This is exactly what I needed today. God always knows exactly what we need. Sorry I have been absent lately, things have been super crazy. My dad had a temporary lapse of sanity, the whole family has been sick, etc. But I’m still around. Catch up with you soon, blogosphere.
Welp, here’s another post about that delightful menopause for you.
I’ve written before about nursing my youngest through menopause, and that my milk supply had taken a substantial hit. It has finally recovered a small amount, and seems to have stabilized. The baby is still not happy, but the small return has definitely been welcome.
And now, a little biology lesson for you. Fat cells produce a small amount of estrogen. They also store small amounts. The larger the fat cells, the more estrogen they produce and store. It is common for nursing mothers’ bodies to “hang on” to a few stubborn pounds (anywhere from 5-15, occasionally as many as 20). This is in case of a starvation emergency, so that the mother can still nourish her child for a longer time. For many mothers, these few nursing pounds simply will not go until the baby weans, regardless of diet or exercise. For other mothers, the pounds may come off with a strict diet, but her milk supply takes a noticeable hit. Once her milk starts to go, those few extra pounds tend to just melt right off. For mothers who retained a larger number of stubborn pounds, a few may come off slowly as the milk begins to dry up, then the last 5 or so will come off quickly once milk production ceases entirely.
As my milk goes, I am losing a pound or two here and there. This releases some of that stored estrogen into my blood stream. You may remember I had to have my ovaries out due to a severe estrogen allergy, so this is unpleasant for me, to say the least. I break out in hives, experience joint pain and muscle aches, migraines, nausea, and loss of appetite. Of course, I experience worse menopausal symptoms as well: irritability, weakness, fatigue, brain fog, sleep disruptions. Thanks to that lovely brain fog, I don’t have a good way to end this post, but uh… here. Have a post. That feels so dorky, but I like to try and keep things real.
This is related to anxiety, and I know many mothers deal with it to some extent. I have lived with it most of my life. Here’s an example of what an anxiety attack with catastrophic thinking looks like for me.
I have a migraine. If I am stuck alone with the children, I sincerely do not know if I can keep them safe, change the baby, feed them when they’re hungry… I really don’t think I can take care of these kids today. But I can’t ask my husband to stay home from work because we need the money desperately, and he will think I’m just not trying hard enough because other people go to work with migraines, and he will leave me. He’ll take the children and the baby will be in day care. She’ll scream for me at night.
And that’s as vulnerable as I can manage right now. There you have it folks, and when this is happening in my brain it does not sound ridiculous, it sounds totally credible and awful. After an attack I regain perspective, but during it feels like drowning.
I have been struggling lately. Health problems seem unending. Money is tight. Familial relationships are strained. Menopause makes me feel like a weepy fool. There is a set point in the future when things should get better for our family, but it feels so far away. It’s easy to lose sight of, or to feel like it is out of reach. What-ifs wash over me and try to drag my hope with them. I am completely overwhelmed, but my God is not. He has met every need out of His great abundance, and I have faith He will continue to do so. Would you pray for me? For my family? And if I can do the same for you, please let me know.
I try to focus on enjoying making memories with the children, on moving forward to get our family into a better situation, when I am able. Which seems to never be enough of the time. But that is a thought I can’t focus on, because it becomes a cyclone of depression. No, better to just hold onto this train for dear life and try to keep my eyes on the pin dot of light ahead.
For anyone else who may be facing this unpleasant (to say the least) combo.
One of my concerns when surgical menopause became necessary was, would my breastmilk supply be affected? My surgeon assured me that lactation is not controlled by estrogen; I might have a dip in supply, but should have no trouble nursing as long as baby and I desired. With my daughter’s second birthday coming only a few weeks after the surgery, a dip in supply didn’t worry me. I did not foresee the added pain and difficulty this minor side effect would bring.
This is not the first child I have allowed to dry nurse for comfort as my supply dwindled, so I knew it would hurt. But my son was generally satisfied with dry nursing for comfort. He fussed a little the first week or two that it started to happen, but he adjusted quickly and, shortly after my milk dried up completely, he lost interest. This poor child is NOT happy. She pulls away and tells me, “Mommy, I sad! Nurse empty!” And cries. She’s breaking my heart. I just have to tell her “I know, baby,” as I choke back my own tears. This just feels like one more area where I am falling short as a mother. My kids are generally happy and healthy. They are smart and polite. There are a lot of things I’ve done right by them, but oh how the devil likes to throw my shortcomings in my face. Especially those of my body, the ones that are beyond my control. Oh, he just loves to make me feel like dirt when I cannot meet my own June Cleaver standards. But you know what, you ol devil? Christ’s grace is sufficient. I am sufficient. This is not going to ruin my child and I certainly won’t let it ruin me.
