Pritha Maps Menstruation
Ko Pritha tōku ingoa.
Nō Auckland ahau.
Tēnei tōku kōrero.
I’ve always wished my menstruation was a map. Straight forward. Logical. Seamless. I’d get a new one issued every 28 days with an X marking blood and soaking stains would be a thing of the past. Oh, what a thought.
The first day I bled at age 12, my mother rejoiced, I cringed (because seriously, there was NOTHING more embarrassing than your mother describing the mechanism of a tampon) and thought that was that. School puberty lessons had taught me that tampons absorb lots of blue liquid (apparently red was ‘too realistic’), periods ran in cycles, cycles ran for 28 days, and I was now a woman because I bled.
Image: Sarathy Selvamani
I quickly realised a menstruation map was not a thing. I bled in spots and rivers; sometimes once a month, sometimes 3 times a month and sometimes I wondered if my ovaries had shrivelled up and given up. Sometimes I doubled over in pain and sometimes I forgot what cramps were. I had friends who bled for 6 weeks straight. I had friends who didn’t bleed at all. My mother started using the word ‘menopausal’ and my friends flushed as red as their flows while whispering, “does anyone have a… tampon? Sorry to be gross,” during class time.
When I was 15, I lost my flow all together. My body was strained and starved and menstruation had no home. It took work, but after a year of drought, my body began to heal. The flow danced around sporadically, until again, it disappeared. This time, nobody knew what was wrong. No amount of hormone testing, ovary scanning, specialist chatting or body weighing could uncover an answer for my shy ovaries, no matter how much I pushed or how many shrugs I received. I had gone another year with no cycle and the only option seemed to be birth control. At first, I had no problem with this. Here was a nifty piece of science that my body gelled with. It opened my floodgates, closed my acne factories and boom! I was a proper woman with a proper 28 day cycle— or was I?
As I got older, I began to stand in my power, and shed all the ‘gross’ ideas I had picked up about my body, periods and the world. I I became interested in feminism, empowerment and sustainability, switched to a menstrual cup (can I get an Amen?!) and started to cultivate a desire to be truly in tune with my blood. I craved a connection with my body, and began to question my use of birth control. Was this natural? Why couldn’t my body produce blood by itself? Was I less of a woman for relying on artificial hormones*?.
Image: Riccardo Gomez
I went back to the doctors; this time with the intention of finding out alternatives to birth control. Again, nobody seemed interested in looking beyond the plaster of the pills, and this frustrated me to no end. I tried doctors and naturopaths, as well as throwing myself into the world of online research. I was filled with so much angst and confusion about periods, pills, and the sterile nature of menstruation in the medical world. It drove me bloody crazy to be bounced from doctor to doctor, with nobody willing to truly listen and understand the importance I placed on a natural flow. Birth control was an easy fix, and fix it did. But blood wasn’t enough for me anymore. I wanted connection.
After much consideration and consultation from a range naturopaths, friends and myself, I pried my womb from the pills and watched my body uncoil. Whether it was luck, timing or the convenience of living with a super empowered, super connected friend who kicked me into action (the beauty of women flowing in sync continues to amaze me), I bled without engineered hormones. The feeling of cupping and connecting to my flow (no matter how teeny tiny) was magical. I cried on the toilet, and still breathe gratitude each time my ovaries wiggle and open.
I’ve had people ask me why I have such a primal need to be connected. As an LGBTQI+ woman, some have even questioned why periods matter to me at all. I have no desire to conceive naturally, so why is my cycle so important? Periods are in place to create life, however to me they are so much more than that. They represent cleansing and renewal. They hold a divine feminine energy that is intrinsic to my being. They are home and history in one. To me, that is reason enough.
Now, I am still on this bloody beautiful journey and I wouldn’t change it for the world. My body and I are slowly becoming buddies. I’m learning to breathe compassion and love into myself no matter its state. My body is my map. My job is to listen. Period.
*Note: Birth control does not make anyone less than, and I myself have felt shamed for rejoicing in its benefits. My intention is not to shame anyone. It is a super crafty scientific booster that works beautifully for many. This is purely my experience, and I’m not discarding my own use of it again in the future.
When I’m not thinking intensely about periods, you can find me writing poetry as productive procrastination from my Bachelor of Education (Primary Teaching) degree, dancing wildly and trying to motivate myself to hike the beautiful trails of Auckland.
"The moon is ripened
pulling blood from wombs in waves—
Waiwhero you are heavy
let the light carry us home."
- Pritha 🍒