It was my birthday this week. Whoo-hoo!! In recent years I’ve tended to kick the backside out of a week long celebration. Last year I excelled myself and turned it into a year long event (it was a significant birthday so I figured that was ok).
Birthdays are a sensitive topic for some people. I’ve never really understood why to be honest. I’ve also not been able to pin point the exact age that it becomes an issue. As a kid you look forward to birthdays and getting older is exciting. There is an allure to being ‘grown up’. For some though it stops and the pursuit of youth becomes all consuming.
I remember watching TV when Natalie Imbruglia was advertising a well know skin care product. I became enraged when she said ‘facing your thirties?’ She was 28 at the time. ‘Are you kidding me? I’m still in my twenties and you’re saying I should be stressing about turning 30! P*** off Natalie!
At the time I only really thought of age in superficial terms. I had no real reason to think about it in any other way. I may or may not get married. I was pretty sure I wanted to have children but that could wait until I was ready. Being ready was loosely defined as finishing my Registrar training, getting a Consultant post and generally being settled. I was also pretty confident I would know when the right time would be.
What I would not know was that time would have other plans.
So I continued on – I got married, had a beautiful daughter and took up my Consultant post. I was 35.
Now anyone who has started a new job, especially at a higher level of seniority will know how stressful it can be. Every minor ailment gets put down to stress – headaches, insomnia, mood swings, an inability to conceive. This is what I believed and so I blindly continued with my personal mantra of ‘what will be will be’.
At age 38 I found myself crying uncontrollably at my desk at work over the most ridiculously insignificant thing. Feeling a mixture of embarrassment, frustration and lack of control I frogmarched myself to my GP.
I was diagnosed with Primary Ovarian Failure or Premature Menopause (honestly the mere mention of the phrase makes me shamefully recoil in horror).
After repeating the bloods my GP phoned me with the results to confirm the diagnosis. I went into all out fixing mode. I wanted referred to someone. I didn’t know exactly who or why but still, I should see someone about this surely?
I was told that there wasn’t any point and did I want to start HRT?
Eh, no – thank you very much! I want to have another baby. I want to know why this has happened. I want to know was it my fault? I want to know how to fix this. And no I do not want bloody HRT!
I was eventually referred to an amazing female Consultant in Glasgow. There was no changing the fact that I had shut up shop – I was technically the same age as a woman in her mid 50s physiologically speaking. This woman listened to me and answered my questions with enormous sensitivity.
Over the next year I made my peace with it. It turns out there is virtually no information out there for women <40yrs dealing with POI so I started a journal. While it was more for my own personal sanity I also wanted something I could refer back to for my friends in the future. Most importantly though I want to make future conversations with my daughter easier.
I did find the Daisy Network (@thedaisynet) very useful. I was however quite taken aback by the reaction Kirstie Allsopp received in this article. She came under fire a couple of years ago for her ‘anti feminist’ views on fertility.
I absolutely agree with her that these conversations are hard. However we need to be honest and educate young women about their own health and fertility.
So as I turn another year older I will continue to celebrate ageing in all its wonderful, wrinkly glory. Beyond the superficial however is a knowledge to be shared so that my daughter can make decisions like she has all the time in the world……