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.
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.
11 Not that I speak [a]from want, for I have learned to be [b]content in whatever circumstances I am.12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
This scripture has always baffled me. I have experienced agonies in my adult life that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. I have hit ten on the pain scale more than once. A handful of times I have cried out to God for relief for so long that I’ve switched to praying for death. There have even been times I’ve been suicidal; these particular migraines are sometimes referred to as “shotgun headaches” because of their propensity to drive sufferers to the very pit of utter hopelessness and desperation. And God has the nerve to quietly, gently remind me of this scripture. In exasperation I ask him, “How am I supposed to be content in Hell?! Because that’s what it feels like, Lord. I can’t imagine worse pain than the worst of my own. I cannot comprehend it. How could anyone possibly be content like this?!” But He only whispers, when He answers at all, You shall learn to be content with whatever I give you, whatever you face. You will learn. And it’s meant to be a comfort, but being the bullheaded child that I am I cross my arms and stomp my foot, saying “LOOOOooooooOOOrd, I don’t WANT to be content! I don’t want to be a saint! I just want the pain to end! No, I don’t want this growth, please just let me be a good wife and mother and do the things I want to do that are supposed to be Godly! Let me be the Proverbs 31 woman! Why would you place me in this role, and give me these desires to do it well, then take my abilities? Why am I even here anymore if I am only going to suffer and be a burden? Why did you open my womb only to leave me unable to raise these precious gifts? I’m failing them, Lord, and I don’t understand. How can I possibly be content here alone in the dark, while someone else raises my babies? While they cry for me, and I cry for them? I’m failing as a wife, as a woman, as a human being. And I KNOW I still have worth, Lord. I know my worth does not depend on what I do. But why are you keeping me here to do nothing but suffer and drain?”
9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast [a]about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with [b]insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11
I cried out to Him again. “How am I strong right now, Lord? Where is Your strength in this?” Then, one day, He introduced me to someone whose suffering was greater than my own, and it had plagued her for decades. And I was humbled. I remembered her every time my own suffering began again, remembered how much worse life was for her. That day, there was a shift in my spirit. Instead of praying for my own pain to end, instead of crying out on my own behalf, I began to pray for her. Fervent, broken prayers, day and night. And God honored those prayers. God used our pain to reach into each other’s darkest places. Now, my pain has a purpose. God has given me an intercessory prayer ministry I never could have entered otherwise. And while I’m not yet to the place I can say I have learned to be content, whatever my circumstance, I am getting there. Now, I believe that can come to pass in my own life. I’m still fighting with God about it, after all I am stubborn and kind of a spiritual idiot. But He’s working on that, too.