Empty Wombs: Menopause and Infertility

I was struggling to think of a snappy title for a post about loss of fertility and the menopause. Then I heard Gary Moore’s ‘Empty Rooms’ on the radio…

For most women, the menopause happens around the age of 51 but I wasn’t even 40 when my gynae consultant informed me that my eggs had flogged themselves into early retirement. The technical term he used was ‘ovarian failure’.

I was only 39. It didn’t seem fair?

I phoned my mum.

‘I’m f**king menopausal, Mother!’ I howled.

She heard me out, then said, ‘Oh my darling girl, I’m sorry to hear this but I was the same age when I started mine, you know.’

I’ve blamed her ever since.

The reality hit me a few weeks later..

I could no longer make a baby.

I broke down and sobbed. LOUDLY.

No, I mean REALLY LOUDLY. My pet rats, Thelma and Louise, were that perturbed they did a load of poo then hid in their toilet roll inner-tubes.

Biologically, I have done what I was put on this earth to do. I’ve reproduced. Not once, but three times. Given that some women are unable to have a biological child, I am fully aware of how lucky I am.

Some women are only too happy to reach the end of their baby-making days. For them, there is a great sense of relief that they are able to give their bodies a well earned rest. For others, it’s a loss and as with any other meaningful loss there is grief.

I understand that women who have never been able to have their own children might read this post and feel pissed that somebody has the audacity to moan about not being able to have any more children when they already have three. My heart goes out to those women but I can only tell my own story..

I didn’t expect to feel this way.

Most likely, I wouldn’t have chosen to have another child. I was a month off being 39 when I had The Boy and my body didn’t know what had hit it. However, the choice was taken away from me and I think that’s where part of the problem lay. I no longer felt in control of my body. In fact, I’ve not felt in control of my body since but they say that it can take up to ten years for things to settle down after the menopause.

TEN MOTHERFUNGLING YEARS!

Some women choose to have a career first and children later, which is fine. Many women are having their first child in their 40s nowadays. However, if I’d have left it until I was 40, it would have been too late for me to have child with my second husband. As it turns out, my early menopause seems to be genetic and I would advise women who want to have children later rather than earlier, to take note of their mother’s menopause because history has a way of repeating itself..

Sometimes I dream of being pregnant. I see my tummy growing bigger and there is the feeling of euphoria (similar to when I see deceased relatives in my dreams) but as the dream unfolds my tummy grows smaller. Or I have a scan only to be told that there is nothing there. It’s like I’m having a phantom pregnancy in my sleep but it’s just my subconscious reminding me that I can’t have anymore babies – the bastard.

You know what?

It’s OK to feel sad that your baby-making days are over. It’s OK to grieve. It’s OK to secretly hate the sight of pert-breasted young women pushing prams because they exude youthfulness and you feel like shit.

Here’s the thing. The menopause will come for them too. Their bottoms will sag. Their nipples will head south and their ovaries will throw in the towel.

It comes TO US ALL.

That said, try and remember how wonderful it felt to be a new mother. It would be wrong to deny them the same happiness that you experienced, eh?

Try to see this time of life as a positive thing. Yes, it effing sucks. BUT. There are positives.

We no longer have to worry about unplanned pregnancies. Although, it is possible to get pregnant when you are going through the change, so don’t be throwing your contraception in the air just yet. Normally, a woman is told to take precautions for twelve months after her last period – two years if your menopause is early. So if you’ve spent the last 20 years rearing your brood and dreaming of retiring to Spain once the last one has bogged off then I would make sure you keep taking the pills, no?

Regards the mood swings ‘n’ stuff..

After the menopause has passed you will no longer have the urge to stab your husbands/partners face because your hormones will eventually settle down. Hence, the chances of you being done for manslaughter decrease. Who wants to spend their autumn years Pleasuring Her Majesty? Or is it, Her Majesty’s Pleasure?

Confusion. Another perk of the menopause.

I know how it feels to wake up at 2am DRENCHED in sweat due to a hot flush. You toss and turn for a few hours then give up and lie there listening to your other half snoring his head off. For a few seconds, you ponder ending his life. Why? Because you are suffering and he’s not. It pisses you RIGHT off that he is still able to make a baby while your ‘bits’ are decomposing. You worry that he might leave you for someone younger and fertile. But take heart, dear, because shit happens to men too. Their penises shrink and they can develop, er, performance problems. What can I say? Age can be a cruel mistress to both sexes.

There comes a time when the grief passes and you accept what is. Think of your womb as the cocoon which held your little butterflies in the making?

Second thoughts. Scrap that. It sounds wanky.

