This past week marked a personal milestone on my journey to reclaiming my wild woman within.
A year ago, I honored my sacred feminine.
Wholly, presently, purposefully, and with the most empowered intentions.
While this letter is aimed at exploring my personal experience within the realm of women’s health, I believe there’s something universally human in theme residing within this letter that will resonate with everyone, regardless of how you identify or what reproductive organs you have. And if you find this letter to be too explicit in content, both written and photographed, then I encourage you to explore why this content elicited those reactions within you. Awareness isn't just beneficial for women who experience a menstrual cycle; awareness is a crucial life skill for all human beings who walk this planet.
I've been walking along an unfolding path into my true feminine power, specifically in regards to my body and my health over the past few years. After too many years of birth control pills and 2 runs with copper IUD’s, I was ready to reclaim my natural cycles as a woman, free from any self-imposed interferences. On the afternoon of the November 2016 new moon, I stepped into my OB/GYN's office and had IUD No.2 removed, clearing the space in my womb to begin anew. My womb and the night’s sky reflected one another that evening - empty, clear, and cracked open with a spaciousness that whispered the forthcoming of growth. I freed myself from the reigns of unnatural birth control methods dictating how my body’s moon cycle would take shape. I surrendered to the guidance of the moon herself and the guidance of my own personal moon cycle. The synchronicity of the two, embodying how they are reflective of one another and will forever be integrated within my body moving forward.
Free from all synthetic hormones and foreign devices in my body. I took the first step onto a path of ultimate connection with my body's cycles. From that day until forever, just my body and me. It sounds like such an incredibly empowering thing to do, right? Well, that was most definitely my personal intention behind having my copper IUD removed that rainy November afternoon. Unfortunately, I met a lot of resistance along the way - resistance from mainstream society, from the medical health world, and ultimately, from myself. This choice, while ultimately the absolute right decision for me, was not presented under conditions that made it an easy one by any means.
Let’s take it back to the beginning, when I took the first step onto a path of disconnection with my body’s cycles.
I began taking birth control pills not for the purposes of avoiding pregnancy, but for reasons many young women are prescribed these pills - my (insert symptom and/or negative adjective) menstrual cycle. I was a fifteen year old sophomore in high school, falling ill every month at the onset of my menstrual cycle. Three years of menstruating thus far, and it only seemed to be getting worse by the cycle. My immune system would crash and burn when my monthly bleed came, manifesting in a variety of ways that was sure to make me miserably drag myself through the school day and afterschool dance lessons, or quite often, skip both and take a day off completely. My mother saw how this was affecting me each month, and remembered her own heavy, up to 2 weeks long, painful periods. Growing up Catholic, birth control pills for any reason were not seen as an appropriate option, so she suffered throughout her teenage years, and much worse than I ever did, based on her descriptions. You always want to give your children what you couldn’t have, so the saying goes, as I don’t have children and therefore cannot directly relate. She wanted to allow me the options modern medicine had to resolve these painful period problems, and offered to take me to my female general practitioner.
My monthly curse of missing school, dance classes, feeling depleted, and always wondering why I had to suffer through these periods if I didn’t want to have kids anytime soon, was eager to try anything that would bring me back to a state of normalcy. With the guidance of my doctor, my mother and I did the best we could with the information we had at the time, and decided to start me on a low dose birth control pill.
I also was excited at the possibility of getting bigger boobs, because that was a side effect I had heard about anecdotally from older female friends and what small-busted fifteen year old girl doesn’t want that?!
With high hopes for an enhanced lifestyle of shorter, painless periods and larger breasts, I happily skipped down the path of disconnection from my own body’s innate wisdom.
And waah-lahh - magic! Within the first few months on the pill, my symptoms cleared up and I was moving forward through my teenage years with health and happiness. Or so I thought.
(To my teenage chagrin, my breasts did not magically grow a cup size.)
Now, since this is a Lumen Letter and not my inevitable book on this topic, we’re going to fast forward through the seven years of birth control pills and touch base on what it was like to navigate alternative methods to birth control when I felt compelled to do so.
First off, when exploring alternative birth control options and your OB/GYN fails to mention Fertility Awareness Method as a viable option for birth control, well, I guess you shouldn’t be so surprised, but you should definitely be aware of this option. I had only heard of FAM through a friend and felt like I wasn’t ready to take on that kind of daily responsibility as a 22 year old woman. Sure, taking a birth control pill around the same time every day for the past seven years, with the exception of some decided intermittent breaks, was a daily responsibility. But tracking and charting your cycles using FAM requires much more awareness than popping a pill in your mouth every day within a chosen timeframe. I wasn’t ready to be that aware. I was comfortable with the awareness that maybe a copper IUD, while still intuitively feeling a little off having a foreign object in my body, was the best possible option for me at that time in my life. All the benefits of carefree birth control without the health disrupting implications of synthetic hormones. BINGO! We have a winner!
