In our Menstruation Series, we have devoted much time on the transition from the Maiden (traditionally a pre-menstruating woman) to the Mother (only a woman who is part of the menstrual cycle can become pregnant, and therefore be a biological mother).
Maiden learns about her body. If she's lucky, she's been given some great information by the Wise Women in her life about these changes. And she grows into her time of Motherhood gently and confidently, feeling knowledgeable and empowered about her fertility.
Mother continues to learn and grow. For many, this is the first time that they really learn about their bodies and reproductive organs and how it all works. Mother learns about her cycles and her unique response to all things fertility related. When ailments come into her life through her reproductive organs, Mother listens and creates a quiet space where she can hear the message her body is sending. Mother moves to her own rhythm and begins to usher in the next generation with her body, heart and head.
But then we have "The Change."
Let's do some free association, shall we?
Ah yes, now we have come to The Crone. In ancient times, The Crone was the Village Wise Woman. She was the one who brought healing to the sick, traveled at all hours to heal her community. Crone was the ultimate woman. Medicine Woman. The one all women went to for guidance. The Woman Whisperer. And so forth.
Throughout the ages, The Crone has been thrust from her regal position. I'm reluctant to say this, but it is a well-documented fact that the early Church (among others) directed myriad attacks on these Wise Women. Remnants from this history surface today, in imagery of The Witch; an old dried up, ugly and wrinkled woman who turns men into frogs and casts evil spells on her adversaries. Never mind her connections with the occult and Satan worship. Yes, The Crone has certainly gotten a bad rap in modern times. But we must remember, in the tradition of the Wise Woman, The Crone was beautiful and strong. Graceful and wise. Gentle but firm. She could be found brewing medicines with herbs to heal her children and their children and her neighbor's children and you were expected to be right by her side, helping in the kitchen. How else would you ever be able to become a Wise Woman, yourself?
So much about The Modern Crone remains a mystery. No woman wants to get "old." No woman is taught to love her wrinkles, her flabby skin and, yes, even the wart on her nose. But the fact remains that The Crone awaits for us, as she does for all women, and we can only gain our own self respect during this time by winning back hers.
So let's begin with the basics. When do we become The Crone?
Becoming The Crone is a process, not an overnight event. The medical definition of menopause is when a woman ceases to have a menstrual cycle, permanently, for at least one consecutive year. But this is no simple matter, as many would-be-Crones eventually find out. Menopause is preceded for most, if not all, by a period called perimenopause. Perimenopause is the period of time when a woman's cycles change and begin to phase out of her life. This period of time can take anywhere from a matter of months to, most usually, 10 or more years. It is a gradual process and one that is typically fraught with confusion. But it needn't be.
One of the keynote signs of perimenopause is the woman's age. Perimenopause can begin as early as age 35. Though for many, it will occur about 10 years later. Perimenopause comes with a wide variety of symptoms. This may include periods coming closer together (shorter cycles) or further apart (longer cycles...or "skipping months"), insomnia, hot flashes, mood swings, body weight changes, lighter or heavier periods, etc... Basically, it is any change in the regular pattern of menstruation that persists during the above age ranges. Modern Medicine will tell you that you are now becoming infertile. Statistics will tell you that if you do conceive a baby during this time, the odds of that baby having Down's Syndrome or other chromosomal birth defects increases significantly. They also tell you that your odds of becoming pregnant with multiples increases. There are many theories about why this is. Many older women will recount how their doctor told them that their "eggs go bad" as they get older. Or that the body "puts out it's last efforts" in the event of multiples. But it is important to remember that these are only theories.
The late, great Dr. Robert S. Mendelsohn suggests that the babies of many "older" mothers have a higher rate of chromosomal abnormality because of the cumulative effects of x-rays on their reproductive systems. The basic gist here is that the older one gets, the more x-rays (think yearly visits to the dentist) one has had in her life, and this, not the mother's age, is what is altering the genetic material of her eggs. Ditto for sperm. But that is neither here nor there. The point is that a woman in perimenopause often times finds Western Medicine less than helpful in assisting her to conceive during this time. If a mother age 35 or over does conceive a baby, she is referred to, in Western Medicine, as a Senile gravida. If it's her first baby, she's an Elderly prima gravida. And of course, if she is experiencing infertility, she is simply referred to as a case of Advanced geriatric status. Signs of perimenopause are even more eluding to Western Medicine. A perimenopausal woman might be taken aback to learn that, according to her doctor, she has Premature ovarian failure or one of their other, less discreet titles.
Look, I'm here to tell you a few truths from the Wise Women.
Menopause is a process. It takes time and it is normal and healthy for it to take time. You can and probably still are fertile during this time and you need to know your fertility signs now more than ever, if you want to conceive a baby or avoid conception. Because perimenopausal women may not be ovulating as frequently (and may have multiple ovulation when they do), becoming pregnant may take some time and careful observation, but you can maximise your chances of a quick and easy conception by using FAM and by consulting with an herbalist who can help you determine which herbs (if any) might be appropriate to help you along in the process.
I look forward to assisting you on your journey to Motherhood while in your perimenopausal years. Having children at this time can be a very rewarding, fulfilling and beautiful experience for those who choose it.
All in Good Health,