Friday, March 04, 2016

Nobody Warned Me About This!

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Nobody warned me about this

A lot of time is spent talking to young girls about the impending changes in their lives. Unfortunately, nobody talks about the changes that happen when you get older. Somehow society overlooked a very important discussion. I understand why depression and anxiety is a big part of the aging process. Nobody warned you what would happen.

Ask anyone about the aging process. Go ahead and ask. Most of the time you receive a tired look followed by a meek, “You’ll see.” Well, that ain’t cutting it, folks. It’s time to talk about the things nobody warned you about. I am sure there are still lots of things I don’t know about yet, but I can warn you about the things I learned on my own.

Becoming a grandparent is a grand thing. Everyone will tell you that. What they don’t discuss is what it feels like while you wait to become a grandparent. The entire pregnancy is as mentally tough on you as your own first pregnancy was. When you find out you’re expecting a grandchild, it’s okay if your initial reaction isn’t one of absolute joy. Don’t feel bad if you end up trying your best to force a smile on your face and pretend it’s the greatest thing that ever happened. Don’t think you are a terrible person for being overcome with a lot of emotions other than joy. Remember when the fear crept in during your own first pregnancy? It’s the same feeling, multiplied by the level of fear and worry that only an older mom can understand. 

Your mind goes off on a tangent. Am I ready for this? Please don’t let me turn into one of those people that feels the need to constantly correct the parents. When did I get this old? Am I really old enough to be a grandparent? Are the parents ready for this? How can I help them without being overbearing? Sheesh. Am I really this old?

The worry stops when the baby is born. No. No, it doesn’t. It’s not quite like the worry you had with your own firstborn. It’s different. (It’s worse.) Not only do you worry about the grandbaby, but you worry about the emotional well-being of the parents of said grandbaby. You worry because you know the fears going through the mind of a first-time parent. You understand what thoughts keep them awake even when the baby finally sleeps. 

Your own anxiety is compounded by thinking of their anxiety. And then you receive the first phone call - the very first “I have a question” phone call. It’s the same type of fear and worry you had with your baby, and your own anxiety starts to fade a bit. “I know this,” you think. “I know how to help.” You start to feel useful and needed again. You stop worrying as much because you feel confident the parents have it under control if they aren’t afraid to ask questions. They trust you enough to ask for advice. It is an affirmation that soothes away that terrible, awful fear every mother has: Was I a good mother? Wait until your child calls to ask you for advice about their own child. It tells you that you must have been a good parent if they trust your judgment.

I am not going to say all of your fear and anxiety will go away. If it does, I’m not there yet. I believe as mothers we are always worrying over something, and I don’t think it ever stops. I don’t think it is supposed to stop. And I’m okay with that now. Grandchildren are a different kind of worry. Oh, yes. You do have an overwhelming sense of pride and love, but there is always a bit of fear as well. No, it’s not just fear about the baby. You fear for the parents, too. People don’t tell you that. Some people will actually look at you with disdain if you appear anything other than ecstatic. I’m here to tell you the only way you don’t feel a sense of fear is if you’re emotionally dead. I don’t care if one parent is an obstetrician and the other is a pediatrician. You’re going to have fear, and that’s okay. 

Perimenopause and menopause are two totally different things, and it’s not what you think. Plenty of women think you just stop having periods one day and you have hot flashes, mood swings, and gain some weight. No. No, you don’t. There are some women lucky enough to go from normal periods to skipping a period here and there. There are surely a few even luckier souls who do stop having them suddenly and they never reappear. More often than not, you’re going to go through something worse. You’re going to have MORE periods. They’re going to be closer together, and you’re going to be angry about it. What’s the one thing about getting older than sounds great? No more periods. And what happens? They’re closer together. Why, oh why does this happen? 

Menopause means you haven’t had a period in over a year. Perimenopause is when you start having troubles, and this part can go on for years. Oh, and perimenopause is like puberty in reverse. Happy that acne was part of the past? Brace yourself. It appears again...and often with a vengeance. You’ll also learn the joys of hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, heart palpitations that lead to more anxiety, worrying what you look like with acne, worrying about how you look with your new weight gain AND acne, worrying about when you’ll get your period because you never know and it always seems to be out of whack, worrying about...wait, what was I saying? Oh, yes. You’ll worry you are losing your mind because you can’t remember even the simplest of things at times - like words. I am not kidding. Did I mention you worry? Did I mention all this constant worry and stress makes you mad? Oh, and I haven’t even touched that lovely soft peach fuzz that covers your face or the way your face starts to look like it’s melting off your chin and cheek bones, much like the wicked witch when doused with water in the Wizard of Oz. 

Why don’t other women tell you about this stuff? It’s an inside joke, I think. Well, part of it is that the generation before us had hysterectomies in such mass numbers that they didn’t get the full experience of worrying over periods and most of them had hormone replacement therapy from the start to deal with their hormone factory being shut down with no notice. Ask a woman who didn’t take hormones or who suddenly stopped taking hormones. You’ll get a look that will straighten the curl out of your hair. That poor woman suffered. 

Another cruel joke - at a time where you want to feel more attractive and you worry your spouse may find your older self less than attractive, your nether region starts acting a fool. Oh, yes. Women have those “this has never happened before” moments, too. I’m not going to delve into details, but take a look around the Internet and find out about effects in the bedroom. I must warn you, though. It’s scary, and it is not for the faint of heart. Want to show your husband you are still that same young woman with gusto? Yeah. No. The Sahara Desert is no joke. Oh, and while parts of you get thicker, some parts get thinner. That’s all I’m going to say on this subject, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

Am I the only one who feels half-starved most of the time? I always ate like a bird, but now I find myself constantly uttering the words “I’m hungry.” I never crave anything good for me. Forget the idea that you’re going to choose to eat healthy and not gain weight. That’s what all those so-called experts say you are supposed to do. Think about that expert when you find yourself feeling like you will absolutely die if you don’t have another slice of that chocolate cake. I can guarantee you will think that expert got their degree from a Cracker Jack box. How in the world does a person eat healthy when the mere thought of that chocolate cake keeps them up at night?

I have heard women talk about bladder issues. I think most of us women experience some sort of bladder issues long before we are even close to menopause or even thinking about menopause. I can handle crossing my legs when I sneeze. That’s not a problem. My problem is these wretched bladder spasms. I haven’t heard anyone talk about these, but a bladder spasm has to be the absolute worst thing a person can have. When I started having them, I felt a new sort of pain. My teenage son recently had seven surgeries to deal with a kidney defect and he had these wretched spasms throughout the entire process. My experience with them has brought me to tears thinking about him enduring them during that time. I’ll explain it. Go to the bathroom, and go back and sit down. Now, get up and go every five minutes all day and all night because you feel like you have to go constantly. I’m not talking about the issues you have with a UTI. I’m talking about muscle contractions in the bladder that make you feel like you are about to burst. Suffer it out and let your bladder get full again, and it goes away. The discomfort you feel when you have to go really, really bad is far more preferable to the spasms. You will hold it until you look like one of the dancers from the River Dance when you finally make your way to the bathroom. 

I know I am forgetting things. I know I am. There is a lot to this joyous process, but my memory is fading. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m warning you because nobody warned me. Now, what was I saying?

Best Wishes,


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