The key to surviving the menopause is to find the positives in it. Stick a Victoria Wood DVD on and have a damn good laugh about it. Really wibble yer bits. Yes, your reproductive system is now defunct but it’s earned it’s retirement, wouldn’t you say? Hopefully you are in a comfortable place financially and can spend more time doing the things you want to do. I’m not there yet because I had my youngest child at 39, not that I would change a thing. If anything, it gives me the incentive to keep myself as healthy as is possible because my job isn’t done yet. But for those of you whose kids have left home – this time is yours – so enjoy it.

Viva La Menopause!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mumisms: Things My Mother Used To Say

Parents have a language all of their own. Some phrases we understand, like ‘NO, YOU CAN’T’ and ‘I’M GOING TO COUNT TO TEN’ but there are other things we haven’t a clue about because they don’t make sense. You probably find yourself using the same lingo with your own children because it’s ingrained, innit? You wake up one day and you’ve gone from relatively cool to OH MY GOD, I AM MY MOTHER! It’s a rite of passage of Motherdom, along with droopy boobs and incontinence.

My mother, bless her, had a plethora of phrases that I’d like to share with you readers..

Number 10

‘Gone For A Burton’

Meaning: A reference to a person who had died or an item that was broken.

First heard at the age of 7 when I limped into the kitchen with a broken strap on my brand new sandals. Mum took a puff on her fag and said, ‘Well. That’s them gone for a Burton then.’ I didn’t know who or what this ‘Burton’ was. Richard Burton was big at the time so it could have been him. All I know is that I cried PROPER TEARS over those wretched sandals because in those days, money was short and I knew I wasn’t going to get another pair anytime soon. *sobs*

Number 9

‘Clod-Hoppers’

Meaning: A rough, unsophisticated countryman.

Since the early 19th century, in the UK and USA, ‘clod-hoppers’ were also the name given to ploughmen’s boots.

Mum used to refer to my eldest brother’s 1970s platform shoes and work-boots as ‘Clod-Hoppers’. My brother would often be greeted at the door with, “And you can take those clod-hoppers off as well, Matey!”

Number 8

‘Getting On My Wick’

Meaning: Annoy me; get on my nerves.

Usually heard during weekends and school holidays, especially Wimbledon fortnight. Alone, my brother and I were tolerable. Together, we were little shits.

“You two are getting on my wick. Go to the park!”

Number 7

‘You’ve Blotted Your Copy Book’

Meaning: To do something that makes other people trust you less.

In our case, it was any minor misdemeanor at home or at school. Ink and blotting paper were still a thing in the 70s so I took it quite literally until it was explained to me…

Number 6

‘Away With The Fairies’

Meaning: Not facing reality; in a dreamworld.

Where Mum thought I always was…

Number 5

‘Guts For Garters’

Meaning: A threat of a serious reprisal.

“If you come home late, I’ll have your (varying expletives) guts for garters!”

This saying probably originated from the Middle Ages where they liked to disembowel people and stuff.

Number 4

‘I’ll Give You..’

This one was where, whatever we said to Mum, she would turn it back on us.

Me “I’m bored”

Mum “I’ll give you I’m bored!”

Me “Yeah, in a minute, Mum.”

Mum ” I’ll give you in a minute!”

Me “Why?”

Mum “I’ll give you why”

You get my drift?

The variation on ‘I’ll give you is I’ll give it you.

Or on hearing me WHISPERING an expletive..

“I’LL BLOODY WELL GIVE IT YOU IN A MINUTE, MY GIRL!”

It meant a wollop on the backside so at this point I’d fly out out through the back door flicking Mum the V’s from inside my coat pocket. She rarely caught me but I would ALWAYS return to find my Jackie mag cancelled, damn it.

Number 3

‘Because I Said So’

That’s why.

Number 2

‘The Pits’

Meaning: the WORST possible person, place, or thing.

In this case, my brother’s bedroom.

Mum to Dad “His bedroom is the bloody pits! Records as coasters and unidentified life-forms in cups? That’s it. I’m on strike!.”

To be fair, it WAS a pit. We’re talking MAJOR BIO-HAZARD here.

Number 1

‘I’ll Swing For You’

I think I have the album somewhere. Or is it Swing When You Are Winning? Anyhoo. Initially I took this literally and pictured Mum having a fun time on the swings in the local park. I thought this was DEAD FUNNY, albeit highly unlikely. However the imagery didn’t match her frowny expression, so I came to realise that it meant that I’d done something wrong.

WHOOOOOPS!

