Vagina Blog #1

I’ve had the urge to write a different (similar enough to my birthing world posts, but still different) kind of blog for awhile. On vaginas! Yes, let’s take this in. Vagina, uterus, sex, fluid, blood, orgasm, cervix, vaginal walls….the list could really go on depending on how deep we go (no pun intended). This post is on the menstrual cycle and has some notes so that we can ALL care for ourselves and one another around this time (not just for those who bleed, those of you whom don’t bleed you can also read this to gain more understanding of those people in your life). These posts are loaded up with links so that you can educate yourself more and more. When I first wrote this post it was so long so I decided to make it two posts. The next post (Vagina Blog #2) will cover some other vagina themes (see the end of this post for the topics).

The reason is this: if you’re someone who bleeds, this is for you! If you’re someone who has a person in your life who bleeds (or may one day bleed, or has stopped bleeding but once did and may have a whole new internal world), this is for you! We can all use to know and read these things, they are essential to our humanness. If you have a cycle, you may relate to this just a bit more than if you don’t bleed. If this makes you squirmy, I get it. Here’s a soft hand on your back and me saying “you can do it” as can step further into your adult shoes. This is a grown up post. I heavily wish I had known about what I’ve written below a long time ago. I hope this is reaching you at the perfect moment. Since this isn’t widely talked about, I’m trying to break that up.

The Vulnerable Part: I grew up in this United States society just like many of you. If you’re not from the United States culture or you’re not living in it, many cultures have taboos around this content (and some don’t, I bow to those ones whom worship the vagina and the cycle!)  There’s a lot of thoughts and emotions around sharing this kind of information because I too was trained not to. However…I find it important and I’m choosing to do it anyway, even though I have the “am I sure I want to post this? Do I know what this could bring?” types of thoughts. I’m prepared for the spectrum of responses and I won’t be surprised if I get everything from “how dare you write about this and post it on the internet, that’s disgusting” all the way to “right ON, this is amazing, thank you for this information” and all the in betweens of responses where you may not be sure how you feel about it all. This writing is designed to spark something inside of you…..let it.

Taking care of my reproductive system has been one of the most challenging things in life, and also one of my most profound and tender lessons. I now relish it some of the time since I’ve gotten to the point where I can trust and ride the wave of it all. Sometimes I feel ecstasy when I bleed. Sometimes I still fight it and resist and to be so honest I hate everything and everyone on those days. But I have grown to love my blood like you love someone where there’s a full and complex relationship. The whole spectrum is there. It was not always this way. I came from menstrual cramps so severe that I couldn’t survive a school day without a lot of pain medication, couldn’t lie down to sleep, felt sick and like I had the flu at times, etc. I cursed my body, the fact that I was born into a female body. It was all fight. The short story was I really had no idea how to deal or take care of myself, in multiple ways.

** Disclaimer: This is what has done well for me (and I’ve heard for some others too). Take it with a grain of salt and know that you will figure out your answers. It seems some people (I know I used to be) are afraid or ashamed to speak about this. Sometimes we want to be private and that is valid and respected. And sometimes, being able to talk about this and ask questions helps and when it’s shut down, it stings so bad. Especially for young ones. I want to give voice to this and hope that through my using my voice, it gives permission for others to own their own stories and get support.

I’m going to get specific here. Details. Read on knowing that. Please don’t misunderstand me: with this culture we live in I feel I need to be so crystal clear, in case you haven’t gathered so far, that I’m going to talk about menstrual things here. Blood, body parts, fluids. For those of you whom haven’t yet realized that this cycle is the matter of life, that it is what you come from and what you will return to, my invitation is to see if you can stick with it. Keep reading even if an internal voice yells “Why the hell is she writing about this and sending it out to her entire email list!?”  There are reasons, even if they’re not always understood by everyone.

The Menstrual Cycle. What a universe this is! If you don’t know much, try starting with a little reading. To care for myself and still function in the world, I have seriously tried everything, like I’m sure many have (these are in no particular order, different days and different kinds of context call for different approaches):

– The “I don’t give a fuck, I’m not spending money or putting a damn thing against my cervix” approach using toilet paper and changing it when needed. That usually ends up being messy or feeling awkward when the TP gets out of place. Fail.

– Regular white pads (which either feel like a diaper or do not provide the coverage needed). Most pads are bleached and that is a no-no for me and my sacred vagina tissues. Some pads are organic / not bleached and very expensive. This is a no-no for my checkbook. Fail.

