Being a woman is full of challenges only we understand. The most obvious is our menstrual cycle. On top of managing that part of life is the burden of it often being regarded as a taboo subject. We bleed, get bloated and emotional but we can’t talk about it or let anyone know. How is that fair? What if we are uncomfortable or concerned about what is happening to our bodies? Why is it shameful?
I have two teenage daughters. When you do the math that is menstruation times 3. And until I started dealing with their monthly ups and downs I never really thought of how stressful periods can be for young girls. Let me rephrase that. I didn’t realize how much young girls internalize the perceived shame of having a period. This really became apparent when I switched us to cloth pads. I know some of you are cringing in horror and that’s OK, just keep reading.
I was uncomfortable for years with disposable products. It was painful and I had skin reactions. Besides my doctor I really did not talk to anyone about it. I just assumed this was something I had to live with. Posts and discussions started popping up in my online mommy groups about cloth pads, intrigued I decided to try it. Initially I was appalled by the idea but after cloth diapering my son I rationalized it couldn’t be that bad. And it wasn’t. It changed everything for me. My body is so thankful. I no longer experience the cramping and discomfort I had put up with for years. If only periods were viewed as such a dirty thing I could have discovered this sooner.
The switch was easy for me but not so much for my girls. I wish I had photos of their faces and the outrage that followed after my suggestion to use cloth. At first they utterly refused but now we all use them. I though I could easily woo them with the plush fabric and cutey prints, but no. They held firm until life brought them around to my perspective.
One day my youngest came home crying because she was worried the kids at school might hear the plastic back of her pad make noise when she moved. This is not ok. As women we should be comfortable enough with our bodies and its functions to live life free from ridicule and paranoia about our periods. I told about the time I had an accident in Junior High. After panicking in my head I did my best to play it cool. I shrugged at the (mean)girl who pointed it out and simply said ‘thank you, I’ll go change.’ And it was over. Just like that. The universe did not collapse on itself and I lived to tell her this story. That moment empowered me and I hope she can one day feel the same. I showed her that the cloth pads were soft fabric that did not make noise. But the thing she found most impressive is that they were much better at preventing accidents. And she tried them.
My oldest is different. She was having terrible cramps and pain from disposable products. After reading about the chemicals in pads and toxic shock from tampons she finally came to me to discuss the different options she had. I shared with her I had the same experience and switching to cloth pads solved those problems. My oldest is in that phase of mom is always wrong but eventually she relented and tried cloth. Now she is much more comfortable and happy. Now there is no resistance at all and she actually was upset she was taking disposables on a trip out of town.
This post isn’t to persuade you to come to the cloth side, (Although you should at least try it once.) My family is very open with each other, but my girls still found this topic embarrassing and hard to to discuss. It’s just to say we should be free to discuss what happens to our bodies and what options we have to take care of them. Periods aren’t gross, they are part of us, and We are amazing.