Fresh Living

Fresh Living


The Power of the Period

posted by vreiss

MLRBcover.jpgWhether yours was harrowing or joyful or both, unless you’re a guy who missed the fun, you probably remember your first period. I’m excited to read “My Little Red Book,” a new collection of 92 anecdotes from women of all ages about their first encounter with Aunt Flo, edited by 18-year-old Rachel Kauder Nalebuff. 

New York Times review says of the book’s juicy collection of stories, “it is hard to imagine any woman, from the most straitlaced and body-denying to the most uninhibited and body-embracing, who will not read right through it with pure enjoyment, small flashes of recognition and the urge to buy it for every female preteen in sight.”

Menstruation is the ultimate open secret of women–most of us do it, we often complain about it, but very few of us talk about what it’s really like, what happened when it first started, and how, for those of us who have lost it at some point (temporarily or permanently) feel about that loss. Our red/brown frenemy.

As someone who got it early (age 10), lost it early (age 31, to chemo), and got it back (age 33), I’m particularly fascinated with menstruation. But then again I was a Women’s Studies minor who lived at my alma mater’s Womyn’s Center for a while and met my science requirement with a class I created called “The Biology and Culture of Menstruation and Menopause.” I made a curriculum around books with names like “Dragontime,” “Period,” and “Her Blood Is Gold.” Not to mention “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” (which actually touched me more for its depiction of divorce than belted maxipads).

Because of that, I was really irked by a different Times article from last week that said of this new book, “But . . . periods? Really? What’s next, a collection of ruminative essays about bowel movements?” Arg. I find it utterly offensive to compare menstruation with more mundane, gender-shared bodily functions. Mainly because although it’s bodily, for me it’s also spiritual. As many cultures have appreciated–both to the gain and detriment of women–menstruation is a powerful, mysterious thing. Some religions consider women too powerful to touch because of it–during or ever. And other traditions see it as a time when women are more receptive and sensitive to our intuition and the divine. 

It’s different for every woman, but for me it makes me slow down, throw my legs up a wall while I lie on my back and breathe. It causes me to cry about the things I’ve needed to cry about all month and couldn’t quite. It’s a little aching womb-secret that does feel powerful and mysterious and full of potential. When I lost this monthly visitor for a while I missed it, like a difficult, needy friend who suddenly stops calling.

What’s your relationship to this monthly reminder of womanhood, whether she still visits or not? 



  • KATHY

    I’VE BEEN WITHOUT IT FOR QUITE SOME TIME.NOW IT’S BACK AGAIN! I COULD DO WITHOUT IT FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!

  • Your Name

    I was about 14 when I started and in junior high school. All my peers were or already had started their monthly cycle. I was relieved to have a girlfriend whose mother worked for a gyneocologist/ob specialist. My mother was not big on telling me anything, directed me to a box of tampons and said read it. My girlfriends mom; got us each a kit, booklets from this doctors office,and explainned everything in detail to both of us. I learned why women have menstral cycles and how it begins the cycle of life for a young women, then what gift we could be given to create after our cycle. I was very excited to recieve my little belt and large, large sanitary napkin, then to find out this is how life is created, I really couldn’t wait. My girlfriend was early at everything even development in the upper body half and had already started when she was 11. I had regular cycles no cramping, 4days every 28days, then at 18 was in a MVA with my girlfriend, she was not injured I was DOA on arrival then became critical, with several damages. For many years after I needed a shot of estrogen due to surgeries and complications from injuries occured. I felt like was missing something in my life without my menustration, then finally my girlfriends, mom sent me to the doctor she had worked for and at 25-30yrs old, he got me back on track. I’m 43 and very regular now, I took the time to show my daughter a movie about the mircle of life and menustration with two friends before her cycle and she seen our gyn doc. He explainned everything she wanted to know. He just delivered her first baby January 10, 2008. Her birthday is 1-09-83. My first granddaughter, now she’s expecting number two another granddaughter. I am proud for the time my girlfriends mother took with me. I have even taught my son alittle, got him books for puberty. I look at that womenly secret as special, something men can not have, only we can and produce from it. Now I’m waiting for it to go away I’m done producing, and ready for retirement. It’s nice to be able to have something that just belongs to us, even when it gets rough and emotionally draining, it was all worth it to me.

