Embracing the 'Pause

Embracing the 'Pause

Well, my friends, it’s World Menopause Day. A day to celebrate this special and challenging time in our lives.

In honor of this day, I want to share with all of you my journey through menopause and beyond.

First, I want to start by saying that as I approached perimenopause, I knew as much about it as I did about getting my period for the first time. Basically, I got a slap across the face by my mom…. a Jewish tradition symbolizing the last time you can treat your daughter like a child. Imagine how confused I was when I announced it had happened and I was greeted with a symbolic smack across the face. Not a hard slap, a teeny tiny oh-so-soft baby one, but, WHY?
I had no idea until after the slap when my mom and grandma told me why. I kind of wished someone had told me before but, oh well.

So, my mom ran to the local pharmacy and came home with a box of pads and a box of tampons, told me to go in the bathroom, read the instructions and, ‘figure it out.’ Reminding me as I left the room that I was going on a boating trip with the first assistant director of Little House “Uncle” Miles Middough, his lovely wife Jeannie and my brother, Jonathan that weekend. UGH!

Speaking of Jonathan, he walked in the room at one point and asked why everyone was crying. My mom said through tears, “Melissa got her period for the first time.”  My brother said, “Ewwwww!!! That’s disgusting!” and ran out of the room.

Off I went into my bathroom to figure out which method of feminine hygiene product I was most comfortable with when I realized that the very next day, I was going to film a (now infamous) scene with Alison Arngrim wrestling in a mud hole…. Oy!  Tampons it was going to have to be. It took a couple of tries but I figured it out and all was well.

So that was it. That was all the advice I got..."Figure it out".

So, there I was, decades later trying to “Figure it out” all over again. Menstruation and sex and reproduction were never big topics in our house. Menopause was barely even a blip. I remember my mom mentioning at one point that she had gone into menopause early due to stress. That was the extent of my knowledge and information.

When my periods started to become irregular, I went to see my gynecologist in LA, and she confirmed through bloodwork that I was in perimenopause. She asked me if I’d thought about HRT, gave me some pamphlets, and sent me on my merry way to, once again, “Figure it out.”

I called my BFF, Sandy and told her what was up, and she told me that she went into menopause early due to her hysterectomy and then shared her treatment plan with me. I am not at liberty to share her plan with you. That is up to her. Suffice it to say, that her plan at least gave me a jumping off point for my research.

Well, if you Google menopause, like I did, watch out! Talk about a rabbit hole! And the list of symptoms…..oooof! Scary!

Days later, after copious amounts of reading, I decided to just go through it. No HRT because it made me very nervous considering I am adopted and really had no clue what genes were lurking in my body. I knew there were multiple cancers on my birth father’s side. That was enough for me to take the natural route.

That went just fine for a few years…until I was in actual menopause. That’s when the hot flashes, memory fog, night sweats and trouble sleeping started. I toughed that out for a while and eventually went to a homeopathic doctor near where I was living in Michigan. He treated me with herbs, tinctures, cranio/sacral work, massage, meditation, and reiki healing. It all helped me. As did the beautiful Japanese fans (which I had stashed everywhere, including both cars) and the cooling sheets and ice packs.

So here I am now. Approaching 60 and decidedly post-menopausal. I have been having some other issues the last couple of years. Nothing major but little things I wanted to see if I could mitigate. So, I went to see my gynecologist, whom I adored, In NY (where I currently live). She told me that short of HRT I was S.O.L. , and she gave me a bottle of her custom blended lube ( which, by the way, was not an issue I was having).
It seemed there was nothing else to do, so I resigned myself to simply living with my issues.

Well that all began to change the last couple of years as more and more of my contemporaries and a few younger women in my profession, began talking about their experiences with menopause. It seemed that menopause was everywhere. New skin care lines and herbal supplements and medications and, and and. It is overwhelming out there!

Then one day on a Zoom with our amazing CEO Nicole Haase and our friend Stacy London, Stacy told us that we should check to see if our doctors were certified by the North American Menopause Society or NAMS.  You see, menopause is not thoroughly or properly taught in medical school. As we know, it is a very specialized issue and medical schools, for now, don’t think it is too important.

