Nobody ever signs up for perimenopause, and yet, here we are. Is it not enough that we’ve already been through puberty, pregnancy, childbirth and Year 9? Is. it. not. enough? Apparently, it isn’t. Just when you start to relax a little, our bodies throw this ghastly thing called perimenopause at us. Luckily there are women out there like Kim Berry and Kayte Murphy – aka Mrs Woog – the friends behind podcast The Hot Flush.
By Mrs Woog
It was not my finest moment. Armed with my six-week-old baby I approached a brand-new mother at the hospital. She was beaming with happiness, gazing at her day-old offspring all wrapped up in that iconic pink and blue hospital blanket in a Perspex bassinet on wheels.
Speaking as someone driven by sleep deprivation with a nasty case of mastitis as I was, I leaned in and hissed: “This is the worst thing ever. No one tells you what it is really like!”
She looked at me with horror as I took my leave.
Fast forward 16 years and again, I tell women of my age: “This is the worst thing ever. No one tells you what it is really like!”
Because it is not enough that pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood change your body forever, the female form must endure another round in the ring. This time it is menopause. More specifically, the period of time leading up to menopause – which can last for TEN years – perimenopause.
In 2015, I was approached by a start-up hosting company to gauge my interest in starting a podcast. Having spent a decade being a prominent lady writer of the internet and not one to be shy from offering an opinion, I was up for the new medium.
Cirque Du Soleil moves
It was also around this time that I had was noticing a few changes in myself. My monthly cycle had become completely un-cooperative. My mood swings were so spectacular in speed, scale and agility I could have successfully auditioned for Cirque Du Soleil. The sound of my partner chewing his food would leave me twitching in the corner with rage. And my ability to sleep was no longer guaranteed.
None of this was ideal. What was happening to me?
I started reaching out to friends to see if they too were feeling like their body was fighting them or if it was just me. One of those mates, Sydney writer and editor Kim Berry, was very sympathetic. In fact, we complained so often and so loudly to each other we knew it wasn’t just us. If we didn’t know what was going on, then how many other women were out there with similar experiences thinking they were losing their mind?
And so, The Hot Flush: The Premier Podcast for the Perimenopausal was born.
A place to be heard
To call ourselves “premier” might sound presumptuous, but when we started five years ago (we officially rebranded to The Hot Flush in 2017), it was the only show that was specifically aimed at 40–60-year-old women who, like us, were sad sacks of sweat, surfing an unfamiliar wave of crashing and rising hormones and who needed a place to be heard.
We bought a basic recording device, poured ourselves a gin and tonic and pressed record. We didn’t understand production values or marketing plans, we still don’t, but we did – and do – understand women. We know what it feels like when your body seems intent on destroying you one murderous mood, one hot flush, one lost libido, one sleepless night at a time.
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The Hot Flush. The little place in the podcast world that was not aspirational, not sexy and in many ways was not particularly coherent, but we kept turning up each week to discuss what on earth was going on with us.
We started to gain a small and loyal following. My prominent writer lady of the internet profile and word-of-mouth helped spread the news that there were these two loud, sweaty, sweary Aussie chicks to whom no topic was off limits. And they came, stayed and have downloaded the podcast more than 325,000 times.
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Perimenopause is so much more than a list of medical conditions. Combined with what is going on physically, mentally and emotionally, most women are also dealing with family, parenting, marriage/relationships and career.
Ain’t that the truth: Puberty vs Perimenopause: Let’s get ready to rumble
Connection is key
Perimenopausal women are the sandwich generation – raising children on one side and caring for aging parents on the other. We also fall into the peak age bracket for divorce.
There are, of course, wonderful things about being in your 40s and beyond, but the obstacle course some women have to navigate before they can bask in those golden rays can be an ultra-endurance event.
What Kim and I were determined to do was not sugar coat it. To lay it bare, and then laugh, cry, rage and inform others about what was going on.
Our private Facebook group has swelled to more than 5,500 members from all over the world. We encourage conversations saying: “There are no stupid questions.” Members – our Hotties – now organise meet-ups with each other, a godsend for those in remote or rural areas or for those with few family or friends nearby.
What is wonderful for us is level of comfort many of our listeners felt when sharing their own stories and asking questions that would have never seen the light of day. From relationship or parenting advice, to shared medical experiences and what has helped with any of the myriad medical wildcards peri has thrown at you this week, to life events and mental health concerns.
We have come to realise that we are providing a much-needed platform for women to know they are not alone and that they are heard. Oh, and to just keep plucking!
Listen to The Hot Flush here.
All images Instagram/@woogsworld – used with permission