Most women have no clue what our bodies can and cannot do. 

I was never taught that my body would turn on me at the drop of a dime as soon as I celebrated a certain age — 39, to be exact. I had zero understanding of all that I began experiencing until I started doing research on my own. It is baffling and utterly mind-blowing the changes a woman must go through in order to feel settled and secure in the body she carries.

I wish someone would have said to me when I was in my 20s, “Listen, baby girl . . . now that you’ve reached this age, let me tell you what to expect when you get to your late 30s and early 40s. The proverbial shit will hit the fan, and everything you have become familiar with on and in your body will change in such a drastic way, you will not recognize it.”

But no one did, so here we are.

And here is an okay place to be, don’t get me wrong, but I just wish I had more tools prior to this here, so that I would have been fully prepared for it.

Perimenopause And Me

Most of us, as women, have not been raised knowing all our bodies will go through. Most of us have no clue what our bodies can and cannot do. We are not given a manual to guide us through the several phases we will experience. Perimenopause is a phase in my life with which I was not familiar until my former primary care physician diagnosed me with it on a cloudy Thursday morning almost four years ago.

Perimenopause means “around menopause” and refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years. Perimenopause is also called the menopausal transition. 

I expressed to her most of the symptoms I experienced during my annual exam at that time, and she so keenly said to me, “Tre, it sounds like you are going through perimenopause.”

I am almost certain the look I shot her could slice through cold meat because I had been hit with a term I had not encountered before. Menopause? Yes. But perimenopause? No.

What is this thing and why did it decide to greet me with:

  • Mood swings
  • Irregular periods
  • Changes in bowel and bladder habits
  • Lowered libido

Women start perimenopause at different ages. You may notice signs of progression toward menopause, such as menstrual irregularity, sometime in your 40s. But some women notice changes as early as their mid-30s. 

So, if this was going to be a new phase in my life with which I’d have battles with my body — I had to know how to prepare for it. And, nearly four years later, I am still perplexed.

My experience with my body is this: as soon as I feel like I have a new transition mastered, another one presents itself. Mood swings under control — hello, irregular periods. Prepared for the out-of-the-blue bleeding frenzy — hi, there, bladder issues! Feeling my way around understanding leaky bladders and watching my water intake, and boom — decreased sex drive. Learning to deal with a decreased sex drive . . . learning to deal with a decreased sex drive . . . learning to deal with — I’m still working on this one.

Perimenopause will be with me for at least six to 10 more years, so I am allowing it to set up shop as cozily as I can, and diving into the knowledge I need for it as we move through the future together.

Sex Education Was a BLIP in Time When I Was 13 Years Old

Sex Ed was a brief class taught by my physical education teacher when I was 13 years old. We watched a film; she handed out some pamphlets, condoms, and advised us to adhere to the information discussed in the video.

That class was a blip in time, and it did not go into depth about the changes I would experience as a woman or any changes my male classmates would go through as they aged into men.

Our parents gave this person permission to “teach us” about sex. However, we had no clue what to do with our bodies. We did not know how to change with our bodies and how this would affect our sexual partners.

What she gave us was a semi-masterclass on what we should do with our vaginas and penises and how to protect ourselves. No one said, “But when you get older, all of this could change. Your body will become something different and you will not know it anymore.”

Many of us have grown up floundering around sex and picking and choosing partners to aid and guide us because we literally still do not know what to do with our rapidly and constantly changing bodies.

Every Day Is a Step Forward on an Interesting Journey

Perimenopause is a marathon, not a sprint. I have on my best running shoes, and I am prepared for the long haul. I know I may experience some additional symptoms, and I am getting ready for them.

I will allow time to understand each one as each makes its way into my life, and I will not hurry through the process. There is a plethora of information at our disposal now — there is no excuse to not know what this body I carry is doing and how it is changing me as it changes.

I monitor my moods. Self-care is something I practice. I visit my primary care physician twice a year. The conversations I have with the men and women I intend to build an intimate relationship with typically begin with them knowing where I am in life and how I am moving through this phase (i.e., I’m not your 20-something overly sexually hyped woman). I’m more of a slow crawl into intimacy, but can be charged up with the right approaches.

Every day with this body I carry is a step on an interesting journey. And I am here for it — I am here for all of it.

Tremaine L. Loadholt has been published in literary journals, anthologies, and magazines. She also has three poetry books: Pinwheels & Hula Hoops, Dusting for Fingerprints, and A New Kind of Down. She’s the editor and owner of A Cornered Gurl via Medium. Find her at A Cornered Gurl, Medium, and Instagram.