a festive ribbon.

Photo:  This isn’t really punch. It’s pink water.  But I bet your real punch will be delicious!