Writing: The Power of Exploring Reproductive Cycles
Updated: Jan 26, 2021
(Originally published by At the Well!)
Kislev: Almost Every Torah Portion Talks About Dreaming
During Kislev, almost every Torah learning portion talks about dreaming. Long winter nights are near during Kislev. Dusk and darkness come faster; daylight leaves sooner. Kislev, the third month (or the ninth, depending), is a month of moving through the darkness with illumination.
Recently, I had a dream about my babushka (B’H). When she appeared, she didn’t look like herself, but a much younger version, one I've only ever seen in black and white photos. That morning, I thought about my grandmother, my mother, and myself, and the cyclical nature of the three archetypes of Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. These three archetypes symbolize stages in the reproductive life cycle and phases of the moon: the waxing crescent, the full moon, and the waning crescent. They are three varying phases of one complete cycle.
Three Bodies Bound By One Reproductive Cycle In the world of reproductive health, there’s a fact I love to share: When ovaries develop in a fetus, all of the eggs they will ever have also develop. All pregnancy originates with an egg that had already developed in utero, binding three bodies physically by one reproductive cycle. Therefore, we all start life inside of our grandmothers. Three bodies physically bound by one reproductive cycle.
As a former doula, I have witnessed hundreds of thunderous births, worked one-on-one with lactating parents, and experienced personally disempowering OBGYN visits. This led me to find power in proactively seeking out information and befriending my body. Perhaps, my most vulnerable and powerful moment was when my midwife taught me to give myself a cervical exam with a flashlight and a handheld mirror.
Holding Space For Diverse Experiences
My Babushka didn’t discuss her body with me because her generation didn’t talk to grandchildren about these things. Because of this, I have so many lingering questions. I want to know how long she was in labor with my mother and what she used for menstrual pads in Kiev. I want to ask if she felt sad, relieved, or both when she experienced menopause. I want to know what challenges her body went through as she aged, because normalizing and sharing knowledge of our reproductive experiences will allow us to better hold space for each other’s diverse experiences. Often overlooked by mainstream society, experiences like PCOS, vaginismus, endometriosis, pelvic floor issues, mastitis, irregular periods, miscarriage, infertility, perimenopause and menopause remain a mystery for many women who might very well undergo them. How silly that we may not tell each other about it. Where did we learn this secrecy? How might we change it and acknowledge that we can all benefit from illuminating light into this darkness?
Through engaging with the three archetypes: Maiden, Mother, and Crone, we can honor and experience the continuum of change in our life cycles. After all, they are not three strangers, but have been connected since the beginning.
PRACTICES FOR KISLEV: A Meditation of Open Curiosity
Breathe in for three, breathe out for three. Acknowledge, recognize, and honor what knowledge you might lack about your body, others’ bodies, and the reproductive cycle. Ask yourself: what don’t I know? Is there anything I take for granted when it comes to reproductive health? Write any questions down. Here are some examples:
Who do I go to when seeking questions about reproductive health? Do I feel heard, seen and safe to ask real questions there?
What can I learn about the emotional landscape of menopause?
How might I support a friend experiencing miscarriage?
Support With A Timekeeping Ritual
In the morning, acknowledge the experience of a real or imagined person that has menstruated, (perhaps) bore a child, and experienced menopause. In the afternoon, acknowledge a person that has conceived and labored and one who has conceived and lost. In the evening, acknowledge a young person who has not met their body in these ways yet, or may not feel the desire to conceive.
Looking for more timekeeping rituals? Check out our 5781 Hebrew Calendar and Holy Bodies Book.
Sharing Knowledge With Courage
How do we ask, research, and share wisdom? Gather a virtual group to engage in authentic discussion of reproductive health. Create group agreements about confidentiality, sensitivity, and care before you start. Prepare question prompts on topics such as: experience with doctors or healers, periods, menopause, or infertility.