The letter I can no longer wait to write

Vweta
Posted March 7, 2018 from United Kingdom

The awakening

A few weeks ago, Women’s Hour, a BBC Radio four programme dedicated a week to discussing the menopause.

I remember waking up each morning, anxious for when the programme will come on air as women from all works of life, experts on the menopause called in, texted, emailed about their knowledge or lack thereof of the menopause.

I was gutted.

This is the United Kingdom, many were educated women,some holding executive positions in their respective fields, yet with so little or no knowledge about their bodies and how it is changing with age.

With each passing day, I began to feel as though my heart was being wrenched from my chest, and I would be filled with regret and with shame. No one, no woman should ever go through this without being prepared, without being aware and without someone to stand by them.

I thought about my mother. My heart sank a few feet more. Oh mother, what have I done?

I am enveloped by shame, pain, regret and a flicker of hope. Hope that menopausal women are not witches as we’ve been taught to believe all our lives in Nigeria, hope that I can still make things right with my mother and hope that there is a low hanging, inexpensive solution to this problem.

Can you forgive me, mother?

For my insensitivity?

I have been thinking, mama, about when you may have first experienced the first signs of the menopause, somehow, I feel it may have been in 2004, about the same time daddy was murdered right in front of you, and when I had those first surgeries that changed our lives forever, not because of any particular reason except your age.

Or was it earlier? I have now read that women can fall pregnant even when they become perimenopausal. Oh, how that must have felt. Losing your husband that way and your body going through all those changes. Were you scared? Were you lonely? Did you know what was happening? How did you feel?

For my lack of understanding?

I recall in 2006, how I made you cry. I had just had my fifth surgery in Johannesburg, I was cold, in pain. It was in the middle of the winter. You opened my hospital room window a tiny bit just to let some fresh air in, and I yelled at you and immediately you started crying. I didn’t understand why. And I won’t pretend I now know why. But I am sorry. I should have been more respectful, I should have reached out to you and apologised and told you I love you and that I was sorry.

Was that the hot flush – described by the National Health Scheme (NHS) website as sudden short feelings of heat, usually in the upper body?

For not noticing you are struggling, that you were changing and for not taking the pain to reach out to you, reach out to others or do simple inexpensive research about what you might have been going through.

When I was a child and even as a teenager, I could never keep up with you. You were always a good distance ahead of me. Those times now seem like aeons of years ago. Things have gone the other way. You are always struggling to catch up with me when we go for walks.

I haven’t treated you with the kindness or patience you deserve neither have I thought about why you complain about your joints. Instead, I have encouraged you – in not so supportive language to reduce your portions and change your diet, walk faster, I’d almost angrily say.

NHS UK reports that stiffness, aches and pains In the joints are to be expected due to hormonal changes.

For not even making an effort to support you.

Mom, there is research and research that says that you are not crazy or irrational. That what you experienced and may still be experiencing is normal and it doesn’t have to be that bleak. With correct information, support and medical intervention, it can be an exciting transitional period of every woman’s life.

Mother, can you forgive me?

We are half the world!

Women makeup half the world’s population. Not every woman will choose motherhood, not every woman will have kids but every woman will experience the menopause, with a suspected 1 in 100 experiencing an early menopause by age 40.

According to a Comres poll commissioned by the BBC on the menopause:

  • 48% of women reported that their mental health suffered;
  • 72% didn’t have a strong understanding of what was happening to them;
  • 70% didn’t tell their employers and didn’t want to talk about it;

The dearth of information about it is stifling. It’s never portrayed in films, or music or books or arts, and when it creeps through, it’s sparse and cryptic. It is as though the world is trying to will us into oblivion, push us up against the wall and get us into perpetuating the ideas that we are unstable and overly emotional and paranoid, unfit to be among stable humans.

The economic impact of this is staggering. According to Dr Louise R Newson's website, around 3.5million women over 50years are currently in employment in the UK, and since women now represent almost half the UK labour force, they, their families and their work are impacted by the symptoms of their menopause on a daily basis.

Why are we not starting a revolution about it?

Why do we allow our mothers and grandmothers die silently or being accused of witchcraft over something entirely natural and inevitable?

