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