“When she smiles, the lines in her face become epic narratives that trace the stories of generations that no book can replace.”
― Curtis Tyrone Jones
99 and counting. Last week a friend’s mother celebrated 99 birthdays. When asked what kind of party she wanted she waved a hand dismissively and said she’s already thinking about the big bash for her 100th. Now there’s a woman with spunk and purpose. But it got me thinking about longevity and quality of life. For example, what does a longer life span mean in terms of menopause?
We are all individuals, of course, and every story is different. I believe we can learn a lot from our ancestors—both the good and not-so-good branches of the family tree—and highlight generational differences.
Let’s take an average woman living in the early 1900’s. I’ll call her Gertrud because that was the name of my fourth-grade teacher and I liked her. Gertrud was a clean living, healthy, young woman, yet only statistically expected to live until the age of 50. A fine-looking young farmer, Buford, noticed Gertrud’s virtues (wink, wink), and married her as soon as she blew out her sixteen birthday candles.
With little to no birth control shy of abstinence, she may have had many pregnancies over her lifetime. One theory suggests that for each full term birth a woman delays her menopause by 5 months. (Waterhouse, 2004, pp. 36-37) If Gertrud gave birth to 8 children, she would have had her menopause delayed by 40 months, or over 3 years. Doing the math, which I hate, if she started perimenopause at age 48, and passed away at 50, her menopause was a short-term event. Or, in other words, she didn’t outlive her stash of sex hormones!
According to Deb Waterhouse, author of “Outsmarting the Midlife Fat Cell” our mothers and grandmothers menopausal transition averaged 6 months to 3 years in duration, whereas today we lucky women average a 10 to 20-year transition! As we say in Minnesota, “Uffda.”