No more taboos

Mother, we’ve never really learned to talk, to communicate, you and I.

Can we be friends?

Is it too late to start over?

I want to go back. Can we go to a place where there are no taboos or off topics? A place we talk about even the most contentious subjects with love, compassion and respect?

I want to know about everything. I want to love you through everything, I want to cry with you, laugh with you, hold space with you while we try make sense of what is happening.

Shall we start again?

I want to go back to the time I suspect the menopause hit you, No. I want to go back before then,

I want us to talk about it years before it happens,  And I want to hold you through everything you feel when it comes. I want to remind you you are not crazy. That this will happen to half the world's population.

And even now I am scared.

I fear I could never repeat the suggestions experts on the BBC Radio Four Womens Hour programme proffered. How can I tell you that lubricating your vagina might help with some symptoms? Or that masturbation could stop vaginal atrophy? How can I ask about your libido?

But do you see, mother, that this is not just about you, it is also about me. Can you see that though you’ve chosen a different path in life, so that these solutions may not be applicable to you because of the choices you’ve made, it doesn’t mean I have to be like you? Can you see I want to know all about your experiences – what worked, what didn’t so that I can be armed and prepared for when my time comes?

Did you know about your mothers experience with the menopause? Such treasure trough of knowledge that has been lost. Lets not make that same mistake again with us?

We are not witches or irrational or freaks.

Simple solutions to simple problems

The biggest problem is not that these changes are occurring to our bodies, but it is that we haven’t shown a commitment towards finding solutions to them because of the taboo undertone associated with the woman body.

Simple solutions such as menopause clinics/surgeries where women can get information about the menopause, what changes their bodies are going through, what changes and adjustments they need to make to ease the transition, would go a long way.

Dr Louise Newson, while speaking on the Women’s Hour programme shared the relief many women felt when they discovered at her menopause clinic for the first time they were neither crazy nor depressed. That all of the anxiety and mood swings they were experiencing were explainable and could greatly improve with medical  intervention. Above all, just knowing this is natural and by sitting in fellowship with other women would be such a huge step towards destigmatizing the menopause.

It is time to #PressforProgress.

I want to start a movement in your name, and raise some hell dust about the menopause so that women and everyone will have information plastered on their palms.

If not for anything but to prevent other women being accused of witchcraft due to lack of information.

Will you come on this journey with me,  mother?

Will you be #SilenceBreakers with me?

 

This post was submitted in response to You Are a Silence Breaker..

Comments 57

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MagiOriah
Mar 07
Mar 07

Thank you for sharing this powerful piece of caring and connection for your mother.

Vweta
Mar 08
Mar 08

Dear Magioriah,

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and for your uplifting comment.

As we celebrate #IWD today, may our love and compassion towards ourselves and others only grow.

In Solidarity,
V

Tamarack Verrall
Mar 07
Mar 07

Oh dear Vweta,

This is such a myth breaking, honouring, culture shifting cry out for change. Most importantly it is the most beautiful call of love for you as a daughter reaching out to your mother before it is too late. It is also such a change-making call-out for all of the women in communities that label old women, women who are post-menopausal as witches, as crazy, as discardable, as worth nothing. I wish deeply that you have the chance to talk about this with your mother. i was clueless myself as my mother went through menopause, but she was never pushed aside as a witch or as useless. I was lucky when I reached that age to be in a circle of women who researched, as you have just done. We created our own ceremonies and honoured women as we each came into our menopause, emerging through an extraordinary experience, more difficult for some than others, into what we call our Crone (Old Woman) years. We researched the herbs that make teas that ease the hot flashes, which we renamed "power surges". The ridicule and dismissal of old women, just at the moment that we begin to understand our lives on a different level, is still universal. 'We cannot have children, therefore we are excess baggage'. Being aware that you are facing a norm of accusing women of being witches (which ironically means wise woman) I am so moved that you will be addressing this where you find it to be continuing, and especially hope that you are able to hold your mother and love her for her menopause journey. Thank you so much for this story.

With love in sisterhood,
Tam

Vweta
Mar 08
Mar 08

Dear Tam,

Thank you for taking time out to read my story, and for your kind words that I find both encouraging and phenomenal.

