By Chloe Skerlak
A room full of pre-teens aged 7 to 11 are filling up plastic cups with cranberry juice. I’ve asked them to guess how much they think we bleed during our whole period. Some cups are full to the brim. Others are half full. But all are definitely exceeding the amount of the average period.
The blood loss during an average period is 30 to 60 ml. That’s about 2 to 4 tablespoons! Even some of the parents are surprised when I show everyone how much this is in the plastic cup.
This is one of the reasons why I decided to facilitate the Period Positivity Workshop for parents and pre-teens. How can we expect to have a positive relationship with our periods if we don’t even know what to expect? When I got my first period, I was mortified that it lasted for more than a day!
Sonya Duffee, Owner of Full Circle Birth Collective, invited me to facilitate the workshop out of her “she-cave” in Edmonton, Alberta. “It was important to us to bring positivity, empowerment, and awareness that getting your period isn’t a shameful or embarrassing time, but a rite of passage. It has been a taboo subject for too long and we wanted to honour this time to encourage learning about their body with respect and embracing this change. This class provided this and more and a great way for mothers and daughters to share together.”
After talking about menstruation, we moved from the red flow to the white flow. I brought toilet paper, lotion, glue, and lubrication to demonstrate how to observe and describe cervical mucus, or white flow (aptly named by Dr. Nora Pope, Naturopathic Physician and Creighton Model FertilityCare Practitioner).
Cervical mucus comes from the cervix, the gateway between the vagina and the uterus. It is present on toilet paper due to a rise in estrogen levels. When we see it, we know we have entered our fertile phase and ovulation is near. While menstruation often gets the spotlight when we talk about cycles, it’s ovulation that runs the whole show. Over the years of teaching fertility awareness, I’ve heard many stories where women didn’t know about their cervical mucus or even worse, they thought it was an infection!
So obviously it was super important for me to cover this in the workshop. I wanted the pre-teens to start their periods with the knowledge that cervical mucus was a normal, healthy, and essential part of their cycle. Knowing what is normal also means you’re quicker to spot when things are not and you can alleviate these issues preventatively and holistically.
Shannon, Postpartum Doula for Full Circle Birth Collective, brought her young daughter to the class in hopes of educating her about the upcoming years ahead. “I had no idea that we would both be leaving feeling completely empowered by the knowledge of not only her changing body, but also about my own menstrual cycle. It was a wonderful experience for both of us, and I hope this is just the start in celebrating the unique female body.”
Then using some “menstrual math” (nicknamed by a wordsmith mother present), the girls worked together to calculate the luteal phase. Also called the post-ovulatory phase, the luteal phase is the time after ovulation until menstruation. In a healthy cycle, this phase will be between 10 and 16 days and will remain consistent from cycle to cycle. So you can use this information to predict when your period will come! What menstruator doesn’t want that super power!?
Among covering other awesome topics including how our emotions change throughout the cycle and how we can best support ourselves, we cover my favourite part of the workshop: show and tell! This is the time when I share the different menstrual products available that help us to have positive relationships with our periods and our bodies.
I have a whole treasure chest of period positive products including organic tampons and pads, menstrual cups, reusable pads, and period panties. These period positive products keep chemicals, artificial fragrances, and plastics out of our bodies while also taking better care of our environment and wallets (amirite, parents?). My treasure chest included a Demo Kit of reusable pads, menstrual cups, uterus pins, and menstrual guides donated by GladRags. “We champion period positivity by replacing disgust and disposability with celebration and reusability.”
I’m excited to say that the Period Positivity Workshop was a huge hit and I look forward to offering many more in the future!
“The Period Positivity workshop was nothing but amazing. It was a perfect gateway conversation with my curious 9 year old girl and Chloe’s passion and enthusiasm was contagious. We both left empowered and informed”, Jesse Szymanski, Period Positive Advocate and mother of an excited future menstruator.
Chloe Skerlak is a seasoned ovulator, proud owner of a menstrual cup, and zealous fertility awareness educator. She hosts Period Positivity workshops in her hometown of Edmonton, AB and loves to post pictures of her cervical mucus on Instagram.