Welcome to our series on the beautiful midlife season! We will explore all the blessings, challenges, and changes that accompany this time in a woman's life, from the physical, to the relational, to the spiritual, and more. Come with your questions in the comments!
When I was pregnant, there was an endless flow of advice and tips from fellow moms about what to expect and how to best get through the pregnancy years. Now that those days are over, I am entering into the next phase of my female life. However, I rarely hear anyone talking about perimenopause, the time leading up to actual menopause. Women normally start getting symptoms in their 40’s, although some start even earlier.
Saying Goodbye to More Babies
For me, before there were any discernible physical changes, there was the emotional hurdle of facing the fact that I was most likely not going to have any more children. There were no more chances to give my only daughter a sister. And my youngest son would never be a big brother as he hoped to be.
Longing for a child was not a new feeling, having gone through miscarriages and secondary infertility in my child-bearing years. I was lucky that, through it all, I was still able to bear four healthy children, and three of them after the ripe old age of 35 (as my doctor pointed out.) I knew I was blessed, but I still needed to allow myself to grieve the loss of any future children.
The Pleasure of Having Older Children
Our Lord consoled my heart and gave me the grace to accept His will in my life. Eventually, the longing for a baby faded away and I was able to concentrate on the pleasure of having older children. I watched in wonder as my little ones began to grow into young men and women with their own distinct personalities.
On the practical side, my husband and I were able to have spontaneous dates without worrying about a babysitter. My daughter and I started to take girls weekends away as we developed a mother-daughter friendship. My workload lightened with so many abled bodies in the house. Family trips were much easier without diapers, bottles, strollers, and the missed-nap-meltdown (although there may be a teenage version of it, but that’s another story).
Frankly, I love this new phase of motherhood and the possibilities it holds.
Physical Changes in Perimenopause
Some of the common symptoms of perimenopause—irregular periods, hot flashes, night sweats, decreased libido, headaches, sleep issues, mood swings, etc.—read like a hormonal horror story! Honestly, now that I know my body will no longer be making babies, I am ready for my period to go away for good, but I’m not looking forward to any of the negative symptoms.
From what I have observed, perimenopause is as varied as menstruation is for women. While I had minimal PMS, I had friends who suffered greatly from symptoms. Likewise, I have spoken to many friends who are years younger than me who have started experiencing symptoms that I have not. However, as if in anticipation of this blog post, a couple of months ago, my period started becoming irregular and the other day I woke up feeling hot and had to take off my blankets. My sleeping pattern has been off and I’ve been feeling overly emotional lately.
Like anything in life, we all have to deal with inconveniences. When we were on our periods we made sure we had back up supplies, meds for cramps, and extra chocolate on hand. In preparation for hot flashes, I can dress in layers and keep a bottle of cool water by my bed. I’m extra careful to stick to a sleeping routine and incorporate more exercise into my day. And with all things, if symptoms get severe, I’ll talk to my doctor about options.
In the Bedroom
The same way our bodies change after having a baby, there is a learning curve as our bodies age. The physical relationship with my husband needed some adjusting as well. On a practical side, utilizing items like lubricant or different positions helped with physical discomfort.
Likewise, while I sometimes may need a little more time to “get into the mood,'' there is more freedom to relax knowing that we won’t be interrupted by crying babies or little ones trying to open the bedroom door.
Plus, at least for me, I’ve reached a point in my relationship with my husband that I feel comfortable sharing these things with him. Being vulnerable and honest with each other brings us closer together. Plus, a sense of humor can ease up many things.
A New Chapter
This is definitely a new season in my life and I’m still navigating the waters of perimenopause. Sometimes it feels like I’m experiencing the hormonal changes of pregnancy but without the blessing of a baby at the end. However, it helps when I shift my perspective. These are more than just physical changes. They affect my body, emotions, and spirit. I’m looking at this as a season of life that holds new adventures and the freedom to explore more possibilities. One chapter may be closing, but I am excited to see what God has in store next.