For Those Who Love a Mom…

…please read.

Some women have easy pregnancies. Some women have easy kids. Some women have easy menopause and older age.

But some women have monumentally difficult pregnancies. Some women have very challenging children. Some women have a very difficult perimenopause.

“A sword will pierce your heart.”

Though not all women become mothers, these events stem from a biological process geared for the purpose of fertility and potential child-bearing.

Did your mother have any of the challenges above? Do you really know whether or not she did? What about your wife? Is she possibly going through them now? Are you a woman going through this?

A tough pregnancy is socially acceptable to announce to just about anyone. All gather to support.

Difficult children, well, there is much more published about parental challenges than ever before, and there are resources and support. There is still, unfortunately, way too much shame and embarrassment around mental health issues.

But a difficult menopause? At least in America there is almost no subject with greater taboo. Are we afraid that we will scare the life out of young women? Heck, even the person experiencing it has trouble talking about it. It is NOT a socially acceptable topic.

It boggles my mind, the extent of disgusting, poor taste commercials on television that accost us even when watching during the daytime — yet discuss a stage of life that all women have or will experience, a stage that for many makes the hormonal upheaval of puberty look like a walk in the park? Oh, no!

Husbands, kids who are old enough to read this, “Hear ye, Hear ye! Your loved one going through perimenopause is quite possibly experiencing hell on earth.”

— Not all women, thank goodness, yet it is estimated that 75% of peri-and post-menopausal women experience hot flashes. These can range from a fleeting and transitory “Whew, is the heat on?”-flush to a sickening, dizzying nausea that requires bedding or clothing changes repeatedly, and sleep deprivation, possibly for the rest of her life.

Do you know if your Mom has or is experiencing this? Do you know if your wife is in the middle of the worst time of her life? She may not complain much. Are you just wondering why she is more depressed, emotional, maybe drinking a few more glasses of wine per week, maybe hanging out with her girlfriends more, maybe avoiding the bedroom?

Menopause is a lot more than hot flashes. If you are a woman who had an easy time with it, count your blessings. Maybe you had difficult pregnancies with intractable nausea throughout (awful, my sympathies!), perhaps you were on bedrest and were frightened of losing your baby for months (so very frightening!). I had it easy on that front and that is why it was natural for me to go through it eight times. Other friends with one or two children who had very difficult pregnancies tell me that they could not face another possibility of going through it again, or perhaps their doctor even told them to avoid pregnancy. I was a lucky one there.

That luck ran out at perimenopause. I am, thank God, past the worst. My husband and family were very supportive, and my doctors adept, so in that I was extremely fortunate. Those were seriously the hardest five years of my life. I have heard from others who silently suffered through it. Now, I am not immune to difficult times. I lived through the loss of a stillborn sibling, my parents’ deaths, the tragic loss of young nieces, the early death of a 42-year-old husband, the birth of a developmentally and intellectually disabled child…but those five years? THE hardest.

Do we avoid educating our female population about this stage to avoid scaring them? Probably. In the middle of it, one is so raw and emotional. I remember telling my husband, “Women go through so much discomfort, sacrifice and physical pain to give birth…but there is a baby at the end of it. What is at the end of this torture? Oh yeah, death.” I’m serious, it was that bad. Many women go on anti-anxiety or antidepressant meds during this time. For good reason.

I know, who wants to learn about that? Thank God not all women experience it so badly, but probably half do. Of those, most are probably like me, a five year course. God bless those who have to deal with the worst of it for the rest of their lives. All the while, aging continues. It is so truly not for sissies.

You know how the skin becomes noticeably more wrinkled on women over 50? The cellular turnover and healing of skin is 5 times faster in younger women. In a period of five or less years, the woman becomes visually old. This process in the older adult male is more extended, roughly over 20 years or more. Men have much more gradual hormonal changes. Oh lucky women, this sudden decrease in cellular turnover extends to mucous membranes. One of the more unmentionable symptoms is painful sex — like knives painful.

No, we wouldn’t know if that was happening to our Mom. She was not taught how to talk about it. Heck, who wants to think that people, much less our own parents can have healthy sex lives into their 80s and beyond? A middle-aged husband who perhaps is dealing with other issues, stress of work, perhaps early erectile dysfunction and is avoiding intimacy might not even know that his wife is dealing with internal pain.

Some women who do try to vent or speak out are told to hush. I get it — who wants to hear about any of this?

I am glad you have read this far, it is an important issue!

And so, she suffers in silence. Other pressures caring for her family or her work continue. Perhaps she even gets flack from family who have no idea, because they have no knowledge of this subject, oblivious to what she is going through. They wonder why she is so emotional, or easily angered or depressed and withdrawn.

If you are not a post menopausal woman, if you are not an educated medical or health professional, and if you do have a female loved one at this age, then please educate yourself about this tumultuous stage of life. If you are a daughter, do not fear; the fact that you are learning about it will prepare you, and you will be better able to communicate and advocate for yourself, and have a good relationship with an experienced women’s health doctor.

If we can cuss like disgusting pirates, watch pharmaceutical ads about erectile dysfunction or about offensive body odor, spew political hatred on television and in public, then why can’t we appropriately talk about menopause? Except for those who have undergone major hormonal therapies, or those who die an early death, every woman will go through it. Your loved one is certainly worth the time and compassion to educate yourself.