The word ‘menarche’ refers to the time you start your period, when you get your first bleed. For me it occurred when I was 11 and funnily enough it was the only week of my life that my mum was away on holiday with her female friends so I was at home with my dad! I remember having this feeling of relief. “It’s started now so I don’t have to worry about being ‘the late girl'” It was as if I’d stepped over some threshold into womanhood and I was happy not to be left behind.
My first period was pretty non eventful. I think I told my dad, or maybe my older sister, then used the sanitary towels I’d been given in a ‘period talk’ at school and off I went. There was no acknowledgment, no advice, no celebration, no band playing as I walked into the temple of my fertile years. Just a bit of blood in my knickers and now a bleached sanitary towel to go with it.
The thought of a celebration might seem comical to people reading this, but in some cultures, that’s actually what happens! Family, friends and communities gather to celebrate this rite of passage that every young girl encounters. In our society however, the event passes by unnoticed and for some can be a very traumatic experience.
During my womb yoga training we were invited to write a letter to the girl we were at the time of menarche, saying all of the things we wish had been said. By our mums, our sisters, our teachers, our friends etc. Any advice we would have liked to receive or even just an acknowledgment of this sacred transition and maybe a few tips for how to handle our menstrual cycle with ease and grace.
If you’re reading this and you have experienced menarche then I invite you to do this same task.
Our first bleed and how we relate to it creates an imprint for what’s to come from our menstruating years. The language we hear around our menstrual cycle has the potential to set us up for a either a lifetime of ease or a lifetime of disconnection and shame. If the people who menstruate in your life described their cycles as difficult, shameful or a curse, then of course you’ll carry that narrative through to your own experience. But that doesn’t need to be the case.
We CAN re write our story of menarche and of each cycle to follow. By acknowledging the maiden you once were and by giving her the advice she needed to receive you can rewrite the experience to be one that feels safe and nourishing.
Take a few moments to connect to your menarchial self. Ask her what she needs to hear and then physically write her a letter. Just this simple process is a beautiful and powerful way to honour this sacred transition.