  • Your Name

    I’ll be turning 50 on May but I still have my regular menstruation.I can feel that I’m already on my pre menopausal stage because I can feel the signs like night sweat, a little headache & what really bothers me is waking up in the morning feeling nauseted w/ mucous sticking in my throat. But then it still come regularly every month and it always makes me feel young inside out.

  • olderdivorcedandneveramom

    Ahhhh, Time. I thought that you wouldn’t come and go so quickly; but, you did. I took care to be thoughtful in my decisions; but, you wanted me to know something sooner than I did. Now, Time has gone by; and, I lost the opportunity for those things that need Time; so now, I prey that I don’t lose Time when it is here again, ready for what takes, “Time.” R.I.H.P.(S)

  • cabke

    You’ve got to be kidding. Having gotten it at 10-and severe cramps for the next 40 years, I am thrilled to be shed of it. AMEN.

  • Your Name

    My first period arrived, as my family arrived in Orlando, FL for our first trip to Disney. I was ten years old. And in the mid-70′s women were still pinning their maxi’s to their panties. Imagine my disappointment when I couldn’t swim. My mother had no idea about tampons.
    I’ve worried at times when my “frenemy” has come late and rejoiced over it also. I look for it every month and it is a celebration of being feminine. I love the book “The Red Tent” while fiction still demonstrates how women connected and bonded during this time. I look forward to teaching my daughter about the magic her body has instore.

  • Your Name

    I was blessed to not have much cramping with mine, from the age of 12,and blessed again when it stopped at the age of 48. Even hot flashes and night sweats weren’t too bad. I’ve been dealing with MS (multiple sclerosis) for 17 years now, so am VERY glad for all that. I remember a short poem I wrote for a writing class in college. Here goes:
    This one of those
    how wonderful that you’re a woman now
    kind of days when,
    pushed out from inside,
    my nerves stretch like sausage casings,
    and I feel “plumped,”
    like a “Ball Park frank.”

  • Your Name

    As a Life Coach I deal with transitional times. Even though getting your period is not considered a transitional time, think again. I remember when I got my first period. I was somewhat excited to get it. It meant I was a woman. It was the day before my 13 th birthday. Now as a 54 year old woman, things are changing and i know my time is ending as far as my monthly “issue”. I have to admit, when I get it, I feel young still, but this feeling of “do I have it” is getting old. Having to carry around tampons everywhere you go , “just in case” is not sitting well with me. But here is the deal. I embraced getting my period as being healthy, and able to carry a child. So many women out there would love to be able to get regular periods. It all boils down to a few things. What does getting your period mean to you.? How do you handle this monthly event.? Do you embrace it or call it a curse, and how will you handle it when it is gone.? I choose to not see it as a loss, but to thank heavens i am still living to experience it ending.

  • Your Name

    Oh no,i don’t want to think about menopause!!!I am scared whenever
    my period don’t come to visit me every month.I remember those years
    that by being forgetful of my monthly visitor/period,my belly
    went up and down four times.But now,this time of my life have come,
    when i really have to make plans on how to catch up for the lost
    times and eventually produce something” blue”my dream blue!I just
    hope and pray that Mr.Blue will take me right out of the BLUE so
    i can be out of the blue at the same time finally create “blue”.Um,i’ve been wishing for that blue,THERE’S NOT SO MUCH TIME TO LOSE”…HELPPP!!!
    Can anyone help me,i have suffered enough pains,now this kind of
    pain needs NO TIME TO LOSE!!!I am now deppressed and at my desperate
    moments and no one can help me now but MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Your Name

    Those of you who are able to embrace this natural part of our lives, I say “good for you.” For me, however, the extensive physical pain, inconvenience, expense, messiness, embarrassing moments of being caught offgaurd and unprepared, having to plan your life around it, and the general discomfort I have endured since age 12 have made me loathe the whole process. I recognize its value and necessity, of course, but now at age 40, I am looking forward to it finally being over.

