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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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!!!!!


Thank you for making me feel like I am truly not going through this alone!!! Hot flashes, with my fan in my purse, my car, my children’s houses!!! I just say I have a little southern belle in me while I am fanning myself!! Melissa you are a true Angel to share your authentic self with all of us! Happy Holidays to you and your family.

Debbie F

I went STRAIGHT to that NAMS website after reading this post and to my delight – my OBGYN is on the list! I am not surprised because she is amazing doctor and has had such helpful advice (medical and otherwise) throughout my hormonal journey with her.

Thank you for bringing knowledge and humor to a long-taboo subject. I’ve been on a “middle-age makes you a bad a$$” journey since my 40s (I’m nearly 55 now.) I’m glad there are so many of us out here ready to take on this stage of life with the sincerity and grace we all deserve.


I SO need this! Thank you, Melissa!!!!

Renee H

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