Motherhood meets menopause: The clash of the titans

book cover Reprinted with permission from Hot Flashes Warm Bottles: First-Time Mothers Over Forty, Copyright (c) 2001 by Nancy London, M.S.W., Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA.

By the time I hit forty, my friends had put me into the category of someone who could cope with anything. But now I’ve got night sweats, mood swings, my energy level is dropping, and I’m a single mother with a six-year-old daughter. It took me awhile to admit that I’m in a whole new category.
Bella, 46-year-old mother of 6-year-old Zoe

Motherhood and menopause are considered two distinct phases of a woman’s reproductive life cycle. But what if they happen just years apart? What if the activities and sacrifices appropriate to motherhood -- giving selflessly to a child any time of the day or well into the night, postponing short-term pleasures and long-term goals for the good of the family -- are at odds with the impulses that rise up inside the midlife woman; the physical call to slow down, the desire to ingather and reflect on the second half of her life, the hunger to put her own needs first? What happens when these two sets of developmentally appropriate needs collide? I call this the “Clash of the Titans,” the detonation that sounds inside the older woman who is caught between responding to her own mounting needs and to those of her young child.

A woman who has postponed motherhood until her forties looks forward to showering her child with all the unconditional love that she has been saving up for decades. Unfortunately, she may not have factored the following into her biological timetable: as a woman in her forties, she is more than likely entering perimenopause. This means that, although she is still menstruating, her hormones have probably begun to fluctuate as they did during the wild ride of puberty.

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