A woman sits on the toilet while struggling with cramps from her period
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Family Health

‘Tis the Season for My Period

Dec 29, 2020

When I was 15, I went to the emergency room with debilitating stomach pain and unexplained vomiting.

Turns out, it wasn’t inexplicable — it was the just the first time I’d had such horrible PMS symptoms.

The doctor didn’t hesitate to immediately prescribe birth control to “regulate my cycle” and Anaprox as a painkiller (which was later found to be linked to increased risk of serious heart and blood vessel problems).


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Periods were presented to me as a problem. Something that gets in the way of regular life and can be resolved with a bunch of medication.

But here's what I wish had happened instead — I wish  someone had explained to me how valuable it can be to track your cycle, tune into your body and figure out what your individual needs are at any given point in your menstrual cycle, so you have a better chance of feeling your best and gaining insight into your own unique needs.

I eventually went off the pill in my early 20s (when most people are going on it) because I was concerned about messing with my hormones, and the potential link between birth control and cancer. It took about a year for my cycle to become my own again. My period pain was still bad (and I still knew NOTHING about my cycle) but after having my first baby at 27, my following periods were lighter, less painful and more manageable.

While my physical hormone-induced pain mostly subsided after having kids, my emotions shifted constantly. I think this is partly because of my role, which obviously involves lack of sleep, a lot of unpaid labour and emotional labour. But it’s also from years of hormone changes from going through pregnancy, postpartum and breastfeeding — times three.

Why I Decided to Track My Periods

I didn't always track my period. In fact, I only recently started, using the idea from Period Power by Maisie Hill. In it, they describe the menstrual cycle as having four phases, each one representing a “season.”


Spring

I discovered that in my "spring" (aka pre-ovulation phase) I feel super productive, so I figured out that at that point in my cycle, any extra annoyance with my kids is because I want to get shit done, and when little people get in the way of that it can be frustrating. To help support myself in this phase, it would be helpful to have extra (or even SOME) childcare planned, or to make sure I’m getting my stuff done while my kids have their own quiet time.

Obviously, during a pandemic while also homeschooling, childcare is nil. But there are other ways (like setting firm, clear, consistent boundaries) to ensure I get some time for things I want to do.


Winter

In my "winter" (aka menstruation phase) I’m way more tired, quick to tears and just need a lot more rest and chill time. This is also a time in my cycle where I’m completely touched out. While I normally enjoy endless snuggles with my kids and nursing my toddler, during my winter I prefer to have my space. It’s this time of the month where taking some hot baths, booking a massage, taking time for quiet solo walks, yoga and reading would help recharge my batteries.


Summer

The other day, I was in an energetic, fun mode. Can we make cookies? Sure! Dance party in the kitchen? Why not? I planned some fun crafts for the kids and said “yes” to their requests. I was definitely in my "summer” (aka ovulation phase) and feeling creative, energetic and positive.


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Recognizing that my cycle is partly responsible for the way my moods shift has been a parenting game-changer. I plan to keep tracking my cycle to discover even more, and I hope to eventually get ahead of each phase by planning for breaks, childcare and family adventures when they best suit my energy levels. 

My period will happen. So all I can do is my best to get ahead of the patterns, to ease the strain of balancing menstruation and parenting. If only to make it just a little easier for all of us. 

Article Author Katharine Reid
Katharine Reid

Read more from Katharine here.

Katharine is a freelance writer and editor who loves libraries and nature. The former editor of a health website, she now spends her days with her three adorable young kiddos. A big believer in the power of unstructured free play, she can usually be found either going on outdoor adventures with her kids, setting up invitations to play and create, snuggling up to read or escaping the chaos to head to a yoga class.

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