Phenomenal in the ways you and your community of women owned/are owning this period of transitioning and have transformed it into a positive experience with ceremonies to mark the journey.

I also like the non medical approach you are taking, which I believe helps destigmatize the experience, as I fear our bodies and experiences as women are increasingly becoming overly-medicalized.

There is somuch wisdom that can be harnessed from women in their crone years. Such wisdom we cast aside and loose when we dismiss perimenopoausal, menopausal and post-menopausal women as "excess baggage".

And Power surges, instead of hot flashes!!! Wow!!

Thank you again Tam, for sharing this wisdom.

In Solidarity,
V

Pollyanna
Mar 07
Mar 07

Ah Vweta, you have made me think so deeply about my own mother and how I was (angry teenager) during her menopause. And about how little understanding there is about menopause even today. I feel angry about the taboo as I start my own menopause journey. I want all of us to rise up and speak about our experiences of menopause, of our mother's experiences, of our grandmother's experiences. It is wisdom to be shared. Thank you for speaking out about this. xx

Vweta
Mar 08
Mar 08

Dear Pollyanna,

Thank you for reading my story.

It is comforting to know I wasn't the only one who due to misunderstanding and lack of knowledge acted in ways that am not so proud of.

It is even more comforting and reassuring to hear your commitment to rattling the status quo as you begin you own journey. We need to tap into the wisdom of those before us so that we may leave wisdom for those behind us.

May the road rise to meet you.

In Solidarity,
V

Jensine Larsen
Mar 07
Mar 07

This is an aching cry - it crosses so much territory -- memories, health, ties, and cries from daughters to mothers. You have a true gift with your storytelling Vweta. Thank you.

Vweta
Mar 08
Mar 08

Dear Jensine,

Thank you for taking the time to read my story, and for your kind words.

Indeed, the menopause cuts across almost all spheres. Which is another reason why it should be destigmatized and celebrated as a beautiful transitioning period that it truly is.

Imagine if it is taught in schools? And girls and boys grew up knowing about this natural phase in everywomans journey?

That time will be born in our time!

In Solidarity,
V

Aunty Quack
Mar 08
Mar 08

Much love to you and your mother. No, We are not witches or crazy. You are right, there is too little information freely available about this important topic. We women should definitely all talk to each other about these things more often and learn to hear each other with compassion.

Vweta
Mar 08
Mar 08

Dear Aunty Quack,

Thank you for your comment.

Indeed, we are neither crazy nor witches, and like your comment suggest, only freely available correct information can dispel these myths.

Love, compassion and kindness will go a long way towards encouraging more women to share more openly.

In Solidarity,
V

Lily Habesha
Mar 08
Mar 08

Oh Dear,
This a very beautiful story.
What else you don't mention on it? You have touched almost every part of womanhood, the cry of many others.

Thank you

Lily

Vweta
Mar 08
Mar 08

Dear Lily,

Thank you for taking time out to read this. Indeed, I have found it is almost impossible to discuss issues we face as women without touching on almost everything else.

We are all connected in many ways more than one.

In Solidarity,
V

Veronica Ngum Ndi
Mar 08
Mar 08

Oh my God Lily,
What an inspirational letter.Its not just for you but for all women.Thank you for writing to us all

In Sisterhood
Veronica

Vweta
Mar 08
Mar 08

Dear Veronica,

Thank you for reading my story. Kind words like yours are what propels me to speak out.

I am happy you found it inspirational.

Happy #IWD.

In Solidarity,
V

donna_3
Mar 08
Mar 08

Dear Vweta,

Thank you for your desire and boldness to speak out on this tough subject. I truly appreciate you because I have been going through that for almost 15 years and have sometimes felt alone in my struggle.

Vweta
Mar 08
Mar 08

Dear Dear Donna_3,

You are not alone!!!

My heart goes out to you..

I am sending Love, peace and loads of positive energy your way as you continue on this journey.

Did you read Tam's comment? It's the 2nd on this thread. There's somuch wisdom in her words.

Thank you for speaking out.