  • Your Name

    Mine came late, 1 month before my 14th birthday – a mere precursor to a diagnosis of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) which I recived at age 28 after going 5 months without a period. Try explaining your complete celibacy to an incedulous Ob/Gyn. “I know I am not pregnant Doctor as I am saving myslef for marriage and have never had sex!”
    I am now 48, I have always been highly religious, which led me to “wait” until marriage to pursue Motherhood. I married a month before my 40th birthday.
    I am now widowed from a loving but difficult marriage, and despite my childlessness (I am planning to adopt), I welcome this monthly sign that I am still a member of a closed society called “Womankind”.
    Just the word “woman” = “man with a womb”, and I think this in itself says a lot. Men can’t give birth, their bodies are made differently, and the stress alone could kill some of them. If they gave birth, we juist might abolish a word called “war”. But, I digress!
    At first I panicked when I was told PCOS meant infertility and I was headed for menopause. Now I am at peace, realizing that I can adopt a child someone could not care for and thereby still have the experience of raising a child.
    I have always been frightened of the pain of childbirth, I have a Paternal Grandmother who had 15 children and a Maternal Grandmother who had 7 children. I would have dealt wiht my fear for the very worthwhile experience of childbirth, but sad to say, that is not the way my life has turned out.
    Left with accepting these facts, I have finally made peace with the aging process. I remain on HRT (low dosage birth control pills, which I have been on since I was about 34, this reduces the chance of ovarian cysts and regulates my otherwise irregular cycle.
    Still, I look foward to having my monthly and I wish other people could embrace and enjoy this special time of life as much as I have.
    Life is precious and as women we are given the chance to bring forth life, now it just doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

  • Emelda M Hall

    I was worried when it did not come when my other friends had their. I was terrfied when it did come and glad when it stopped.

  • Your Name

    I was raised by a divorced father. We lived on a military base in Hawaii. I was 12 when my period started and when it started, I called my dad. Who told me to call my grandmother in California. I remember after speaking to her getting on my bike and going to the store all by myself. As the years passed I never really thought about my period, more of a nusiance than anything.
    I am in my forties now and I have a daughter who has just started her period. I have changed my views on periods and now embrace them not as a enemy but as my friend. I hope to convey to my daughter that having your period is the most natural thing. There may be times when it can be bothersome but, overall it is a gift.

  • JzMunnett

    YIKES!!! So much to learn to quickly, missed a few things, til I became a mother and started to chat with other women about this whole ordeal. Our monthly’s, sex and motherhood – what a combination a blessing in disguise? I say maybe. To those of you who never had it, lucky, to thos of us who had, there are times when we know we are lucky but for the most part a period sucks! LOL!!! Have a fantastic week women and just enjoy being you. Muaah!

  • Your Name

    I remember looking at the toilet paper every time I pee’d to see if my period had finally started when I was a little girl… it finally did when I was almost 13. Mom and Dad were out – I knew all about periods since I have 2 older sisters… but they weren’t there, so there were no pads in the house. I found a tampon (jumbo size!) in Mom’s bathroom and tried to use it – obviously to no avail… and thought I flushed it. Well, the dang cardboard inserter got caught on the way out and I didn’t notice it. Mom came home and when she saw it yelled at me for wasting a tampon! DANG! I was crushed! Here is a huge moment in my life and I’m getting yelled at???
    Through the years my periods were always fairly regular, and too heavy. My grandmother, mother and two sisters all had to have hysterectomy’s due to fibroid tumors. I fell right into line for that and at age 44 had it done. My last ‘period’ lasted 28 days. The doctor was able to do the surgery vaginally and recovery was almost immediate. I feel fantastic to this day!
    Bless you each of you, you beautiful women!

