I’ve been reading the book What Fresh Hell Is This?: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and You.  Near the beginning the book was talking about how people compare peri/menopause to ‘reverse puberty’, while also explaining that it’s not exactly that either.

While sitting in bed reading about how going through peri means I’m supposed to be having all these different feelings and emotions and that’s perfectly normal, I had a flashback to similarly sitting in my bed as an young teenager, reading the puberty book of the time (I believe it was called The What’s Happening To My Body Book For Girls) which also assured me that I’m going to be having all these thoughts and feeling and that it’s perfectly normal.  After reading that book enough times I would find myself thinking, but I’m *not* having all these weird thoughts and feelings so now I’m worried that I’m not normal.

Unlike puberty, no one sits you down in a gender segregated class and tells you what to expect to happen in the next couple years.  It seems like as an adult you’re expected to figure it all out yourself.  Am I in perimenopause?  I’m the right age but I’m also not having those Thoughts and Feelings.

Here is what I do know:

– At 39 I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure.  The reproductive endocrinologist who diagnosed me was surprised that I wasn’t having any symptoms, but supposedly I should have been experiencing early menopause already.

– I take birth control, skipping the placebo pills to permanently suppress my period.  If I miss a day (sometimes even by 12 hours) I’ll start experiencing breakthrough bleeding and generally feeling crappy and crampy for the next week as my body tries to have a period, reminding me of why I tend to avoid doing so at all costs.

– I’ve had random night sweats – waking up both covered in sweat and freezing cold if touched by the air outside my blankets – with no rhyme or reason to when or why it happens.  This is the most authentic symptom.

– Along with the night sweats I’ve noticed a new smell to my sweat.  Not a BO smell, which comes from bacteria interacting with sweat, but my actual sweat now has a distinct smell.  I’m not a fan, although it’s not so much that it’s unpleasant as it is out of place.  (Sort of like my gray hairs.)

Hormones are strange.

I know that making a statement on how long it’s been since the last post is the most cliche blog thing ever, but still I am truly in awe at the passage of time.

I quit my job, now over a year ago.  That puts it at just over two years after things went off the rails with COVID, including the nightmare year trying to work remotely full time at my part time job while simultaneously trying to supervise remote school for a kid who would later be diagnosed with ADHD.  (Knowing that would have made it make more sense but not necessarily go any better.)

I still sometimes feel what I call the Ghost of Anxiety Past, especially during holidays or special occasions, when I remember how I would never be able to completely relax and leave work behind.  There would always be something more to do, something to worry about, something unresolved, something potentially having gone terribly wrong, something forgotten and remembered in a panic.

I remember reading once where someone was talking about how to balance work and family life as having to juggle too many balls.  Some are bigger and some smaller, some are made of glass and some are plastic, and the trick is knowing which ones are okay to drop.  Well this analogy made me realize that my job alone felt like juggling hundreds of tiny glass balls.  Nothing was allowed to be dropped.  Even after I quit my boss said he didn’t know how I had been doing it all.  (“You should have said something.”  Well, I know how that would have gone…)

This particular ghost anxiety does continue to lessen over time.  I also remember reading somewhere that burnout, true burnout, takes years to recover from and not just a two week vacation.  So that’s helped me feel justified in not jumping right into my next plan of going back to school after taking that first summer “off”. 

Addendum to the above: I realized I may have been having hot flashes occasionally and not realizing that’s what they were.  I’d say it can’t be that bad if I didn’t even know, but the book also assured me that just because it’s not bad now doesn’t mean it won’t be bad later.

Full disclosure: I actually finished and returned the book to the library back in June and it just takes me an absurdly long time to finish writing something.  I sometimes think of all the stories of parents getting diagnosed with some kind of neurodivergency after their kids and wonder… but that would be a whole new topic wouldn’t it?

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This is going to sound sad. I promise I’m not sad. But the words came into my head last night and I’m obligated to write them down.

In my large mental archive of blog posts to be written, I was once going to write about how Second Baby was bound to be the complete opposite of First Baby.

To start with, she (she would be a she) would be an ugly baby.
Of course we’d be blinded to that fact as parents, but when the nurses come in and start saying things like “Oh, look at those little toes,” we’ll start to get the feeling that something is up.

Well it turns out that Second Baby is in fact as opposite as possible from Cameron, because he exists and she doesn’t.

And the nurses really did tell me when Cameron was born that they don’t lie about your baby being cute. They just find something else to comment on, like those little toes.

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In the locker room at the Y a girl asked me to help fasten her swimming suit (which I did) and put on her swim cap (which I did). Then she asked me, excitedly, “Do you have a *baby*?”