Had I not been adamant about being synthetic hormone free, the OB/GYN I was seeing at that time would’ve had me use the Mirena IUD, which still releases synthetic hormones, but only locally in your uterus. And this is supposed to be better, flooding JUST your uterus with synthetic hormones? I’m not so sure about that.
Abbreviated version here, because I’m fighting every urge to dive in deep. After an intensely painful 30 minute insertion procedure, you could imagine the look of dismay on my face one month later at my follow up when I found out I was at risk for uterine protrusion. Meaning I left that day without my IUD and with a script for birth control pills. Tears of frustration streamed down my face that day. I felt utterly defeated. Back on the birth control bandwagon, we go.
Despite having had a traumatic first experience with the Paragard copper IUD, I was determined to get off the pill and by February 2016, was ready to give it another go. With the support of a man I was falling in love with and a healing ritual performed the night before, take two of the IUD insertion process was a breeze. Maybe it was because it was a different doctor performing the procedure. Or perhaps it had to do with the openness I was feeling in my own life. And let’s not forget about the power of ritual and intention. When my one month follow up came this time ‘round, I was naturally very nervous, but relieved at the good news. “Your IUD is sitting in your uterus just fine!”
If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off, and try again. Thanks Aaliyah.
It finally worked out. This is what I wanted. My body accepted the IUD. I started tracking my cycles, noting the length and any symptoms. My periods were heavy and I had some painful cramping, but that’s normal as your body is “adjusting” to the IUD (read: foreign invader). After a few cycles, my symptoms subsided slightly, but this little voice inside of my head, or uterus, kept suggesting that while my body had physically accepted the IUD, there was an emotional disconnect. With each passing cycle, I felt this urge to listen to that voice more and more. Having unearthed this profound awareness of the importance of connection to the natural world around me, I felt ready to reclaim the connection to my body’s natural cycles through this same act of awareness. It was time to seriously consider using FAM as my birth control method.
My gut (read: womb) instinct knew this was the answer I had been seeking all along. It just took some time, and experience, to suss it all out. But even with this decidedly clear knowledge that FAM was to be my ally in keeping me a maiden until ready to be a mother, I was scared and felt unprepared. This was a big decision and I wanted to have my IUD removed at a symbolically appropriate time. January, ya know, the new year. Yeah, that feels right. That gives me 4 months to figure this thing out. I felt the need to give myself plenty of time to learn the method so that there was no user error involved before removing the IUD and practicing FAM. I wanted to be educated properly, which is indeed a very smart and highly recommended choice. However, in retrospect, I was using my planning period as a procrastination period. I probably would’ve continued to put off the removal of the IUD until I finished my 536 page Taking Charge of Your Fertility book, because my Virgo moon likes to plan, be prepared, and know every detail. FYI: I’m still working on this book.
A surprising and mysterious health concern prompted me to decide to remove my IUD before I had intended, and quite suddenly. Also, quite certainly. I was ready, even though I wasn’t technically ready. I still hadn’t learned the ins and outs of FAM, but knew that I would learn as I go, with extra caution and extra condoms on deck. I’m an experiential learner. What better way to learn the method then through real time practice and the threat of an unwanted pregnancy as incentive to REALLY learn it well, and fast?! *NOTE: I am not recommending anyone else to do this.
When I knew, I knew. And I wanted this thing out, ASAP. So much so that I didn’t wait until my normal OB/GYN was available for an appointment. I took the next available appointment with a female OB/GYN at their midtown office, which just happened to coincide with the new moon. Celestial affirmation. Yep, this is going to be a great day!
It was. Even with all of it’s challenges. Even with the OB/GYN I saw that day dismissing my choice of FAM as birth control and insisting I use other, more trusted methods like (insert products you have to buy, you become dependent on, and ultimately keep you asleep to your body’s cyclical intelligence). Even with her tangible air of arrogance when I spoke to her as an equal, rather than an almighty, all-knowing vagina god. I am my own vagina goddess, thank you very much. My passion for an all natural, holistic birth control method paired with her lack of listening capabilities and empathy resulted in a quite interesting visit that day. For example, if one states she has no desire for synthetic hormones, chemicals, or devices inside of her body, then why would one think of suggesting cervical caps that have a chemical spermicide on them and are completely absorbed into your body as an alternative? All I wanted was to go in and have the IUD removed. Maybe even have the medical health professional who was removing the IUD support me in my decision. Apparently, that’s too much to ask for.
