I’ve been waiting for today for nearly five years. It has been a difficult journey to get here but my time has finally come and I’m excited, apart from the fact I haven’t been able to have a brew yet!
It’s quite a long story so I will try not to bore you with too many details…… it began in 2015. It may come as a shock to some, but I hated being pregnant, I felt ashamed that I felt like that, as there are so many people in the world who are desperate to carry a child. I knew I always wanted two children, but I’m probably in the minority when I say I didn’t really want to carry them for 9 months. I always worried that I wasn’t maternal. Don’t get me wrong, there was about six weeks in the middle of both of my pregnancies where I felt wonderful and glowing, I held on to that time, but it was very short lived.
The main reason was hormonal change, my body was never the same again.
Most of the time, I dislike it when people moan about how hard it is being a woman with periods, menopause, equality, women’s rights but sometimes it does feel really hard and evidently unbalanced. Motherhood is hard, equality in the workplace is hard, balancing career and family, housework, family and a social life is hard. I do however love my life and try and succeed in every area I can and teach my children that you can be whoever you want to be.
I’m very lucky, I was brought up to be a very independent and strong Woman. My role model is exactly that. My mum. She is mainly responsible for shaping my leadership skills, determination and stubbornness, and she came from a line of independent women that preceded her. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for her, my success, my strength, my family values.
The birth of my first child was quite traumatic. Following a very quick labour and birth and a failure to deliver my placenta, a spinal anaesthetic followed by a surgical manual removal. That definitely wasn’t in my birth plan!
There is no doubt, recollecting on that time, I suffered some post-traumatic stress, but through the beauty of the new-born haze, tiredness, feeding like a cow, cracked nipples, bleeding, piles, wearing Tena ladies and forgetting what day it is I worked hard to be as much as I could to everyone around me, who in turn supported me greatly in the ways they could. This is difficult to talk about when you are a first-time mother, for fear someone will label you with postnatal depression or that you are struggling to cope but actually it’s a very steep learning curve. Life is never the same again but in the most wonderful way.
Halfway through my pregnancy with my second child, I began to suffer a huge fear of giving birth for a second time as well coping with two children at home forever…………. I reached out to my midwife for help and underwent CBT for prenatal depression leading up to the birth.
As soon as I had given birth a second time, all the feelings of anxiety, stress and failure disappeared almost instantaneously. I questioned my hormone imbalance, but never followed through with it, as my hormones were unbalanced anyway due to having a baby.
Today’s researchers understand that postnatal depression is an imbalance of the hormones in the brain, but not just made up of the sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone.
With a busy life, two beautiful children, a successful career and loving husband and family, I went about my business visiting the GP intermittently for post birth related gynaecological issues. These included a prolapse, fibroids of varying sizes, lumpy breasts, that were now sadly hanging down to my knees and gradual weight gain……. motherhood is extremely attractive as you can tell. I am lucky to have a very understanding husband! Alongside this I began to suffer with brain fog, forgetting meetings and appointments. Anyone who knows me knows I live my life by making lists and being organised. I began to suffer with insomnia, I had uncontrollable anxiety, my periods came back like Niagara Falls and the pain was crippling to the point I started to faint, and I consider myself to have a very high pain threshold. I knew something just didn’t feel right.
In 2017 I was involved in a nasty car accident, it occurred at 8:00 AM in the morning, on my way to work with 13-month-old child in the back of the car. The policeman on the scene questioned whether I was trying to take my own life which has stuck with me ever since. This absolutely had never crossed my mind. This conclusion manifested due to the fact I had no radio, no phone, no distractions, yet I still managed to turn right into a line of traffic travelling at 60mph. Looking back, I put this incident down to uncontrollable hormones, brain fog, tiredness, stress levels, my strife to be the best, my highs, and my lows. It has taken a while to come to terms with that. It shocked me to think that something biological within my body could control my brain and I am always in control.
At my next appointment, I told my gynaecologist about my symptoms and told him that I was worried for my mental health and safety due to these symptoms. He was wonderful and instantly diagnosed me with PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder) or extreme PMS. These conditions are not the usual hormonal fluctuations felt by women during ovulation and the week preceding menstruation. These are severe symptoms and hormonal imbalances that affect every part of your life. Their peak is usually two weeks into the ovulation cycle and 7-10 days leading up to your period. Nearly two weeks out of every month I felt utterly dreadful and have done ever since, but life goes on, family goes on, social events go on and work goes on.
I joined some online support groups and realised I wasn’t the only woman in the world two have been diagnosed with this condition and began to look at some holistic treatments and over the counter medications to help. I underwent my first surgery two years ago to remove the lining of my womb, this was to help with some of the physical aspects of the condition. It was first time in years I didn’t have to carry three pairs of knickers and trousers with me to work. It was a relief as I was also prescribed medication to help balance the hormones and although I did start to feel some calming of my symptoms they still existed.
Eighteen months ago, I had another large fibroid make an appearance in my uterus. Fibroids are fed by hormonal release from the ovaries. This was the 3rd fibroid I’d had, but it had now rapidly grown to 12 centimetres in size. My hormones were clearly taking over my body. Being 35 years of age, the body still requires oestrogen and progesterone for bone health amongst other things.
My wonderful gynaecologist took the step to put me through chemical menopause with a monthly implant, this would reduce the size of the fibroid, turn off both my ovaries therefore reducing or stopping the amount of oestrogen and progesterone going around my body. At 35 years of age, I was required to have hormone replacement therapy to maintain good bone health amongst other things. The lack of research in levels of HRT in women that are pre-menopausal is lacking and therefore trial and error with regards to types and strengths, from patch to pill, from pessary to gel. Although switching my ovaries off made me feel energetic for the first time in years I was still under the constant battle of hormone replacement therapy and menopausal symptoms, hot flushes, weight gain, insomnia, dry skin, loss of libido, brain fog, irritability, acne, fatigue, anxiety, the vocal changes the list goes on.
Today, I am prepped and awaiting my Hysterectomy and Bilateral Salpingo Oophorectomy in the hope of a new lease of life. I understand that there are still going to be challenging times ahead, finding the correct balance of medications, for at least the next 20 years of my life, but it is completely worth it. I have a wonderful surgeon who has taken the time to listen to me and has not once diagnosed me with depression, even though over the years I have been rejected by an endocrinologist and several health professionals for the same thing.
I haven’t always enjoyed the experience, but I love my husband, my family and my babies. I am grateful every day to have been able to bear them myself, but I am relieved, excited and rejoicing today to be losing my feminine organs in the hope of a more productive life. Goodbye uterus, goodbye ovaries.
As per usual, I will use the research I have undertaken over the last few years along with my personal experience to apply to a PhD study about menopause and the voice.
As well as World Voice day, April is PMDD awareness month and is under diagnosed and under researched……. sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.