Sunday, July 08, 2007

It's NOT a Curse

Aunt Flo...Mr. Monthly...periods...menstruating.
Inconvenient at times, sure. Annoying, yes. Even painful at times. But being a woman and having a period is not a curse. (& I've had my fair share of bad periods!)

This topic has become very dear to my heart. I always get into discussions about it with someone I am very close with. It seems to me that the way we feel about our periods (and consequently deal with them) stems from the way we are taught about them.

Think back to your first period. Think even further back to the time you had "the talk" about what a period is and why we get them.
Were you even taught that there is a reason behind it? Or were you just told "women get periods on months they don't get pregnant"? It sounds caddy, but believe me, I know girls who were told that.

Women from generations past (many) grew up at a time when you didn't talk about these things. For whatever reason, it was considered inappropriate and dirty. I see it in my own mother, who is in her late 60's. Her mother never really explained the menstrual cycle to her, and growing up it seemed she never was comfortable discussing it with me or my sisters. I remember times she didn't even want those "feminine products" out in the open (unused and unopened, of course).

I consider myself fortunate to have gained a deeper understanding on how the female body works. When you come to learn and understand why our bodies do what they do, it makes more sense. I gained a lot of patience with my body when I learned the reasons for its actions, and I also learned better ways to cope with the annoying aspects of it all.

I attribute 99% of that to us learning NFP. In the course of learning Natural Family Planning, we not only learned to identify ovulation and times of fertility, but we also learned why there is bodily mucus, why the body temperature rises...as well as how to identify an imbalance of hormones within your own body. (For example, after my miscarriage we were able to look back at our charts for a short post-luteal phase, which can indicate low levels of progesterone in the body). I could go on and on, but this post isn't intended to only promote NFP. (if you're interested, though, let me know. I'd be happy to discuss it more!)

I find it sad how many girls are growing up to view their cycles as a curse. It's not that I particularly enjoy my period, mind you. But it's that the periods are apart of being a woman. Womanhood, and all it embraces.

I worry for young, impressionable girls growing up today. They're constantly bombarded by commercials and advertisements for some form of the birth control pill which can take your period away. Does that really sound healthy? There is no natural way to do that! With the media alone they are being sent the message that having a period is a bad thing. "You don't want it!"

What triggered this post, you may ask? This article on yet another form of birth control that will "eliminate periods". Eliminate them! Sure, take these artificial hormones in the shape of a pill, but then years later wonder why you're hitting early menopause, or why you can't conceive your own child, or why you're at higher risk for cancer.

I was grateful for the article, because I learned of a great organization, The Red Web Foundation. From the article, "...some women question whether monthly periods should be rejected wholesale as a matter of convenience. Instead, women should embrace the natural cycles of their bodies, they say.
"Do you really want to do that? Do you really want to not have a period?" said Anna Yang, director of the California-based Red Web Foundation, which promotes a positive societal view of women's menstrual cycles. "The reality is, this isn't happening to me. It's part of me. It's a very natural thing."


As you can imagine, I am so impressed with this organization. They are "dedicated to supporting a positive societal view of girls' and women's bodies and menstrual cycles from first menstruation (called menarche) through menopause."

It's the same way I feel. It's the way I hope to teach it to my daughter, should we ever have one. It's the way I hope my nieces learn about it, so they maintain a positive outlook. It seems to be the natural, most sensible way to view those cycles we go through as women.

We're not cursed because we're women and get periods. If we're cursed in any aspect, it's because we remain uninformed on why our bodies do what they do. We're only cursed if we buy into the media and marketing aimed at us.
We'd be putting a curse on ourselves if we deliberately chose to hurt our bodies. Let's not do that. Let's embrace what it means to truly be a woman.

6 comments:

Jennifer said...

Another GREAT post--and something I was actually just talking about with Andy and my sister. I have been "obsessed" with my period since before Landon was born--charting in more and more detail and now my body seems to make more sense. I know what to expect each month and I know what to say at the Ob/Gyn when I go for visits. I can get a better grip on what my hormones are doing and when to expect ovulation. I've been trying to get my sister to go to NFP classes just for the benefit of learning about her body and having it become second-nature to her. Every girl should--it is a shame what our society is doing to these poor girls! About the BC pills: Don't you just love those commercials advertising BC pills and then warning about serious cardiovascular risks? Funny how cardiovascular diseases are the #1 killers of women in the US--Hmm..wonder if that's a coincidence? People look crazier to me the older I get---and I look crazier to them for being "this way"--We could go on and on all day, couldn't we?

