Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

what to tell the girl in my life about menstruation?

November 24th, 2011 by Alexandra Jacoby

Ever since I saw this uterus pillow, I have been thinking about what to tell the girl in my life about menstruation. She’s ten years old. This pillow is exactly something I would give her! It’s handmade, using strong colors of the kind I like, and about a subject most people don’t want to talk about. [I like to annoy her!] Also, it’s pretty.

I’ve had it since the summer, and I still haven’t given it to her — because I want to say something with it.

uterus pillow - ovulating

uterus pillow by Wendy Caesar.

But – what?

I have no idea what she knows or thinks or feels about her body in general, or about menstruation in particular.

Where do I start?

[translate that to several months of procrastination]

Telling myself that it was research and preparation for a good talk, I started asking people what they think I should say to a ten-year old girl in my life. Most asked me if it wasn’t too early to start this topic? I mean if she isn’t menstruating yet…

why bring it up?

Her school will know when to start the conversation. Or maybe leave it up to her, to whenever she asks you…

She’ll ask her mother then probably. Or maybe her mother has already started this conversation….

Wait! None of that matters —

I am totally ducking. I am afraid to get it wrong.

How will she know that conversations are not tests, or competitions, if I keep acting like there’s a right way to do this— like I need training, expertise or approval to talk to the girl in my life about something that I have experienced myself for several of her lifetimes?

I want her to know that it’s ok to not-know EVERYTHING about your body and what comes next, and that it’s ok to ask questions from a place of not-knowing.

Right. Decision made. I will not become an expert before talking with her.

I’ll make this about her and about me.

Here’s what I’ll do:

I’ll ask her what she’s heard so far:

  • What do you know about menstruation?
  • What did your mother tell you?
  • School?
  • Friends?
  • Female relatives?
  • Your father?

I’ll check in with her:

  • What does it feel like? – What people told you —
  • Is it: scary, embarrassing, no big deal, exciting…

I’ll tell her why I brought this up:

The menstrual cycle is not just about bleeding and whether you can get pregnant today — though, those two situations are reason enough to learn as much as you can about your cycle. You want to be prepared for, and satisfied with, both experiences.

uterus pillow - menstruating

the same uterus pillow, by Wendy Caesar.

The menstrual cycle is one of your body’s vital signs.

Its hormones and processes affect and interact with how you feel, how your bones grow, how your skin looks, your body temperature… From the inside out, of your body-your home, your cycle determines your quality of life in many ways.

Most of us know little about how our bodies work. And, unless we feel pain, have difficulty doing something we want to do, or are incapacitated, we don’t necessarily need to know any more than the little we know.

But — and this is why I bring it up — the more you do know about how it works, the more power you have over the quality of your body-life, which in turn feeds your mental-spiritual-emotional life. And back around again.

I bring up the menstrual cycle because its integral to the workings of a woman’s body and while there are ranges of normal — day to day, it’s a unique experience for each of us.

I want her to be aware of that, and to begin paying attention to her body because it’s her body. Not just when it raised an issue that needs a response, like what to do about the blood.

I’ll end with:

Many of us were raised not to think about, or talk about, or bodies, to keep it clean down there and move on. It was as if your body was this separate thing you control. That is not what I want for you.

I want you to actively take care of yourself, to pursue information, the help and know-how of others whenever you need it, and to evaluate for yourself how “true” or relevant what they have to say is for you. And, I think that if I start this conversation with you now, rather than once it happens, the seed will be planted in terms of your body-life, not just within the scope of bleeding and pregnancy, neither of which mean much to you before you’re crossing that threshold.

It’s your body.

You will know it better than anyone just by paying attention to your experience.

Is there anything you want to ask or tell me?

…Fine. I think I am ready now. I’ve stopped wondering how it will go. I’ve let go (somewhat) of wanting to get this right.

