The Menarche

On the Rag, Aunt Flo, Time of the Month, Red Wings, Moon Time, Crimson Tide, George, The Visitor, Monthlies, Period, Womanly Time, Feminine Hygiene, Bloody Mary, The Curse, That Time.. There are many words that we use to describe the one thing that nearly all women of childbearing years experience.

Let's talk about our menses.

I am very excited about this film. It is something that our culture needs to see.

Truly and honestly, what are your first thoughts when you think of your menses? Disgust? Shame? Burdened? And why? I believe, because of what we have been taught and how our culture influences us.
"If men could menstruate"... "menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event"... "Men would brag about how long and how much. Boys would mark the onset of menses, that longed-for proof of manhood, with religious ritual and stag parties. Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea to help stamp out monthly discomforts. Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. (Of course, some men would still pay for the prestige of commercial brands such as John Wayne Tampons, Muhammad Ali's Rope-a-dope Pads, Joe Namath Jock Shields - "For Those Light Bachelor Days," and Robert "Baretta" Blake Maxi-Pads.)" - Gloria Steinem
In reality, if we were to look at what our cycles mean, they mean that we are able to bring life into this world, that our bodies are fertile, and that we are amazingly fearfully and wonderfully made! Ask the woman who has fought a hard battle of fertility issues because of a strongly upset cycle what her first thoughts are when she thinks of her menses and she will tell you that she looks forward with anticipation, quiet triumph, respectful awe, hopeful planning, and girlish gigglies at her 'powerful womanhood' and the chance to be 'normal' or 'fertile'.

But we take it for painful granted if it comes with regularity.

Giveaways on this blog are even indicative of that. If I am giving away jewelry or books, I get a plethora of entries. But, if i have a giveaway for pads, suddenly the entries plummet.

I am a firm believer that we need to talk to our daughters, truly talk to our daughters, about their cycles. It should not be considered a taboo subject, it should not be taught as an ill omen, a shameful secret, or a disgusting monthly bane on womanhood.

My eldest is 10, and she will likely start any day. I started my menstrual cycle when I was 11, and she is showing some signs a little earlier than I did. We have talked about a woman's cycle often,  what it means, and feminine products are a normal thing in our house. My husband and I talk openly about my cycle, and it is not a shameful secret.

I am planning a day, in the very near future, to talk with my daughters in depth about their upcoming menarche. It will not be as elaborate as some other cultures, but we will be celebrating their female bodies, how beautifully perfect they are made, and preparing their minds to accept and even look forward to their menstrual cycles!

We will be silly, we will be serious. We will have some ritual and some gifting. There will be food and drink, pampering and praise. We will talk about yonis and cycles and beauty. We will talk about the holistic menstruation - both her mind and her body.

Some of my readers might even find that they, themselves, need to host a belated menarche party for themselves, their daughters, their friends and community. And that is a good thing! Email me if you want some ideas on how to host such a celebration!

We need to heal this rift in our respect for our bodies if we ever hope to heal birthing and parenting practices. It starts at the beginning, the first red mark - the menarche.

Additional resources:
  • Yoni - information on everything yoni. Has a great section on maiden and menarche celebrations.
  • Menstruation - information on charting cycles, fertility, and much more. There is even a great section on printable charts.
  • Flow - Youtube channel on fun facts about menstruation, from the book author of Flow
  • Bell - a printable chart for menstruation/cycle and emotional levels. Can also add fertility to this easily.
  • Taking Charge of Your Fertility - information on fertility charting, BBT, and a great online community. User-friendly site for a newbie to charting and a great starting point for girls that are new to charting - good practice now for something necessary later.
  • Fertility Friend - pdf booklet available about how to read the signs of fertility.


Myndie said...

Thanks for sharing this. I was always neutral when it came to talking about or dealing with my menstrual cycle. It wasn't until after my ectopic pregnancy where I lost a tube did I look forward to it every month. Mainly because for about a year and a half, I would rarely have one. I know the importance of it and that God created us this way. I'm grateful for that.

Mama Christina said...

