Conversations, Preparation, & Ideas For Celebrating Your Daughter’s First Cycle
I made up my mind years ago…
My daughter was NOT going to dread her period.
She was not going to see it as a curse, an inconvenience, or a dirty secret. Nor was she going to be raised in a hush-hush setting about all things period-related.
So, at the ripe ol’ age of 7, while I washed her hair in the bathtub, I began telling her of the wonders that were to come…
I suppose that’s when the celebration began — as I described to her the changes that would occur in her body, through nothing of her own doing — but because our bodies, and especially the bodies of women, in my opinion — are nothing short of miraculous.
It Starts With Hormones
I started with hormones, describing them in the simplest way possible so that her 7-year-old mind would understand.
“Hormones are like magic,” I explained to my believes-in-unicorns girl. “You don’t have to do anything or take anything. Your body just knows and begins making them when the time is right for you — and every girl is different. You can’t see them or smell them, but you will certainly feel them at work inside of you. And you will see them working because they will tell your body to change in beautiful ways.”
We talked of the physical changes she’d notice: first, the small bumps that would one day form her breasts, then the hair that would grow in various places, how her hips would widen to prepare for carrying a baby someday, and finally, how she would one day bleed from her vagina.
(Also, we used anatomically correct terms: vagina, uterus, ovaries, breasts, etc.)
She was a little wide-eyed about all that, so I decided to leave it there and allow it to settle for a while. And then, I watched and waited.
Trying To Be A Positive Example
Throughout her life, I have made a point to never begrudge my cycle — at least not in front of my children.
Privately, I might complain to my husband or my best friends about cramps or how ironic it was that I always seemed to start my period right before a vacation.
But in front of my kids?
Mommy was a bit tired and needed to rest because her body was working hard to prepare for a new month. Mommy had a bit of a tummy ache, and sometimes that happens with a cycle — but it’s nothing to worry about. Or, Mommy’s head hurts today because sometimes hormones don’t act like they’re supposed to.
I tried to gently remind her that, one day, this would happen in her body, too. (For years, though, I secretly hoped and prayed that her body would hold off on menarche until she was 12.) 😉
What’s Going On For Momma
From the time she was 3, I was aware of how growth hormones and antibiotics in meat and milk hasten early and puberty. So, even when we couldn’t afford organic produce, organic/grass-fed/hormone-free milk and meat were at the top of my priority list. I also kept endocrine-disrupting chemicals (like air fresheners, perfumes, lotions with parabens) out of our house. This was for my own hormonal benefit as much as hers.
As she grew and changed, I reminded her of what these beautiful changes meant. Her hormones were at work, telling her body to develop from a little girl into a young woman. And she’d smile and skip off to play with her Legos or stuffed animals.
Regardless of the pace her body was changing, I put on a good face. No matter what I felt, my first priority was making sure she was confident about herself, inside and out. She didn’t need any subliminal messages of angst coming from me. Inwardly, though, I was afraid she’d be an early bloomer.
My mother started her cycle at 9; I was 12. So, if genes have anything to do with it, it was going to be a toss-up for my daughter. Either she’d start early, or around the same time I did, or she’d split the difference.
(In no way is this meant to judge girls or women who started earlier than age 12. Simply put, my heart desired for her body to wait until 12. I knew I had no control over it either way in the end.)
By the time she turned 11 and still hadn’t had her menarche, I was so hopeful. Maybe we’d make it to 12! But even still, it was time to really prepare.
Conversations About Menarche: Biology, Products, & More
If I didn’t want my daughter to dread her period, view it as a curse or an inconvenience, or feel embarrassed about it, whatever I did to practically prepare her was make or break.
I’d made it 11 years by being completely honest with her on an age-appropriate level, so I decided, that’s how I’d continue. Rather than her first period being something she experienced alone, rather than feeling like something was happening to her, I chose to hold her hand and walk through it with her instead — whenever it chose to come.
Small conversations about hormones and body parts and anatomy had been occurring for years. Yet, it was now time to have a bigger conversation: the nuts and bolts of menstruation. Namely what product choices she had and what pain relief options were available for her. We use natural, reusable, eco-friendly products in our home and natural pain relief, so this is the angle I presented to her.
(By the way, if you’re in this stage of life too, I teach a lesson on preparing your daughter for menstruation in Traditional Cooking School’s Women’s Health eCourse. Learn more here.)
She’s always known that I use a cup, so I explained that as one of her choices. Then, we discussed period panties and reusable cloth pads.
The point is — it’s her body, and she should be the one choosing what she wants to use. Not me.
Speaking Of Product Choices…
I’m going to get on my soapbox for a moment, so bear with me.
So many groups have taboos against virgin girls using tampons or menstrual cups. For some reason, they think that inserting anything into the vagina is akin to intercourse, breaking the hymen, and resulting in a loss of virginity.
As a result, these young ladies — who are still very much little girls who want to run, swim, bike, and do ballet or gymnastics — have no choice but to miss out on the activities they love one week out of every month thanks to false information and bulky pads.
