Birthing Ourselves - The Menopausal Journey
Birthing Ourselves: The Menopausal Journey
What if we attempted to change our perspective of menopause? What if we could shift our focus away from the physical symptoms – something to be treated and done with, and instead, embrace the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual aspects of this rite of passage? Would that empower you on this transformative journey? Menopause is not a disease to be “treated” but a ‘rite de passage’ akin to entering puberty and the day we experienced our first menstrual cycle.
Too often menstruation is surrounded by secrecy and negative feelings, like shame. But, menstruation isn’t a curse - it is a blessing. In many indigenous cultures and in some western world families, there are coming-of-age rites and rituals around menarche (first menstruation). This is a time to celebrate the transition from childhood, and leaving her toys behind to womanhood, and taking her rightful place in the world. I remember reading a beautiful article in Mothering Magazine a year before I gave birth to our daughter, about a menarche ritual a mother organized for her own daughter. I said to myself then, that if I had a daughter, I would do this for her. Just as my husband and I created sacred spaces for home birthing our children, I would create a sacred space and altar to celebrate her initiation into womanhood.
Collectively, we tend to express negative feelings surrounding menopause. Many women experience intense physical symptoms; hot flashes, cold sweats, irritability, mood swings, insomnia, heart palpitations and headaches. We want to be comfortable during perimenopause and menopause and there are some aromatics that can help with these symptoms. But, what if we approached things differently to support the reason for the symptoms, and supported our emotional and spiritual self, as well?
This topic is relevant for me as I approach turning 50 next year with ease and grace. All women, whether having birthed a child or not, have had years of menstruation. Every month, an egg not fertilized became part of the uterine lining shedding with heat and cramps to aid in the blood exiting the body; preparing the body for the contractions of childbirth. For those of us who bore children, we experienced another level of outward heat and energy during childbirth. All this energy focused downward accompanied with heat and often, pain. Each cycle potentiating the bringing forth of life.
What happens during menopause? Physically, our bodies begin to produce less estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, as well as FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone). Periods become irregular and the flow often times becomes heavier and longer. Psychologically, this can be a difficult time, as society tells women we are valuable when we are youthful and fertile and capable of reproduction. Emotionally, we are also vulnerable as our ovaries take over as the puppet master to our emotions and we can often be unwilling riders of a roller coaster as we adapt to hormonal fluctuations.
What I am most interested in, is the spiritual aspect of the menopausal journey. Here, it is as if we are transitioning to a woman’s body that will have completed her ability to birth children and will be ready to birth herself. The years ahead for a healthy woman are numerous. If the first 50 were for outward expression of energy – puberty and individuation, menstruating in preparation, birthing, raising children, then the next 50 are equally valuable as the inward energy flows upward to an awakening of the self and another individuation.
Let’s look at menopause as a kundalini awakening. In Hinduism, kundalini refers to a form of primal energy located at the base of the spine – like a coiled serpent. When the energy flows upward through the seven chakras it leads to an expanded state of consciousness. Hot flashes can feel like they rise in the body – the heat moving upward and outward, essentially, birthing ourselves – our higher consciousness – the wise sage or elder being brought into existence. We, as women have more to give the world once our bodies have completed the birthing stage. We are not done here when we stop menstruating. We are beginning anew and claiming our place as the crone.
Cathy Skipper, herbalist and aromatherapist looks at each hot flash as a memory being released and that we could match the heat of our bodies with essential oils that encourage the heat – to assist the transformative journey. Being intentional when we experience physical symptoms allows us to direct our menopausal experience, rather than allowing the symptoms to control us. Essential oils such as Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) - traditionally used in childbirth - or Ginger (Zingiber officinale) - the warming oils - can guide us. You can simply inhale from the bottle, diffuse nearby or create a massage oil blend incorporating a warming oil.
After hot flashes, when the cold sweats of the emotions are “burned off” one could use hydrosols to match the watery nature of the chills. Use your instincts to find a hydrosol or essential oil you are drawn to. There are a lot of unconscious elements at play that we can address with the aroma that speaks to us. Perhaps, try a mist of Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) hydrosol. I personally connected with Clary Sage to assist in progressing labor with my daughter. This one speaks to me.
On the physical level, I have been using essential oils and a botanical bio-identical progesterone serum with Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa) extract along with Clary Sage every day with success. Creating massage blends or roll-ons to lower stress levels can help significantly with physical PMS/perimenopause/menopausal symptoms. When we produce too much cortisol from daily stress, our adrenal glands are requiring more of the nutritional resources we feed our bodies. If we can reduce stress and balance the adrenal glands there will be more nutrients available for reproductive glands and homeostasis.
Here are some essential oils I like for balancing hormones:
🌿Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
🍊Mandarin/Tangerine (Citrus reticulata)
🌺Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
🌿Angelica Root (Angelica archangelica)
💜Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
🌺Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)
⭐️Frankincense (Boswellia carterii or Boswellia sacra)
🌿Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)*
* due to its trans-anethole content, fennel essential oil should be avoided by any method of application in pregnancy, breastfeeding, endometriosis, and estrogen-dependent cancers. Trans-anethole exhibits strong estrogenic actions.
Most of all, embrace the journey and support your experience of menopause knowing you are doing the most important work of birthing yourself - becoming who you are meant to be. 💜