I grew up as a pretty typical teenager, as far as my body and connection to it went. The health class instruction on “menstruation” (a word that made everyone laugh) and a dread of when “it” (that’s really what we called it!) would happen to me. Sadly, I don’t remember many details when it finally did. I remember being shocked at the bright red blood that morning, not really understanding much of anything. Certainly not about the body’s workings as brilliant, but definitely with focus on this making me feel WEIRD. It wasn’t a beautiful thing to bleed, it was embarrassing (I really hoped my dad didn’t know for some reason!) and I felt like many women do when they bleed…I hope no one can tell!
My body as a temple. As the wisest vessel who knows intimately the cycle of life. The circle of life.
I would not know her until I began to birth babies... and even now am just acquainting myself.
Over the 13 years thus far of childbearing, I have acquired knowledge about fertility in particular. How the cycle works, how to get pregnant, how to NOT get pregnant. And with my focus on birth and fertility and pregnancy in my daily life, I didn’t realize until recently that my understanding of my body had become lopsided.
But that’s what happens where you are busy growing life and birthing life! Life is largely about that, even though are many avenues in pregnancy (my miscarriage was one) when I had to acknowledge that the cycle is not lopsided. Birth and death are not separate, they are not unrelated. Sometimes with one, we get the other immediately. In best case scenario, we have this thing called Time in between. There is never one, ultimately, without the other. They are opposite sides of the same coin. So what better way to become more accepting, more comfortable with the life cycle than the cycle of our bodies as women?
Easier said than done, as I have been “spared” (that’s the Old view!) menstrual bleeding for the greater part of the last 13 years. Each postpartum, I have hoped “it” would not return too soon, didn't want to deal with “it” on top of a baby and kids…..and really, pregnancy seems so easy! My body cooperated with these thoughts, not wanting to bleed. In the last 13 years, I have probably experienced less than 10 full cycles; the cycle either being absent or going right back into another fertility, another pregnancy.
I have been so grateful for the ease in which fertility has been gifted to me; but now, as my kids are growing and I don’t know for sure that there will be another baby in our future, I have given my attention to that which I have neglected for so long.
The blood. The dark. The power that comes to us only when we are empty, when there is an absence of life in our uterus. It has always seemed so undesirable, but I am starting to see the ancient wisdom that is there and that WITHOUT blood the “Light” would be that less bright. Like anything in balance, we can’t have one without the other. And we can’t prefer one or believe one to be “better” or more beneficial. When we take what our womanly bodies are capable of, we learn to accept ALL of it. And see the beauty in every color, every shade, every day of changing emotions and mood (and all the internal changes we can’t see.)
And so the death still connects us with our inner selves, and on any given month, we may also feel like we have “Birthed” through the bleeding; coming out the other side changed and transformed.
We can connect the cycle of our bodies with the wisdom of the moon, obviously, because of the similar length of time each take to complete (about 28 days) (hence “moon cycle”). But also because as the moon goes through changes, so do we. We are not simply fertile and not fertile. When we bleed, it is the end of a complex physical and emotional journey…..only to begin again, of course. If we give ourselves 4 personalities (phases, as we do the Moon), the blood, the death, is the Crone. The grandmother. The infertile one, closest to death. But in that old wrinkled up woman is a part of ourselves when we are bleeding, whether we are 14 or 41. We hold the piece of every phase of our lives within our bodies and also in our collective psyches. If we do not acknowledge that we become incomplete. One sided, disconnected.
So, I use this first postpartum bleed in a different way than usual. Instead of dread, I have embraced it. It helps that it does feel new and exciting, and I felt proud of my body in a different way than I have been since having babies. YES my births have defined me. They have shown me my power as a Mother. But this blood….it’s so life-giving, even in death. Paradox. It feels so primal, so healthy. I feel myself as Crone, even if for just a few days. One of my first thoughts this time was how smart my body is! It knows how to grow a baby, count a contraction, and now it knows exactly when to release and shed and begin again. Isn’t that brilliant?
Aside from physical connection, I have also made some true emotional connections this time around. We hear about “PMS” (which is very real for many women). At it’s simplest and least complicated, what does that MEAN? Having been away from it all for so long, I have felt myself able to access a unique perspective. Which is…the going inwards, the withdrawal is part of this process. It is “normal” (although not “common” to see it this way) and is not a bad thing, or something to fear or be ashamed of. I was reminded of the Red Tents of long ago and suddenly understood exactly why that was needed. Nowadays, we are expected to just keep living when we are bleeding. We are not “allowed” (and we do not allow ourselves) to claim it as private time, we are not allowed to bow out of commitments and just rest. But the precedent (and the ancient memory) is there. Moontime, time of the Crone, requires this of us. To step out of the world, step away from the spotlight and the to-do list. Our physical bodies and our emotional one insist.
Another new concept for me this time is to really feel into whatever personal shame (and collective shame) that I picked up when I was that teenager. Why would I be embarrassed by bleeding at all? Is it weird if my kids know? Why was it always horrifying to buy sanitary pads? All of these questions have come into my mind and I am so thankful to my body for teaching me the answers. I’ve been shown the Truth about pregnancy and birth, and now I can apply it to this part. Most of the shame and privacy doesn’t come from this place of wisdom, power and honor. It comes from a place of fear and weakness; when either women (or men) decided the Power of a woman bleeding (or birthing) was Too Much and demanded it be hidden. Think about it….what is more primal, raw and out of control than a woman birthing on her own terms? Most are familiar with the control of birth that has ensued as a result…lack of options, medical birth as status quo and even the governmental control of what used to be true “midwifery”. And similarly, what is also more primal and raw and uncontrollable than menstrual blood? Cultural control over this too; whether it be the marketing of tampons or drugs that make our moons nearly invisible (or seem to “disappear”). Try as we might to control birth….many women are not having it. They are connecting with their deepest selves and realizing what has been lost. And the same can be done for our moon cycle. Instead of controlling it, or ignoring it or dreading it, we can embrace the power that is. That is US.
If nothing else, I am grateful for my “late entry” into appreciating my moon cycle. I know for sure that one tremendous gift I will be passing down is this wisdom to my daughters. They already have WAY more of a scientific understanding of the cycle but I will encourage them to make the connections on a deeper level when they are ready to do that. I am hoping that their wisdom and self-acceptance of the Wholeness of who they are and will become also impacts the way they will birth and Mother in the future. Because after all, everything is Connected. From life to death, from blood to birth, we embody the cycle of life.
Many blessings to you, and to all Women on this journey. May you revel in the mysteries of your body!