Like many of you I hated my period. I dislike messy, and menstruation can be quite messy. I hated pads. I hated tampons. I hated the smell. I hated my horrible cramps. I hated missing swim practice because wearing a tampon was too painful. Then I hated my womb. Then I hated myself.
Did you catch that sequence? Products > Menstruation > Womb > Self
When I was trying to conceive I developed an even more complex relationship with menstruation. My period taunted me. No baby. The pain mocked the sweetness I anticipated with pregnancy. Interestingly enough, when I became pregnant the cycle of hate was perpetuated and I sank into prenatal depression. After my little girl was born it was 18 months before my red friend dared show her face again. When she did, she brought exhausting rage, PMS, and depression in her wake. I only endured a few more visitations before I became pregnant again. It was sometime in that gestation that I gestated the idea that my menstrual cycle meant something more than I had ever imagined before. I began to believe that womanhood meant more than being doomed to 384 weeks of menstrual misery. I began to read. I read books like In the House of the Moon by Elias and Ketcham, Wild Feminine by Tami Lynn Kent, Vagina by Naomi Wolf, and revisited Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler.
I meditated on my own first bleeding time to see what beliefs were entrenched there. When did the hatred actually begin?
It was the evening of my 13th birthday. I was getting ready for bed when I felt like I needed to go to the toilet. Sure enough I peed, but on the paper there was a streak of brown. My mind reeled. Could this finally be it? All my friends had started a year or more before. I checked awkwardly to see which of the many holes in my butt this stuff was coming from. Yes! It was the middle one, so no infection or “results could indicate a severe medical condition and should be verified by a physician.” This was my vagina. It was safe and normal for blood to come out of that one. On my birthday! I excitedly got out one of the plastic-wrapped pads that had been waiting in the drawer for a year and a half. Washing my hands, I looked in the mirror. “That’s a woman,” I told myself. Talking it over with my mother I remember thinking that my dad would have to know sometime and realizing that there was an awkward wall there. So I shared my moment with my mom and my sister and retreated to my room. Later that week I lit a candle, and prayed by its light. Then I beaded a hairpiece of red beads to wear on my period. Then I remember crying as I fell asleep because I felt so alone. I felt that there ought to be a ceremony. Something like the knighting rituals in the fantasy books I loved to read. There was no priestess to initiate me. I only had myself.
The excitement I felt wore off quickly over the next year. I was a ballet dancer and I was debilitated with cramps and terrified of leaking or my pad being visible through my tights or leotard. My period became an unwelcome invader, unpredictable, and annoyingly familiar. The red beads stayed hidden in my drawer. The same year I began to hate my period I also began to hate myself. Disordered eating symptoms, mirror criticizing, insecurity and trouble with friends…the list got longer and longer.
Hate my period > Hate my body > Hate myself. It began to sink in. The sources I had read collided in my head, heart, and womb, and I felt their truth. The womb is a gift. I had alienated her with years of misunderstanding and resentment. My most authentic voice of wisdom had been hated, avoided, berated, criticized, and numbed. It sounded like the treatment I had been giving myself for years, and it all started with my period. Could I unpack the process? Could I heal this relationship?
During that pregnant period I was meeting regularly with Katie. As we talked, often our conversations turned to menstruation, especially menarche. Misunderstood. Sad. Uneducated. Alone. We called our experiences what they were. Together, and yet individually, we reached the conclusion that we could still celebrate our menarche. We could start over. We could learn to love our periods, our wombs, and ourselves.
There are six components that added up to a healing relationship with my menstruation, womb, and self.
- Menarche Ceremony
- Reusable Menstrual Products (RUMPS)
- Personal Ceremony
- Honoring and Understanding the Whole Cycle
- The Moon Connection
- Women’s Circles
When I discovered each of these things my life, my womb, and my period changed. When I finally bled again (a year after the birth of my son) it was even more anticipated, exciting, sweet, and fulfilling than my thirteenth birthday present. I was honoring it. I was honoring myself. I appreciated it.
I now experience minimal cramping, pure red-blood, syncing with the moon, and my bleeding has become a wonderful time to retreat into the deep, honoring rest of time contemplating the things of my soul. My moontime bleeding routine includes personal ritual. It includes menstrual cups, sponges, and cloth pads which eliminate the chemical/biological smell I so loathed. It includes attending my new moon circles with my sisters, and rekindles my passion for continuing my education about the amazing female body.
What was your menarche experience? Do you celebrate your period? Your Womb? Yourself?