By Contributing Writer, Terry Covey
A Variety of Suffering
This month’s topic on suffering makes me feel a bit odd writing about menopause. There is the intense suffering that comes from the loss of a loved one, such as in the Connecticut shootings. And I have watched several family and friends deal with the incredible pain of losing loved ones recently. I don’t think anything compares to that type of suffering. But, menopause, and the infertility that comes alongside this physical phenomena, result in their own form of pain and affliction. They result in another type of finality.
Each ‘ending’ in our life, whether it be a person or a season, is used by God for His perfect result. We go through periods of suffering that are completely varied in appearance and severity. Some are intense and painful, while others are slow and steady. And those who are in menopause can certainly attest to the confusion, pain, and mixed emotions that accompany this change, along with the knowledge that their childbearing years are over.
A Long Season of Change
I won’t belabor the point by sharing the minute details of my pre and post menopause, but suffice it to say, it’s been a long, long season! It’s been over ten years since I began feeling the symptoms such as hot flashes, irregular cycles, confused thinking, and miscarriages. Although I’ve been completely in menopause (no menstrual cycles) for over three years, I still suffer from hot flashes and diminished cognitive processes. Yep, it’s been a long haul. And it feels even longer when I’ve had friends who speed through it in a year or so, with little or no symptoms! But we are each different and must accept what ‘the change’ will mean to us!
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—A time to give birth and a time to die…..
I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot. For who will bring him to see what will occur after him? Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 22
The Real Trial
Now this little synopsis of my physical life in my forties and fifties is just the tip of the iceberg of what I’m writing about! The real trial for me in dealing with menopause has been the adjustment to not being able to bear more children. Now, for some of you, those days of hoping to have a little reprieve from the demands of pregnancy, sleepless nights, and ‘baby fat’ may seem too far off to even hope for. But believe me, that time comes, oh, so quickly and before you know it, there are no more babies to cuddle; no more sweet-smelling newborns to hear squirming next to you in the middle of the night. Yes, I know, we still have our snoring husbands, but somehow that’s just not the same!
Those who are ‘moms of many’ will understand me when I say, ”It’s just who we’ve become.” It’s where we’re most comfortable, and we’ve come to love and cherish having little ones under foot, not to mention, in our arms. And now those arms are mostly empty, and the ache is felt rather strongly some days. It’s like an addiction to being truly needed. And I relished it!
My youngest is going on eleven as I write this. So for several years I’ve had the adjustment of not being needed like I used to be. I don’t wake to a hungry baby, or hear a toddler crying for momma, or even a little one calling out “wipe me!” My children mostly can take care of themselves, but praise God for my younger crew. Without them, I think I’d go crazy without their hugs and ‘show-and-tells’!
I know, I know – you all are thinking my “diminished cognitive processes” are catching up with me! That I’ve forgotten how much work these little ones create. Oh, I do remember, each and every time my grandchildren come to visit! But this ‘not-being-needed thing’ is enough to wipe out any harried memory of those busy, busy times! I really do miss it.
Transition and Change
The good Lord blessed me with nine healthy pregnancies and births before my first miscarriage. That was the first sign of what was to come. I was blessed to deliver my last son before I had two more miscarriages. This ended my fertile years, and it was a blow to my picture of life as I knew it. I view these years as the easing out of my old role.
I was a busy mother. I was pregnant every two years. I was usually nursing a babe. I was needed to orchestrate the chaos of a family of twelve. I was living in a house full of little children, all in the differing stages of growth and development. I was……but that was only for a season. A new season was on the horizon.
This set the stage for a need to discover my new identity, my new ‘place’ in this world. The ‘new’ Terry. The me who didn’t have a baby on her hip. Or who didn’t need to store maternity clothes or nursing pads for next year . Someone who could go out with her husband and not worry about when the next nursing was due. Someone who wasn’t needed all the time!
Again, I know most of you are thinking, “This woman is crazy!” But I’m for real. And I know others are feeling or will feel what I am writing here. Change is hard. And change after twenty five years is even harder. Now I understand what a man must feel when he retires. It’s the rediscovery of who we are in our new environment.
The Menopause Journey
So this has been my journey in the last five years. One of discovery. Finding myself in new territory. Adjusting to the new role of being a Grandmomma. It hasn’t been a smooth transition, and it’s taken time. But I’m beginning to love it!
I have more time on my hands, and yet less at the same time. When children grow up and begin to leave home, time is not your own anymore. Your schedule as a support person and grandmother is decreed by their days off work, their pregnancies, and their schedules. Flexibility is key.
Yes, flexibility was needed when my own little ones were underfoot, and yet, I led the pack. I decided what we did and when we did it. That is not the case anymore. Somehow I must balance my needs, along with managing our own home, all the while keeping my older children’s and their family’s schedules and needs important. So I have more time, yet I have less time. Maybe it’s that I have less choice. I can’t run the show like I used to. And for all points, that’s a very good thing.
And come to think of it – God used my many children to humble me. (Well, okay – I’ll insert a caveat for my children’s benefit – I was still pretty proud!) And He is using these menopausal, non-fertile years to humble me and keep me pliable. He does use everything to bend our knee, doesn’t He?!
Reaping The Benefits of Menopause
So what has this season of suffering through menopause reaped in my life? -
- I’m learning all sorts of new character, like patience, humility, flexibility, loving-kindness, generosity, and more.
- I’m finding that my walk with God is purer and less entangled.
- I can’t cover my weaknesses with my busyness and micro-managing.
- I’m learning to lean on God more and my family less.
- And I see that God in His infinite wisdom has laid out a plan for life that weaves a beautiful tapestry out of all the stages of our lives!
I now see that although I’m not needed for those runny noses and scraped knees (although my ten year old is testing me on that one!) yet, I am still needed. Just in different ways. I’m still needed to encourage my older children in their marriages and parenting. I’m still needed to offer tips that I’ve learned over the years, and share my failures with them in the hopes they can avoid those same mistakes. I’m still needed to be there to simply lighten their load.
No, I no longer have my own babies to snuggle with at night – but when my kids visit, they’re so kind as to send their little ones in to see Granddad and Grandmomma – and we get the joy of snuggles again! So the finality of menopause and the end of childbearing is quiet an adjustment. But it is also the beginning of a new season of growth - and we can trust God through it all!