Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pads

Daughter’s doctor appointment drew me to the heart of our city, up to the 9th floor of the Doctor’s Building.

While Daughter was entertaining her doctor, I slipped from the waiting room and paid a brief and welcome visit to the 9th floor women’s restroom.

A quick check revealed that I was alone.  A quick peek into each stall encouraged me to choose the middle one – third from the entrance.

Another woman entered the restroom as I entered the stall and closed the door.  She chose the first stall.

Eager to release the coffee I’d enjoyed earlier, I paid little attention to what was happening two stalls away from me.

At least, I didn’t until I heard a commotion coming from the first stall.

Rattling, clanging, banging and a few softly spoken curse words prompted me to ask, “Is there anything you need that I can get for you??”

There was silence.

And, then a woman spoke.

“Yes, this toilet tissue dispenser won’t release any paper.  Would you mind terribly handing me some tissue?  I hate to ask, but…I’m in a bit of a bind.” (Nervous laughter ensued.)

“Sure,” I said.  Give me just a sec to pull up my jeans and wash my hands, and I’ll hand you all you need.”

“Thanks!” she offered.

With zipped jeans and clean hands, I entered the empty stall next to hers and pulled off a large amount of tissue and slipped it under the stall into her waiting hand.

She thanked me and I returned to the sink where I fiddled with my hair and smoothed my eye brows…looked up my nose and between my teeth…ran water…washed my hands again…dried them…sent a text…smoothed my shirt…dabbed at the water I’d managed to splash onto it….

And, then I heard a soft expletive uttered in the same feminine voice I’d spoken with just minutes before.

Then I heard the toilet flush.  And, immediately, heard it flush again.

Her door handle jiggled and the stall door opened.  I was standing at the sink, washing my glasses, and glanced into the mirror to see her exit the stall.

As she approached the sink, I stepped toward the paper towel dispenser.  As I reached for a paper towel, the young woman spoke.

“Would you believe that not only could I not get any toilet paper, there also was not a trash thingie in the stall?”

“Unbelievable!” I uttered.  I stepped to my right and turned to face the open door of the stall she had vacated just seconds before.  The water in the toilet bowl was still moving.

The toilet paper dispenser was jammed.  And, behind it was the hollow metal frame that held the feminine hygiene trash receptacle, but the receptacle was missing.

I turned to look at the young woman. She had not exited the stall with anything but her purse.  And, she had not thrown anything into the trash. Of that I was certain.

“I had to flush it,” she said.  “It took two tries before it finally went down and stayed down!”

“It?” I asked.

“Yes, the pad I was wearing. There was no place to put it…no where to put it…no trash thingie in the stall,” she said.

“Oh…you flushed your pad…wow,” I said out loud before I caught myself.

“Yeah, I mean…what was I supposed to do? Bring it out of the stall with me and throw it away here in front of everyone? I mean, really? That would have been SOOO embarrassing!” She said this with eyes wide and great sincerity.

I stood looking at this precious young woman who had just flushed her period pad down the toilet because she was too embarrassed to bring it out of the stall with her.

As she carefully washed her hands and glanced at me in the mirror, I offered: “It would have been okay if you had thrown it away out here.  In fact, I wouldn’t have even noticed if you had.  People don’t pay attention to what other people do as much as we think they do.  Just because we are aware doesn’t mean anyone else is. And, remember…this is the women’s restroom. It’s where WOMEN go, where WOMEN gather, where WOMEN take care of needs. Everyone who comes in here knows about periods and understands the need to dispose of used products. It’s like the sisterhood of the traveling pads. They are either traveling into the stall or out of it.  Don’t be embarrassed.  It’s normal.  It’s natural. And, it’s not something we need to be ashamed of or feel a need to hide from others.”

There was a pause and I waited for her thoughts concerning what I’d said.

What came instead was, “Do you think it will stop up the plumbing?”

“The pad?” I asked.

“Yes, do you think it will?” she asked.

“I don’t know. Personally, I hope it keeps on traveling! But, I’m out of here before it has a chance to do otherwise and they come looking for the one who flushed it!” I said with a smile.

“Me, too!” she squealed. “Let’s get out of here, sister!”

And, we did…exiting the women’s room loudly enough to turn heads and earn a stern look from the receptionist.

The sisterhood of the traveling pads…I was in the presence of many women today as I went from place to place.  I wondered…how many were menstruating?  And, of those who were…how many belonged to the sisterhood of the traveling pads?

Menstruation Vacation

How is it that you and I don’t truly appreciate something until it’s gone?

And, why is it we have difficulties seeing the whole of a thing while we are in the midst of it?

I have been on the outside of menstruation looking in for a while now.  No longer caught up in my own flow, I am free to observe others and to engage others about their flow.

But, in the past few months, I’ve found myself NOT taking opportunities to do so. In fact, I found myself distancing myself from menstruation.



Before I knew it, I was on a menstruation vacation.



Unsure what was going on and why, I assumed at first, that I had backed away because I was still grieving my own loss of flow and, perhaps, in some way found it “painful” to talk of periods or participate in some way in the menstrual experience of another.

But, no…that wasn’t it.

Then, I wondered if I had pulled away from things period wise because I was questioning myself and my direction. Why am I’m doing what I’m doing, what’s the purpose of it all, and am I making a difference are all valid questions.

But, no…that wasn’t quite it either.

And, then, I knew.

I was simply enjoying a break from menstruation just like many other women do from time to time.  Without my own flow to distract me, I was free to focus on things other than menstruation and all the crampy things it can bring to mind and to body.

Yeah…I did say “crampy things.”

I had developed a  “so what?” attitude about all the good things menstruation brings to bear in a woman’s life and assured myself that there were many online who could/would step in and step up in my absence.  A menstrual vacation called to me and I answered…gladly.

I felt I needed a break – maybe even deserved one.

The only menstrual breaks (physically and mentally) that I had ever taken since beginning to menstruate at age 15 were during the 24 months I was pregnant – and that had been many years ago. (Three pregnancies, not one!)  Even after my hysterectomy, I immediately began tracking my cycles again and was very active in the menstrual experiences of others as a menstrual advocate and activist.

But…without my own flow to guide me and with my cycles at times erratic, I found it difficult to keep my direction true. I faltered, grew weary, and pulled back from that which I had embraced wholeheartedly, and desired above all else.

  • to encourage and support others in their menstrual experiences
  • be an advocate for change and the end of menstrual taboos
  • to be a resource
  • to provide not only information, but connection as well

I can look back on the past months and realize it was time for a vacation.  Mentally and physically I needed one. And, so without receiving my permission, body and mind took one from menstruation.

Oh, I tweeted a little.  And, I blogged off and on.  But, my mind and heart were not on things period wise. And, I’ll admit that at times I did sit looking at a blank page here in my blog editor and wondered what Period Wise was all about and why – and if it was making a difference – and why I seemed to have nothing to say, period wise.

We all need a break from time to time.  My break came of necessity. Change within and without forced me to take a step back and reevaluate things period wise.

And, not only reevaluate things period wise, but reevaluate myself and where I wish to go from this point forward.

During my vacation from menstruation, I found myself continually confronted with things…period wise.

  • A friend had menstrual issues and needed to share with someone.
  • Another had a hysterectomy which prompted many questions about things she was experiencing and concerns she had.
  • My daughter freely shared of her own experiences – so freely that for the first time ever she removed her panty with pad attached and left it lying on the bathroom floor in clear view of all…panty blood stains, her unique sleep blood/flow pattern on her Infinity Overnight pad….
  • Daily, I received emails from people I didn’t know, who requested information and advice (period wise) and I found myself answering them…all of them.
  • Every time I went somewhere I detected menstruation (smell, sight, sound) and women at various points in their cycle.
  • Women I knew well and saw often? I automatically tracked them cycle wise and watched for signs period wise.

Just because I had taken a menstruation vacation didn’t mean others could or did, or that their needs and concerns stopped period wise.  And…as I found out, concerns, habits and desires of my own don’t stop when vacation starts.

When I was pregnant those 24 months and took a vacation from menstruation, I can’t say that I never thought about periods or wondered when my next would start and what it would be like.  I did. Though I did not cycle during those pregnant months, my mind looked ahead to when I would.

This menstruation vacation has been similar – with each hormonal change my body and mind have gone through in the past few months, I’ve felt drawn to think of menstruation.  Each time I’ve walked into a store, I’ve felt drawn to walk by the feminine hygiene aisle. With each login on my computer, I’ve felt drawn to check my email for things period wise. Each time I’ve seen someone I would tag as possibly cycling, I wondered…where is she in her cycle, and is she menstruating, and if so, is all well with her…is she happy and satisfied with her experience?

The thoughts I shared Friday appear to indicate that it’s nearing time for my menstruation vacation to end.  And, now, with this entry following so closely on the heels of the other…yes…

…it’s time for me to get back into the flow of things.

Perhaps it’s time for Period Wise to see a change in flow that reflects where I am in my own cycle of life…more relaxed, more open, more focused, more sure of “what next” and more ready than ever to take on life…period wise.

Will you join me?

I’d love to hear your period wise thoughts and questions period wise. Feel free to email me or post comments here, on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.  I look forward to hearing from you about all things period wise!

Girl Wise

I watched a brief video of my 3 month old granddaughter this evening.

She’s precious – oh, so precious.

And, she’s girl – all girl.  From the top of her red head, to her hiccupy giggle, to her tiny toes, this baby is girl.

100% girl.

I feel such emotion for this child…this grandchild of mine.

For, I am girl, too.

I hope her dad never tells her she can’t do something because she is girl. And, I hope he never says a negative word about menstruation in her presence, especially about her own.

it’s easier to speak with those I don’t know or can’t see (via tweets, emails, phone calls) about issues dear to the heart than it is to find words and opportunity to speak and address important things that can make or break the way this girl sees her girl experience and herself as girl.

I thought I had adequately prepared my son for things menstrual.  But, in my preparation, I failed to consider that one day he would be instrumental in the attitude and views his daughter would have about herself and her periods.

How do I tell him what’s on my heart?

How do I speak the words that are more emotion than vowels and consonants?

Where do I begin?  How do I begin?

I will craft a letter.  It will begin like this:

Dear Son,

You are the most influential person in girl’s life.  She will see herself through your eyes and your words will be what drafts her identity.

She is girl. Embrace that early and never speak against it. Lift her girlness high and hold it in esteem.  Refrain from making light of her tears, of her emotions, of her inability to be/act/ react as boy (why would she want or need to? She is girl).

She is girl.  One day she will enter puberty and the transformation she was born for will begin. She will grow breasts, and pubic hair, and, yes, she will have periods and all the wonders that go with it.

She will look to you for affirmation and confirmation of her identity as girl and her evolving identity as woman. Don’t let her down. Lift her up. Empower her to embrace all that being girl involves.  Love her and teach her to love herself as girl.  Allow her to experiment and experience life, but never give her cause to hate being girl.

Ah, my heart is too full to continue.

And, my mind is too full of memories from my own girlhood…of my dad…of my own girl experiences and struggles.

I wonder…have you any advice for me?  How can I help my son become girl wise and thereby capable of becoming period wise?

Menarche at 6

What do you do for a 6 year old who has her first period? And, for her mom, who feels overwhelmed and unprepared?

How do you explain to her what’s going on and why her tummy hurts so badly?

“Why does my tummy hurt so much, Mommy? Why”

“When will it stop hurting, Mommy? When?”

Where do you keep the tears, hers from pain and her mom’s from sorrow, as they fall unbidden?

Who has answers that can bring relief to her and provide support for her mom?

Period Wise is working toward creating resources for Moms with girls who enter puberty way too early and experience menarche when their greatest concern should be homework and invites to birthday parties.

If you are the mom of a girl who is experiencing early (precocious) puberty, we’d like to hear from you.

On the Outside Looking In – Hysterectomy

As I type this, a dear friend is undergoing a hysterectomy.

Painful periods and heavy flow prompted tests and the diagnosis of Endometriosis with adhesions was given.

My friend was thankful to finally find an end to her monthly pain, but also nervous about going under general anesthesia and the knife.

Because of the location of and amount of adhesions, she was not a candidate for laparoscopic surgery.  She would have abdominal surgery – in the same scar used for her C-sections.

She was concerned about pain and length of recovery.  I could only share of my own experience – which was far different than her own will be.

I did not have endo and adhesions were not a problem for me.  I had fibroids – some the size of grapefruits, some on stalks – and a uterus the size of a 6 month pregnancy.  Surprisingly, I WAS a candidate for a laparoscopic hysterectomy.

How my experience and that of my friend compare remain to be seen.

I hope all goes well and that she is up and around and back to some semblance of normal within a week or two. Full recover, no matter the surgery chosen, won’t occur for about a year.

As I type this, I am aware that my friend will never experience another period – ever.  I thought it ironic that my last period was due to begin same day as my surgery.

During her last period, I asked my friend to consider two things.

  1. Was there was anything she would like to experience during this last period? After surgery, there will not be another opportunity.
  2. Was there anything about her period that she would like to share with her young, teenage daughter?  After surgery, her daughter would be unable to experience or learn from her mother’s periods, or benefit from anything she might learn from them.

Do you know when your last period will be?

Most women don’t.

If, while reading this post, something came to mind that you need to address, don’t put it off.