“No, just that one,” I said pointing at the four year-old in the shower.

I assume she thought I was pregnant. Luckily I’ve actually trained myself out of being embarrassed by that misconception, by mentally turning it around to a ‘How embarrassing that must be for *you* to have made such a major social faux pas!’

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Thursday morning, Cameron wanted pancakes for breakfast. I figured I could make him some while waiting for my video appointment to start, but first I had to check how many eggs we had left. Five eggs, enough for any amount of pancakes plus maybe some chocolate chip cookies before needing a trip to the store. The doctor was ultimately a half hour late. I get the feeling she doesn’t tend to be very punctual, but I still have to appreciate being able to follow up from home this time without needing to line up a babysitter.

After the appointment I kept telling myself, ‘Don’t post on Facebook, no matter how clever you think you are being, it’ll just make people uncomfortable.’

“Well, apparently I have enough eggs to make pancakes, but not another baby.”

The diagnosis is Premature Ovarian Failure.

She said she wanted to follow up again in a couple weeks, to give the diagnosis time to sink in. But I had already known since my last appointment, a week before, when she told me that was her concern. My hormone levels, LH and FSH, were unnaturally high and not only that, high in the wrong order. Another ultrasound confirmed that I still haven’t ovulated, while I haven’t had a period in three months and counting. Awesome, if not for the whole trying to get pregnant thing.

And while she kept asking if I had any questions, she wouldn’t talk about next steps until it was confirmed, so of course I did all the googling throughout the week. Now she asks, “How do you feel about using a donor egg?” If money were no object that almost sounds ideal – the baby wouldn’t have to be stuck with my bad genetics. “How do you feel about adoption?” That’s complicated, but we’ve decided against it for a number of reasons. “How do you feel about embryo adoption?” I didn’t know that was a thing, but I’m intrigued. But (again the googling) it turns out that despite selling itself as the cheaper option, it can still cost in the ‘down payment on a house’ range.

Ultimately money is an object, a big one. It just makes no sense for us to follow that path and so Cameron is fated to be an only child.

In that week between knowing and it becoming official my brain was constantly fighting with itself, trying to come to an absolute about how I felt. Pros and cons. Meanwhile there was recently a Daniel Tiger episode about feeling two feelings at once which is applicable to many situations. Sometimes it helps to talk to yourself like a toddler:

It’s okay to have feelings about this.

It’s okay to have conflicting feelings.

It’s okay to want one thing even when the outcome is the other.

It’s okay to be sad about that fact.

And part of me is relieved. Part of me feels guilty for being relieved.

Pros and cons. The pros are numerous but the cons weigh more heavily.

But in the end it wasn’t my choice.

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Seriously, body?

My period is due, oh about now, and instead I get fertile signs and a positive ovulation test.

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The last doctor – the one I had an appointment with to find why I wasn’t getting pregnant when it turns out I was already pregnant, but failed to stay pregnant – ultimately referred me onto another specialist right away. I put off making that appointment because the web site was pretty intimidating, talking about IVF when I haven’t so much as had someone do blood tests and make sure my hormone levels are in check and other things – I don’t know what things but I know there are things to be checked before making that kind of leap. But I eventually set up the phone consultation and found out that we’re on the same page about checking “things” as the first step. I don’t know what the second step is since I’ve always seen it as an either/or – either I get pregnant and we have another baby or I can’t get pregnant at all.

We have an appointment next week. “We” because she prefers to see both of a couple. I like her style and that she plans to do all the things in one big appointment, including a sperm analysis for Andrew and ultrasound for me, because no one has time to come in over and over. The email originally had the wrong date and I’m glad that got that figured out when Andrew had to call about his part, because showing up on the wrong day would have been even more awkward than showing up already pregnant.

So, this is my last chance to have an “oops, guess we don’t need that appointment after all”. I’ve been amazed at my patience this time since I usually can’t help testing early but this time around I managed to wait until this morning to find out that I’m still not pregnant.

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Future Hypothetical Second Baby’s code name is now officially ‘Cameron II’.

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Having dealt with depression doesn’t make it any easier to talk to someone else who’s depressed. If anything it’s harder because I already know all of the usual platitudes are worthless, leaving nothing to say at all.

I am also almost certain that Cameron is going to have some kind of mental illness to deal in the future given his family history. So while I feel like I can be properly empathetic, I have no idea what to actually say to a crying teenager who feels like the world is ending.

Or, as it turns out, a crying threenager.

Cameron got upset because he thought that Andrew was going to sleep on top of him while making the bed. It carried over into bedtime and there was a lot of “I’ll always feel like this, forever.” and similar lines that make you want to laugh and break your heart at the same time.