Angie said...

Excellent posting! My period has always been irregular (and then I had fertility problems), so I always suspected that I viewed my period differently than the vast majority of the public. Sure...it's not *fun* having it, but I would never take something to not have it at all. I remember several years ago (10 or so) when a friend of mine took something that stopped her period for three months. I was horrified. LOL I was so concerned for her. But, then again, I also had a standing prescription (that I luckily never had to fill) for when I went off "the pill". I didn't want to take it anymore, so my doctor gave me a prescription and advised me that if I went more than three months without a period that I should use it to make sure I had my period again.

(Now I'm not sure if this was a cohesive response or not, but I'll post anyway. LOL It's too late, apparently.)

Sheila Kippley said...

The most natural of NFP lifestyles is ecological breastfeeding, a natural way to go 1, 2 or more years without any menstruation. For a free, short "How-To" NFP manual, go to www.nfpandmore.org. This online manual covers everything a couple needs to know about systematic NFP as well as the Seven Standards of eco-breastfeeding. This information should be of interest to all; it's pure physiology. While the site is hosted by Catholics, there is a sidebar for "Not Just for Catholics." Sheila Kippley

Sharon said...

Thank you all for your comments!

Jennifer-Yes, it makes so much sense to take NFP to learn more about your body. Good for you encouraging your sister! I'm doing the same...though it seems unsuccessful. ;(

Angie-your reply was perfectly cohesive. :) I know someone who also took something to stop her perios for momths, then randomly starting gushing blood. She thought she was hemorrhaging! Talk about a good scare (unpreventable).

Sheila-I feel honored you left a comment on my blog! ;) (I excitedly said to my hubby "Sheila KIPPLEY read my blog...lol) We have several of your books. (thanks, btw!) I hadn't see that site before but bookmarkes it today. What great info. there is. I'll be sure to include that in the future.
As for ecological breastfeeding (3rd class in STM NFP, is that correct?), I am a fan. It's not as "hard" as I thought it would be, either. We practiced that w/ our 1st (as well as family bed), and I didn't get my cycle back until he was 10 months old. I'm doing the same with our almost 3 month old. (although my bodily signs are confusing me a bit lately!) With our 1st, we wound up switching away from STM and learning the Creighton method, b/c my temps were so crazy. Our oldest was colicky and got up SO MUCH in the night. I never had a normal looking chart.

Anyway, sorry to ramble on. I very much appreciate everyone's comment on this post! As I wrote, it's a subject of passion for me, but also one of controversy, so I somewhat get intimidated to post on it. I appreciate your encouragement!

Stacey said...

I didn't have my period for two years thanks to PCOS and fought going on the pill to restore normalcy till I was basically tricked into it. I took it for nearly a year before reading the pamphlet and realizing the "side effects," at which point I stopped completely. I'm thinking, if it was so important that I have a normal cycle that doctors would trick me into taking the pill, why would science then shun normal cycles all together?

Those medical people. They make no sense.

I am always happy to see my period now, even though it's uncomfortable. It lets me know that my body works well. And it lets me know that I'm not pregnant, which I'm always happy with :) (sorry!)

Also, to answer one of your other questions, my mom definitely taught me the birds and the bees in excruciating details with drawings. When I got my period, she explained to me exactly what it was, why I got it, why I'll keep getting it, the physical process, et cetera. Unfortunately, I was at my dad's house when it actually started, and he acted like I had just done something horribly wrong. He made me call our PREGNANT landlord and ask for supplies. Sheesh.

Sharon said...

I am always happy to see my period now, even though it's uncomfortable. It lets me know that my body works well. And it lets me know that I'm not pregnant, which I'm always happy with :) (sorry!)

No need to apologie! I'm not offended in the least. The majority of the time I've gotten my period, I've been thankful, too! I'm sure God didn't plan for me to try to get pregnant every month, either. ;) There was only one time I recall getting my period when I was hoping to not...

Anyway, I'm glad you had a good teaching of it! My mom wasn't comfortbale with it, but my sister-in-law had a good talk w/ me w/ books and pictures, too. I felt comfortbale with that. And today, well, I pretty much don't hold back on an bodily issues! lol