What I want for her, for every girl is:

  • that she have confidence in herself, her ideas, questions, preferences, fears and desires
  • that she appreciate and value her own experience as her primary source of information
  • that she hold a sense of sovereignty over her body and life

because then she’ll be poised to create — discover — advocate for her life’s happiness and fulfillment.

Living

is a full-body experience,

whether you want to talk about it or not.

 

  

12 Responses to “what to tell the girl in my life about menstruation?”

  1. Elizabeth Kissling says:

    This is lovely, Alexandra. It really makes me wish I’d talked with my niece (the girl in my life) more about menstruation when she was ten.

    She’s 18 now, so it’s not that it’s too late, but I wish I’d had more positive conversations like this with her when she was younger, before some of the negativity toward menstruation had developed.

  2. Laura Wershler says:

    Alexandra, I hope you will share a little bit of what you experience when you present the girl in your life with this lovely pillow and your honest invitation to talk about menstruation. I’ve always said that every girl needs two things: a vulva (or uterus) pillow on her bed, and a copy of Cycle Savvy by Toni Weschler (no relation) on her bookshelf. You might consider giving her the book when she turns 13. http://cyclesavvy.com/index.html

  3. Cindy Schickendantz says:

    Lovely, in every possible way. That young woman is very lucky to have you in her life.

  4. Shulamith says:

    It’s a shame that schools wait so long to discuss the facts of life with children, especially since so many parents would rather SOMEONE ELSE talk to their children about these matters (a study showed that they want a DOCTOR to talk to their children FOR THEM). My parents started giving me and my siblings nuggets of information from an early age. Their mentality was, “If they’re old enough to ask, they deserve an answer.” It was always age-appropriate, but never dumbed down. For all the gripes I have about my teen years, I’m really glad they got that part right.

    • Alexandra Jacoby says:

      Shulamith,

      Thank you –
      I hear you on giving the conversation over to doctors, and love your parents’ point of view.

      ~Alexandra

  5. Jay says:

    Please tell me there’s somewhere to buy a pillow like this.

  6. Alexandra Jacoby says:

    Liz, Laura, Cindy, Jerilynn,

    Thank you for your comments, support and suggestion – even after posting, I was nervous about putting it out there.

    ~Alexandra

  7. Elizabeth Gould says:

    Well done Alexandra!

    I wanted to let you know that the” wondrous womb soft sculpture” as it is called, was designed and created by the late Tamara Slayton, menstrual ed. activist, as a teaching tool for the classroom. Kits are available if one wishes to make their own, although Wendy Caesar and Emelia do an incredible job with beadwork and detailing. http://www.lindaknodle.com/products.html

    Just let me know if you would like some of the “script” I use in the classroom setting to explain the workings of the felted uterus to a pre-pubescent girl.

    _Elizabeth

  8. Lauren says:

    I wish I could have that talk with the 10 year old girl in my life. But her mom would probably have a fit. :(

    I wanted to talk to her when she was 9. I think she should know what will happen before she needs to deal with it. I do not like the culture of ignorance that her mom thinks is preserving “innocence and youth.” She doesn’t want her baby to grow up. So if I want to be a part of the kid’s life, I need to play by mom’s rules.

    It is very frustrating.

  9. Peggy says:

    I’m a bit shocked that people in this day and age think 10 years old is perhaps too young to talk about menstruation. I thought that attitude was only from my parents’ generation. I guess I’m out of touch. My daughter is 6, and she’s known about it since she was old enough to talk, pretty much. She also knows all about sex, in an age appropriate way. She asks, I answer. And she’s still a sweet innocent little girl.

    My guess is that by the time a kid is 10 these days, they’ve learned *something* about menstruation from *somewhere*. The kids in my daughter’s class did an exercise where they listed a bunch of questions they’d like to ask their parents. “How do women make babies” was right at the top. So, they’re looking for answers at lest that young. And what better time to have a conversation like this? I mean, why wait until it’s urgently needed? I honestly don’t understand the reasoning behind keeping these facts from kids.

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