– Tampons: Again most are bleached, or if not are pricey. When I’m supposed to be in a time of release the last thing I want to do is put something dry and chemically made in there. Fail.

** WHO originally came up with all of these things that are the most widely available? CEO’s and sales executives of large companies = Probably 90% men who have no idea what it’s like to be in the midst of the ritual and release of bleeding? Right….Fail.

– Organic cotton cloth pads: kind of feel like a diaper and the velcro is uncomfortable if it touches skin but a better option and cheaper than the above stated methods. Moderate success.

– The Diva Cup (there is also The Keeper which is an older version): a rubber cup that you fold in half, insert up into the vagina, rests against the cervix, and catches blood. It can hold quite a bit depending on your flow. It leaks sometimes so a light panty-liner or black underwear was something I learned was a must. It’s uncomfortable for me on the first day (it can feel like putting pressure on a fresh wound, nothing wants to go in there! My body has very strong feelings that it’s a time of deep release, not a time to put anything up there). It really does work well on the light days. It’s been effective for me for years and has helped me mostly avoid the conventional ways discussed above which are old news in my book. It’s good to pee before inserting / removing the Diva Cup, it makes things easier, trust me.. Moderate success. Click here to read on the Diva Cup.

– Sea Sponge: this is one option I haven’t tried but have heard good things. It’s a natural small sponge that is inserted and soaks up blood (I imagine a similar effect to the Diva Cup but hopefully feels softer). They sound nice, but I couldn’t find them in a store (there are many online). They don’t last as long cause they wear out so it can be more expensive (the underwear below and the diva cup last much longer, once you buy them you can have them for extended time). Like the Diva Cup, at times the sponges can leak. If you google search, there are multiple brands you can try out and order.

– When all fails, I’ve thought about saying “fuck it!” and just going without anything at all but have gotten to that point only a few times. This mostly came out of emergency and refusing to buy anything so I suffered through a few hours until making it home). Ever gotten to that point of frustration? Not a fun place to be. Fail.

** A note of truth: I wish I could bleed on the earth and in the open water and have it not only be accepted, but encouraged and worshipped at sacred. At your core, do you feel that? I intend to be blunt here: my body is made to do this, this blood is some of the most nutrient dense matter that was ever made (it can make a human, I mean COME ON!) Yet here I am working my ass off wasting energy / money on things that are inappropriate and and ineffective. The fact that a bunch of large companies capitalize on a primal female process and that leads to what’s most available and widely taught in the mainstream for menstrual care is just baffling! And typical.

** A note of reality: Because this is a modern world we are in, I choose to refrain from going around expecting that I can bleed on the earth and in the waters freely as I vented above. As most of us do and I’m left with these questions of “Why is it this way?” Sigh.

Alas…..praise the universe for progress! As a modern woman, who cares for mine and others’ bodies deeply, I am so grateful for this addition below. Every month we go through this! This is revolutionary in my mind:

– Disclaimer: I do not work for Thinxx. They in no way asked me to write this (or even know that I am). I am just happy to shout it to the world as this really has helped my world in a very big way. And I know it is an extreme privilege to have access to these underwear, and to have the funds to purchase them. I know that and am deeply grateful.

– Thinxx underwear are one of many recent amazing add-ons to my life. They are underwear with double fabric (a built in pad that doesn’t move around) sewn in. They are comfortable and easy to wear and I did not bleed through even on my heaviest day. My cycle is not very heavy, you will have to figure out yours, but my assumption is that the full coverage underwear should provide you with enough support. Click here to read more.

The Fit: I ordered all of the cuts. If you like thongs, go with the thong for light days. If you like “regular” underwear, go with the full coverage. My least favorite cut is the “cheeky” because they feel like a wedgie and it feels like half my butt is in the underwear and half is out. If you like that feeling, they are cute to the eye if you or your lover like a little butt cheek.

Extra support:  You may need to use something (like a sponge or tampon or diva cup) in combination with the underwear on your first day if you are a heavy bleeder. Still, they are way better than the alternative cause if you bleed on them, you wash them and it doesn’t go through onto your clothes cause they are doubled up with effective fabric. And no bleach.

