I’ve recently been spending some time brushing up on my knowledge of the female cycle. It’s an area of herbalism that I’m particularly drawn to, as a woman, but also because it’s one of nature’s great orchestrations, like the movements of a concerto, each with its own nuances, yet flowing together, woven into a cohesive, exquisite whole. As with a concerto, one group of musicians will deliver the notes and the rhythms slightly differently from another, placing stronger stresses on this or that passage, drawing out those bars a little longer. And it’s a miracle! Our bodies go through this amazing cycle each month, all so we can conceive and bring life into the world. It’s mundane, yes, and some find the topic embarrassing… I find it stunning.
And somewhat hilarious. A friend of mine recently commented to me that we spend so much of our lives trying not to get pregnant, but once we decide we want to, it’s suddenly so… complicated.
And that’s the thing. Most OB-Gyns just say if you want to get pregnant, count from the first day of your period, and have sex on day 14 and every other day for the next week. The flaw with this rule is that it is a rule—no two women are alike, and so no two women’s cycles are alike. The most empowering thing for a woman or a couple trying to conceive is to learn and celebrate the nuances of her individual cycle, the dominant themes and recurring melodies.
So I’ve been reading articles on foods to eat, substances to avoid (sugar, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, *ahem*), ways to maximize fertility. And my friend Pamela sent me a link to FertilityFriend.com—brilliant! The site offers a free online course on understanding and charting your own cycle (which is really interesting even if you aren’t trying to conceive), support communities, amazingly comprehensive FAQs, story sharing, and cycle calendars (and yes, there’s an app for that) that allow you to graph or predict different dates in your cycle, enter all kinds of data, overlay graphs for multiple cycle to view trends, the list goes on and on. And yes, I tend to geek out on this sort of thing. I find it exciting and empowering, at age 31, to be getting to know my body and my cycle so well.
Gilbert Chesterton said, “A woman uses her intelligence to find reasons to support her intuition.” I have a hunch he may have meant this to be a less-than-generous statement, and yet I take it as a compliment. I’m 31 and just figuring it out—it’s generally been a taboo topic, I guess, or at least not one commonly discussed among my female friends and family—and I’m finding it a joyful experience! Wendell Berry spoke of not having a TV or computer because he found all those voices, all that noise, interfered with his ability to hear his own voice, and it can get pretty noisy in this world of ours.
A great gift we can give ourselves: to pay attention, take note, listen, and learn from what our body, our one-of-a-kind, magical, perfectly imperfect body, has been wanting to tell us all along.
(As an aside, please forgive my exuberance: it’s spring. LAAAAAA!!!)