A surgical menopause is a menopause created by surgical removal of the ovaries. This is called an oophorectomy, not a hysterectomy, which is surgical removal of the uterus. This is different from a natural menopause in terms of it’s impact on the family for two reasons.
One, it is sudden. And two, it is accompanied by post-surgery recovery and the need for the body to heal from pre-existing medical conditions that made surgery a need.
Families often don’t realise that they need to make an effort to understand what menopause is. And also understand the impact of a surgical menopause and how the suddenness of this hits the woman going through it so hard, it can knock her flat if she doesn’t get help and support.
I write this post to reach out to women struggling after a surgical menopause. Every woman faces different challenges at this time. Experiences are varied and I am not a medical professional and therefore quite not the right person to talk about this in a general way.
So, I’ll talk about how I got my life back after my surgical menopause, and post links to articles that helped me. As I write this post, I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude to my doctor and surgeon, Dr. Meera Agarwal and her team. I cannot thank them enough.
(Dr. Meera Agarwal at Agarwal Nursing Home, Bandra West near St. Theresa’s High School).
Related post: Menopause – let education be the way to freedom
June 2016: Recovery
It’s over six weeks after I had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus, ovaries and cervix) for endometriosis and my doctor says I’m recovered and can get back to normal.
I feel happy, well and hopeful. It’s the first time in years I’m living without the on-off discomfort and pain, the irritable bowel syndrome, and side effects of hormone medication that are so much a part of endometriosis for many women. And that, I discovered over the years, many medical professionals do not really understand. But that’s a topic for another post.
I am grateful that I have, over the years, been able to find good, kind and caring doctors when I needed. Doctors who listen, understand, and make an effort to help their patients live and stay healthy.
This surgery was a decision I took time with. I have had medicated menopauses that were the standard treatment for endometriosis at that time, so I had some knowledge of the effects of menopause. That I approached it with a feeling of joy and hope, might tell you something of the struggles I lived with for 13 years before I took this decision.
So, I’m allowed now, to get back to normal. And I have to discover what normal means to me now.
Fifty percent still working,from The Local Bus
Running on hope and on faith.
July 2016: Getting back to normal
My husband had been on leave for 3 weeks to support me during and after surgery, and now, 3 months later, was back to a normal work life.
I went on leave for a month and resumed teaching after that. Working from home made that quite comfortable, and was quite nice actually. I didn’t need to worry about commuting and bumpy roads. I absolutely love teaching and it makes me happy, so getting back to work was great!
I had a maid who cooked for a while when my husband resumed work. She continued when I took over the cooking, chopping veggies, making chapatis, and helping with cleaning.
I had a tremendous amount of support and care at home, and over the phone with my mum, who talked me through this time of tremendous change. I am truly grateful to my wonderful husband, to my amazing mum, to family, my maid and friends for being there for me when I needed them most.
Now, it was time to move on. To let the support systems gradually ease, and to get back to my life. To somehow, find a balance that would help me work and manage my home and still have time to give in to extremely high level of tiredness and rest when I required. Until my body finally got the amount of rest it needed and moved on.
To a new normal. Yes, I’ll say it again a little louder A NEW NORMAL. It’s never going to be the same.
What my new normal means in 2020
I’m completely back to a new normal, so I can tell you what this means. Here’s a rough idea of what an average day looks like:
- 2 hours with online piano lessons plus 1 hour with lesson planning and asynchronous teaching – assessment of homework recordings.
- 4 to 5 hours on piano practise, a little daily writing, and study on topics like the subject of piano playing, teaching, communication, upgrading work related tasks to provide better quality, or any other subject I think is important. And teaching administration which includes responding to messages and calls from students.
- Dusting, mopping, cooking, other tidying and cleaning.
- Family phone calls that have taken the place of face-to-face meets due to covid19.
- Quick 15 minute shopping sprees downstairs when needed.
- And the things that are the most important to me, and help me keep all of this together – my daily yoga-cum-move-and-sing-to-music workout, meditation, and my diary.
- Hobbies. Some I spend time with daily and some weekly. I have many, but will name a few. Listening to music and podcasts. Reading. Looking up recipes for bread that I am never going to bake 🙂 Pulling out my sewing machine for alterations.
My greatest friend in times of need,from My Greatest Friend In Times Of Need
I talk to you, say what I please.
You help me out when times get tough,
You listen – never say you’ve had enough.
I actually achieve much more with my new normal, than I did with my old normal. But I work much less. This less, is actually my limit right now, even though I’ve long since recovered from the tiredness and gotten my energy level back.
