I thought I’d never get it. Everyone around me seemed in the club, in the know. I guess I was a late-bloomer, because I didn’t get my first period til I was at least 15 years old.
All the girls at school made a big fuss about the cramps, the pain and the inconvenience. Some friends had days off school so they could stay in bed. Others just complained about how bloated and awful they felt. When my turn came, I remember wondering if everyone around me could tell that I’d changed. I constantly checked to make sure I wasn’t leaking. Everything about periods was gross and we were all desperate to hide it away.
Never once did I stop to consider that having my first period was a rite of passage. Never once did I think about what a period is actually for.
Being a woman seemed like drawing the short straw. Boys had all the freedom and none of the hassle. I felt ashamed when I heard them making jokes about having PMS or getting your period. My womb was my enemy. It was always surprising me with its monthly red card, relegating me to the sidelines for a few days. Some days I felt so bloated I could hardly bear to zip up my jeans. I felt tired, peevish and emotional. I wanted to escape from the inconvenience and annoyance of having my period.
Only after I began having children did I develop a newfound awareness, and yes respect, for my womb. When I began thinking about having a second child, I started charting my cycles. Incredibly, I discovered a certain rhythm to my life and my body that was linked to my monthly menstrual cycle. When I was ovulating, I felt great: confident, sexy and full of energy. As I came closer to having my period, my energy waned and I felt more resentful of others’ claim on my time and attention. When I had my period I felt depleted, and as my body prepared to ovulate again I found myself re-emerging from the cocoon I had spun around myself.
As I paid closer attention to my monthly cycle, I began to respect my body in greater measure. When my body asked me to take it easy and turn inward, I listened. I stopped myself from making too many appointments when I knew I would be at a low ebb. As far as possible I said no to people who wanted my attention when I needed to focus on myself. I tried not to overdo it when I was ovulating, because I knew that doing too much then would spell disaster a week or so later when I felt exhausted and fragile.
No longer was my period a dreaded surprise. Paying attention to my cycle and keeping track of my ‘signs’ taught me when to expect the return of my flow. Now having my period wasn’t something to be ashamed of, but rather a reminder that I am a woman and a mother. As a mother of two daughters, I became aware that there is honour and beauty in welcoming and celebrating a woman’s cycle.
I started to think about my body in a completely different way. After all, my womb had waited patiently for many years, consistently providing a ready safe space until a baby appeared to fill it. My womb had enrobed and nurtured three beautiful children: treasures that have enriched my life in indescribable ways.
When I birthed my babies it worked harder than any muscle in my body had ever worked before. It slept, dormant, as I nurtured my babies at my breasts, and re-awakened as my children became less dependent on my body for sustenance.
Suddenly I became aware that even though society always wants us to be at our ovulation-best, there is deep and meaningful joy, and even serenity, to be had in celebrating the waxing and waning of a woman’s cycle. I can’t be sexy, confident and switched-on all of the time. There are some days when I need to turn inward, focus on myself and withdraw from others’ expectations and needs. Sometimes my own needs are screaming so loudly, they must come first (or as close to first as I can put them). In finding respect for my womb, I began to listen to my body with a keener ear. I renewed my relationship with my own femininity and awakened to the power to be had in being a woman.
As a mother, every cycle is a herald of the incredible potential I have in housing a new creation within me. A woman’s role in bringing new life into the world cannot be underestimated. No longer should we feel ashamed of having our periods. No longer should we laugh uncomfortably about being pre-menstrual. Although society’s interpretation of what it means to be a woman is more about page three models than it is about who women really are, a woman’s monthly cycle is the most potent expression of her femininity. And it is this that I know and that I teach my children: in our wombs we hold power because in our wombs we have held the future of this world.
© Lisa Hassan Scott, 2012
About Love Mum-Body
This month on story of mum, we’re sharing photos of how our bodies have changed since we became mums and grandmums. You can photograph your actual body, or you can shape your body in plasticine. We don’t mind how you share it, as long as you do your very best to love it.
For some more inspiration, check out these blog posts about our wonderful mum bodies: