Hitha Palepu on Motherhood and Perimenopause
Tell us about your journey to motherhood.
Professionally, I was in the process of leaving my first company with my father and starting a philanthropy-focused tech company with my best friend. We had just moved into a two-bedroom apartment (a big upgrade from our alcove studio!), and I had set up a home office that I had been dreaming of for years. I had just turned 30 and rang in that birthday with a number of celebrations, and thought that a days-long hangover happened when you turned 30. Turns out, I was pregnant with our son Rho, and my shock and elation quickly went into all-day sickness, zero energy, and lying in bed for most of the day and night.
What was happening in your life when you decided to start your family?
It was the first time in my life—and in our marriage—that I felt like we were really adulting. We had the apartment that could accommodate a baby and had taken some incredible trips in the past eight months (three weeks in Asia, a month in Australia, and a week sailing through Scandinavia). We both had made big career changes—my moving on from my dad’s company, my husband jumping ship to another consulting firm—and had just made our first angel investment. I feel very fortunate that the timing was great—we had a sense of feeling settled, but still rather flexible.
How long did it take you to get pregnant? What did you do to increase your chances of pregnancy?
I’m incredibly fortunate that I got pregnant quickly all three times (two deliveries, one miscarriage). I conceived all three times while on vacation, and had been taking my prenatals for months prior to conceiving.
Tell us how you found out you were pregnant. We'd love details!
My cousin and nieces were en route from the airport to spend a couple of nights (our first guests!) before we drove down to Pennsylvania for a mini-family reunion. I had been feeling completely drained and nauseated, and had thrown up several times. Fifteen minutes before they arrived, it occurred to me that my period was a few days late. I ran down to the bodega and bought the only pregnancy test they had. I had just finished peeing on it when the doorbell rang, and I quickly wrapped the test in a tissue and stuffed it in a box of tampons. I forgot about the test until we were about to head to dinner, and I needed to use the bathroom again. I took out the test, saw the two lines, and said “holy SHIT.” I quickly whisper-called my husband, who was traveling for work. He was thrilled, and I was shocked. At dinner, when I declined a glass of wine, my niece retorted ‘you’re not pregnant, are you?’ I just looked at her with a deer in headlights look, and my family quickly squealed and hugged me and flagged down the waiter so I could get a ginger ale.
You have two boys. Did you always want to have two children? Do you want more?
I’m an only child, so I did want to give my kids what I didn’t have—a sibling. I was pretty gung-ho about having a third pre-COVID. It’s something we are considering and have to make a decision about rather quickly, given my early-onset perimenopause.
You were recently diagnosed with Perimenopause. Tell us about getting this diagnosis, and what it means.
I thought the symptoms I was experiencing—sore breasts, irregular periods, weight gain only in my stomach area, trouble sleeping, wild mood swings, hot flashes—was just my body recovering from my second C-section and living through a pandemic with a career and two kids. It wasn’t until I picked up Queen Move by Kennedy Ryan and read Kimba experiencing those same symptoms and having her doctor confirm perimenopause that I even considered it could be that. My mom confirmed that she went through menopause in her early forties, and my FSH levels from a blood test confirmed that I’m in perimenopause.
Annoying symptoms aside (some days I don’t have them, some days I have ALL of them), it has us talking about our family a lot. While I got pregnant easily, pregnancy was really hard on my body, and I suffered from postpartum depression with Rho and prenatal depression with Rhaki. A third pregnancy, a third C-section, and a likely third round of depression combined with a looming deadline...it’s a lot to consider. But part of me is also willing to go through it all again. So we’re still figuring things out, in the snippets of time we have.
What advice do you have for other women going through Perimenopause?
Just because it’s natural doesn't mean it’s EASY (like everything with women’s reproductive health). Upping my vegetable and fruit intake has helped minimize some symptoms, as has exercising every day. Sleep is ROUGH, so get it when and however you can. Because it’s not as visible as pregnancy or even postpartum, your family can forget you’re going through it while it’s the only thing you can think about. Be really kind to yourself, take care of yourself, and invest in an ice roller to help with the hot flashes.
Last question, what is your North Star that keeps you going, even when your motivation is down?
My family (as cliche as that sounds), the incredible community of women that’s gathered around my Instagram and newsletter, and my burning desire to build a better world for us all—which starts with building a better world for women, especially Black women.