A Peaceful Menstruation

I hated having a period growing up.

I was 12 years old when I got my first menses. My babysitter brought me pads that she had and we waited until my mother got home. I didn't really want to tell her because we weren't close and then I was instructed to hide the pads from my dad.

A few years later, on the way home from a girls track meet...I ran out of tampons/pads and leaked through my shorts. I rushed into the locker room and heard "ugh, it smells like period in here" (yes, from another girl). My face was more red than the blood on my shorts.

Shame and embarrassment became the norm surrounding my period. Then terrible cramping which left me in the nurses office doubled over in pain...I am sensing that many women have the same story.

Even after getting married, and having a husband that had no problem with menses or getting feminine supplies from the store...I still felt like it was something to hide.

It wasn't until after having my first baby did that shame and embarrassment start to lift.

It was then, I was beginning to shift my view on this sacred time.

Fast forward to today. 

My menses is no longer a time of shame and embarrassment...even if it leaks. I have no cramping and I am glad to see my menses return every month. No, its not because its mean I'm not pregnant, I would welcome another child, but it means that I am healthy.

But how do we begin to change that mindset from shame/embarrassment to being at peace with menstruation?

1) Chart

Understanding how our individual cycle runs, how it affects our mood, breast changes etc is a huge step in connecting with ourselves. It gives us chance to know when our menses will begin as well as when we are ovulating.

It can give us a peak into our health with temperature and hormonal changes. Its an amazing skill that is making a come back.

2) Retreat during Menses

During menstruation, we can feel tired. We don't feel like going out and interacting much. Of course, we can't always help going out, especially when we work but during menses, its important to get plenty of rest, relaxation, and nourishment. 

Many women may find that they are exhausted and slightly anemic from losing that uterine lining, so taking that time to nourish themselves is even more important so they don't start to get chilled and become deficient qi because we are out of balance with yang (menses, like postpartum is a yin time).

For me, one of the ways retreating during my menses was allowing me to bleed without fear of a leak through my clothes. I no longer fear that as I have become more in tune with my menses and the flow of my menses but in the beginning, this was exceptionally healing.

3) Yoni Steam

I never realized how much I had repressed and how much energy I had stagnant in my body until my first yoni steam. 

Now a yoni steam is the same thing as if we were steaming our face but we steam our yoni. You can do this sitting on the edge of a chair or have a special box/chair built for you. I am in the latter. We built a box for my steams. We use only herbs (never essential oils...ever) and sit for about 20 minutes each time.

A general yoni steaming practice is 1 time a day for the 3 days leading up to my menses. This not only helps to break up stagnant blood in the pelvis (which helps relieve cramping) but it also can help us release emotional blocks that we have stored in the pelvis.

We can use antimicrobial herbs and astringent herbs, soothing herbs, and herbs to help us connect to ourselves. I like a blend of Calendula, Lavender, Yarrow, and Mugwort for my usual steams. 

4) Recognizing How Menstruation is a Sign of Health

When we are healthy, we menstruate in a regular fashion (once a month for 3-7 days depending). When we aren't, or are having issues with menstruation, we don't. We have been gifted a way to monthly check to see how our health is doing, without ever having to step foot in a doctors office. When we chart (see above), we get an even deeper insight to our health. 

5) Recognizing the Sisterhood in Menstruation

Most women menstruate and women have been menstruating since the dawn of time. There is some debate about how menstruation has changed but that, honestly, is neither here nor there.

Your female neighbor, menstruates. That female cashier, menstruates. Your mother menstruated. Your grandmother menstruated. Your sister, your best female friends....yep menstruate.

We all have this common tie in our lives. We all know the feelings associated with menstruation. We can find common ground in menstruation. We are not alone in this. 

Even our sisters that don't menstruate (for various reasons), they are on our side too...and we on theirs. 

Women would gather in tents during menstruation (usually the new moon time frame) to encourage each other in sisterhood.  These events are still occurring and need us to gather...we need them too!

6) Recognizing the Chains We Break by Embracing Our Menses

When we embrace OUR menses, we are signalling to women AND men that menstruation is normal, healthy, and absolutely nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. 

When we recognize that leaks happen and not feel dirty or ashamed, we no long become a source of mockery by those uncomfortable with menses...and we start to help change the narrative of menstruation. 

When we embrace it, we break the cycle of negativity for our children, both boys AND girls. Girls will menstruate and boys will be friends with girls that menstruate. When we raise OUR children to embrace menstruation, they can start a movement with their friends, just in case their parents have a difficult time with menstruation.

We can change so many things by embracing menstruation.

7) Banning Toxic Feminine Hygiene Products

Those tampons from Walmart....are bleached and still contain that. Plastic applicators? Parabens and fragrances. Pads? Still bleach, plastics, fragrances, GMOs.... All of these actually do more damage to your vagina, cervix, and womb. Because of those "ingredients", it can increase cramping and menstural woes.

Switching to natural option, menstrual cups, cloth pads (my favorite), and/or free bleeding will help us feel better.

I use handmade cloth pads that I have made over the years from old flannel sheets or 100% cotton jersey t-shirts but they are widely available on Etsy. 

A menstrual cup is another well loved tool for menses. Here is a quiz to get your started on what cup might be a good fit. I used a Diva cup for years with no issues but there are so many options!

Natural tampons/pads are really starting to become available in many stores across the country BUT I really like Sustain Natural. I don't have personal experience with the tampons/pads, however, this is where I purchase our condoms (hey, just because we practice FAM doesn't mean we don't get it on during ovulation time....just need protection). You answer a few questions about your tampon/pad usage and they build you a kit. It is more pricey than conventional but the trade off it huge. **The cost factor is one reason why a menstrual cup or cloth pads tend to me a better option for a lot of us.

Free bleeding is exactly as it sounds. Many people will throw down towels where they are sitting but they are opting out of using anything. Some women will do this when they are around their home and use cups/pads when they are out in public. I haven't tried this before but I can see how it can be freeing and a great reminder to stay home and relax during this time. 

How have you had a peaceful menstruation or are you still uncomfortable with aspects of menstruation? How can we help you or how can your sisterhood help you?