Tuesday, January 30, 2007

1 Teaspoon of Testosterone

I shamelessly want to let you all know about a new blog started by my wonderful friend Tim - Peace is a Paradox. All you guys out there, if you read my blog (and I'm pretty sure some of you are guys) this is for you! Ladies feel free to duck over for a read too.

Tim explains the purpose of Peace is a Paradox in his opening post and I feel I will certainly botch any attempt to describe his blog because he has done a rather good job of it. Simply put, Tim is interested in discovering what it means to live holistically and looking in particular at what men have to celebrate/contend with in life.... I feel as if I don't quite have the words to describe quite what Tim is doing.... but I do know that it is needed and that Tim's looking for people (men in particular) to comment and get some discussion rolling. Please head over and leave some thoughts. Girls, let your guys know!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Blood Links

Here are a few links.... or a few ways to spend some time procrastinating!

Blood Sisters Menstrual Action: A site supporting action to break the silence surrounding women's bodies

Menstrual Lodge: a collection of articles, reflections, and menstrual products

The Red Spot: all about bleeding! Not a medical resource - rather a gathering place for women's knowledge and experience

Wild Genie: a space encouraging women to appreciate their menstrual cycles

www.menstruation.com.au: information on menstruation, fertility, conception, pregnancy and menopause

Please note that I do not support all of the views expressed within these web sites, they are simply places I have visited in my journey reflecting on what it means to bleed.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Red Cloth

To my absolute horror the single cloth pad from Wemoon arrived in the mail very shortly after ordering it, just in time for my next cycle.

At this stage of the journey part of me was very willing to try anything different, yet I had all sorts of reservations screaming in my head, mostly to do with the fact that I'd have to wash them, and touch my blood. I was not into that idea at all! I was also concerned at their size and how thick they were, and if they'd move around.

On arrival the size was nothing to worry about, I'd ordered a small size, slim pad in ruby red, it was the same length as a 'normal' pad, 20 cm long, and THIN! Now they're certainly not as thin as ultra slim pads which are what now?... about 2mm thin? But they are thin, only 0.5cm!

Besides my feelings related to washing out the blood I was almost giddy with a stupid excitement steming from the fact that I was about to use something that wasn't white for the first time ever. It was red, beautiful burgandy! It was special to have something beautiful linked to my menstruation.

So I wore it! And I liked it, I liked it a lot!

It was super comfortable, certinaly it wasn't as un-noticable as the nearly non-existant, thin things one can buy and chuck away, but it didn't feel bulky. It didn't slide around one little bit, didn't show under my clothes (but then I'm not one who wears supper tight pants, but my jeans are fitted and they don't show at all)..... then I came to washing it.

Washing has been a big part of my Red Tent journey.

A little wad of cloth made me come face to face with my blood. Oh, I'd seen the blood before but this.... this was different. It wasn't sucked deep into some super absorbent core, this blood was red and shining. There was a lot of it. It looked alive, and as I touched it to washed it out and away, the feelings that welled up were overpowering. Grief came out of no where and I cried for having felt ashamed of bleeding, I cried for seeing my bleeding as a burden not a miracle. The crying continued but only because it was so relieving to feel my bleeding was good. The crying soon turned to awe. Awe at the amazing way God's created women's bodies to be a life creating place, to be fertile, to cycle through preparing, breaking down and starting again.

And so cloth pads helped me to find a new view. I can't describe in words what it means to me to be a woman and love it so incredibly much, to bleed and smile a secret smile when I think of what my body is created to do. I love my cycling body! I love how it reflects what God does in my life, renewing me, removing the old self, cleaning away and building newness. It just keeps going, just like God!

Loving my cycling body hasn't changed the fact that I have cramps that run from my lower back to my knees, or that I can be such a klutz when I bleed..... but in loving the fact that I do bleed it has made accepting the discomfort an acceptable thing. Pain mixed with pleasure is a crazy mystery.

I read something once that really resonates with my bleeding experience, “You can not heal until you feel it.”

Sam you asked me about where you get cloth pads. There are so many different types! All-in-ones, pockets with insertable liners, with water proof backing, without waterproof backing, hemp, cotton, organic cotton, fleece... the list goes on. I brought Wemoon Pads from Yoni.com. An Australian woman has put together an idex of all the sorts of pads availiable for sale in Australia, go here.

I think there are a few Organic/health stores which sell them too. They do cost $$$ initially but pay for themselves pretty quick. I get by with five small slims, two medium slims, and three liners for midcycle ; ) all in ruby red, pink and purple!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Got Plastic?

