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Peri-menopause and Menopause – Part 1

middle aged woman

This is an email from a dear sister in Christ who has been through peri-menopause and menopause.  I’m thankful for the wisdom she is willing to share with us!

FATIQUE AND WEEPINESS

I began to experience huge fatigue that had never been a problem for me at age 52.  It was getting more and more difficult to get out of bed in the morning, even though I loved what my job.  The fatigue began to be accompanied by an on again off again low grade depression. I would weep at the drop of a hat, and along with the fatigue it was getting more and more difficult to continue to work.

A client who was familiar with thyroid disease  suggested that my cold and low body temperature , hair loss, thinning eyebrows, etc might be a strong indication of hypothyroidism. I went to my family doctor, had a TSH blood test, and yes, I did have Hypothyroidism. I have since found out through my own reading and research that it can be common in women who have Estrogen Dominance.

URINARY TRACT AND VAGINAL ISSUES

The other thing that happened at Peri-menopause is that in my late 40’s , I began to get many bladder infections, after intercourse. This was a new thing for me. My family physician suggested I make sure I voided after intercourse as soon as possible and that would help to eliminate this issue of infections. (From Peacefulwife – at any age, drinking a glass of water before sex and going IMMEDIATELY to the restroom afterwards helps prevent bladder infections.)  That worked!

As women age, the vaginal wall is thinner.  Also intercourse became just slightly painful at times. This was also due to the fact, that as estrogen begins to diminish, it cause less ‘plumping’ of the skin in the vagina and hence intercourse can become painful. (From Peacefulwife – there is also less lubricant produced as estrogen levels decline – using additional lubricant helps A LOT! i.e.: KY Jelly)

This was puzzling and slightly alarming to me. My husband and I had always enjoyed and delighted in our sex life, and for this to be happening was a real worry and concern for me.  I learned from my doctor, that the reason that my vaginal wall was thinning, my natural vaginal lubrication was lessening, and my moods were  bouncing all around (hence the weepiness) was because I was entering the phase called “Peri Menopause” – the beginning of the cessation of menstrual periods.

SPORADIC PERIODS

Some months I had very heavy bleeding , so intense that nothing seemed to keep me protected for more than an hour without the possibility of leaking! Other months, my period barely made an appearance. It was very difficult to chart my period on a calendar and to predict when it would arrive, something I had done for years, since I needed to know when I would become “PMS” .. at our house that meant Pretty Much Homicidal. I can laugh about it now , but at the time the three wonderful men in my life , my husband and two teenaged sons, didn’t think there was much to laugh at about PMS.

At the times I remembered, I would wear a pink or red ball cap when I knew my period was coming to let my sons and husband know I’d need some understanding and TLC at that time of the month.  They were amazingly kind and supportive and it helped them to have a ‘heads up’ that PMS mood swings were about to make a monthly appearance.

PMS can intensify for women entering PeriMenopause. (From Peacefulwife- YES! emotions can get very rocky during this time).  It seemed to me like a pretty nasty time.  I wondered what God had planned in all of this. I really worried about what was happening to our sex life, yet my husband was so tender and sweet and patient! I am very blessed.

HOT FLASHES

So… bedtime, there were many times, that all I wanted was sleep, due to the fatigue that persisted  because now hot flushes woke me up in the middle of the night! I would be soaking wet with sweat, and push the quilt off me, and open the windows wide. In a Canadian winter, at -10degrees , that is not the kindest thing to do to your spouse!

Then an hour later, I’d be cold…but soon after that, hot again. I compared notes with friends the same age, and this was typical of all of us. When we talked we would laugh hard at all of this and it really helped to know I wasn’t alone, but it was common to us all. (From Peacefulwife – I will be talking about some treatment options in the next post!)

LOWER LIBIDO

The other thing that came, was a diminished libido. Many nights, I would rather sleep, than have sexual relations with my husband. He is a very sensitive man and never demanded of me if he sensed that I would rather sleep.  I was also just not interested like I used to be:

  • partly because of the diminished libido
  • partly because I felt ashamed of what my body was doing.

I felt I was physically aging, but my wonderfully fit and active husband, was as desirable as ever. Even though we are very much in love, and are committed  Christians and I don’t believe either of us would ever defile our vows, I felt so bad that this part of our life together was taking a beating and not as satisfying because of me. I know how important sex is to men.

 I was afraid my husband would be disappointed and not satisfied with me .

For me, and my girlfriends who I could talk with about it, we found the physical changes to our bodies that menopause brought , difficult to adjust to. Our husbands’ bodies change too at this age, but for women our appearance seems to matter so much more.

