The Woman’s Body:
A Sophisticated System
A Woman’s Body is a sophisticated System, it’s been called “a harmonious symphony” of hormonal changes and energy.
While many women recognize this wonderful life-giving design of their bodies, when it’s time to talk about “period stuff”, the ‘warm’ thoughts are just not there!!
There are many reasons for this: we have been conditioned to think of our menstruation -or menses- as a necessary but ‘bothersome’ part of our cycle, something we just need to ‘put up with’ and, if it is painful, long, or heavy, to see it as a definite nuisance! But what if you were told that the latter is your body talking, urging you to listen?
Be encouraged to take the steps to understand and appreciate what a woman’s body does. You will find it liberating because when we understand our shifts in mood, wants, and needs, we are more in control. Even if this knowledge does not bring relief of the discomforts of the menstrual flow, self-awareness helps us navigate its ups and downs with more confidence and grace… and to seek answers.
Menstruation has been likened to the Season of Fall because this is where your cycle starts ‘winding down’.
You may notice you feel more inward at this time; or, perhaps, more agitated by the demands that life places on you; demands which, at other times of your cycle simply don’t seem to bother you as much. Are you craving more spaciousness, more time alone? If you get to know yourself, you will recognize these patterns and will know to schedule many events according to the shifting moods of your cycle. These moods and your ability to manage them will vary to the degree of how uncomfortable this phase is for you, but, because you paid notice, you will see what gifts come up to the surface during your menstruation. I assure you they are there. Pay attention and make use of them.
It’s been said that PMS is symptomatic of our times. Though I could not quote a study, in my experience this holds much truth. Women may visit the doctor more than men, yet they ignore their body’s menstrual cycles’ needs and symptoms more often than not! They visit their doctors for cycle pain, heavy periods, subfertility, or irregularities in their menstrual cycles, and when they are told “your hormones look fine’ or ‘nothing is wrong’, they turn inward and say to themselves “…well…ok…I guess they are right, I feel sick, but I am wrong’, and continue to live with pain, heavy periods, subfertility , and irregularities, most of the time not knowing what to do.
The wonderful women I’ve known hardly complain out loud about their menstrual troubles. But perhaps they forget that their bodies talk, and that often others hear it: our loved ones ‘hear’ clearly our pain, fatigue and irritability, among other symptoms. I invite you -or invite you to tell the women in your life- to intentionally learn why a woman’s reproductive system is indeed a symphony, where all notes must be played at the precise time! Do not let someone tell you that yours is ‘fine while playing off key’. Seek answers that go beyond a ‘band-aid’ approach for your menstrual difficulties, the kind where “managing your symptoms badly” is good enough, where even those are controlled with artificial hormones, regardless of its ill-effects on your body-.
Fall is a time to acknowledge change, and during menstruation, a woman’s body is calling her every few weeks to acknowledge this other dimension of herself. Our menstruation signals our menstrual cycle’s end and beginning! The endometrium that was prepared to give life, now dies to prepare for the new. May you not see this phase as an ‘inconvenience’, but as one more level into the rich mystery of God’s design for woman.
Is your time of menstruation literally calling you to be by yourself? Answer it. Give yourself this time of introspection so as to be able to help others with the growth you will find, even in discomfort. If during this part of your cycle you are not your ‘social-best’, delight in your solitude to enjoy a one-on-one conversation with God.
If this part of your period is painful or heavy (physically or emotionally) know this is not ‘nothing’, no matter how many doctors have told you up to now. Know that science has gone a long way past the birth control pill as a “catch-all treatment” for women-related ills! Know, especially, that you are not alone. Learn more about your body as it is now. Ask. There are those who consider a woman’s fertility something to treat with respect and they will listen. If you let down your guard and trust, you might even be surprised by advice you have not heard before.
The woman’s menstrual cycle moves like all the seasons we find in nature! And just like the seasons which almost force us to stop and take notice of the changing times and temperaments of nature, our cycles do that too. When we pay attention, we, like the psalmist, will wonder at the human body. These sudden changes in our cycles, our moods… may you see them as a tap on the shoulder that invites you to stop and discover the other layers of self.
If hear somewhere this beautiful phrase: “Women are hosts of life, channels for birth”. To see the full reproductive system for the gift it is we must not lose the awe of what it represents, and beauty can only be discovered in pause and contemplation. The season of Fall with its explosion of colors that belies the slumber that will quickly follow is a great image of our menstrual cycles. It forces us to pause, contemplate, be awed, at how even death holds a latent, bright promise of life.