Great links, thanks for sharing them!! I LOVE that yoni one. I've always planned if I have a girl (I only have a boy right now) to have a celebration at her menarche.

I wanted to point out that it's possible a lot of your readers use reusable menstrual products (I do - a menstrual cup and cloth pads) and that might make the entries lower for a disposable product :-)

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

I'd have nothing against menstruation if it didn't hurt like hell. Mine takes me out - literally, I spend two days rocking on the couch, having cramps that are almost identical to labor pains. I finally found one pain medication that works well enough to just make me feel icky and really uncomfortable, instead of "in labor".

All that to say that it is all well and good to write beautiful posts about celebrating our lovely and wonderful bodies, but it just isn't always a lovely thing. Some of us don't have shame, we have PAIN.

My perspective. :)

Heather said...

Thank you for this post. So many women are so ashamed of their cycles. I grew up in a very open household, with a mother who was an OR nurse. Blood and guts were dinner topics, so we never really developed the typical fear of discussing these things in front of others. I have seen people squirm and get so uncomfortable if it's brought up in conversation. So sad. I look forward to bringing my own children up in a way that they are proud of their bodies and what they do.

J.B. said...

I agree that having a positive view of it is important. For years I had wildly irregular periods and then painful periods when they came. I had read about celebrating the event, but it was hard to remember when it hurt so bad. The more I tried to focus on the fertility it represented, the easier it was. I also try to implement the concept of wearing red during those few days. It makes it a personal little celebration and marks it with honor without needing to actually announce it to the world.

Stephanie B. Cornais said...

How exciting for you and your daughter! I can't wait till its my daughter's "time". I want to make it so special for her....completly different than my experience.

Did you see the article on 1st menarche rights of passage in Mothering Magazine a few issues ago? Such a great article.

And a belated menarche party for myself, what a great idea! Maybe I will have a little celebration when it comes back.

Indie said...

I, like Emily, suffered horribly in the past during menstruation. I had pain about as bad as labor (without the promise of a baby at the end), got cold shakes, dizziness, throwing up, and asking God to just kill me already. I had a roommate in college who had to be taken to the ER once because of her cycles (and she said that my cycles messed up her cycles). The nurses office in college was unwilling to excuse me from classes, so I went directly to professors, both male and female, and asked to be excused when needed. I didn't feel any shame about it, just misery.

Its also worth noting that women were not meant to spend a huge portion of their lives menstruating. Between the later onset of menses in the past, earlier and longer spans of childbearing, more and longer spans of lactation amenorrhea, and menopause, women didn't spend a ton of time menstruating. Menstruating so often is not only miserable to many of us in the short term, the overexposure to hormones over our lifetimes causes health problems in the long term as well. So while I do think you're on to something, I think there is a lot more to it.

Melodie said...

Damn. I wasn't quite on the ball with the giveaway but I have actually been dying to win some new cloth pads! Seriously. Mine are falling apart so badly and new ones can sometimes be really expensive. Sorry I missed it. You would have had one more entry. :)

Jessica said...

I have had three ectopic pregnancies- the first of which caused my fallopian tube to rupture. I am so thankful that my fallopian tube was able to be "saved" and I have given birth to three beautiful sons. It is because of these experiences that I do see my menstrual cycle as a gift. I have had a significant reduction in the pain and discomfort associated with my period since switching over to cloth pads and the keeper.

Olga said...

Another one here who did not enter the pad giveaway because I use cloth pads and a DivaCup. Something about taking care of my pads instead of tossing them in the trash and forgetting about them makes the experience much more fun. So if you decide to have a cloth pad giveaway I will definitely enter. ;)

Nicole D said...

Olga -

Be assured, I am working on that one, I just need to find a donating source. :) Also working on a cup giveaway. :)x2

Medyum said...

Another one here who did not enter the pad giveaway because I use cloth pads and a DivaCup. Something about taking care of my pads instead of tossing them in the trash and forgetting about them makes the experience much more fun. So if you decide to have a cloth pad giveaway I will definitely enter. ;)

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