We experienced the following:
1. Diminished libido
2. Thinning hair
3. Wrinkles!!!
4. Loss of collagen, and plumping, in the skin
5. Thinning lips
6. less colour in the skin
7. Peach fuzz hair on the sides of the cheeks
8. a little tummy appeared where there had never been one!
9.Vaginal dryness, I’m talking the Sahara desert!
10. Hot flushes that can appear at will , at awkward moments too!
11.Sentimental weepiness…
12. This one I am ashamed to admit, but fewer admiring glances from men. I know as a Christian that this is not something I EVER encouraged, but I was used to it, and when the looks from men began to stop, I noticed it.  April I’m being really honest and transparent here. I heard this same thing from other attractive Christian women friends as well. For us it meant they could tell we were no longer reproductive, and hence not desirable. Of course this is in error, and I soon learned to see it differently.

*****All the symptoms above, were not experienced equally or in the same way or amount by myself and my friends –   some came later…

Ladies, I don’t say the list to alarm you but to prepare you. I had no idea what PeriMenopause was about, or Menopause. My mothers generation DID NOT talk about these things amongst themselves or to their daughters.
If we can change that, these changes don’t have to be frightening, catch us unawares, OR be viewed as negative.

I believe that we are here, through God’s grace, on earth to learn. We are here such a very short time! As I grow older , the time goes faster! and at 62, although I consider myself young , healthy and vital, I CAN see the end of the road, a ways up ahead.

Life is not, nor did God ever mean it to be about how much stuff I own, how big and beautiful my house is, or how important other people think I am. It matters what God thinks of me…How faithful I am to what He calls me daily to do, and How I love those He puts in my life and how I love Him.  So in that perspective, I now view the physical changes  as me getting closer to the completion of my time here on earth and closer to the fullfilment of my life and Heaven!  That… is exciting!!!

I also think truly and honestly, that a woman who is committed to God, who lives a Godly life, and learns as she goes along, and has reached a rich older age, and accepts the physical changes that come, is absolutely beautiful !!!!

 

My husband still adores me, and tells me weekly and sometimes daily how beautiful I am! At 62!!

Now he’s not necessarily talking about physical beauty, although sometimes he is, but about the whole package. He and I both celebrate and are thrilled with the growth we have seen and the maturity in Christ that has developed in one another over our 41 year journey of marriage. One of the special joys that comes with a commited long term marriage is that you find yourself waking up every day with your best friend, who has witnessed your whole life! wow! What a treasure it truly is.

THE GOOD STUFF

oops , I got carried away! back to Menopause…. .

One of the wonderful emotional changes that comes is that .. you don’t worry so much about things. I truly don’t sweat the small stuff so much anymore. I have let go of my sons , their wives and their children, as I trust God with them now in ways I didn’t when they were under our roof.

I have learned over the years, that ‘this too shall pass’ and God’s way’s are not my ways.. thank goodness!  He sees the end of things where I only see the immediate moment. Someone told me once that when I worry about the future , it’s because when I imagine the scenarios that could happen in the future, I don’t usually worry ‘in the positive’ with God in the picture. But I worry the disaster scenarios! How true is that!?  (From Peacefulwife -God showed me that too!)

The wonderful thing is that as our skin slackens at menopause, so does our worry, it just isn’t the same.. there is a wonderful emotional ‘relaxing’ as well.

And…. the wonderful things in life, such as grandchildren , beautiful skies, the fragrance of flowers, and on and on, somehow become sweeter!  Life takes on a wonderful richness, that I just didn’t quite see when I was so busy working and raising my family the same way.

This isn’t just my experience of the 50’s and 60’s but also my girlfriends’.  My husband and I now joke and laugh more … I learned to ride a motorcycle, at 55. It shocked a few people who know me as a ladylike woman from the ‘nice side’ of town :)!  But I did it so I could be with my husband as he is passionate about riding . It is something I would not ever have considered when I was younger and took myself way more seriously.

So like my list above of the physical changes/challenges of Perimenopause and Menopause
here is my emotional list of changes…
1. Weepiness
2. More faith
3. Less worry
4. richer appreciation for all things beautiful and tender
5. more laughter
6. Don’t take myself or others so seriously
7. Generosity of heart and spirit
8. Forgiveness for myself and others
9. Risk taking, in an adventurous way.. 🙂
10. Joy
11. Peace in my heart.

If you can embrace the changes as part of God’s plan for women and not something to be dreaded or feared, it is a wonderful season of life.

Women become the rich full bodied, choice wine in the wine cellar... I so admired Audrey Hepburn for the grace she epitomized. She became the spokeswoman for a large charity later in life.  I like to think that God wants ‘older women’ to be living the “Titus 2 woman” experience. We have lived and loved, and have much to share to help younger women face life with courage, because we’ve been there, and we know with God as our Father and the Holy Spirit as our guide comforter and helper, we can live a life that will enable us to hear the words ‘Well done , thou good and Faithful servant. ‘ one day.

Oh this story would not be complete if I didn’t say that sex now is even more fun.. we take a bit longer, and cuddle more! At times maybe just have to be a bit more creative. I hope we still enjoy this wonderful part of our married life as long as God gives my husband and I time together on earth.

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