Motherhood meets menopause: Coping with fatigue

book cover Reprinted with permission from Hot Flashes Warm Bottles: First-Time Mothers Over Forty, Copyright (c) 2001 by Nancy London, M.S.W., Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA.

I was breastfeeding at 47, the same year my periods began getting irregular. When my thinking got a bit fuzzy, I chalked it up to my menopausal lactation brain.
Carla, 49-year-old mother of 3-year-old Catherine

While all mothers feel tired, the perimenopausal mother’s fatigue is compounded by her post-birth/premenopausal hormone cocktail. This potent mix creates a bone-deep fatigue that is poignantly juxtaposed against the high-energy needs of her young child. These women felt young and vital before they had their babies. Now it’s common to hear them say, “I can’t believe how tired I am most of the time.” One mother lamented, “I’m always too tired to play with my daughter. I can just hear her talking about it in therapy twenty years from now.” Another added, “Now I drool thinking about sleep the way I used to thinking about sex.”

In group sessions, when I mention the memory lapses, fuzzy thinking, and lack of concentration associated with midlife fatigue, I can count on hilarity in seconds: “I found the missing scissors in the refrigerator. Did I do that? That’s it, I thought. I’ve got a brain tumor.” “I couldn’t remember my best friend’s last name. Hell, I can barely remember my own last name!” “My daughter and I went to a spring equinox ritual. Everyone had to bring a slip of paper with their wishes for themselves and their families written on it. We put them all in a bowl and burned them in a very beautiful ceremony. The next day I found my wish list in my pocket. I must have burned my shopping list.”

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