As soon as our Zoom was over, I checked and guess whaat!  No gynecologist I had ever seen, including my doctor at that time were NAMS certified!!! So, I immediately did research to find one nearby. I did. At a place called Her MD in Millburn New Jersey. Her MD offices are opening all over the country and take most insurance plans. The one in NJ had not yet opened, so I signed up for the waiting list.

Well, a few weeks ago, I had my first appointment. HOLY WOW! What a difference! First, my appointment last over an hour! Now I ask you, when, if ever, has any doctor spent over an hour with you?  It was amazing! Not only did my doctor validate everything I was going through, but she also walked me through all the treatment plans available and let me choose which one was best for me to start with. What’s more she offered me a major blood test to detect a myriad of genetic markers for cancers and other diseases.

So here I am a few weeks later and already starting to feel better. My mind is blown. I learned so much about my body and what it needs. Most importantly, I learned how to be a true advocate for myself and my health and well-being. I will never go back to blindly accepting what any and every doctor says. I will do my research and accept nothing less than what my body needs. We are all so different in so many visible ways. Imagine how different we are on a cellular level. No one formula works for everyone so find what works for you. You’ve got this!
Believe me, if I can do it, you can. Your health and well-being are in your hands.

You have one body. Love it, care for it, advocate for it. Enjoy and savor every phase it goes through and celebrate all it has and will do for you.

Embrace your health.
Embrace all that you are.
Embrace your journey.
Embrace the Pause.

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I saw Melissa on the Today show today RE: Modern Prairie and immediately googled the company and thrilled to discover the space and mission of her company. I have been a huge LHOTP fan since I discovered and read her first book in 3rd grade "Little House in the Big Woods and have been a Laura Ingalls Wilder Fan since. I so related to the story of her mom slapping her on the face when she got her period b/c the same happened to me. My mom didn’t share much about periods however, I was well acquainted with reproductive physiology from 5th grade health class and was empowered and knew about menses and when ovulation took place and would grill my friends about the info in 6th grade,. After all, I felt if it is about our bodies, as the owners, we should understand and know about it. Little did I know it would lead to my professional life…

My mom did inform me a year or two before, that I would get "the slap ". Well when my menses came at age 13, wearing a pad and sanitary belt grossed me out (there weren’t pads that self stuck to panties then) and the thought that my body and I could have a baby freaked me out! When I went to camp that summer and couldn’t go swimming with my period, a friend told me about tampons which no one in my family ever discussed or to this day, except me, ever used. Because of vaginismus (tight vaginal muscles) that can be a reflex and occur for someone who has never had anything in the vagina (like me-even though I knew there were 2 openings down there; one to pee, and one to get your period/vagina) it can be the cause of painful intercourse or an issue for many women, including those are sexual abuse survivors and is a natural reflex often after trauma or pain with dry sex in menopause or after a vaginal infection). Well as instructed by my camp friend, I tried to insert the applicator and could not. She then instructed me(I still remember her name and being from Tucson Arizona ), to lube the applicator up with vaseline and keep trying. I still couldn’t do it. Well, talk about girl power and friendship, she came into the stall and helped push the tampon up inside me to which I responded, “Oh My G-d” it’s hollow in there!!!". -LOL!!! To this day, when I see a young adolescent girl or am doing health education and menstrual health education, I still share that story and everyone laughs which I believe makes me relatable and approachable and real with my young ladies and their moms’. My mom also empowered me to know and own my body and perhaps because she married young and to the wrong person, told me "she’d rather have me have sex than get married for the wrong reason and would take me to Planned Parenthood should I desire to have sex.( " Well ultimately that didn’t happen but went in college to student heath center to get fit for a diaphragm and have my first gyn exam “just in case and to be informed and prepared”.) That didn’t happen for another year but my mother’s words and teachings and women’s empowerment message has stayed with me as well and my desire to educate and empower other women. Because of that, I have been a Board Certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner in the Philadelphia area for 34 years. I am actually a Member of the Menopause Society (NAMS) and actually getting ready to open a Holistic Women’s Health Center where I spend an hour with patients and we address care of the body, mind and spirit. You can look me up on the NAMS website. After reading the previous comments here and and hearing the frustration of so many women and previous clinical experiences of my patients, I want to reverberate, don’t settle for care that has you feel any less than heard, gotten, fully expressed , cared for and empowered. We are out there and I am trying to create a different model of healthcare for women of all ages but this will in particular resonate with peri and post menopausal women where they will be truly known and valued. I also share my menarche/tampon story with younger patients and have also worked with adolescents and student health for 18 years because that was the only place that I was permitted to spend 30 minutes with patients and felt professionally satisfied like I was able to provide a good service in a reasonable time frame verses having to explain menopause, birth control, vaginal infections, pain/dryness with sex, tell someone they had a breast mass or sexually transmitted infection and leave them unheard, unexplained, with many questions or crying as I was told I had to go see the next patient after 15 minutes. Now in my mid 60’s, as a clinician that is committed to delivering an uncompromising quality of healthcare and can’t do that working for others, I have ventured out to create the ultimate space/model for empowering healthcare and that will also create a community of women that uplift , inspire and empower one another via creating a different kind of women’s health care “experience”. Wishing blessings to all and the gifts of health, wellness, empowerment to all and most importantly, personal and world peace!!
Eve Jacobs

