When I was eleven years old, I was having a bath one day. As I looked down my body, I saw that my chest was beginning to fill out. It dawned on me then that, of course, one day I’d have boobs, just like my mum. It was a revelatory moment because at that point I assumed I was just going to be a kid forever. The idea of having a period was still a way down the line but I’ll never forget that dawning realization which both scared and thrilled me.
If my mum talked to me about my period, I can’t remember it—though she prepared me with some enormous pads. I went to a girls’ school, so the subject of the ‘curse’ was frequently mentioned and never as a positive.
The subject of puberty and menstruation is not easy to talk about in this day and age. For many reasons (I won’t go into the patriarchy here!), these completely natural and healthy functions of the woman’s body are shrouded in shame and embarrassment. The subject is taboo in today's society, in education and marketing. It is sanitised, medicalised and hidden away. This means that many girls embark on this wondrous journey in the dark with whispers of half-truths or little to no information.
I remember dreading having the conversation with my daughter when she was around ten or eleven. There didn’t seem an easy way to start it. There seemed so much to tell her. I didn’t know if she wanted to talk about it. I wondered what would I have liked to have known back then.
What do I do with the blood?
Will it hurt?
How long does it last?
When will I get it?
How much blood do I lose?
In our mother and daughter circles, Growing Bodies and Cycle Wisdom we aim to normalize the conversation. Firstly, we talk about puberty. How the body slowly begins to grow into adulthood due to hormones. This brings on the growth of breast buds, bodily hair under the arms, on the pubic mound, and possibly on arms and legs too. How body odour may change. How vaginal discharge may occur. How acne almost certainly will occur. How emotions fluctuate and life can feel confusing.
We introduce the menstrual cycle as a metaphor of the four inner seasons. After all, the period—the bleeding part of the month—is only one part of the cycle. Our bodies are changing throughout the approx. 28 days, and herein lies the magic. If we can work with these changing seasons; the calm and the turbulent, the resting and the raucous, the introspective and the outward energies, then we can harness not only the magic but the power of the menstrual cycle.
So, while it is essential for girls to know how to deal with the blood: (some amazing products out there unlike the nappy-like pads I was given!), that it might hurt in some areas of your body, that the bleeding lasts between 3 – 7 days, that it comes but once a month, that there is only around a 6 – 8 teaspoons (around 14 ml) of blood each cycle... what we would really love girls to know is that:
1. It’s not just about the period! Your body is in constant motion, ebbing and flowing through the entire monthly cycle of menstruation and ovulation and back to menstruation.
2. You can harness the magic of the moon cycle as the four inner seasons—winter (when you bleed), spring (as estrogen begins to rise), summer (ovulation) and autumn (premenstrual phase).
3. By learning how to pace your energy with the four weekly seasons, it allows you to rest in your winter, be creative and plan in your spring, be energetic in your summer and prepare for your winter downtime in autumn.
4. When we use the inner seasons as our compass, it will lessen symptoms and balance emotions because you are going with the rhythm of your body, not fighting against it.
5. Your body has the ability (if you choose) to bring new life into the world thanks to the menstrual cycle. What a positive and powerful thing (that only women can do)!
6. Tracking your period helps you get to know your body and your rhythm. It’s empowering and helpful. You can use a special code in your diary or an app on your phone.
7. Amazingly, you often synchronise with your close female friends and family. Living in harmony and close proximity often causes you to have your periods at the same time.
8. Sometimes it does hurt – tummy cramps, backache and headache are common symptoms of your period. Take care of yourself the best way you know how. Curl up in bed with your hot water bottle, use essential oils or even ask Mum or Dad for something to take away the pain.
9. You’re not crazy! All feelings and emotions are completely OK, and we all have them.
10. Don’t be shy! Every woman on the planet knows how it is. It’s good and healthy to talk about it. Find someone you feel safe with to ask questions and share your experiences.
We want things to change. We want girls to grow into women who feel empowered in their menstrual cycle, who feel open in discussing it, who know where they are in their cycle and use their natural rhythm to keep balanced, healthy and happy.
Our next Growing Bodies and Cycle Wisdom Circle is on Sunday, September 19th 2021.
For more information on menstrual empowerment: https://www.redschool.net/
Their book Wild Power: Discover the Magic of Your Menstrual Cycle and Awaken the Feminine Path to Power by Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer describes the inner seasons in great detail and is packed with information about menstruation.