Often, a minor expletive would be inserted for dramatic effect so it became “I’ll SODDING well swing for you” Later on I came to realise the origin of the phrase came from HANGING, as hanging was still in fashion in my mother’s day. Mother saying she’d ‘swing’ for us meant that she’d murder us and be hung for her crime. However, she would never have actually murdered us. She wasn’t fast enough for a start. She came close several times – especially during her menopausal years when she was a bit, well, psycho.

Sometimes this phrase was used in jest but mostly we knew we were in deep poo if we heard it and we’d suddenly be incredibly helpful – like doing the dishes without being told or tidying our rooms, including Bro’s ‘pit’.

Occasionally, I catch myself muttering ‘Because I said so’ and I start twitching and have to go shout at some crisp packets as self-punishment. My mother may have passed on her early menopause to me, but there is no way I’m talking like her as well. Why? BECAUSE I SAID SO!

*twitch*

It pays to be as literal as possible when you have an autistic child, trust me. Saves time. Maybe you recoginse a few of these from your own childhoods? Feel free to share!

Next time, Dadisms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, It’s Me..

Everybody remembers the last conversation they had with a loved one before that person died.. It doesn’t matter if the conversation was in person or via the phone. It was those words, spoken or unspoken, that stay with you.

Princes William and Harry were holidaying in Scotland with their father when they last spoke to their mother. Diana was in Paris but she always found time to speak to the two boys who were her life. On the 30th of August she phoned her sons. William and Harry remember this last conversation as being too brief because they were eager to be doing other stuff. They were behaving as young boys do. They were not to know that in a few hours time the mother that they loved so much would be dead. That last phone call haunts them and I understand it because I too am haunted by my last phone call with my mother.

Death.

Death is tricky. Sometimes you get prior notice that he’s coming for a loved one. If death is inevitable, then surely this is the best scenario because nothing is left unsaid? The living can carry on comforted that they got to say goodbye and the dying can let go knowing that there is nothing left to say. That’s the kind of death I want. To leave on my terms. However, Death so often takes our loved ones without warning. There is no opportunity to tell them one last time how much you love them. They are simply – gone.

Death gave no warning about my mother.

The last time I spoke to Mum was the night before she died. I’d been in hospital having a procedure done under general anesthetic and I’d not been home long before she phoned to see how I was. I was woozy from the anesthetic and I just wanted to sleep so I fobbed her off and told her I’d speak to her the following morning. That was the last time I ever spoke to her. How could I know that she would be dead before I woke up the next morning?

Mum hadn’t been ill, except for a “bit of a tummy bug” which she’d mentioned in passing that week. The ‘bug’ turned out to be Bronchial Pneumonia. If she was suffering, nobody knew, because she didn’t say anything. She didn’t ‘do’ illness. Illness was an inconvenience which interfered with hair appointments. She couldn’t be done with it and in the end her stubbornness was her undoing.

What happens in these circumstances is that you replay that conversation over and over in your mind. You don’t remember the other conversations you’ve had with that person. You just remember those last words. You rewrite the script or at least you try to because you feel cheated or guilty or both. You feel like you are the worst person in the world because of that last conversation. You’d give anything to be able to go back in time and do it differently. To this day, I don’t remember if I told her I loved her. Normally, I would have, as I had ended every other phone call, but I was semi-sedated. I most probably did because I ended every conversation the same way. The problem is that it was often like reciting the Lords Prayer, as in, something that you say without actually thinking about it. You know?

My mother was no longer at the end of the phone but that didn’t stop me dialing her number. I needed to hear her voice and I knew where I could find her, for a little while longer, at least..

Hi, it’s me, I’m not here at the moment but leave a message and I’ll get back to you.

I lost count of how many times I rang number Mum’s number to listen to this message. Even though I knew that the phone was ringing out into a house which was no longer a home, it didn’t matter because it was still her voice and it comforted me.

Given the chance, our last conversation would have been very different. Then again, there is a belief that things happen for a reason. What if I was to go back and hear something in my mother’s voice which alerted me to the fact that something was wrong? What then if I was to intervene only for the outcome to be that for the rest of her life she was frail and dependent on others? If you knew my mother you’d understand how much she’d have hated that. As hard as it is to lose someone, if we look hard enough, we will see a blessing in some form. Sometimes we just need to look at things from their perspective instead of our own.

It’s unrealistic to treat every conversation as if it’s the last you will ever have. Life gets in the way and with the best will in the world there are always going to be occasions where we have to cut conversations short. However, no matter how brief a conversation may be, there is always time enough to say the only thing that really matters.

“The news of life is carried via telephone. A baby’s birth, a couple engaged, a tragic car accident on a late night highway – most milestones of the human journey, good or bad, are foreshadowed by the sound of a ringing.” Mitch Albom ~ The First Phone Call From Heaven

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