This is madness.
First of all, intercourse is the only way a girl can “lose” her virginity. This is scientifically and biologically true. (Sidenote: can we please stop referring to virginity as something to be lost, like it’s a negative thing to give oneself sexually?)
Secondly, the hymen is not something to be “broken”. The “pop the cherry” analogy is biologically wrong.
Perhaps no part of a woman’s body is more overrated than the hymen.
The hymen is not a flat piece of tissue covering the vagina which must be torn, ripped, popped, or broken as proof of virginity. If such a piece of tissue existed, then virginal menstruation would be impossible because there would be no exit for the menstrual blood. (Read more about the myth of the hymen here and here and here.)
Third, as mothers, our place of authority often means that our children adopt our fears, misconceptions, and habits. The way we speak and act in their presence becomes part of their subconscious. So, if we have fears or misconceptions about using certain products, we may inadvertently (or purposefully) pass them on to our daughters.
The point is — she’s the one who has to deal with keeping clean, protecting her clothes, changing her products, etc., so she should be able to make an informed decision.
Natural, Reusable, Eco-Friendly, Healthy Feminine Hygiene
I presented and explained the following options to my daughter:
She was most interested in the panties (my child obviously gets her brains and love of convenience from her mother 😉 ). But, after browsing online, I couldn’t find any in her size.
So, she settled on reusable pads. We then had a delightful time browsing all the options online together. Then, she picked 5 patterns for herself, and I ordered them. She also chose a cute wet/dry bag so she could discreetly carry new and used pads at school.
Once we had all the products in and I showed her how to use them, it was back to watching and waiting.
Ideas For Celebrating Your Daughter’s First Cycle (Menarche)
Remember, my main goal in preparing my daughter for womanhood was that she wouldn’t dread her cycle or view her period as a curse or a dirty, embarrassing secret.
The opposite of dreaded curse and embarrassing secret is CELEBRATION!
I didn’t want to just explain the biology of her cycle or how to deal with it; I wanted her to know that I was with her, celebrating her and her successful, healthy journey into young womanhood!
So, I found a couple of books to go through with her in preparation and celebration. These definitely focus on menarche, but they are also beautifully written books that emphasize a strong mother-daughter connection during a stage of life when mothers and daughters tend to drift apart.
Whether you homeschool or not, are religious or spiritual or not, these lovely books are a sweet way to celebrate this rite of passage in your daughter’s life!
- Moon Mother, Moon Daughter
- Menarche: A Journey Into Womanhood
- The Daring Book For Girls (adventurous girls will love this one!)
In addition to reading these books together (either before or after menarche), I also plan to celebrate her menarche with something special for us. Ideas include a nice dinner out together, getting manicures and pedicures, staying in a hotel for a night and pampering ourselves, and staying home and pampering her in her own bed. And of course, lots and lots and lots of hugs and smiles!
Interesting books for momma:
Women’s Health eCourse
My daughter and I have one of our open conversations in Traditional Cooking School’s Women’s Health eCourse!
This eCourse was written for all women in all stages of life. From a preteen and her mother (Addie and me!) preparing for the start of the menstrual cycle, to pregnant and nursing mommas, women experiencing hormone imbalances, and women in and out of menopause.
We interviewed experts (a certified nurse midwife, a chiropractor, and a naturopath) about everything related to women’s health — PMS, depression, adrenal fatigue, infertility, PCOS, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, and MORE. Then, we took that information into the kitchen (see image above!) to give you practical recipes, DIYs, and tips to live a happier, healthier, balanced life!
If you’re a woman, this course is for YOU. If you’re a man who has women in his life, this course is for YOU. Get a free video and more information here!
Periods Aren’t Embarrassing Secrets
Here are some practical ways I have lived my cycle in front of both my children — my daughter and my son:
- Trying to rest and take care of myself and slow down on the first day of my cycle;
- Never hiding or keeping secret my menstrual cup (I’ve even left it on the edge of the sink!);
- If I accidentally left a spot of blood on the toilet and they ask, I don’t lie; I simply tell them I’m on my period and then go clean it up.
Finally, my husband and son aren’t left in the dark about all this.
If half the members of our household are menstruating females, then by golly, we’re going to talk about it! After all, there’s a good chance that my son will have a wife and maybe a daughter of his own someday. I strongly feel that it’s just as important for him to be educated and understanding of menstruation as it is for him to know how to do his laundry, wash dishes, or mow the lawn.
- Traditional Cooking School’s Women’s Health eCourse
- Moon Mother, Moon Daughter
- Menarche: A Journey Into Womanhood
- The Red Tent
- Blood Magic: Anthropology of Menstruation
- menstrual cup
- reusable pads
- period panties
- cute wet/dry bag
I believe we’re ready — whenever menarche happens! I’m so thankful I got over my inhibitions and fears and just talked honestly with my daughter.
Becoming a woman is magical! Our monthly cycles mean there is always the potential for life inside of us. And our cycles serve as a monthly reminder to slow down and take care of ourselves.