Ahh, Indiana autumn. Pretty, isn’t it? Glowing leaves, crispy air. Perfect season for sleeping with the windows open a couple inches, right?
So cozy under the covers …
Unless you’re me. Unless you wake up wondering what crazy person cranked the heat up — only to find no one did. But you’re sweating. A lot. What the …?
Really, this happened to me recently. I woke up awash in my own sweat. More than once!
However fast my groggy, sleep-state brain works at 4:30 a.m., I quickly assessed: No, no achy feelings. No scratchy throat. No fever. Summer is long gone, and it doesn’t sound like the furnace is running. In fact, there’s that Indiana autumn air coming through the window, remember?
And in an instant I knew: “I’m having a hot flash!” And I knew why: Because I am getting closer to menopause!
IN CASE YOU ARE NOT sure what menopause is: Menopause is a woman’s final menstrual period and is usually considered “confirmed” after 12 consecutive months of no periods when there’s no other known causes for the periods to be absent.
Many of us like the word “absent” near “period,” I know, but read on because menopause and her pals are not always about sweet goodbyes.
For a large sample of U.S. women, menopause occurs, on average, around age 51, though it can occur as early as in a woman’s 30s (considered “premature” menopause) and as late as into her 60s.
Many women experience related signs and symptoms months or years before menopause, called the “perimenopausal” time. (“Peri” means around.)
And I am pretty sure I’m peri. Perimenopausal.
After my second baby was born in 2006 — I was 34 — I picked up a book about perimenopause. I knew “the change” was probably yet a ways off, but I was curious what it was all about, figuring my childbearing years were over.
A few years later — age 38 — I was surprised to be pregnant. So I put that book away and dusted off my pregnancy books, thoughts of perimenopause gone, traded for thoughts of the maternal year.
After my “elderly” birth and early post-partum stages, I again begin to think about what’s next. (It ain’t more babies, so it must be that absence of periods.) Right, perimenopause.
But then I forgot, just forgot. I’m a busy person, for one, and my hormones are here and there — still nursing a toddler, using hormones to avoid pregnancy — so I figured, “Who knows? We’ll just see.”