I breastfed my two boys, and fed them whenever they were hungry, wherever we were. And when my period came back just after my first-born turned two, with it came an opportunity to teach our older son Leo that menstruation is a natural process that no one should be ashamed of. We’re raising him to be a feminist, after all. So along with teaching him consent, I decided not to hide the fact that every month, I get my period. To be honest, it’s hard to keep something like that hidden from kids. They follow you everywhere.
Leo’s now seven, and his brother, Jasper, is three. When they visit me in the bathroom, they sometimes see me wiping and notice blood. Their reactions vary. Sometimes they say nothing about it at all, and go on chatting about Pokémon or Ghostbusters (Jasper’s latest thing). But other times, I’ll get an “Ew!” or Jasper will say, “Mom, you’re bleeding!” accompanied by a perplexed look that seems to say, “What the heck is going on?!” When that happens, I take the time to talk to them again about why it’s happening, and reiterate that it’s a normal bodily process. I don’t make it a big deal. I might say something like, “This is what happens when you have a uterus, and you aren’t having a baby. Every month, your body adds a lining to make it a softer place for the baby to hang out, but if there is no baby, that extra-soft part doesn’t need to be there, and that lining is the blood you see.” (Thank you, What Makes a Baby, for helping teach young kids about how babies grow!) I also always try to stress to the kids just how cool it is that our bodies do this! So far, they haven’t reacted too enthusiastically to that idea. Go figure.
I do all this for two reasons. First, I want my kids to support people who menstruate—whether that’s a possible future partner, a classmate who has a leak at school, Indigenous girls in northern Saskatchewan (for whom a lack of funds to buy menstrual products can mean missing school), or me! Leo’s already had some experience with that when I leaked at the mall a few years ago, and we had an impromptu shopping trip for new clothes (I wish I had Canadian poet Rupi Kaur’s confidence about openly displaying a period-blood stain). Second, emphasizing the idea that there is nothing our bodies do that we should be ashamed of will help my kids feel comfortable with their bodies, too.
So my motto is, when it comes to periods, let it flow.
This article was originally published online in January 2017.