As women, we engage with our hormones on a daily basis. Or, perhaps they engage with us, although we want to keep up the appearance of total control over those sometimes pesky chemicals.
From adolescence with its first surges of reproductive hormones, through pregnancy, and on into menopause, we feel the effects of our body chemistry as it progresses through the many phases of adulthood. Some stages are challenging, some are exuberant, and some are mystifying. However, each stage teaches wisdom along the way.
The lead up to peri-menopause in my early to mid-forties was fairly smooth. The gradual decline in hormones had a positive effect on me. My emotions were more level, my skin was finally blemish free, and I certainly had far fewer cramps each month. I started looking forward to full menopause as a time of freedom, a time of starting a new, affirmative phase in my life.
But life doesn’t always go as you expect. While I was getting used to the idea of being free from the effects of hormones, I went through that 40-year cycle in about 18 months. At the age of 46, I became pregnant with my only child.
Pregnant at 46
Before you ask, No, it was not IVF or any other intervention. I had just remarried. My second husband was 57. I didn't worry about birth control, because, well who thinks about it at that age. I'm glad I didn't. The best estimates are that I became pregnant on our honeymoon, because 9 months later almost to the day, my beautiful son arrived. My husband and I were both totally stunned, and I must say, my husband was exceedingly happy and helpful. He has adult children from his first marriage, and many men don't want to go through the baby years again later in life.
The Geriatric Pregnancy
My doctor called it a "geriatric pregnancy," and of course, I was offended. But, she explained that any pregnancy over the age of 35 received that moniker and prepared me for what may lie ahead.
I was stunned by the immediate impact the flood of pregnancy hormones had on me. It affected my energy levels, both positive and negative depending on the trimester. My hair and skin looked more like it had been in my 20s.
I worked out like I was in my 20s too. Daily 5 mile walks were a breeze. Better still, my mood was very stable and happy. Overall, pregnancy didn't bring roller coaster mood swings for me, but afterward is a different story.
Hot Flashes While Breast Feeding
The time after my son's birth taught me some key lessons about hormones and how much they impact our health and moods.
I turned 47 two weeks after he was born, and I breastfed him for about 6 months. Since I didn't have children before, I can't know if what I experienced was typical, but I suspect it wasn’t.
The drop off in hormones was steep. Between a lack of sleep and the precipitous plunge back into peri-menopause, I was an emotional wreck. Looking back, it may have been some mild post-partum depression, although I was happy and ecstatic to be a mom. Still, I had some outbursts and crying spells that were completely out of character.
I'm certain that I am one of the very few mothers who has experienced hot flashes while breastfeeding, and my cycle was never normal after that. It was sporadic, whereas prior to pregnancy it was so consistent and predictable, I could pinpoint the next period to almost the hour and day. The weight stayed off during breastfeeding, but after I stopped, I found it increasingly difficult to keep the pounds off. In my youth, I ate anything without gaining an ounce. Eventually, my moods leveled out.
This was an incredible time in my life. I now have the experience of becoming a mother after I had accepted that motherhood would never happen for me. And, I had the adventure of going through a 40-year cycle of hormones, from initial phases of increasing levels to the final stages into menopause in about 16 to 18 months.
That experience brought me a deeper appreciation for menopause and the freedom it brings. It brings freedom, and it is a time of deeper wisdom from living a full life. Personally, I have a greater sense of calm and inner strength knowing that I can handle anything life presents to me.
It was a time of undulating moods, vigor, complexities, and joys. Yet, that experience taught me that our bodies are greatly influenced by our chemistry. In my teens and 20s, I was not aware of the impact. Perhaps in my 20s and 30s, I became a little more conscious of the impact of fluctuating hormones. However, it wasn't until this experience that I concluded that we as women need to be far more aware of how our bodies progress through the various stages. And, we need to embrace those stages to gain the greatest amount of life wisdom at each step of the way.
Wendy began her writing career while working at a top 10 Wall Street investment banking firm, where she researched and penned a weekly, compliance-approved newsletter detailing the events of the tax-exempt securities market.
Subsequently, she moved from Wall Street to Main Street as a senior manager for a $2 billion retailer with operations across the globe including the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Iceland. In that position, she wrote numerous business plans, scope statements, RFPs and marketing materials. This experience gave Wendy a deep knowledge of supply and demand chains for various retail sectors such as luxury cosmetics, fashion apparel, home goods, fine jewelry, and electronics. Moreover, she gained top-level experience with hotel and other hospitality industries.