I had my first daughter at 29. By NYC standards I was essentially a teen mom, which has always led me to believe I was a “young mom.” I had visions of sending my grown kids out into the world and spending my midlife with my partner. Lengthy swaths of time galavanting to exotic locations. Warm, Caribbean beaches. Tropical rainforests. Mediterranean islands. Makes me hot just thinking about it. Wait...not that kind of hot. Like, physically hot. Why am I so hot? Like, randomly, suddenly, overwhelmingly hot? Perimenopause. Decidedly not hot.
As a midwife, I have always been the go-to person for all things health and wellness among my friends, which is why I know most of them started feeling the effects of perimenopause when they had toddlers and most had fully transitioned to menopause by the time those toddlers were teens. It’s literally my job to know about women’s hormones. So why was I blindsided when mine started changing? I think perimenopause was such a shock to me for a few reasons. First, despite 14 years having passed since I became a “young mom”, I neglected to realize that I am in fact, no longer quite so young. The average age of menopause in the US is 51 and perimenopause can start 10 years before that so really, I’m a perfectly average age to be noticing these symptoms.
I think I missed that 14 years of my life had passed because I was distracted taking care of everyone else's life. Distracted by my caregiving career. Distracted by caring for my children and my aging parents. Distracted by changing hormones that weren’t mine. Even when the thought crossed my mind “huh, I wonder if this is perimenopause”, I was sidetracked because while my hormones were waning, my 14 year old daughter's were waxing, and her suffering always occupies more space in my mind than my own. I would try to research what I should take to help mitigate my perimenopausal irritability and instead end up researching what might help decrease her premenstrual tears. I googled cooling blankets to decrease night sweats only to end up buying heating pads to ease her cramps. I would spend $20 a pair of period underwear for her without a second thought but balk at the thought of spending that for myself.
We do this. Moms. We take care of everyone else and not ourselves. I have been working so hard to try to make my daughter feel normal, seen and heard in her transition into menstruation that I ignored my own physical, emotional and hormonal health as I began my transition out of it. So next time I restock the “just in case” period pack in my daughter's backpack, I’m also going to pack a menopause kit for myself. A cute pouch with a tiny fan, a change of underwear and some cbd gummies “just in case.”
Keeley McNamara is a certified nurse midwife, writer, and co-founder of Anyway, a new magazine focusing on health, wellbeing, and culture for kids 9- 15. Find her at www.anywaymag.com and on Instagram @anywaymag