What I wish I had known about my cycle and my body when I was younger

Jun 12, 2023

It really annoys me that the level of education we’re provided about our body, our cycle and our fertility when we’re young is so lacking.  All I remember learning from our sex education classes in school was how to put a condom on a banana, and that just having sex with someone would get me pregnant.  Now, this is based on my memory from almost 30 years ago, so I’m sure other things were taught – but not in a way that they stuck.

I’m the oldest of 3 daughters, so by the time I got my period, there was no “chat” or education from my mother.  It was assumed that I knew what was happening to my body.  And while I had the basics, I didn’t know what it meant, or why.  I remember feeling proud of that fact that it had started and I was finally a “woman”, because I always wanted what my sisters had. But I was also scared and embarrassed.

I will be teaching my daughter about her cycle before it comes, I will explain what is happening inside her body, how it all works, the reproductive system, and when she can and can’t get pregnant during her cycle. 

For so many years, I would buy tampons and pads at the grocery store (I don’t buy them now, given the information we know about how dangerous they can be to both us and the environment), and hide them under other items on the conveyor belt.  I’m not sure whether this was to hide my embarrassment, or to stop other people from feeling uncomfortable.  

I will be teaching my daughter that there is nothing to be embarrassed about with her cycle.  It is proof that her body is maturing and that this is an amazing thing.  It is not something that needs to be hidden, or spoken about in hushed tones.

When I was 18, I was starting to become sexually active, and I had irregular periods and pimples.  My doctor put me on the contraceptive pill.  There was no warning given to me of the effects that this could have on my body or my cycle.  Throughout the years, whenever my skin would break out, I would go back to the doctor and they would prescribe a stronger pill.  For 15 years I took contraception to control my breakouts and period.  I didn’t know any better.  To this day, I believe this was the main cause of our fertility issues.

I will be teaching my daughter that there are other forms of preventing pregnancy.  I will be teaching her that breakouts are due to an imbalance of hormones, stress, our environment and what you put into your body. And that a pill each day, while it may be effective, is only a band aid, not the solution. I will be teaching her that an irregular period could signal other problems, and while contraception is an easy option, it could have long-lasting effects on her fertility.

My sister used to have the most horrific cramps and heavy bleeding when she was younger.  My mother would give her a hot water bottle and a brandy concoction and send her to bed.  She struggled for years, and I believe to this day that she had undiagnosed endometriosis. 

I will be teaching my daughter that painful periods are not normal. That it isn’t just a part of being a woman, or something that you need to accept.  I will be teaching her that our cycle communicates and shows us what is out of balance in our bodies.  And that while there are some quick fixes for pain, it’s better to find the root cause of the issue.  We need to be the investigators of our own body. 

I will teach her that doctors only know so much.  And that we are the only ones who truly know our bodies.  To lean into that trust.  And even though she shouldn’t have to, there may be times where she will have to advocate for what she needs. 

Over the years, I have started to be gentler with my body around the time of my bleed, because that is what it needs.  For years, I tried to push through and pretend it wasn’t happening.  I forced myself to soldier on, even though I didn’t feel like it.

I will teach my daughter that her bleed is a time to slow down and give herself some grace.  In some cultures, it was customary that the women were taken away from the domestic pressures or demands when they had their bleed and given time to slow down and recover.  It was a sacred time.  And while that may not be possible today and in our western cultures, it is still important to see it in a different light.

In addition, I will also be teaching my son all of this too.  Because it isn’t just “woman’s business”.  We need to be raising sons who are aware of how a woman’s body works too.  I will be teaching him that contraception is not just the woman’s responsibility.  I will be teaching him about how a woman’s body works.  I will teach him how to respect it.

Because these are the things that I wish I had known from the very beginning.  The last 10 years have been a complete learning curve for me.  And while I can’t turn back the hands of time, I can prevent the mistakes of my past and from generations before that, being repeated again.  This is all we can do. 

Education is key here.  And we have a responsibility to gain the knowledge, learn from it, and empower others. We need to start having more conversations about this.  Normalizing it. And getting rid of the taboo surrounding our cycles and our bodies.  

Because even though we may feel like we’re at war with our body a lot of the time, it really is miraculous and deserves our love and respect.

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