The Menstrual Journals

There comes a time in all parent’s lives when difficult conversations are required.

Conversations about death, last wishes, etc.

I had that conversation with Rowan recently. He was watching Monty Python “The Holy Grail” and sniggering to himself whilst simultaneously texting his friends on Snapchat.

“Roo,” I said, plunging myself onto the sofa next to him.


“I need to speak to you about something.”

He didn’t unglue his eyes from the TV.

“Something important.” I picked up the remote control and pressed the standby button.

“Yes Mum?” Roo said, now giving me full attention. “Have I done something?”

“No,” I said, “but this is kind of serious.”

I paused, trying to work out the best way of presenting what I was about to say. Eventually, I began, “So, when I was young, I went for a walk with my dad up the King of the Castle Hill. He loved it there and as we were walking he took a really big deep breath and said, “when I die I want my ashes scattered here.”

Roo gave me a look.

“And it felt really weird for my dad to be talking to me about his death,” I continued. “Like it was NOT what I wanted to be talking about. But I’m glad he said it because when he died, that’s what we did with his ashes.”

“O-kaaaay,” Roo said.

I noticed his eyes hovering over the remote control. He was clearly wondering how long I was planning on torturing him with a conversation for.

“Is that what you want to talk about – what you want to have done with your ashes when you die?” he asked.

I pulled a face. “Er, no. Not exactly. What I need to ask you is a very special favour. I’m entrusting this favour with you.”

Now Roo was interested. As the middle child who has the legacy of being over-looked, under-loved and perpetually slipping through the cracks, he perked up at the prospect of being special and entrusted.

I took a deep breath. “In the loft, in a box at the back, there are a tonne of my journals.”

“Right,” said Roo, his shoulders slumping subtly.

“In those journals, I have been tracking my menstrual cycle for the last four years.” I took a deep breath and plunged. “Those journals have seen me through the ups of my inner spring when all my hormones are blossoming and I love everyone. They’ve also seen me through the summers of love when all my endorphins are playing acoustic guitars at sun-drenched festivals of happiness. But those journals also track the days when my hormones start to wane and I have no tolerance for anyone – even the people I love best.”

I  leaned over like a craggy witch and prodded Roo in the shoulder with a bony finger.

“Those journals are like confession boxes of my deepest, darkest Jabbawocky monster, Roo. They’re dangerous.”

“You mean, in some journal entries, you’ve said how much I irritate you?” grinned Rowan.

I winced. “Maybe. On some days. At certain times of the month. But it’s not just you who I might have seen through irritable eyes. I’m sure there are other people too.”

Roo started to laugh. Thankfully, this boy has had a good education on the hormonal cycles of the female body. He knows full well that I – as all menstruating women do – will morph between four different people every 28 days.

He knows that if he asks to have friends over/for extra pocket money during one part of my cycle, results will be easy and quickly rewarded.

He also knows that around day 23, woe betide him if his room is trashed or he starts winding up his little brother for no reason.

And because we have an easy, open communication around all of this, he doesn’t take any of it personally and he knows that he’s my absolute golden, beautiful middle child of wonderousness who is loved unconditionally underneath every phase of my cycle. He knows. Others may not understand it.

“You see, this is the problem Roo. I don’t want to suddenly die, have people read my journals and think …

  1. I’m completely insane
  2. That I didn’t like them

“So what do you want me to do?” Roo asked.

“Burn them,” I said. “That’s the first thing you have to do if I die. Go into the loft, find the Menstrual Journals and burn them.”

“Okay,” said Roo happily. “Can I watch the rest of the Holy Grail now?”

I narrowed my eyes, paused and then passed back the remote control.

I wasn’t convinced that he was seeing the seriousness of this situation.

Still feeling a bit disconcerted, I stood up and glancing at him, left the room.

Had I taken a risk? Was I taking a risk?

I’m sure a logical reader would ask, “Why not burn the books yourself? Or – why write this stuff down to begin with?”

This is my reply:

Those Menstrual Journals are field-notes. They are years of valuable gathered information about my primitive, hormone driven body and the effect those chems have on my mind, emotions, perceptions and actions. In the tracking of my daily moods and cycle dates, I’ve seen patterns of behaviour emerge that correlate with different days. These patterns are handy – in fact, they’re not just handy, but extremely important.

There are lots of books and websites that talk about tracking your cycle, but really it’s only YOU who is able to put together your own unique mood/body map. For example, many books suggest that due to your hormones between day 14-21, you “should” want to run marathons/ go clubbing/ dry hump every attractive person who crosses your path. This doesn’t happen for me. Through tracking my cycle over the last four years, I’ve learnt that I lean towards retreating during this phase of my cycle. I like to be at home, creating my creations in peace and quiet.

On the other hand, during days 1-7 in my cycle (when the books say that I should be eating ice-cream and creeping around my home like a dressing-gown loving sloth), I get a massive burst of physical energy and my fitness tests go through the roof.

During days 7-10 of my cycle, I will pretty much believe I can do anything, love everyone, want to help anyone and will fill my diary with social engagements.

I also know – from menstrual journaling – that the three days between  17-20 are an emotional black hole for me. I literally wobble on the self doubt wobbly paddle board, believing every low self esteem belief that staggers through my head and wanting to give up everything I do. Thankfully, because I’m now aware of this hormonal shift point, I am able to reassure myself from a logical perspective  and design my schedules around those three days so I don’t do anything catastrophic to my life/work.

Prior to menstrual journaling, I’d hit this point in my cycle and fall for the hormonal induced illusion that everything was a load of rubbish, often sabotaging things that were precious to me. And now? Well, I still fall for it … but then I remember that I’m on Days 17-20 I know it will pass.

Then I sit very still and I don’t move.

By Day 23, I’m always shattered. And Rowan always bugs the hell out of me. I have no idea why he bugs me (as opposed to Ads, Pix or Reid, who can be equally annoying) but Rowan knows he is the One Who Bugs, so we are able to laugh about it – and be extra patient with each other on that day.

THIS is why the Menstrual Journals are so good.

This is why I write them and keep them and risk having them in the loft.

It’s also why I’d massively recommend them.

And you know what? As long as I have my extremely loyal, entrusted, gorgeous 14 year old son to burn those books once I’m no longer treading the stage of life’s theatre production, surely nothing can go wrong?!

Though, thinking about it, I might write some sort of disclaimer at the front of each one.

Just in case.

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