For a while, it seemed pretty common to hear stories about young women giving birth to babies and then leaving the baby in a dumpster somewhere. Remember that?
I haven’t heard any stories like this lately. (To be honest, I didn’t want to Google to find out. I have a feeling it is probably still happening and that our world has just gotten so crazy, these stories don’t even make it to the top of our newsfeed anymore – which is a whole other topic. But, I digress.)
The thing is…every time I heard one of these stories, I couldn’t understand how this kind of tragedy could take place.
It wasn’t just leaving a baby in the dumpster that baffled me – as horrible as that was. It was hearing how, in many cases, these gals claimed that they were not even aware that they were pregnant.
How do you reach full-term without realizing you’re pregnant? (I’ve been pregnant TWICE. It was brutal. I can’t imagine not noticing that.)
I simply could not comprehend how someone could be so out of touch with her own body and reality that something like this could occur. That a woman could go through such a transformative and life-altering experience with no awareness of it for nine months.
Was she simply in denial? Or was she so uneducated that she didn’t even know what was happening to her body?
I could never wrap my brain around what that must be like for her. Or how we as a society let her down.
I’m 50. Sitting on the cusp of menopause. Or at least I assume I am.
I have been reading books about this stage of life since I was in my early 30’s. I don’t know what sparked my curiosity about menopause at such an early age. Or why I have had such a conscious awareness of the importance of this stage of life for so long.
Mine is really the first generation that truly speaks out about the symptoms leading up to menopause in daily conversation. I don’t think my Grandma had the luxury of lamenting with friends over a glass of wine at dinner about hot flashes, sore breasts, forgetfulness or vaginal dryness – topics we now laugh about as standard protocol to be expected…and accepted.
And, thanks to science, we can pop pills to get us through it all. Just the right customized package of hormones and we can tough it out and make it to the other side where, as women of a certain age, we can don a big purple hat and become invisible all at the same time.
But, something about all of this didn’t ring true for me.
I had this crazy idea that many of these symptoms were not necessary and could be minimized. That menopause was meant to be an empowering transition. A profound one. One that helps shift us from our role as mothers – to our role as leaders.
Not something we are supposed to ‘suffer through’ and be beat up by.
I wondered if the physical symptoms so many women experienced were more ‘problematic’ than ‘profound’ because our health was suffering. That these symptoms were more like a ‘wake up call’. A smack down of sorts.
That throughout all of the years of caring for others, women had sacrificed their own health in the process and that these common symptoms of peri-menopause might just be a period of time in our lives where our bodies say, “Hey, it’s my turn! Pick me!”
Of course, these crazy ideas were just a theory. I was only in my thirties when they first started stirring.
What did I know?
So, I quietly set forth to see what the transition to menopause would look like for someone who really focused on being as healthy as possible – not just today. But every day. For 10 years. 15 years. 20 years.
- Could I lessen the symptoms?
- Could I avoid the need for hormone replacement therapy?
- Could I transition smoothly into menopause without drying up, heating up or spacing out?
What would the whole transition look like for someone who was physically and emotionally healthy? Would it be different?
I wanted to know. (Be careful what you ask for, you just might get an answer.)
While I’m still in the process, I just want to share with you what I’m learning. In real time.
First of all, I was right.
Being healthy definitely helps. Symptoms are pretty much non-existent for me compared to most friends my age. I don’t have hot flashes, night sweats or any of the other typical stuff I hear others complain about.
Maybe I will. I don’t know. I’ll keep you posted.
Don’t get me wrong. I am definitely going through a transition, but it’s different.
I’ve had hints of all of the traditional symptoms…but each time one of them appears, it’s usually because I have disregarded some important aspect of my health – exercise, nutrition, stress management. I use the sign as a time to be more intentional with my healthy habits. To make adjustments. To get back on track.
And, the symptoms go away.
But…that’s not what this post is about. It’s something deeper than that. The physical symptoms are more of a distraction from what’s really going on.
I find that the better I care for myself, the more it is revealed.
When you get the physical stuff out of the way…there is a whole other layer of transformation. And, I’m witnessing it first hand. In real time.
A physical transformation – yes. But, also one that is SO clearly tied to something greater than me and my physicality.
And, for the first time in my life, I identify with that young girl giving birth.
I feel like I am experiencing the most profound birthing experience. Like new life is coming through me. And I have this intense awareness that nothing will EVER be the same.
But, the room is not full of family and loved ones like it was when I gave birth to my daughters. There is no doula present. No one is holding my hand or helping me breathe through the contractions. There is no professional personnel on hand as back up in case of emergency.
There is no one waiting with excitement for this wonderful little miracle that is about to join the world.
I really can’t even put it into words just yet. I’m still birthing. But, I just wanted to share that I get it.
At some deep level, I understand how women end up nine months in and unaware of their pregnancy. I understand how women end up leaving their babies in dumpsters – completely unprepared and at a loss for what to do. I can see how that happens. The total disconnect.
It’s for the very same reason so many women my age are walking around completely unaware of the profound transformation that is going on inside of them.
The one that calls us to a completely new role. A new position in the world. One that gives birth to the future. Strength. Wisdom. Leadership. Purpose. Bravery. Power.
It’s because we’re not talking about it. Not enough.
We’re not sharing our experiences. Deep enough.
We’re not creating ceremony and ritual around this milestone. Holy enough.
We’re not holding women in high regard through this period of time. Worthy enough.
How are women supposed to know about the true meaning of this stage? (Especially when most of us are buried in symptoms that appear to weaken us.)
Men can’t help. They don’t know. (And, if they did know, it would just scare the shit out of them!)
Are we just supposed to just figure it all out on our own?
Where are the mid-wives? Where do we learn about the life force we possess? The mission we have as leaders in our second half of life?
As we approach menopause – we openly lament our physical discomforts and struggle to ‘balance our hormones’. We don’t, however, talk about real transformation…the soul searching that happens during this time.
About how we struggle because we can no longer make ourselves do those things we are ‘supposed to do’.
How all of the things we used to do for others… the things we ‘preached’ to our children… “Eat your vegetables. Exercise. Sleep. Take care of yourself first. Do what you love. Find your passion.” … we can’t even muster up to do for ourselves.
How something in you pulls you so powerfully to expand and grow. To stretch beyond what is physically possible.
And, we definitely don’t discuss or acknowledge the miracle that is taking place.
The new life that is birthing.
We don’t talk about the process. Or what to expect or how to manage the pain. Or positions that might make it easier. Or how to communicate with those we love so they can best support us through this magical and profound transition.
Or how. to. breathe.
And, we don’t circle around women at this age and support them with showers and gifts and celebrations.
All of this – while our little miracles are born.
And, like those young girls who find themselves giving birth alone, I fear that too many of us never even recognize or connect with this new life that’s coming through us.
We simply leave it at the dumpster and walk away with a hole in our hearts. Wondering what just happened. And, how will we manage to go back to life as we knew it and go on as if it never happened.