Even as a young woman it was clear to me that I wanted to talk openly and naturally about my (first) period with my family. And that it was especially important to me to talk openly with my children to break the taboo of the first period.
In addition to our conversations, I handed my daughters a book that explains menstruation profoundly. Not just the biological facts or how to deal with hygiene products. A book that understands menstruation as a transition from girl to woman and marks this transition as something special. I was only able to find this book in English and so I took the chance to translate it into German: “Dem Mond so nah” (Close to the moon) was published this summer.
Here is my personal story:
Photo Credits: Katja
Eagerly awaited: My first menstruation
The subject of menstruation was an incredibly fascinating one for me as a young girl, just before entering my teens. Therefore I read everything I could get my hands on about this topic. But except for the most important biological facts in school and a youth encyclopedia, which I found in my parents’ bookshelf, I didn’t feel very enlighted. Additionally, of course, you could find a lot of information in the then fashionable magazines Bravo, Girl! or Mädchen. Nevertheless, the first period was a taboo subject. I don’t remember anyone talking openly about it in my family. Even my older sister didn’t tell me when she had her first period. People simply kept quiet about the subject as much as possible.
Nonetheless, I was literally feverishly awaiting my first menstruation. For me, this entry into womanhood had something magical and special about it. It felt to me as if I was entering a new world.
No reason to celebrate? The taboo of the first period
I’m all the more surprised that today, I actually can’t remember my very first bleeding: I can only remember that I was 12 years. Maybe I can’t really remember because I felt I couldn’t really talk openly about it with anyone at the time. Or maybe because the first bleeding was not seen as something positive or even a reason to celebrate – neither in our family nor in my whole environment.
At that time, periods were simply something a girl gets for the first time between the ages 11 and 14. We were told about hygiene products and how to use them, and that it makes sense to take notes about the onset and duration of your bleeding to keep track of the cycle.
The birth control pill
Later, most girls took the birth control pill, so there was no need to keep track anymore. Nowadays, I’m personally quite critical of the birth control pill and other hormonal contraceptive methods. People often spoke disparagingly about menstruation. Girls and women complained about having their period “again” and how annoying it was. To some, the bleeding was disgusting and therefore tried to avoid it completely by taking the birth control pill.
New body awareness
By the time I was an adult and had become a mother, my relationship to my body and thus also to my periods had completely changed. It began when I stopped taking the birth control pill in my mid-20s and therefore found my way back to my natural cycle, which was suppressed by taking the pill.
A few years ago, I then began to occupy myself more intensively with the topic of menstruation again. Not least for the reason that my oldest daughter slowly came into the age where she began to be interested in the topic of the first period and started to ask more questions. But also because I felt that this topic is still a taboo for many young girls, women and especially mothers. I was also particularly interested in the role of the moon in relation to the rhythm of my cycle, as well as the different phases that I could perceive each month based on my emotions and thoughts. I started reading a lot about these topics and observed myself and my body very closely.
Photo Credits: Katja
A book to guide the way to fight the taboo of the first period
Since we love books, I felt a great need to give my daughters one that conveys a positive and empowering relationship with their bodies and menstruation. Something that captures the magic of changing from a girl to a woman, yet is practical and down to earth. A book so comprehensive, that it can be seen as a guide for young girls on their way to becoming women. But at that time, I couldn’t find a book in German which met these requirements. That genuinely put into words what I felt inside me in relation to menstruation.
Since I already knew the English book “Reaching for the moon” by the Irish author Lucy H. Pearce and thought it was great, I contacted her and asked whether this book would also be published in German in the near future, which she denied. I spontaneously received the offer to translate this book into German and immediately accepted.
A journey to a new world
With this translation and the deeper dive into the topic of menstruation, an intense journey started: to myself, to my body and to my cycle. This journey led me to insights about female principles and to a time when the transition from girl to woman was still marked by rituals and celebrations. I could literally feel my body connecting to the rhythms of nature – stronger than ever. A connection that felt somehow sacred. Exactly what I had felt as a young girl…namely, that as a girl you enter a new world at the onset of menstruation. In addition, there was something enormously healing about learning a different, loving and positive way of dealing with menstruation as an adult woman and mother.
The female cycle and the moon
The German title of the book “Dem Mond so nah” (“So Close to the Moon”) very vividly describes the connections between the female cycle and the phases of the moon. It starts with a fictional journey to a red tent. A place where women and girls traditionally met once or several times a month to celebrate being a woman, and therefore also menstruation, in a special way. The book also describes the physical changes before the onset of the first period. But also during the cycle, such as changed vaginal discharge, as well as changed moods and energy levels. It also addresses hygiene products (especially alternative hygiene products), as well as natural remedies for discomfort while menstruating. In great detail, it describes the stages that all women go through during their cycle. I immediately recognized myself in these descriptions and felt an invisible bond connecting all women.
To me, the book is a real treasure for young girls, but also for adult women. It offers so much knowledge and wisdom about understanding and confidently dealing with one’s own cycle. At the same time, it is written in a very sensitive way, easy to read and understand. I am convinced that books like this help to break the taboo of the first period.
The rhythms of nature
Today I have a very natural relationship with my female cycle. I feel so strongly connected to my body and my cycle that I can clearly feel the individual cycle phases. I know when my ovulation takes place and when my period arrives, navigated by the moon. Because – as I have learned – it can be a guide and its phases are similar to those of my cycle. Having such a strong connection to the rhythms of nature has actually opened up new worlds for me.
Even during my current pregnancy I feel this connection clearly – and: I am already translating the next book by Lucy H. Pearce on the subject of menstruation. But this time for adult women, because for me, the taboo around menstruation and the female cycle belongs to be crashed, so that we as women can find a new, strong self-confidence and discard the shame that usually revolves around our monthly bleeding.
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