I was snuggling my youngest on the couch, savoring her sweetness, drinking in the moment. They are only little for such a short while, and I can feel her babyhood beginning to slip away. I stroked her pudgy little cheek, her downy hair, breathed in that little bit of baby scent that still clings to her. And for a moment, that painful longing seeped into my heart for another.
If everything had been different, my husband and I would be considering the next baby right now. If I could care for the ones we have. If my own body hadn’t turned against me and stolen from us this choice. If only.
It’s difficult to express, because I don’t want another, not really. Pregnancy was terrible for me, it broke my body in ways that only God can heal. As much as I love nursing, I long for some autonomy. I’m ready to wean my last one and move on to the next stage of our life as a family. But oh, to cherish the fantasy, just for a minute, of nuzzling a soft, fuzzy newborn again. Seeing that first smile, sharing the first laugh, those darling first steps… I feel something strange, something like grief, anger at my body. I feel chastised because then that seems like anger at God for putting me in this body, but that’s not it, not really, I don’t think. This is all so confusing, so conflicting, I just want to sweep it under the rug and paint on a smile, but that has never worked out well for me. So head-first into these feelings I go. Here they are in their imperfection and rawness. Do you understand them?
I went grocery shopping by myself today. Pushed a full cart up and down the aisles. It seems like such a little thing, an ordinary, any day kind of thing. But for me, today, it was special. A little taste of normal. I felt like me. Trying to strike that delicate balance between healthy and affordable, just like old times. I bought a few simple staples and daydreamed about making regular meals for my family again. Simple things filled my cart, spaghetti noodles, a carton of OJ, nothing exciting, at least not for you. It feels good to feel just a little bit normal, just for a little while again.
First, a praise for the glory of God: I have only needed one pain pill in the past two days. Feeling SO much better. I really turned a corner yesterday morning. And now, the subject of this post: Mood Swings. I’ve had to laugh at myself a little bit. I kind of feel like a teenager again, but this time at least I understand why I am having these strange feelings. In the past day alone, I have gotten irrationally angry and weepy over something that happened over a decade ago, and over my underwear not being put away right. Seriously, brain?! These things are not the end of the world! I know, rationally, it doesn’t really matter how my underwear is put away as long as I can find a clean pair, right? So why did I feel like stomping around, breaking things and yelling like a crazy person? Because I am now a crazy person. Welcome to life without estrogen, brain, it’s going to be a long, interesting ride.
Let me overshare with you a little bit. I think that word, overshare, is overused, by the way. This whole entry will probably be kind of disjointed, but lately, so am I. I now “get” the menopause fog, the “senior moments,” and let me tell you, if I wasn’t expecting this, didn’t know what was happening to me, I would think I was losing my very few remaining marbles. This is unpleasant. It’s like my ADD and “mom brain” had this mega bastard child, and then put it on speed. When they hit, my thoughts swirl. I can’t focus on anything, can’t make sense of anything, can’t put together a coherent thought. If one of these just hit me in my late forties or early fifties out of the blue, I would think I was stroking out. It’s disorienting, to say the least. They give me a mild feeling of panic, which makes my heart race and I sweat a little. Fortunately I am not having very many of these, and since I understand what’s happening they are not as terrifying as they otherwise would be. I’m not having very many hot flashes, although I do get regular night sweats. Zero symptoms of hormone withdrawal, for which I am SO grateful. My pain is getting a little more manageable each day, and my mobility is slowly returning. Overall, I feel better than I did pre-op. I’m able to spend a good chunk of the day with my children now. The incisions are healing nicely, no signs of infection. My appetite is slowly returning. I am having some mood swings, but they don’t feel much worse than just regular PMS. You’d have to ask my husband to get a more objective picture of those, though. So, over all, things are going well, although of course I’m ready to just be done and healed and get on with life already. Your continued prayers are greatly appreciated.
The surgery went well. It took three times longer than expected because they had more material to remove and clean out than originally anticipated, but it’s over now. Pain is mostly under control. All is going alright. I will post a more substantial entry as soon as possible. Thank you all for your prayers.