  • Your Name

    I was just 15 when I started my periods. My mother was away for the weekend, but one of my ‘besties’ was right next door visiting her grandma. She and her Mom got me situated.
    After the birth of my daughter when I was 22, I elected to have the 5 year birth control implant in my arm (cant remember what this is called!) This caused all sorts of chaos with my system and several years of no periods at all. I had it removed after year 4. Eventually, my periods became more regular and the upside of this experience was that I had began tracking them consistently. It was a wonderful tool to see the graphed out indicators and to know what was NORMAL for ME! I tend to flow every three weeks. And when things are really in balance, I can see how the flux of the moon correlates to my periods.
    This year, I will turn 40 and I am experiencing a change – which I assume to be premenopause: very heavy flows and spotting when it shouldnt be.
    I can see both sides of the coin here. There is a part of me which will be very sad when my body tells me we are no longer able to carry a child in this womb, even though realistically I would be crazy to have another child (having gained 5 stepkids when I married my husband!) I will not miss ruined panties and the expense of buying feminine products.
    There is a power in this flow. The ‘blood’ is really the end of the chapter. It fascinates me and intrigues me to consider my internal organs and what is happening in there. How just a word mentioned makes men take a step back…. How at least once a month, you have a great excuse to call in sick to work, needed or not…
    I cherish my womb and being a woman and everything that comes along with that – for better and for worse.

  • Your Name

    For me, its just a period. But I do have a question about it … if you take a bunch of woman and put them all in a house together to live, adventually they will all have there period at the same time. I always wondered why that is…

  • Sue

    I was just thinking about my period of which has not visited me recently. I am 32 years old and I believe that my period has become irregular but the funny thing is that I miss it in a sense. One reason is because I believe that I am bloated because it is time for it to come but has not come. Other than that I had become so accustomed to this reality as a woman that it feels like something is missing without it~ :)

  • Diane

    I started young, barely 11 and still going at 58…sometimes a blessings and sometimes a curse! Have a funny to share, when I was about 15 thought I would try a tampon – darn thing would not slide in correctly so I thought I needed help…got help alright with some VICKS VAPORUB…thought I was going to go into orbit and that was the end of my tampon days…TO GIRLS OF ALL AGE – ENJOY BEING YOU!!!

  • trina landry

    I AM A FOURTY SEVEN YEAR OLD WOMAN WHO LOST MY GIFT OF LIFE EARLY DUE TO SURGERY AND I DO MISS THE PART THAT MADE ME A SPECIAL WOMAN WITH THE CAPABILITY TO CREATE LIFE FROM THE MOST HUMBLE DIVINE CREATOR OF ALL EVEN THOUGH PERIODS COULD BE BOTHERSOME I NEVER REGRETTED BEING A WOMAN THIS WAS A SPECIAL GIFT FROM GOD AND IT HAS GIVEN ME A WONDERFUL SON WHOM I LOVE DEEPLY WOMAN HAVE BEEN GIVEN A VERY SPECIAL GIFT I DO NOT REGRET MY PERIODS AND THE MAGIC IT BRINGS

  • jc

    @ Diane: “got help alright with some VICKS VAPORUB”
    holy smokes that is hilarious!!! My first tampon involved the entire Catalina Island marine camp in the girls’ bathroom cheering me on. At the time I almost felt like Ms. America. Silly

  • lisa

    we learned all about periods in school, the whole reproductive system in males and females has always intrigued me. I would talk to my mom about it she was very informative, as was a boarder in our house (she said she learned how to use tampons from the directions in the box and was the “go to girl” when her friends needed to learn how! no vaporub required! yikes!!) i finally got mine at 13 and then didn’t get it for another 6 months. it was pretty erratic through my teen years, but not too bad. I went on the pill for a short time, which finally regulated it, which was nice. I have always been so paranoid about “leaking”. thats my main worry-i hate it!! I finally, at 32, have relaxed and just “go with the flow” haha! ;)

  • Nakiya

    Im only 19 but when I got on birth control an my cycle stopped it was great; saving money on tampons, pads, and wipes. Not worrying if i missed an cycle. Dont know how i’ll feel about it when i’m older, but not I dont care to much for it.