Multi-Tasking A Lot Less
The extreme tiredness lasted a year after surgery for me. It’s different for every woman. It continued for another year, because our down-sizing and reorganization was just so much more work. What I haven’t got back even today, are the tremendously high multi-tasking skills I had pre-menopause.
Don’t get me wrong. I still score way above what I think would would be an average level of multi-tasking. It’s just that my earlier work-flow and the way I’d work was based on my ability to work with at-least 3 tasks simultaneously – erratically switching from one to the other depending on my thought process. THIS failed me now.
I needed to figure out how to fit in all the many things that I wanted to do with this new and reduced ability to multi-task. I think this was my greatest challenge.
It was our greatest challenge as a family, because the busy of today, and the gender roles that are needed to support the long commutes that are a part of work-life today, provide little space to support family at home on an average working day. Little time for those working outside the home to enjoy spending time in their home. And very little space to just BE.
9 to 5 equals 7 to 7,from This Busy
On days that are busy, they’re home after eleven.
Both of them work and their schedule’s real tight,
It’s what they expected, but this busy isn’t right.
We realized that this was something we wanted. For us. For me. And for family that was getting older.
And some things brought ease.
One. Splitting chores more equitably at home.
Frankly, this was only possible because of the new normal that is a part of work life for many these days. WORK FROM HOME!! I’m shouting it out, because it’s been wonderful despite the fact that many are screen tired and would rather work face-to-face.
Our maid did less work than earlier from 2017 onwards, as I’d started to get back to my usual routine of chores. Having her was a blessing and I used the time to work on the second thing that brought ease that I talk about later.
Because she’s like the bottom of the barrel that bears the pressure,from She’s The Bottom Of The Barrel
When it’s filled to the brim and there’s no ease or leisure.
The support for the busy of everyone else,
And when she’s not well, often the ONLY support for herself.
I hung on to my diary for dear life during those pre-lockdown years, to get time to re-organize. Scheduling chores on a daily basis and working like a well-oiled machine, that refused to quit even though it was croaking and groaning, and not quite able to cope. High multi-tasking was so natural to me, that I had to work at chore organization, to find a work flow with less multi-tasking that was now my happy place.
Work-from-home has gave us some breathing space in a life that had just gotten too fast paced for many families. It’s not been that way for many though. I think a different model suits different families, and I hope that this time pushes a move to hybrid work models that provides some flexibility to those that work well with it and to jobs that suit it.
I don’t wanna be the woman behind the man,from Wanna
let my dreams flow down the sink as I wash the pots and pans.
I don’t wanna be the woman who’s burning up inside,
and sees dirt in the smile of her sisters eyes.
We decided that the only way to have less cleaning was to downsize. Organize storage better. And have less to clean.
This was to have a HUGE benefit we hadn’t even thought of. It cut down time spent on kitchen chores to such an extent that our usually hopelessly untidy kitchen now always looks fairly clean, even after meals.
I search for the empty that lets me embracefrom I Search
the busy that fills me with joy.
I listen for spaces
for rests that give meaning
to music that plays to the mood that I’m feeling.
What the journey was like
The past few years have been really busy. Letting go of stuff means letting go of memories. And letting go of the sentiment attached to things that now, no longer have value can be hard.
Leaving the hit-miss-and-somehow-get-it-right way of home organization that worked so well for us for so many years, and embracing the work-less-and-get-more-done model meant instilling a small level of discipline in our lives, that we’d never ever had or needed.
It was a daily effort. It was challenging. And it was worth it!
Details on our journey to downsizing and a more minimal lifestyle with quick chores are posted at The Relaxed Housekeeping Challenge – a free downloadable set of challenges that anyone can use as a basis to craft their journey to minimal chores.
We now have more time for hobbies. Time to go for walks on weekends. And time to ourselves. Time for long family phone calls. And time to just BE.
Links with information on menopause from WebMD:
Fifty Shades of Menopause by Mickey Harpaz EdDC. This is the book that helped me be clearer about some of the issues around menopause. Please also check out my next post for more reading on menopause – link here.
Any medical links or references in this post are those that helped me be more informed when I spoke with my doctors, and are not a replacement for good medical support and advice.
The purpose of this post is to start conversations on this topic and help families understand the need support women during menopause. To support those women who have, in many cases been the support system for the full family, but don’t know how to get support for themselves.
To teach these women to speak out, communicate, and bring relief to their men who are worried and struggling to deal with the impact menopause has one them. Who are looking for ways to help and to care, and who might just not know how or what is needed.
Men and women who haven’t yet been on this journey long enough to know that it’s going to be ok. That it CAN be ok.
So, lets talk.