30 Jan For There to Be Birth, There Must First Be Blood. Period.
When I was in fourth grade, at the tender age of ten, I awoke one morning to a wet spot in my underpants. Upon approaching the restroom, I became acutely aware that I was bleeding from my yoni.
I grew up in a very religious home where we did not discuss things like sex, much less menstruation. Confused and scared, I went to my stepmom and explained matter-of-factly that I was dying.
Everything that followed was very hush-hush as she took me into a back room and explained that I was now a woman. Baffled, at ten years old, she also explained to me that a woman must have her first menstruation in order to bear a child.
Though it was shrouded in secret, it was my secret. I was now a woman.
With increased confidence, I went to school the next day and could not wait to share this information with my friends.
What happened next was nothing short of mortifying as other girls began to whisper and giggle and before long all the little boys on the playground were making fun of me as well.
As the pain of cramps began and I received notes to skip gym and couldn’t play during recess, I began to hate this “becoming a woman” stuff.
It wasn’t until late in my teen years that I met with a doctor to discuss the amount of pain I experienced each month that I finally realized what a period was and why women have it.
I remember thinking, “this is actually very beautiful.” The idea that our bodies shed the lining of the uterus each month to get rid of the old and make way for the new seemed deeply symbolic to me.
As an adult, I have a deeper understanding of the fact that a woman’s menstrual cycle is revered as something sacred and celebrated.
In order for there to be birth, there must first be blood.
I have learned that many cultures have the “ceremony of bleeding,” in which women gather to honor this sacred time for a young woman. They understand that their “woman medicine,” “ceremony of woman,” or the “ceremony of bleeding” should occur in an isolated place surrounded by other women.
Many cultures believe that during a woman’s moon cycle, the veil between cosmic energies is removed and that women become divinely intuitive during this time. Therefore, they encourage an isolated, sacred space to gather to conduct rituals, prayers or meditations during this time of death and rebirth.
However, in Western Culture, women are discouraged from cherishing their moon cycle and communing with other women. Most women in Western Society are not even aware of the 4-phase cycle that occurs each month.
When women in our society begin menstruating, they are not met with ritual and ceremony. Most, like me, are handed a box of maxi-pads or tampons by their mother.
Most adolescent girls I have spoken to are not even aware of their own fertility or moon schedules or cycles.
According to Jessica H. Simmons, “…our society is from the fundamental ceremonies and practices occurring naturally in indigenous societies regarding bleeding and fertility. Red Tent has foundations in the Hebrew culture. In Sun Dance (Lakota) a woman who is bleeding must reside away from the ceremony in a special lodge. In Ayurvedic belief, as in a majority of ancient cultures, a woman has restrictive functions while bleeding. Yet, these practices, to an outsider, may appear patriarchal and female suppressive in nature. However, there is hidden power, and recognition of that power, in these cultures and we only need to be open, putting our own conditioning aside to see this.”
In speaking with several adolescent girls, there is still a lot of shame and ridicule in our Western society. Many express anxiety or feeling if they are in pain that they need to “suck it up.”
It is unacceptable in our culture to remove or isolate ourselves for a week as we bleed as our culture runs as a fast-paced society.
So, how do we change the shaming that comes with menstruation?
It begins with you and I: mothers, daughters, aunts, grandmothers, and granddaughters, changing the way we perceive ones moon cycle in our culture.
Bonus: Powerful Video
Author: Mary Rogers
Editor: Caitlin Oriel