I bled for the first time on 9th of December 1998 onto my favourite dress. That day I opened my first packet of pads.

Seven and a half years later, in June this year, I paused in the middle of a busy day, annoyed at the square plastic bin in the corner of the bathroom whose sole purpose was to contain used menstrual pads and their wrappers. It was over full. I made a calculation:

5 pads a day for 3 days = 15 pads
3 pads/liners a day for 2 days = 6 pads

Total: 21 pads/liners per menstrual cycle

Number of menstrual cycles experienced thus far = 91
91 cycles x 21 pads/liners = 1911 pads

With each of those 1911 pads came a plastic wrapper, two peel off wing tabs, and the peel off backing!

With a figure edging close to two thousand, not counting wrappers and other do-dads, dancing before my eyes, I took the calculation further.

The approximate number of menstrual cycles I will experience in my life time if I menstruate till I'm 50 is....
38 years x 12 cycles per year = 456 cycles

Which translates into:

456 cycles x 21 pads/liners =

...... 9576 non degradable bloody blobs of plastic, all created by me..... Oh and don't forget the 9576 wrappers, 9576 peel off backs and 19152 peel off wing tabs. Plastic heaven!

At that, with flashing neon lights around the dramatic number, "eco friendly Laura" appeared and said, as Miss Clavelle does in Madeline, "Something is not right!"

So I began looking for an alternative. Why I actually thought to look I don't know, because as we all know you're either a pad or tampon girl, right? Right?


Searching introduced me to 100% pure cotton pads/tampons (still non degradable), sea sponges, two menstrual cups called the Keeper and the Diva Cup, and reusable cloth pads. I'm sure there are a few things I haven't listed. For a bit of reading go have a look at the Museum of Menstruation. Interesting stuff

So I began investigating the four options.

1. The unbleached cotton pads and tampons did not meet my criteria simply because they were still not reusable. But in discovering them and the difference between them and the average run of the mill pads and tampons I also started thinking about chemicals. Why are tampons and pads made white? And why do neither pads nor tampon boxes contain a list of ingredients on them?! What's in them? What's used in the process of growing the cotton?

2. The sea sponges were just a little weird for me to think about as I began the journey to the Red Tent. I read about them and then the idea was discarded.

3. The menstrual cups sounded fantastic. In fact they are fantastic! I was very comfortable with the idea of putting my fingers inside myself to put it in and take it out. Being a student midwife one of my teachers advised all the students to get acquainted with ones own vagina before even considering doing a vaginal examination on another woman. The acquainting had been done (a post related to that might eventually make its way here in the course of the Red Tent exploration... maybe). While a two finger VE is easy enough the idea of the size of the cup (not all that big but big enough) did't appeal.

I still love the simplicity the menstrual cups hold for travel and hiking and will be acquiring one for those purposes, but not for every day. The other reason that made me decide not to use the Keeper or the Diva Cup on a regular basis relates to the fact that I was sure I'd loath loosing the experience of bleeding out blood. It was a strange moment when I realized that but it has only become something I feel more strongly about... a feeling I am gradually beginning to understand as I explore what it means for me to bleed.

So with three of the four options crossed off the list I turned my mind to cloth pads, argued with myself over cloth pads, persuaded myself why I should try them, persuaded myself shouldn't and finally bought a single cloth pad.... just to try.

It was good-bye plastic!

And I'll let you know why next post.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Entering the Red Tent

Not too many women discover the Red Tent, especially young western women. Finding the Red Tent for myself has been quite a journey, a journey that began by wading through emotions, disposable winged pads, slim tampaons, hundreds of plastic wrappers, living with cramps that ran all the way from my lower back to knees, packets of panadine, and discovering that a taking too much panadine makes ones body un-responsive to the drug. Feeling drowned by it all I began sifting through women's stories and views on bleeding hoping to find something more. To my releif and surprise I stumbled into the beautiful place I now call the Red Tent.

So what is the Red Tent? The Red Tent is simply a place where one comes to a different understanding and awareness about what it means to bleed every month for, give or take, fourty years of ones life female life. What conclusion one comes to in the Red Tent is their's to make - it's the simple fact of exploring alternatives and refusing to be spoon fed what our culture tells us about bleeding and menstruation, which makes the Red Tent significant and a vital part of women's growth and understanding about their bodies.

.... I'll be writing about what I've discovered in the Red Tent over these next few days.