I’m sat on the toilet imagining a blossom opening. My attention on my cervix. It’s only a few months ago that I learnt to be able to bring my attention to it, and now I’m trying to convince my nervous system that I can send a message to this sphincter muscle to open on request. My nervous system isn’t yet convinced.
The door opens and my housemate walks in. A wine glass in one hand and a freshly-washed sanitary towel in the other. „Morning!“. She packs the towel ontop of the radiator and turns to the basin. Squating she reaches a hand between her legs and a few seconds later squeezes the sponge into the wine glass.
Blossom, opening…. I wonder how women giving birth are supposed to relax this sphincter enough to let a newborn head push its way through with an array of doctors staring at her. I can’t even keep my concentration on relaxation long enough when one housemate comes into the room.
She rinses the sponge out a few times in the sink. Looks it over and pops it onto the radiator next to me, swiping a fresh patterned sanitary towl from a pile on her shelf before breezing out of the bathroom.
I look across at the towels my housemate made, sat at her sewing machine with a pile of old towels and t-shirts snipped into curved pads next to half-made dreamcatchers. Her homesewn versions are so much more comfortable than the plastic pads. But it would be so cool if I could get this to work; To be able to bleed on demand would be super convenient. Although I do enjoy wearing my big black bleeding skirt and bleeding freely down my legs from time to time.
Blossom…opening… nothing’s coming. I give up, pull my pants on and head for the sink. On the shelf below the mirror there are more toothbrushes than we have mouths in the house, a few tubes of toothpaste, a floss box and a clean upturned mooncup drying on a canvas pouch.
This is daily life in our house. Our monthly bleeds are no taboo. I know roughly where every one of my 5 housemates is in her cycle. I know the wine glass of blood is heading to our creative room or the freezer to be used for painting. I know that Ivy didn’t say good morning this morning because she’s premenstrual and her attention is drastically turned inward right now. I also know that within the next 48hours the kitchen and living room will be spotless as she has her last cleaning spurt before bleeding. I make a mental note to check how our yarrow tea supply is given that she’ll probably be home and bleeding in a few morning’s time. And I look forward to checking in on her to see if she needs tea or a hot water bottle.Coming down the stairs there’s a note on our pinboard from Rebecca about how she wants us to have a housemeeting to talk about guests next week. Usually on the edge of community life, Rebecca openly admits that her burst of energy for community and holding space probably has to do with her ovulating sometime today or tomorrow.
I have to stop to remind myself of how blessed I am to have this lifestyle. Less than five years ago the concept of painting with menstrual blood would have totally grossed me out, and back then talking to someone about my period, never mind letting on that I’m actually menstruating right now, would be out of the question…even with my two sisters.
Now I find it no surprise and take no offense when someone asks me where I am in my cycle after I share that I’m feeling overwhelmed right now. It’s not taboo to openly ask if anyone has a clean sanitary towel, if someone can take my cooking shift, or if we can reschedule that meeting because I just started bleeding and it’s too much for me.
Now I am the guardian and founder of a moon temple. A big black tent that sits on the edge of the community in the forest. A place for people with wombs and socialised women to go to bleed, to be, to meet, to be alone, to dream.
It’s immensely relieving to live this lifestyle in comparison to what I lived before. To know that I’m not going to have to pop pills on my way to work to deal with pain because I can arrange to lie in bed for the morning when I start to bleed and know that my housemates will check in on me. What a privilege.
„We say we’re bleeding because that’s what’s happening…“
And to talk about my bleeding openly is also a simple pleasure I wish every womb-bearer would know. To share with my friends how hard it is for me not to have regular periods since the pill messed up my cycles, apparently permanently. To know that one of my housemates is not alone any more with her excruciating pain and excessive bleeding during her menstruation due to a coagulation issue: she gets packed into bed with regular tea and hot water bottle checks, and her boyfriend always makes brownies.
We gather the yarrow flowers ourselves in autumn. They’re almost all gone by May. We’d like to take a trip to the alps together to get alpine frauenmantel to make more tincture. It’s supposedly more effective than the yarrow tea and you need less.
In our house we say that we’re bleeding because that’s what’s happening: I don’t only „have my period“ for a few days of the month: I’m always periodical, it’s just that in those days I’m bleeding.
I don’t like the word menstruating because it sounds so clinical and detached from what it is. I’m internally bleeding and it takes energy and, even when healthy, involves a degree of pain. I honour that, and find blood, just as much as pee or poo, not something to be ashamed of.
I celebrate when I’m bleeding because it’s always a release. The days before tend to be this build up and feeling of being emotionally stuck or overwhelmed, and when the release comes I tend to relax into everything and allow myself to really feel weak and tender, to be taken care of and to ask for support.
Steps towards a positive bleeding culture
Not everyone is blessed to live in community like me, or even in a culture where it’s safe, and not so shameful to talk about this cycle which half of the human population experience. And the steps towards a world where a culture like this is possible for everyone aren’t going to happen over night but here are some hints for you to support you to develop your own culture of bleeding to spread the love:
- Use Eco-menstruation products. They’re healthier. They’re comfier. They’re definitely better for the environment. AND they’re cheaper!
- Get to know your blood. It’s not dirty. Maybe you’re not ready to paint with it but can you see it? Accept it? Love it even? Offer it to your house plants? Roses especially LOVE blood.
- Find a Wombie. Yes you heard me: A womb-bearing buddy who you can call to talk when your cycle gets you down, or who brings you tea or chocolate and a hot water bottle when you’re bleeding… a hand or foot massage, comforting hugs, an ear. And who you can be there for when they are bleeding. And if you live with more than one potential Wombie, connect – make a womb-network! Get to know one another’s rhythms and needs and wishes in this phase, and the others… and for that….
- Get to know your cycle. It’s not just on and off! There’s a whole range of emotional and energetic shifts that happen to us through the menstrual cycle. Harness the power of yours by educating yourself. Workshops are becoming more and more common. Dedicate a day or a weekend to you and your body by attending one and take your wombies!
- Talk to your friends about your cycle; Ask them about theirs. Become a curious and inspiring changemaker to lift the bleeding taboo by sharing and caring unashamedly about menstruation.
- And last but not least. Know that your menstruation is a big deal. Listen to your body and intuition and give yourself what you need at all phases of your cycle and especially when bleeding. Menstruation is not an illness; It’s a blessing. And often an invitation to go slow and get to know yourself.
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