I’m 95% sure it was all made-up melodrama and bedtime stalling at this point, but it’s still important to me to acknowledge and respect all of his feelings. The other 5% is me wondering if the surgery is finally getting processed in his mind since his recovery has otherwise been almost too perfect.

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So ‘mom ears’ are definitely a thing. I didn’t wake up to Andrew’s alarm clock yesterday morning, didn’t even realize it had gone off. I didn’t wake up to him getting out of bed. I did instead wake up to a tiny click of a door handle, and thinking it was Cameron, I was ready to jump out of bed to make sure he didn’t get into any food or water before his surgery. Then I heard shower starting noises and saw that Andrew wasn’t in bed next to me.

We woke Cameron up about 6am. I was expecting it to be a struggle but he got up cheerfully asking, “Now?” And then, “Next stop: pee stop!” as he made us wait to take off his pull-up. We only had to get him up to put shoes and socks on and get in the car so I told him he could go back to sleep in the car. He said he would, but instead pointed out different kinds of lights and told us how he thought things work for most of the drive to Bellevue, while I soaked up the Cameron-ness of it all.

I am continually amazed at this kid… he’s so excited about new people and new experiences. He wanted to head straight for the play area but we had to check in first. At the ER putting a hospital bracelet on him was another fight so I warned him about that part ahead of time. He said he only wanted to wear one – I’m not sure why there would be more than one in the first place – but putting only one on him was no problem.

Then he got to play, both in the play area and with the Wii U that was in the waiting room, until it was time. He stood on the pictures of the feet to check his height and weight, and got on the table to have his blood pressure taken. It wasn’t until the mask came out that things got scary.

The anesthesiologist asked me if I had ever seen a child going under before (no) and warned me that it can be freaky. There wasn’t really time to get Cameron used to the idea (although it’s probably not something he’d ever be ready for on his own without forcing it a bit anyway) before they put the mask on his face while I helped hold his hands. Holding a mask over a crying child’s face until they fall asleep feels like something right out of a horror movie, and it seemed to me like he was crying the whole time, even after he was out. I laid him down, tucked his mouse under his arm, and kissed his hands.

We were led to the consultation room to wait, and then allowed to grab Starbucks from the first floor. The surgery was only supposed to take about 45 minutes so we were over-prepared with things to pass the time while not actually wanting to do anything thought-intensive so we just set up a couple Pokemon lures while drinking our drinks.

The doctor came back to tell us everything had gone well and exactly as expected. I thought we were going to be with Cameron when he woke up but that’s not how it actually went. A bit later we were told to pick up his prescriptions (various painkillers) and then go to see him. A nurse was holding the crying Cameron who transferred to my arms. He was crying and shaking but this was actually easier for me now to be able to mother as a verb. The nurse kept telling me this was all normal for coming out of anesthesia and I said he doesn’t even wake up from naps well…

We had left him in pajamas but they had put him in a little hospital gown. We helped him get dressed and he sounded like our Cameron again when he corrected the nurse, though still crying, that they’re not PJ’s, they’re jammies. (Or was it pajamas? Definitely not PJs though.) He had been given some kind of spinal block so he wouldn’t be in pain for a while but not able to walk on his own either. I carried him to the car and rode in the back seat at his request.

At home he wanted to be put at his table, then migrated to my lap on the floor, and finally to the couch to start his binge on Doc McStuffins. At one point he asked me for his red popsicle (I knew well enough to take home his hospital snacks and drinks that he refused at the time because he would be asking for them later) and got up to get it. That’s when both of us likely realized that he could walk normally again.

From that point on you’d never guess he had been cut open hours earlier. He even asked to go to the playground in the afternoon. We vetoed day-of-surgery playground but instead he scootered to Safeway and back. Our big concern is that he’s overdoing it and going to be in pain later, but he slept through the night and woke up this morning without complaint.

If anything it’s making it difficult to allow the weekend in front of the TV we planned to allow him when he doesn’t act like he needs to be spending the day on the couch.

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I realized yesterday my anxiety about Cameron’s surgery has become an official issue, the kind that would benefit from professional help, if the whole thing wasn’t going to be over sooner than I would be able to make an appointment. So instead I’m indulging my fears in private, and being calm in front of Cameron (because for real, there’s nothing to worry about, not even the needle that’s been his concern because they won’t put an IV in until he’s asleep.)

I’ve also dealt with it by making sure he’s had an eventful week full of bunnies and bouncy houses, preschool playdates and adventure. He’s even gotten to go to the top of the space needle!

Next week he’ll pretty much get all the cartoons he can stand.

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