  • Your Name

    I could do without it. I’m not having kids. I don’t need it. It is very annoying. I would get a historectomy to get rid of it, but that would bring on menopause. I was getting the depoprovera shot, and that practically got rid of it, but that messes with your bones, and causes weight gain. I can’t win for losing…so to speak.

  • cehhw

    I’m 60 now. Haven’t had a period since I was 37 d/t a hysterectomy. I got my period at 11 years old. I found my period to be nothing more than a smelly nuisance with bad cramps. I only wish I had more than one child before the surgery.

  • Your Name

    I started at age 8. Was handed a napkin and belt and told to put in on..WHAT!! Didn’t know how. I was lucky to have a friend that looked out for me. She showed me how and what to do with the pads. Then told me why I was bleeding. She told me it was a good thing that I was now a woman and that I had power when on it.. Not the power you would think of but to be able to stay in tune with myself. It was a cleaning time for me. I have 4 children, 2 girls, 2 boys. I went into menopause at age 27 by the time I was 34 I was over and done with my periods..I do and don’t miss them cause I had really bad cramps up until I had my first child. When my daughters got theirs I took them out to dinner and treated them like a queen. I told them they were now young woman..

  • Mary

    I got my period when I was 12 and I was at a friends house far away from home, I remember think God I’m going to get this thing every month for forever. But it got better, I slightly enjoy getting it, gives me a reason to eat chocolate and be bitchy, watch movies and cry. A couple months ago I was depressed and I didn’t get my period for 3 month and it didn’t feel right, once I got my life back on track my friend came back and that also made me happier. So periods are a healthy thing.

  • Faithful

    Well, reading all the difference responses to this blog has obligated me to respond too. We all feel so differently about the same thing and it’s beautiful. I started my cycle at age 13 at school waiting on the school bus. I was terrified trying to figure out what wrong with me. I honestly thought I would be in trouble if she found out. I was so afraid it was all over my face and when I uttered the words “blood in my panties,” she told me to go to the bathroom and then came to the door with the prettiest little yellow satin bag with a sanitary napkin inside. She told me to put it on and I was lost. There wasnt much conversation and certainly no explaination about what was wrong with me. A friend explained more to me. Today, I cringe each month I see it because I want to have a baby so bad and I’m in my 40′s now. I pray and pray and pray for God to give me a baby before I see my last period. My periods are like clockwork each month. Never late and always there on time. I just want a baby to love and share with my husband.
    Please pray for me – Still keeping the faith.

  • Hopeful

    dear faithful
    Please consider being tested for sperm antibodies. This is more common for women then Doctors seem to think. I was tested and found positive and now have 4 beautiful children. The treatment is easy. I also have two other friends that had this same condition and now have children too. Good luck

  • Sara

    I’m actually on my 300th plus period. I was one of the first ones to get it from all my friends at age 9. I actually thought I was constipated, kept trying to go and do a number 2. I remember my mother and aunt laying me down and explaining a few things to me.
    To this day I don’t remember what they said, but at least I knew. Ever since I have never ever missed one and they are extremely painful. But I’ve learned to just be prepared for the pain, let nature do its thing. I probably talk about it more than most people are comfortable with (mainly males).
    These last couple of months I’ve tried to just get in touch with my feminine side. I have always somewhat dismissed the differences between males and females, but I am allowing my time of menstruation to remind me that there are some differences. However in a week’s time I will go back to my androgynous-gender-equality way of thinking.

  • http://www.360Menopause.com/menopause_experts.php Menopausal Relief

    I actually got my period at twelve and I did not know what it was. I guess times have changed, haven’t they?

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