I’m going to discuss Female Things, like fertility and menstruation, so if this is not your cup of tea, I’ll just say – thanks for stopping by! – and wish you well on your way. This will likely be a little TMI for some.
When I started this project my baby girl was five months old. I was exclusively breastfeeding her and it wasn’t until last month (at 12.5 months postpartum) that my period returned. Like girls beginning to menstruate for the first time, the postpartum body takes several cycles (anywhere from one to over a year) to ‘normalize’ – find its rhythm and flow, literally. I am in the midst of my second postpartum period, and it’s a doozy.
Hot on the heels of last week’s virus I began bleeding. When I was a teen I had crippling menstrual cramps. Humiliatingly crippling. I once crawled on hands and knees through my high school hallways to get to the nurse. In college, I was once carried out of the dining hall bathroom back to my dorm because I was unable to stand, let alone walk. That kind of thing no longer happens to me. Birth has aided me in that area. But I’m bleeding more than I ever have since I was about 13.
It hits me in waves. I may be tired but I can focus and function, and then WHAM: I’m dizzy, exhausted. I can’t focus. I’m light-headed and the focus of my body is in my pelvis. Plans for even menial tasks are out the window. In some ways, it reminds me of being pregnant. I don’t get light-headed and unable to focus, but my center of gravity is lower. My body feels thicker, heavier – not necessarily in a weight and size way, but as if my blood is magnetized and connecting more viscerally with the iron in the earth.
This changes my perception of the world around me and profoundly affects my spiritual practice. During pregnancy and menstruation I feel less up in my head; Talky Self is less engaged and Fetch, my more primal soul, is at the forefront. I don’t want to think, I want to Be. This is a needed and welcome change for me – when I can alter my life and expectations to suit that shift.
I certainly don’t consider menstruation an impurity. I may feel sticky and messy and achy, but I know that the process is one of purification. This process allows me to have children. As a woman who chooses to have children, I am grateful for this. I am grateful that I no longer live a life where I have to ‘suck it up’ and continue on as if I’m not bleeding. Our society has no room for the mysteries of fertility, for Women’s Things.
None of this particularly lines up with place or Shinto. Perhaps as my outdoor practice becomes routine I’ll feel differently. Maybe next month will be a different experience entirely.
I’d love to hear from other women: how has menstruation affected your spiritual practice or experience? How do you accommodate it? Thoughts?