  • If there’s a product you want to try, try it.
  • If there’s something you want to know, ask it.
  • If there’s something you need to learn, learn it.
  • If there’s something you want to experience, experience it.
  • If there’s something you want to share, share it.


Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Period regrets are such sad regrets.

Be period wise.

Period Reform – Male Initiated

It wasn’t all that long ago that I found it impossible to imagine that a man could/would lead the way toward overcoming menstrual taboos.

After all, my OB/GYNs were all male (no offense intended to my male readers) and they were not advocates of menstruation.  Their attitudes reflected what most women I knew felt – fix it, get rid of it, suffer through it.

Why would I expect a man, who does not menstruate, to advocate for menstrual openness and reform when none of the women I knew were at all concerned about menstrual taboos imposed upon them and their daughters?

Scroll forward several years and I can truly say that my life has been enriched and blessed by several men who advocate for menstrual change and who truly care about menstruating women.

On August 2, 2013, The Atlantic posted a story, by Um-e-Kulsoom Shariff, about Arunachalam Muruganantham and his menstrual activism that resulted in a huge push toward overcoming India’s menstruation taboo

Here are some highlights from the article.  Be sure to click the link above and read the entire piece.

When he was 16, his father died and the science-loving teenager dropped out of school to support his family. His next life-changing event came when he married 17-year-old Shanti in 1998. His wife had never used a sanitary napkin, and she relied on an old piece of cloth for her monthly period. “Napkins are expensive. A cloth can be used repeatedly,” she confessed to him.

Muruganantham was concerned about his wife using one piece of cloth for months at a time, so he gave her some sanitary napkins as a gift. A pack of six cost him 11 U.S. cents. (You now get the cheapest cotton pack for about 30 cents.) Muruganantham concluded they were indeed expensive for something that’s only stuffed with cotton, so he set about trying to make his own.

Even though Shanti’s response was not encouraging, Muruganantham was obsessed with making a napkin that would have win her approval. When Shanti refused to be his subject, he turned to his sisters, and when they warned him against pursuing such a “disgusting” mission….

He decided he himself would wear a sanitary napkin, hoping the personal experience would give him an insight into why his napkins failed each time.

Muruganantham created a fake uterus using the innards of a soccer ball, attached a pipe to it, and filled the bladder with goat blood. He then attached this artificial uterus to a belt. When he squeezed the bladder, blood would flow from the pipe into the sanitary napkin.

For 10 days, Muruganantham lived a menstruating woman’s life: He walked, bicycled, ate, and slept in this pretend-menstruating state. “I began to stink and stained my attire. Those were the most difficult days of my life,” he says.

Muruganantham became focused on building a machine to manufacture the napkins. The idea was to set up manufacturing units in villages like his, where women, mostly unskilled laborers, could use the machines. He hoped women could pool together money to set up the businesses, create employment, and generate a demand for sanitary napkins in rural areas.

“Why buy sanitary napkins from multinationals when we can make them at home and generate employment?” Muruganantham said.

Muruganantham wants “menstruation” to be an accepted word; he hopes someday a sanitary napkin will not have to be “smuggled” out of a pharmacy. He hopes girls will stop dropping out of school in rural areas out of embarrassment.

To quote Muruganantham, “Why the ignorance?”

What a period wise question!

What period wise men do you know?

Can you identify other men active in menstrual activism, who are pushing for the end of menstrual taboos in your city?  in your community? in your family?

What men can you name who are comfortable with menstruation, knowledgeable about periods, and are not reluctant to be seen doing things period wise?

What men have impacted you period wise?

Menopause – Blessing or Curse?

Carolyn West recently posted a delightful personal piece entitled “Ladies of a Certain Age: Why Nobody Talks About Menopause.”

Just like nobody ever talked about what your body would be like after childbirth, and nobody ever talked about how you would be up all night with a screaming baby, and nobody ever talked about how friggin’ hard marriage is sometimes… nobody talks about menopause. Why? Maybe for the same reason that when we are 10 years old, we have no interest in hearing about menstruation. It’s icky, it’s embarrassing and while we know it’s inevitable, we are still clinging to the hope that we’ll be the only one who will skate through it unscathed.

If you menstruate, you will one day experience menopause. That’s a fact.

Why hide it?

Why act like it doesn’t happen and that it won’t, or doesn’t, affect us?

For more information about menopause check out what some doctors advise concerning it.

Being period wise extends from pre-menarche to post-menopause.

Be period wise. It’s an attitude that makes a difference.