Monday, December 10, 2007

What to Expect when You're Expecting...Menopause (and Beyond)

Of course I jest. I would NOT want a book patterned on the infamous What to Expect series.

I would, however, find it interesting to know what lies ahead for this womanly body of mine. Just as people only share the horror stories from birth or puberty, aging women only lament hot flashes and whiskers.

How prevalent are these things? Like monthly bleeding for young women, are hot flashes unavoidable for aging women? Am I destined to grow facial hair (or take estrogen to counteract it)? Are the effects variable? I have to think they are. My periods are crampless, 2-3 day affairs. My sister's are week-long near-hemorrhages. Will one of us gently recalibrate our hormones in 15 years while the other rushes -- as our mother does -- from one temperature extreme to another?

I also wonder how much I don't even know about. I still remember the evening 5 years ago when my aunts were together for an annual gathering and the eldest, near 80, talked about her "pussy lips hanging down to my knees." Ever since I've entertained that image with a mixture of horror and fascination. Do labia lengthen? What else happens that no one talks about? I've seen one elderly vulva and was surprised to find it largely bald. I have no idea if most women lose pubic hair or just the woman I saw.

So elderbloggers (are you reading, LRH?), let us younger gals know what lies ahead. Give us stories of strength and hope...and honest accounts of the changes to expect.

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Blogger Chris said...

I used to go on a quilt retreat evey year with about 30 women. One year I was so freaked out about the big M that I decided to to ask all of the women (one on one) about their experience. I was the youngest or one of the youngest women there. It made me feel sooooo much better! I found that each person's experience was different. It didn't matter how old they were when they started menestrating.....didn't matter what their mothers history was.........there was no common denominator and they all had different stories. Hormones, no hormones, surgery, no surgery. When they started the big M and how long it took to be done with it. Just all different. So I guess, just be prepared for anything.....

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Julie said...

Ooh, this is on my mind, too. I'm about to turn 41 and every month I think maybe this is it. My menstrual and labor patterns have been pretty similar to my mom's and I'm hoping menopause is the same: she barely noticed hers. And frankly, I think I deserve an easy menopause, because my periods are like your sister's, and my cycle is only about 24 days. No fair.

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Kim said...

As I largely live my life in the moment, I had not even considered whiskers and long, dangling pussy lips...In horrer, I beg...someone please tell me it doesn't happen to ALL of us

9:12 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

I'm one of those aged knitters (almost 53)currently in the midst of perimenopause - still having irregular periods(went 5 months without one then it all started back up as if nothing had happened) thrown in with night time hot flashes....Quite interesting. I don't have any words of wisdom yet...and only one chin hair that has been with me for many years :-)

Oh and as an GYN nurse for many years...I can definitely tell you that pubic hair gets thin when estrogen levels drop!

11:47 AM  
Blogger Naomi said...

so puzzled by your concern that i hardly know how to reply. as a very, very here-and-now person, my thoughts were not where yours are.

at 40, i had a hysterectomy. a year later i went to grad school then started my next career. was urged to take ERT, resisted, and very glad that i did. of course, lucky--no hot flashes, etc.

the quilter-commenter puts it best, "be prepared for anything." my addition: and live today! that is what little red hens must do.

10:16 PM  
Anonymous busha said...

I'm 54 here. Pubic hair like corn silk is the joke in my family. My daughters check out all my naked friends while skinny dipping or hot tubbing, and comment, "Yep. Corn silk." I started menopause at around 40, and have had irregular periods since. They really tapered off at around 50...except, when one of my daughters gets pregnant. I bleed. I kid you not. It has happened 5 times. I have no explanation, but I'm very proud of the connection. I go through "personal summers" every once in awhile. Nothing that frantic fanning and a good belly laugh doesn't help. The kindergarteners say, "Ew. You're all wet." They're right. "Oh, sorry. I just washed my hands and I didn't have a towel." So, I lie. A woman's gotta keep a little bit of her pride. ;) Truthfully, I think I have been very lucky.

12:05 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

I find myself wondering about this too. As someone who seeks to avoid artificial hormones in my birth control and believes in as few birth interventions as possible, I'm especially curious what a "natural" menopause would be like without surgery or hormones, but it's hard to find out. It seems like menopause is just beginning to be talked about openly now that the baby boomers are going through it... any stories or wisdom from previous generations is "taboo" or "hush-hush" at least in my experience. So I understand your interest and will be eagerly reading the responses!

4:51 PM  
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5:40 PM  

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