In Solidarity,
V

Kirthi
Mar 08
Mar 08

Thank you, my dear, dear Vweta. What a powerhouse of courage, wisdom, strength and resilience you are! Your story moves me beyond words, and I will keep you in my thoughts, prayers and send you love every day. <3

Vweta
Mar 10
Mar 10

Dear Kirthi,

Thank you for reading my story and for your kind words and thoughts.

Sending love and best wishes your way.

In Solidarity,
V

Vivian Emesowum
Mar 08
Mar 08

Reading your piece kept me speechless, what a wonderful well composed poetic piece. It's not late again my dear sister. We learn to practice, go after your heart and make you mom proud

Vweta
Mar 10
Mar 10

Dear Vivian,

Thank you for taking the time to read my story and for your words that I find encouraging.

You are right, it is never too late to do better, I am fortunate to still have my mom which eases my guilt somewhat.

Thank you again. Sending all my love your way.

In Solidarity,
V

Wendy Stebbins
Mar 08
Mar 08

Yay, Vweta. You are amazing.

Vweta
Mar 10
Mar 10

So are you Wendy! Thank You!

In Solidarity,
V

Dawn Arteaga
Mar 08
Mar 08

Vweta this is a beautiful letter! Your humility, intelligence and compassion are moving. Thank you for sharing.

Vweta
Mar 10
Mar 10

Dear Dawn,

Thank you for reading my story and for these words I find uplifting.

I feel empowered to share because of the nurturing and supportive community World Pulse fosters. What a respite from the vitriolic attacks pervasive online today!

Sending love and best wishes your way.

In Solidarity,
V

Anne McCaw
Mar 08
Mar 08

Vweta: Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful love letter to your mother. Thank you for giving voice to the complicated experience of menopause, of our bodies changing, both from when we donʻt understand to when we finally do. Our bodies are mysteries, and for women that can be such a lonely, painful, frustrating, confusing thing - for mothers and daughters and family members. I have such empathy for you and for your mother. Both of you experienced pain that you didnʻt understand. I am hopeful someday that this will no longer be the case. Vweta, thank you for leading the way forward. For sharing what we do know, for shining a light on what we donʻt.

Vweta
Mar 10
Mar 10

Dear Anne,

Thank you for reading my post, for your kind words and for sharing your wisdom.

Our bodies indeed are mysteries. Having the agency to speak about our experiences even when we haven't fully come to an understanding of it could be the first step towards healing.

The support I have received on World Pulse since sharing this story leaves me empowered to bridge the gap between my mother and I.

Thank you again, Dawn. Sending love, peace and positive energy your way.

In Solidarity,
V

What a testament to the awakening of women with your generation reaching toward progress by reconciling with womanhood on all levels, esp. the historically taboo subjects that thrive in the shadows.

Vweta
Mar 10
Mar 10

Dear Natalie,

Thank you for reading my story.

The awakening shall be glorious as we tap into the wisdom of the women before us so that we may leave even more light for those yet to come. It is time to bring the shadows and all in its throes into the light.

In Solidarity,
V

Valéria Barbosa
Mar 08
Mar 08

Dear sister, your story is beautiful.

Vweta
Mar 10
Mar 10

Dear Valeria,

Thank you!!!

Lots of love and positive energy.

In Solidarity,
V

Wow, Vweta, I am so moved by this piece that it felt like I am writing this letter to my mother. Thank you for giving a voice to what women are going through during menopause.

Each woman's body is different that it is hard to tell when our mothers had it. I could not even tell if I am already in a perimennpausal stage.

Women need a lot of support and encouragement in every phase of our life. A lot of things are going on inside our bodies. It can be really frustrating when we could not describe what we are going through inwardly. This could be a reason why some husbands leave their wives because "she changed". Perhaps it is important to include this topic in pre-wedding seminars so men will know what they are dealing with. Our children need to know this, too, so they can be more patient with mom just in case. How heartbreaking it is when in this confusing state, we are deemed as witches or crazy.

Thank you, sister. Love from the Philippines.

Vweta
Mar 10
Mar 10

Dear Karen,

I do agree that sometimes, words fail us in an effort to describe what is going on inside our bodies.

