“Whenever I have my period, I have the feeling that in spite of all the pain, discomfort and mess, I’m carrying around a sweet secret. So even though it’s a nuisance, in a certain way I’m always looking forward to the time when I’ll feel that secret inside me once again.” Anne Frank

An excerpt from my contribution to “Red Tide Rising” ; a collection of our unique stories of menstrual educators in honour of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day (2011).

I always had a deep respect for my ‘woman’s body’ – I don’t know where it stemmed from- certainly not my mother or sister, but I just knew there was something magical about it!! I must have had a sense it was connected to my cycle as I couldn’t wait to start my period- from about 9 years old I was desperate to get it!

When it came, at 11, my first period was not celebrated- it was shamed, called ‘the curse’ and my mother was confused that I was so happy- she said ‘that’s it now, you have to deal with that every month for years and years.’ She gave me a huge fat kotex pad. I had no rites of passage, no guidance, it was hidden away. As I got older my sexual energy was feared and called ‘dirty’ and my curvy figure was called ‘fat’. I struggled with depression, eating disorders and addictions. I had 2 children by the time I was 20 and was a single mum.

Along side my inner knowing about my cycle, I also had a ‘Green Warrior’ inside me, my children wore cloth nappies and I used only natural cosmetics, bought healthy fresh foods for us all, reused things, fixed what I could, recycled where possible etc

Then I had the idea of using cloth pads (cloth nappies so why not cloth pads?) I bought some from Canada and then began to make my own. I felt that having this strong connection to my blood kept me grounded in my cycle.

Then at 21 years old I attended a ‘Healthy Cycles’ course- which helped me to move away from the negative messages I had been given as a child and young woman and enabled me to see myself in a different light, as well as understand the hormonal changes my body was going though on a monthly cycle.

It also set of a spark in me to want to help other women change their attitudes around their cycle- which began by making and selling cloth pads. Although I mostly came up against negativity from women about using them, the few who did- told me what a difference it made to their feelings around their bleeding and their cycle, so I persevered! Then I moved in to doing therapies and slowly as my confidence grew in to teaching workshops.

It is such a shame that so many women who when you talk to them about using something ‘washable’ (not just pads- a cup or sponge) are really disgusted! I have become so used to it that I can usually get them thinking -when I suggest that a pile of 12,000 used pads and tampons is a lot more disgusting!
And when I talk to women about celebrating their cycle I get some funny looks and some women who just don’t understand why anyone might want to do that!

Since having a baby last year I have stepped back from running workshops and have been focusing on other ways to support and empower women and their daughters. My main way to do this is still to encourage switching from disposables to reusable’s and really have a ‘hands on’ experience of their bleeding. And teaching women to explore their cycle themselves through journaling and charting; I have written and complied 3 books now to support women in rediscovering the power their period holds for them.

I would say that on a personal level I feel completely content with my body and the changes it goes through each month- before I had any understanding of the hormonal rollercoaster ride I had felt out of control and in battle with my body- I tried to control it with contraceptives, painkillers etc but once I surrendered to my natural cycle and stopped trying to make it fit in our linear world my periods become lighter, almost pain free and I was able to celebrate it on a monthly basis! (And also use my knowledge of my cycle to control my fertility naturally.)

Years later I continue to give my cycle the respect it deserves and plan ahead knowing when my hormonal highs and lows will be and asking for support from my family when I need time out to be in my Moon Time.
Rachael xxx

For more information about my workshops and classes click here

For my on line shop selling cloth pads, panty liners, sponge tampons and mooncups see here

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