I got my periods today morning. After suffering bouts of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) blues for one full week, this gush of blood between my thighs was certainly a relief. To my agony, I had only a pack of seven sanitary napkins of Whisper with me. And I knew this was not going to suffice as I bleed heavy. In the evening, I went to buy napkins at a local medical store. The conversation went like this:
Me: “Can I have a packet of XL Whisper or Stay Free sanitary napkin?”
Shopkeeper (in a hushed tone): “Seven or Fifteen pack madam?”
The shopkeeper took the packet and was wrapping the same in a newspaper when I said, “I don’t need a cover, give the packet as it is.”
The shopkeeper replied, “It is for your good I am wrapping. People will watch.”
“Fuck them, give the packet as it is,” I said before leaving the shop with the packet.
So I guess the mindset is still similar. This incident did not take place in any rural area. This happened in an urban city – Mumbai.
Menstruation should be celebrated and not suppressed. Basically, menstruation is vaginal bleeding a woman has to put up with every month. The normal age for a female to get her first period varies between 11-14 years, the cycle gap being 28 to 35 days.
As the girl hits puberty, the body prepares her for pregnancy and egg fertilization in the ovary each month. The ovulation starts and generally one egg dominates. Meanwhile, the lining of the uterus is developed to hold the fetus once that egg is fertilised. The egg, when released from the ovary, travels down the fallopian tube and is fertilised by a male sperm. The hormones reach a high and a woman gets her PMS blues. In case of no sperm impregnation and no fertilisation of the egg, the egg dies within two days and the rage of hormone tones down. The net result – the lining of the uterus is broken and ultimately menstruation starts, that is crying of the uterus. The egg and other fibres along with blood are shed through the vagina.
So actually women are gifted with the power of reproduction. Had menstruation been absent in females, the male sperm would be of no use. It is ultimately the egg which matters and also a woman’s uterus which is prepared to hold the baby for nine months in case of pregnancy.
In an interesting take on menstruation and spirituality, Teal Swan says that some of us may have heard of the four cycles of a woman’s life – maiden, mother, maga and crone. Interestingly enough, each of these cycles of a woman’s life correlates directly to the cycles of the seasons on earth. Spring, summer, fall and winter. One can feel the energy of these seasons. The menstrual cycle is also divided into four phases. These four phases correspond to the earth’s seasons. So, a woman’s monthly cycle is a smaller cycle within a larger cycle. If a woman was in tune with her natural innate energy, she would be compelled during each phase of her cycle (each phase lasts about a week) to behave differently just like the seasons.
Even as women argue on which phase of menstrual cycle synchronises with the season, the author says that she feels like spring when the bleeding stops. The time around ovulation feels is like summer and the time between ovulation and menstruation feels like fall and winter begins a few days before she bleeds, when she starts to feel the symptoms of decreasing hormones in her body.
Marsha O’Mahony says in her article that she made it a mandate to celebrate her daughter’s first period. She had already briefed her daughter on this aspect and the day when her daughter declared that she had hit her menses, she surfed the net and discovered a whole netherworld of the “menarche”, a ritual that celebrates a girl’s journey into womanhood. Rachael Hertogs runs Menarche workshops from her west Wales’ home. “It’s an opportunity for mums and daughters (aged eight to 13) to spend some special time together as they experience this rite of passage together,” she says. At one of Rachael’s menarche parties, girls are encouraged to embrace their monthlies or, as Rachael calls them, “moon time”, to share stories, play, create and celebrate together.
It had also been my mother’s perception that period needs to be celebrated and there is no need to hush up the same. My daughter who is now a little girl of ten and who I know will get her periods within a year or so came to me a day before her summer vacations and said that the school doctor had briefed the entire class on periods. Of course, the boys weren’t included in the discussion, but seeing as how it was part of the school syllabus, boys would get acquainted with it eventually.
I was brought up in a very open environment and I always purchased the napkins and tampons myself. On one instance, I remember we – a group of four cousins – with our aunt as a guardian were on our way to watch a movie. I got my periods midway. My cousins suggested letting my aunt buy the napkin but I said I would do it myself. They appreciated my gesture and said that I was a very bold woman and I reciprocated, saying that they all should be like me.
Being a single woman, I couldn’t care less of what society thinks of me. The shopkeeper was flabbergasted, so were my cousins. But I am sure that my daughter will not feel the same as both her and I school had explained to her the nitty gritty on menstruation. Though we think we have succeeded in our mission – that menstruation is no longer a taboo with Bollywood making movies like “Padman” – we still have a long journey ahead.
Coming back to menstruation and spirituality, Teal Swan highlights that we should have only one word when it comes to the monthly cycle and that is magic. Periods are highly esoteric. In fact, before we fell out of touch with the cycles of nature, by creating a life that did not revolve around them, women’s cycles were in sync with the cycle of the moon. Women, who were healthy, ovulated when the moon was full and bled on the new moon. Women were also synchronised with one another. They would bleed at the same time.
In ancient cultures, this time was sacred and women would retreat to be together and to nourish themselves and each other as well as to respect the process of menstruation. On an energetic level and even a physical level, period blood is designed to nourish and give life itself. It is not only sacred and therefore powerful when used in ceremonies; it is so vital that it has the capacity to heal. Ancient cultures that understood this were known to use menstrual blood as a drink for people who were ill and as a salve and as a way to revive people, animals and plants that were in a state of decline. The womb renews itself every month. The energetic properties of this blood are also that of renewal and rebirth and creation and life. In the future, science will prove that material such as stem cells contained in menstrual blood has these properties and those materials will be used in standard medical treatment.
So there are certainly no more limits when we talk of menstruation. As I say it loud and clear that I bleed each month, I also say I enjoy the four seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter in me during my menses as a woman.
I type out this essay as I bleed and it is my honest opinion that we should all be open about this. There is iron in our body. We smell like a gun. We bleed as we are spiritual souls whose blood means a lot – we receptors of sperm are capable of bearing a body in us for nine months and that is only possible as the Almighty had provided us with the capacity to have our periods each month. Celebrate your period as a woman. Don’t hush it up but like me, say it loud and clear that you bleed each month. Menstrual blood is important.