Inspiration for childless and childfree women

Thoughts and ideas to inspire, uplift and affirm the childless and childfree, by circumstance and by choice

reclaiming cycles

When the various aspects of the female form are explained, especially to younger people, the focus is often on reproductive functions, i.e. this part of the body is for feeding a baby, that part is where a baby will grow, the body starts doing these things because they’re necessary in order for a baby to be conceived. I certainly understand the logic behind these explanations. But I think it’s interesting to wonder where this kind of thinking leaves the non-mother’s understanding of her body.

Given that menstrual cycles may be a source of inconvenience, physical pain and, perhaps especially for the woman who is childless-not-by-choice, sometimes considerable emotional pain too, are there ways of understanding them that might give them meaning and relevance beyond reproduction? For me, there definitely are.

I, along with lots (though by no means all) of women, experience changes in the ways I feel through different times in my own cycle. There is a particular phase in which I’m likely to feel a bit sad and anxious and another in which I tend to feel especially buoyant and confident. Understanding the rhythm of these feelings gives me a way to contextualise them and not be too swept away by them.

Knowing that I will pass through this full spectrum of feelings each month also means, for me, that a month is a perfect amount of time to reflect on a major decision. Over the course of a full cycle, I am likely to see its different aspects in such a way as to gain a much fuller perspective than I might otherwise have. I’ve found that a hugely powerful asset in my own life.

I also find that my creative work happens in waves that are closely related to my body’s cycles. There are phases in which I find new ideas flowing easily and others in which I can suffer a frustrating lack of inspiration. But most work, even of the most creative kind, involves all kinds of mundane tasks too. Being in tune with these different phases means I can sometimes plan my work in the way I will perform and enjoy it the most.

And finally, in each cycle there are a couple of days where I know I will do best if I can take some time out and not do anything too demanding or exhausting. Of course, that isn’t always possible. But when it is, that regularly planned break makes such a difference to my energy levels right through the rest of the cycle. So whenever I can take it, I do.

I love the fact that the term ‘menstruation’ does not, in itself, have anything to do with reproduction. On the contrary, it is derived from the Latin term mensis, meaning ‘month’, which is derived in turn from the Greek term mene, meaning ‘moon’. It isn’t hard to find beauty or even sacredness in that.

So personally, I think these cycles are ripe for reclaiming.

If you’re interested in issues to do with non-motherhood and biology you might enjoy this review of a book that supports some problematic claims about the connection. Or if you’re interested in understanding creative human drives that might not be biological in origin, you might enjoy this discussion about memes as opposed to genes.

But in the meantime, what do you think? Is it important to reclaim aspects of womanhood for the childless and childfree?

[The beautiful image accompanying this post is presented with
permission from the Sophia series by artist David Hayward.]

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7 comments on “reclaiming cycles

  1. Kenzie
    March 27, 2012

    I love your idea of reclaiming the monthly cycle as a unit of time to contemplate big decisions; I think it’s a great way to really get to know what you want.

    I, too, look forward to certain times in the cycle for the creativity or rest that it will bring. I like it that my body makes those demands on me; it’s like a not so gentle reminder that life is bigger than work and chores!

    • olivia
      March 27, 2012

      Hi Kenzie – it’s so nice to know I’m not alone in this way of thinking about cycles. I love your idea about the reminder especially.

  2. dinkschildfree
    March 27, 2012

    I think it’s awesome to be able to look at a menstrual cycle as more than only purposeful for reproduction. I will definitely start paying more attention to my moods and even creativity during my cycle to see if I see anything interesting. I typically am just irritated because I do not NEED to menstrate since I will not be reproducing. Interesting take on this!

    • olivia
      March 27, 2012

      I know what you mean about the irritation dinks. That was the exact feeling that first got me thinking about this issue a couple of years ago. It all seemed so unnecessary!

  3. Onely
    March 30, 2012

    Wow, I had never thought about this, but you’re completely right. I had always sort of been like dinks and thought “What’s the point of this nonsense if I don’t want to have kids?” But now I am going to pay more attention to its other aspects. Until now I had been aware of course of the negative/PMS aspects, both because they are less subtle *aaaaaand* because society has *primed* me to look for those!

    Great post. I am off to check out the links.
    CC

    • olivia
      March 30, 2012

      Onely, you are SO right about the priming! I have strong views on this so please forgive me if I get ranty now 🙂 but as far as I can see, menstruation is:

      a) treated like a dirty medical problem that can only be managed by buying, regularly and without question, MASSIVE amounts of expensive, bleached, non-biodegradable, disposable, heavily over-packaged stuff, and
      b) an emotional/psychological problem, never an intellectual/rational/creative asset or a source of anything valuable.

      In my opinion, women are being totally duped about this. But then, of course, we’re not supposed to talk about it either…

      I’m so glad you did though – thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  4. Peri
    April 27, 2012

    Here are a couple of things that may help you, Olivia:

    1. There is a small but significant movement now towards using menstrual cups, e.g. Mooncup (http://www.mooncup.co.uk/) which last for 10 years and therefore have environmental benefits. I’ve used one for a few years, including travelling with it, and never had any problems. There are also reusuable sanitary products available oneline and in good health/green shops for those who prefer. Websites exist to help with issues around these.

    I also track my cycles using an electronic chart. While I have always tracked the beginning of cycles, I initally started the complete tracking while in a relationship because I didn’t want to use artificial contraception. Now I track for health reasons, particularly as I experience a lot of pain and need to be prepared. I can also follow moods etc, which I find interesting.

    The original website I used is mainly for women wishing to conceive, with forums and other information, so perhaps not the best site for your readers to look at, but I would be happy to share it if anyone is interested.

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This entry was posted on March 26, 2012 by in creativity and tagged , , , .

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