The Period and the Pause
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I had a partial hysterectomy two days after I met my girlfriend. Since we didn’t know each other except for one drive-by coffee date, she very politely said she would email me sometime during my recovery (which ended up being four weeks) to see how I was faring.
My hysterectomy was the best fucking that ever happened to me! It stemmed the constant heavy, endless, everyday bleeding that had been going on for nearly two years and which my gynecologist tossed off as “Oh, you’re just peri-menopausal.” It took three years, two D&Cs, hormones, acupuncture, customized herbal concoctions, horrible mood swings and more until I finally went for a second opinion to a feminist sex educator and registered nurse practitioner who provided me with truly helpful information that informed my decision about having a hysterectomy.
I was elated not to have a period. Who needs it, right? I hated it from the day it arrived when I was 16 until the day it stopped when I was 45. Because it was a partial hyst, meaning I still have ovaries and at least some level of estrogen, I wasn’t “thrown” into immediate menopause. I knew I would eventually go through the euphemistic “change” but didn’t know when or what it would look—or feel—like.
Well, it’s just a few days before my 48th birthday and I have been experiencing hot flashes, clammy skin, fierce headaches, dizziness and other symptoms for about the past two to four weeks. Menopause has indeed arrived. For me, of course, but also for my girlfriend who has to live with me and my symptoms. At just one year younger, she’s still menstruating, has very heavy periods and annoying cramps, etc.
Neither one of us has lost our libido, but planning for sex between heavy flows and hot flashes has become a delicate balance both physically and emotionally. Thank goodness we have a rock solid communication practice in place because navigating the terrain of the period and the pause is new to us. It could be a minefield if we didn’t already communicate well and if would be deadly (and cause for “divorce”) if we didn’t both have a fantastic sense of humor, in general and about ourselves in particular.
There is not much publically accessible information about menopause, at least not that is readable and useful. Mostly there are only turgid scientific and medical tomes with terms that are hard to understand.
I found this wonderful book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness, that reads like the author is speaking friend to friend. The writer is straight, but the book is all-inclusive and she recognizes lesbians in the text. One of her major points is that women going through menopause are not the only ones to experience it: it’s also our partners, children, friends, family and co-workers, too, who will go through it with us, whether they were aware of it prior to our symptoms or not!
The good news, from our perspective, is that my menopausal symptoms give us a chance to talk intimately, grapple with this new phase of middle age, and find new ways to communicate both in the boudoir and out.