I have an idea, and am not the first to suggest it - that the menopause is taught in schools - as early as possible. This could the silver bullet that demystifies not just the menopause, but the transitions the womans body go through in her lifetime.

Thank you for your comment and your wisdom.

Sending love, peace and positive energy your way.

In Solidarity,
v

Colleen Abdoulah
Mar 09
Mar 09

Vweta, this is so very powerful. Thank you. I thought of my mother as I read through this - she who had such a difficult time over so many years with her symptoms. Me and my sisters just did not understand; no one really did and certainly did not do enough to emphasize and be supportive. It is amazing as you said, how little it is discussed and depicted in our media and movies, and stage performances. I so appreciate your efforts to start a movement. I am here for you however I can be, my sister.
sending hugs,
Colleen

Vweta
Mar 10
Mar 10

Dear Colleen,

Your comment left me feeling emotional all over again.

I am learning to 'forgive myself for not knowing what I didn't know'. I find this helpful especially as i reflect on my moms experience and how I acted.

I look forward to breaking the silence on the menopause with you.

In Solidarity,
V

bukkystars
Mar 10
Mar 10

Thank you.....

Vweta
Mar 10
Mar 10

Thank you more Bukkystars.

Sending you my love and best wishes.

In Solidarity,
V

Obisakin Busayo
Mar 11
Mar 11

Dear Vweta
I missed you much my sister and hearing your voice here makes me feel so good. Your letter is like those words are coming right from my soul. Until I was struggling with my own menopausal period was when I remembered what my mother went through. As the first child that should show her comfort, understanding and Love at that time, I failed to do it and I hope my Mum would forgive me too. Thank you for sharing with us your powerful story and I hope you doing fine.
Warmest Love
Busayo

Vweta
Mar 22
Mar 22

Dear Mama Busayo,

It is always a pleasure to read from. I've been on an incredible journey that I hope to share with this loving supportive community soon.

I am so humbled to hear my story spoke to your heart, and while my heart breaks because like me, you feel like you didn't give your mom all the support she needed and that you could muster, I am also optimistic that we have the power to change the narrative now that we know better.

Sending you my love and best wishes.

In Solidarity,
V

Adanna
Mar 12
Mar 12

Dear Vweta,

Nice one and quite an emotional one too!

I am glad I read this.

Love,
Adanna

Vweta
Mar 22
Mar 22

Dear Adanna,

Thank you for reading my story and for your comment.

Indeed, I still get emotional reading it as well as reading the comments.

Sending love and best wishes your way.

In Solidarity,
V

sarah_2
Mar 12
Mar 12

Hi Vweta
Thanks for inspiring me
Love you big!!!

Vweta
Mar 22
Mar 22

Dear Sarah_2,

Your words deeply humble me.

Thank you for reading my story!

In Solidarity,
V

amina_5
Mar 15
Mar 15

Hi Vweta
Thanks for sharing your story. I was one of those that started early and it was a lonely period of my life going through hot flashes, mood swings, libido issues and being told it was all in my mind and that I was making it a up.
Really not having any to talk àbout what I was going through and not really understanding it much myself was difficult.
It is a period when some marriages go through turbulence and even break up if the bond is not strong enough.
I read your story and felt relief. It's been many years now since I started my journey down menopause lane and I have observed the changes in my body and learning to deal with it.
it has been really difficult for my husband as he also didn't know or understand what I was going through and he felt I was rejecting him. I came across a great book "The Female Brain" a must read and when i came upon the chapter on menopause and so all the symptoms I was going through I was so relieved. I left the book in a vantage place as he's an avid reader. I see he's more understanding now and I too try.
It isn't a topic that is spoken about. The other day I saw a friend suddenly break out in a dripping sweat and saying she was hot and I understood she had started her journey. So we chatted about it and I could see she was relieved somebody understood.
Thankyou again for sharing

Vweta
Mar 22
Mar 22

Dear Amina,

Thank you for reading my story and for your comment.

Your comment sought of left me in a rollercoaster of emotions as I could almost feel how lonely you felt, how lost you felt and the relief that came with finding that book that helped you understand your body's chemistry more.

I can't even imagine how confusing it must have been for your husband as well. I am glad his attitude is changing.