Money: Unfortunately, like anything high quality, they are pricey. The investment was worth it for me. A perk (if you have moral needs around where you put money) is when you buy some, they give menstrual supplies to women in Africa who have absolutely nothing and have been missing school for a week at a time when they are bleeding because they can’t walk the long way without soaking their clothes. Can we pause for a moment to feel what that would be like and acknowledge the fact that many of us reading have never had to experience anything close to that?

So, I am in full support of these products FOR women made BY women. It’s about damn fucking time! Next step for us as a species is to make healthy and comfortable supplies affordable and available to every single person who bleeds, no matter economic status or accessibility, because it is a terrible feeling being without support there.

And another thing! I like writing about my blood.  I know that makes some people uncomfortable, but I’ve gotten to the point where I can understand that discomfort and still not silence myself even though I know it’s there. Because it goes like this: It connects me to a primal aspect of life that I have had a habit of forgetting. This cycle puts me so in my body that I CANNOT be disembodied while I bleed. If this makes you uncomfortable, I encourage you to get to know your blood or your loved ones blood on a level that works for you. One of my favorite books (named below) gave me an invitation that made me uncomfortable when I first read it. Then I got over that and indulged and really enjoyed it. The invitation was this: “play with your blood. Squat and watch it go all over the bathtub just because you can! Get to know your internal tissues.”

I repeat that invitation because this makes life. This is a gift to the world for us to know our bodies so deeply that we refuse to let them be abused because we know what they can do and what they deserve. Even if we don’t have a child, that’s not what this is about. This is about empowerment. Once we learn this for ourselves, we can teach it to our young ones and one by one, make change real. How did we get to the point where this was seen as gross and a burden instead of sacred and worthy of respect? Just like everything else, this is an institutional issue.

** An invitation: I noticed no one who identifies as a man “liked” my post when I posted something similar to this writing on Facebook a little while ago. That is so curious to me….Coincidence? Perhaps. Probably not. Uncomfortable and speechless? Maybe. For those of you whom identify as men and do not have the experience of this blood….You are welcome to support this and invited to get to know this as a strong and rooted thing you can do for yourself and for others! I really mean this with so much love and kindness. Do you have a woman or someone who bleeds in your life? Are you partnered to one? Are you a father or a son or a brother to one who bleeds? Do you have friends who bleed? Do you hope to have any of those one day? Are you a therapist or a doctor or some other kind of professional in the service world who serves people who bleed? The list goes on.

In short, do you ever hope to provide support to someone in your life whom is going through this cycle that can often be isolating and painful if there’s not support? If the answer is yes you may want to befriend this idea of bleeding and the cycle that is possibly one of the last things that still connects us ALL to the natural flow of life. If that feels challenging, try this on: YOU came from this. YOU are made of this very blood. The very first inkling of you started in the midst of all this matter that I’m writing about. Open yourself to supporting people in your life and you may be surprised at what it does for your relationships. Just a thought, I’ll bet you $100 the people who bleed in your life will appreciate it if you approach them and this cycle with gentleness, understanding, curiosity, making it ok when things happen, and asking how you can support them, even if it’s just a simple “that sounds hard, what can I do for you?”  Some of the most helpful things have been a simple “I’m sorry you’re struggling, I’m not scared of a little blood, Don’t apologize!” and the list goes on. A BIG thank you to those people who helped me soften around this with myself when I was still learning how to appreciate and validate my body.

A few book recommendations I love to give out that I read when I was first exploring these themes are:
· Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio (she unpacks all of this, in addition to the actual meaning of the word Cunt…it’s not what we’ve been taught!)
·  A New View of a Woman’s Body: A Fully Illustrated Guide by the Federation of Feminist Women’s Health Centers

To end on a fun note, I’ll leave you with a few things to watch to continue to feed this vagina love:
— “My First Period” by Stacyann Chin
— “The Period Poem” by Dominuque Christina

Alright! Deep breath. That was a lot. I hope this has provided you with something cause if you’re reading this you either read everything above or you skipped to the end. Either way, thanks for your presence here and reading. There is a Vagina Blog #2 coming and will cover Mayan Womb Massage (a type of bodywork that supports health of the female reproductive system), Vagina Steams, and Urinary Tract Infections. I’m always open to feedback and questions etc. Until next time, with love, Alicia

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About Alicia Patterson

Alicia Patterson is a Psychotherapist / Dance Movement Therapist, Birth Doula, Energy Worker, Dance and Yoga Facilitator in the Boulder / Denver area.
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