As I sat on the sofa one day at the end of the 1990s, in between studies and work at university in the US, I heard a talk on TV given by a "Holistic" medical physician. Her name is Dr. Christiane Northrup. First of all, I had not even known that a Holistic medical doctor even existed at that point in time, so I listened. Her talk was about the book she had written a few years earlier entitled, " Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom." She asked a very awakening question that touched me deeply and I am paraphrasing it, "How would it be if a girl is taught at a very young age that her menstrual cycle which she would experience from puberty onward is her ability to bring life into the world and that it is something special?" I thought to myself, "Wow! How would that have been for me if I had heard this at that point in time?"
The experience of my personal menarche came back to me in that moment. No adult in my family had explained to me what the menstrual period was; my sisters sort of tried but not really as they themselves were teenagers. The first I heard was from other girls my age or a little older. They told me all sorts of strange things that invoked fear, "bleeding from below that can come at anytime," "pain!" and "blood stains all over your clothes." The only adult who did talk to us about the menstrual period was a female educator, hired by the school system and menstrual hygiene company to explain to us, by showing us a video of what happens anatomically, marking the calendar monthly, how to wear a pad or possibly a tampon and giving out free samples of menstrual pads to us 10-11-year-olds; I am sure this was a strategy to ensure that we, pre-pubescent girls, would buy and favor their brand of sanitary hygiene products for the rest of our menstruating years. No one mentioned how special it was, or anything about life-giving. I wasn't welcomed into womanhood, I felt like it was more of hiding my femaleness, being more segregated from the males of my society and definitely no sign of honoring me being a woman. Almost a feeling of shame, if I am honest about it. I did not receive a special ritual or celebration of entering womanhood, as in many traditional cultures. It was kept as quiet as possible. When my menarche came, it was a little uncomfortable for me to tell my mom that it had begun. I had the free samples sanitary pads from years earlier to use, but I did tell her in whispers and she provided me with more. But there was no more talk about how it was, her own experience of menses or anything else.
After Dr. Christiane Northrup's talk, which also focused on other themes of being a woman, I knew that if I ever had children, especially females one, I would be open to explaining and sharing my experiences of menstruation; to explain to them how special it is that they have a monthly bleeding that prepares our women bodies to bring life into the world and how this connects us to the Earth, as well as all life on Earth. Also, to welcome them into the circle of Women and celebrate their Womanhood. I do not have female children but that has not stopped me from sharing with my young men about menses and our bodies, female and male. If this information doesn't come from me, who will share it with them?
I realized that I did not want a repeat of misinformation and ignorance, like I experienced as a teenager, because the adults around me were too ashamed to discuss their/our bodies. I also share this with my patients, some are young girls coming into womanhood and others are grown women, mothers or grandmothers, entering the "changing years." We speak openly about menstruation and other phases in life that women go through, our experiences and that we do not have to accept pain or discomfort as 'normal'; there are Chinese medical plants, (acu)points and practices that help create smoother menstrual flow. I believe that through bringing light to these very important life themes, we dispel these archaic ideas of shame of our bodies. Our bodies are as natural as nature is.
This year at ICM, we have decided to honor and give space to Womanhood. We will be launching our Women-Life-Phases project - to inform, create consciousness, to honor Womanhood and provide healing support through Chinese Medicine, as well as other healing modalities. This does not mean we don't give space to males, that may be our next project for the coming years. It is our way of creating balance that has been lacking in our society/world for a while. It is also quite ironic that this comes at our 15th anniversary year, almost as if ICM is at its "coming of age." Watch out for info coming up on our website, in the form of live presentations, pamphlets, info sheets and who knows what else.
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