Her horrible bedside manner continued into the removal process. “Shouldn’t you do an ultrasound before attempting to remove it just to make sure it’s okay to remove this way?” “No, if the strings are intact, it’s fine.” Whatever you say, doc. Usually, OB/GYN’s tell you what they’re doing step by step so you’re not alarmed by their touch. Nope, just shove the speculum in without any warning, and tug on the IUD strings. “Hmm, it seems like it’s stuck. Maybe that ultrasound is needed after all.” Me thinking, TOLD YA SO, while my body is registering the uncertainty of being in the hand’s of a medical professional that seems like she doesn’t really give a fuck about me. But she goes for another tug, and out it comes. No pain, phew. Sweet relief. She says it’s out, looks completely fine, and will send it in for testing to make sure there isn’t any infection present on the device. I remove myself from the stirrups, sit up, and thank her. She walks out of the door, offering me these final words of wisdom, “Well, it’s out now,” and proceeds to slam the door behind her. Trigger a stream of salty tears and a fracture in my heart. Crying not just for myself, but for all the other women that have found themselves in these same kinds of situations. Going into their doctor’s office feeling empowered about one’s health and lifestyle choices, leaving with the feelings of disappointment, loneliness, and victimization. This is the exact moment I knew I was going to write a book on this topic and share my story with others.
I am so happy I chose to listen to what I was feeling, not what others were telling me. It takes time to trust that fierce feminine voice calling out from within, but damn, does it feel good to let her be heard. This is only the beginning...I have so much to share, and by sharing my story, I hope to inspire other women (and men!) to rise up to the occasion of honoring the sacred feminine.
R.I.P. Paragard No.2
Feb. 17th, 2016 - Nov. 29th, 2016
Here lies the limitations, disconnection, and disempowerment of my past. She was a good teacher and bringer of truth to my feminine body. She helped me transition and taught me that above all, listening to my body and standing in my power is the ultimate honoring of my feminine nature. Grateful for the lessons, for the path, and the book that is yet to be written, and in some ways, the story is just beginning to unfold.
Goodbye IUD, goodbye forever. Hello freedom. Hello to the pure, whole, natural, feminine me. I’m looking forward to becoming reacquainted with you. We’ve had brief encounters in the past, but I never gave you much of a chance. I had to let things run their course. Discover this truth in my own time, in my own way. And I know there’s still so much to discover. This is just the beginning.
NYC Women's March
Using FAM for my birth control method over the past few months has highlighted the natural, ever-changing ebb & flow of my moon cycle, and my life, for that matter. Honoring my bleed has never felt better, or more authentic, now that I'm free of synthetic hormones and intrauterine devices. Allowing my body to rediscover it's own natural rhythm in relation to la luna has been deeply gratifying and liberating! Rather than dread the PMSing and bleeding, I now embrace all 4 unique phases of my cycle. As women, it's our birthright to hone in on these gifts and powers that are available to us during each phase of our cycles. We've been repressed from experiencing, and ultimately, embracing the feminine force that stirs deep within our wombs. There's no more use in staying tamed and quiet. We must awaken to our truths as the keepers of this sacred feminine power. Gaia needs this camaraderie from her human sisters more than ever now, not to mention we women need this assemblage of sisterhood - I can feel my yearning for this bond pulsing through my being. When we choose to reconnect with our feminine power through a deeper awareness of our body's creative process, we take our health and lives into our own hands, or wombs, depending on how you look at it. For someone who thought she was in tune with her body, well, I'm humbled more and more each cycle by the innate intelligence and complex intricacies of the human body. Each cycle presents another opportunity to go deeper and uncover more about myself and my body's mysteries. FAM has helped to instill this practice of deeper awareness into my everyday lifestyle.
As this one year anniversary passes, it is currently my moontime, and I am bleeding happily in awe and reverence for my decision to go against the grain, or really, with the grain of what’s natural, and track my cycles using Fertility Awareness Method. As I sit in my red moon tent, bleeding freely into my Lunapads organic cotton period panties writing this letter, I am overflowing with gratitude today, among other things.
Yes, there are alternatives to synthetic hormones and housing foreign devices inside of your body. PLEASE feel free to reach out to me directly by responding to this letter via email if you want to know more about FAM, or anything else I touched on in this letter...I’d be more than happy to chat with you! In the past year, I have learned more about my own body and the innate intelligence built within my cycles, discovering how to work with these nuances and lead an incredibly attuned life from the wisdom that lives within my womb. This is your birthright as a woman. You too, can reclaim your wild woman within. One cycle at a time.
I have unfolded with each cycle,
blossoming into womanhood,
petal by petal,
moon by moon,
coming into my own expression of what it means to be a woman.