That is why information about the menopause and demystyfying this natural and challenging transition is important.

No doubt, with understanding, not only will women feel more more empowered, relationships - intimate and non intimate will thrive!

I commend you for reaching out to your friend and talking with her about the menopause. Such courage!!!

I wish you love and peace as you continue exploring this journey and I will be sharing your comment along with the book you read with my mom.

In Solidarity,
V

Bim Adegbite
Mar 16
Mar 16

I haven't given menopause much thought till now. As I approach it, thank you for highlighting what to expect. Thank you for sharing your story, thank you for looking back and truly seeing your Mom. Thank you for making me see my Mom, knowing she never for once expressed what she may have gone through during menopause. Now it will be something I consider, now it will be something I'd think of and be able to share. Thank you!

Vweta
Mar 22
Mar 22

Dear Bim,

Thank you!

Just knowing that I wasn't the only one who's gone through most of their life without really seeing their mom's is comforting.

And hearing that because I shared this story, you feel empowered to share your experience/knowledge is humbling.

With gratitude in my heart and Solidarity in spirit,
V

Petrider Paul
Mar 23
Mar 23

Amazingly written .

Vweta
Mar 25
Mar 25

Thank you Petrider.

Paulina Lawsin
Mar 24
Mar 24

Vweta, I remember the oldies saying that, you’ll never know how parents feel until you become one. Then we become more understanding of how our mother felt when she was transitioning to a new phase in life. I believe your mother forgave you coz that what mothers are. Their love is inexhaustible no matter what. And now that we know better, we can start educating our daughters or sons about menopause. They will hopefully be more compassionate to us menopausal women than we were to our mothers. Menopause, after all is just a transition. Hugggs sister!
Paulina

Vweta
Mar 25
Mar 25

Dear Paulina,

Oh I remember all too well. And I remember how I thought it was only a feeble attempt at guilt tripping me into being 'nice'. Now i have come to a fumore understanding of all of the connotations that layed therein. That's the beautiful and sad thing about hindsight, right?

I agree, we definitely should educate our daughters and sons about all of the stages of life especially menopause. Not only will this bolster their knowledge, it Will, like you said, engender compassion and understanding.

Thank you once more.

In Solidarity,

V

Adeola Samuel
Mar 25
Mar 25

Thanks for your post. I'm touched. I need to speak with my mom...

Vweta
Mar 28
Mar 28

Thank you Adeola, speaking, talking about the menopause is all we need to do to reverse the stigma and silence that surrounds it.

In Solidarity,
V

Juliet Acom
Mar 27
Mar 27

Thank you for this enlightening piece.

It makes me realize how much i have to change for my mother, I am reminded of how we are so busy keeping track of our mental and physical health forgetting about menopause - serious food for thought

Thank you!

Vweta
Mar 28
Mar 28

You are right Juliet, we prioritise somany other things forgetting everything is connected - physical, mental, sexual and spiritual health and that they contribute towards a holistic positive life experience.

Sending you my love and best wishes.

V

Matilda Moyo
Mar 28
Mar 28

Dear Vweta,

Thank you for breaking the silence on this important but often overlooked topic. It certainly triggered much reflection on my part.

Regards,

Matilda

Vweta
Mar 28
Mar 28

Dear Matilda,

Thank you for reading my story.

I am humbled to learn it's triggering reflective thoughts on your part.

Wishing you clarity of thoughts.

In Solidarity,
V

Gladys Muthara
Mar 28
Mar 28

Reading your letter, Vweta, has powerfully reminded me of my mum who is now in her early eighties and for whom, I took a week off from work to take care of, when she was recently admitted in the hospital. I am so grateful that now she is recovering well. My mom was not lucky enough to get an education, and now I can only imagine how tough menopause was for her, bearing in mind that women in rural areas do not have access to such crucial information, on how to deal with menopause. Now I can see many other women at that stage who feel lost and alone, having been abandoned by their husbands, who now prefer younger girls!

This is definitely a worthwhile course! Go for it. My sister, Vweta, please also engage men, because arming them with this information is very important; after all, it is these men who are called in to judge women who are being banished from their communities on allegations of witchcraft! Blessings