Thank you for your story. I went through early menopause at 40. One month I had a period, then never even a spot. That is until until I was 62. We flew from US to Australia and New Zealand, staying and flying for a month. Known as the blood clot trip, Nine months later I passed out in my kitchen, with a blood clot behind my knee and a too many to count in my lungs. After hospitalization and on blood thinners, two weeks later I got off my desk chair to mass of blood. After a D&C, it was discovered I had phase 1 uterine cancer. After a Hysterectomy and radiation, a full body scan showed I had broken my back when I passed out. The only thing I knew about women issues was from friends. I remember sitting on our front step, in the dead of winter. My husband finding me, him wrapped in a jacket and listening as I explain my feelings. Another time I was standing at Michael’s checkout line and the cashier was saying “getting a little warm are we?”. I’m 72 now and wish I read all this wonderful information long ago. Because I went thru it so young, I did take hormone therapy until I was 50, then my doc took me off. I think I hated my husband for a couple years, the way he talked, walked, ate, breathed…ha! Kidding, maybe. But we survived each other and married 43 years. As I tried to tell my daughter, she listens, then says “I already know mom”. She calls it being a helicopter mom, I call it being a Mother, until I die. We survive, though I can’t wait till she has her own daughter, I’m going to enjoy that!


Thank you for your story. I went through early menopause at 40. One month I had a period, then never even a spot. That is until until I was 62. We flew from US to Australia and New Zealand, staying and flying for a month. Known as the blood clot trip, Nine months later I passed out in my kitchen, with a blood clot behind my knee and a too many to count in my lungs. After hospitalization and on blood thinners, two weeks later I got off my desk chair to mass of blood. After a D&C, it was discovered I had phase 1 uterine cancer. After a Hysterectomy and radiation, a full body scan showed I had broken my back when I passed out. The only thing I knew about women issues was f


WOW, what a story. I walked the same steps on learning on being a female. Figure it out..surprise!! No info from Mom, no info from Doc. Now at 73, there is another hurdle! With proper care, the lady tissue can recoup. Nobody told me that. Now, things are on the mend. Thank you for sharing you story. It means a lot to us ladies that are in our greatest years yet!

Melissa Dougherty

Thank you! I’m crying as I read your post. How is something that every woman goes through is so little known? I keep stumbling on things that are happening are part of this adventure and I’m not crazy. I’ve started just telling people when I’m having hot flashes so I’m not embarrassed as I take my jacket on and off repeatedly. I refuse to be ashamed or embarred by a natural process. I’m checking for a certified doctor next. THANK YOU!!!!!


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