Did you know there is such a thing as ‘Menstrual Hygiene Day’?
Yep, it’s today May 28th. And my womb, bless Her, is bleeding. So I thought I might offer a little something to mark the occasion…
It’s extremely important to highlight, talk about, de-stigmatize and, yes, celebrate menstruation.
The inclusion of the word ‘hygiene’ in this instance — as in ‘Menstrual Hygiene Day’ — implies that the bleeding is unclean and/or a bio-hazard and the focus appears to be on making it clean and disease-free. None of which is actually true. The word hygiene etymologically refers to a state or, let’s even say, the art of health but most likely most of us don’t know this. It’s ceased to mean this actually.
And let me tell you, there is a lot that is unhealthy about the way we ‘manage’ our blood and our cycles.
I have well over 30 years of bleeding experience. By my calculations, in that time just over 5 years of my life have been spent bleeding!!! I’ve bled a lot is what I’m trying to say. I’ve used a lot of different products to ‘manage’ my bleeding. But, wow, right? That’s a profoundly lot of bleeding time.
I’ve used many different things to soak, sop, plug up, and collect my blood. All sorts of different pads starting with ones that were inhumanely and grossly thick that had me walking like a duck and crying in my bed in the morning before school, pads with wings, scented pads, unscented pads, tampons with applicators, tampons I stuck up my cunt with my finger, a menstrual cup made of rubber, one of silicone, reusable cloth pads of various design, old t-shirts, specially-designed period underwear.
The only thing I haven’t had a chance to try are sponges (as far as I know anyway of what’s currently available; do tell me if I’ve missed something).
It’s been a progression that tells the story of a bleeding life and how I’ve learned to stop worrying and love the bleed. What I know now took decades of discomfort, pain, and failure, I so wish I knew what I know now, back when I started.
One of the latest, ‘greatest’ things to have come out is period underwear designed to hold up to 2 tampons worth of blood. After hearing the raves, I bought a couple. I don’t love them. For me, they don’t live up to the hype and they leak on me. Even as backup.
This is the thing though that is important to consider and know: disposables — which is what many of us use — are bad for our bodies and our health. There are toxins in them. We place them against or in one of the most sensitive and absorbent parts of our bodies. They fill landmines and pollute the oceans. It’s a terrible legacy for a natural, life-giving process.
Re-usable options are unaffordable for some people, that’s a problem. Also, harder to find. If we don’t know something exists, we don’t know to look for it. Also we need people to tell us in some cases how to use them. It can be intimidating to try.
You may not believe this entirely but the experience of our periods — whether good, neutral, awful — is going to be impacted by how well-matched and served we are by our choice of menstrual products. Including even the level of pain we may feel.
And after all of this time I’ve spend bleeding, I gotta say this — whereas once tampons were an amazing discovery, I never want to use one again (and haven’t in over 15 years). I actually don’t want to insert anything in me when I’m bleeding. What I most want to do, what is most comfortable to do is to allow the bleeding. Not plug it, not stop it, not control it. Just allow it to flow.
We have a decent array of options — it wasn’t always the case for menstruating people (and still isn’t for people in many parts of the world). We’ve bled on moss and leaves, on rags, on newspapers, and sometimes… straight down our legs, just free flowing.
In the summertime, off from work without obligations and in my apartment, I’m going to say this — free bleeding holds a lot of appeal for me. So I tried it, on my heaviest bleed days (and do know, I’m a heavy bleeder).
If you are expecting me to tell you it was a free flow down my legs creating pools of blood around my apartment, well guess again. Over the course of the day, the blood never made it past my knees. It could have if I let it but when I felt it start to trickle down my thighs I just pressed them together. This had the blood smear and stay on my thighs and also created a pretty rorschach pattern on my legs, like a butterfly that I could read as my own personal oracle. So divine.
The skirt I wore (black) ended just past my knees and easily concealed the blood on my thighs allowing me to go outside. Yes! I went free-bleeding out into the world, no one the wiser. #liberation
Sitting down, a different beast. When I sat, I did so rather on my side so that I wasn’t making direct contact with my bleeding cunt to the seat. (But, ahem, If one wanted to, one could discretely carry a dedicated cushion for this very purpose. I’m serious, it doesn’t have to be big and if in black, wouldn’t show up bloody. Just toss in for the wash post-bleed with the other bled-on items..
So, that was one revelation, how incredibly contained the flow of the bleed could be. Honestly, I’ve had messier times with all of the aforementioned products than merely free-bleeding.
It actually is very easy to privately and modestly free-bleed.
A most vital revelation — the blood doesn’t have a smell at all. I free-bled down my thighs heavily and wetly and didn’t smell a thing. It felt so clean and pure to do this.
Lastly — there is no irritation happening when there is no block and no artificial anything touching the vulva. There is a great deal of material online in support of sleeping without underwear and giving yourself a break from toxic materials or really materials of any kind. We need air to circulate. Vulva needs to breathe.
So many of us have very serious conditions affecting our reproductive and sexual wellness. I feel very clear and strong in suggesting that a significant amount could be reduced with just allowing the womb and cunt to do its thing without imposition, however much is possible.
Perhaps there are times and places where you can start and try it out….
Like at home. At night. This is the best time anyway to take some time for yourself. Maybe it can be playful, experimental. We take things so seriously. What could open up and release if we could be playful with our period?
Are you grossed out? Ah, I hope you can get over that. Menstruation is pretty natural and this is something amazing to discover here, my words can not ever do it justice.
I want to acknowledge the privilege I hold in having all these options. In some parts of the world, the onset of menstruation can lead to ostracization, the end of education, even death.
In any and all ways that we can continue to talk about, de-stigmatize, and honour menstruation, it is vital that we do so. If no one else will encourage you and have your back, I will.
Happy Art of Menstrual Health Day.