chapter 3 – boston with the fairmount ladies

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Blinking at the new day and having sunken deeply into the folds of my ever-deflating air-bed(!) I was woken by excited chattering and an invite to a house brunch! My first morning in Boston with new undergrad room-mates started with a pleasantly surprising Champagney bang! Corks flew, it felt like Christmas.

Today was the day that Kyle Rachel Hannah Harsha and Michelle were to celebrate the dawn of the hugest party day of the year for graduating students – a huge Spring bash, shots of vodka for breakfast and an afternoon gig all put on by the University (illogically just before the exams!). The Fairmount Ladies giddily left the house laughing swaying and explaining that this isn’t normal(!) for them and if I heard shouting and general mis-behaving around campus not to be surprised… I was intrigued and excited to see what debauchery unfolded when students of Tufts University let down their hair and was more than happy to be left in such a great vantage point for people watching! At this year’s gig  it was none other than Shaggy playing centre stage – yes Meeeester Lovva Lovva himself was in Boston!! I was intrigued to hear how Mr BoombasticShaggyMan went down with the students. As it turned out not so well; poor 50 year old Shag was only known for his most famous tunes by the students, which he ended up… erm… repeating… owch. Love goes out to you Shaggy Man – if it was a bunch of 40 year olds we would have gone WILD!

How to describe my hugely loveable room-mates; put it this way from the minute I walked into the home of the Fairmount ladies it just felt fun. Despite being hugely in the stress zone with their various exams and papers I felt welcomed cared for and incredibly nurtured by these energetic lively friendly welcoming women.

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Kyle, a fellow EcoFemme ambassador was the reason I had the fortune to be there, and had coordinated this whole thing with me months back. Kyle is one of the most incredible people I have ever met. So gifted ethical mature and sound. And sweet and funny and relaxed chilled and so hospitable… A very cool woman.

Graduating this year from an intensive sounding degree and having written a Thesis on EcoFemme’s study about Menstrual Hygiene knowledge behaviour and practices among school girls in rural Tamil Nadu, India, she has also lived studied and travelled solo in places like India Cuba and Mexico. Thank you Kathy and Jessamijn from EcoFemme for connecting us – we had a great time! PS Contact me on womanswheel@gmail.com if you would like to read Kyle’s thesis (I have a copy).

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Kyle had arranged for me to run my workshop at Michelle’s place down the road and was encouraging people to be there despite their many commitments. Tufts has many events at this time including numerous free lunches (that I benefited from several times, with chickpea salads sprouted salads and numerous slices of cake – woo hoo!)

Actually the end of the Magical Menstrual workshop clashed with a one day  FREE Fun Fair with free food vans including hummus from the Chubby Chickpea truck (genius). I have much respect for the women who chose their periods over such such sensual delights! Thanks Kyle, for being you. You are incredible and I wish you much joy and success in a full and wonderful life I know you have ahead of you. Keep Rocking!

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Harsha, one of the most genuine sweet people in the world made me laugh and feel touched straight away. At breakfast brunch she showed such interest in my work; asking me all kinds of questions. Harsha, I am still sorry that I was too ill to run through my work with you ‘one to one’ on my last day. (I caught a fluey cold and slept for about 14 hours on the couch). What I loved about Harsha was her ability to laugh at herself, not take herself too seriously, her sweetness, gentleness, and enthusiasm for everything. Also she was just as excited as me at the free food and whooped in delight when I gave her the fridge tour of all the left-overs we had managed to score after attending a lunch about microbiology.

Rachel, a very funny bright lively and very generous person was so caring of me when I was ill (a natural nurse who I am certain will be amazing in such a wonderful career). Rachel left me notes on the refrigerator to check I was OK, gave me some of her bananas when I was too ill to go to the shops, and let me use her Mac when I was in need and had an article to write about eco-products for menstruation for the Barefoot Vegan magazine. (Check out the article in the July/August 2016 magazine by clicking here and choosing either to subscribe or download the magazine as a PDF) Rachel is such a kind person! She is also a dancer and I was honoured to watch her perform Burlesque at the university theatre – Rachel choreographed the dance – it was so cool – legs kicking into the air like waves – she and looked amazing strutting her stuff to some booming beaty tunes; a talented woman.

Hannah, last but defo not least. A completely energetic and funny person; bouncy, full on, full of energy, a ‘life and soul of the party’ kind of woman but also into mindfulness and meditation which I thought was COOL… Hannah was always busy as a bee; working in the University coffee shop, studying for her dreaded Geology exam (I feel your pain), socialising with her boyfriend and her many friends. One night we had a phone call and it was Hannah inviting us all to join her and a group of rebellious students determined to keep the banned university tradition of ‘naked jogging in the freezing cold’ alive. Needless to say we declined. When she came home great big grin on her face and shivering and thankfully reunited with her clothes (she had forgotten exactly where she had thrown ’em off in the whoping excitement of it all) Hannah entertained us with stories of police presence at the impromptu event and the unbridled joy of not being body conscious. I loved that these women didnt have the hang-ups I used to have in my early twenties.

Truth be told when it was time to leave Boston I didn’t want to.

The workshop experience was so GREAT! There were about 10 or so students who attended; the majority of whom were on birth control and didn’t feel they had a deeper understanding of the cycle or alternative eco-friendly menstrual products. I felt it was a perfect opportunity to discuss everything I knew with them and soon the workshop was up and running, fast paced and squeezed into about 3 hours due to the prospect of an annual free food / fun fair event afterwards.

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I think I talked for just over an hour in a whirl about the dynamics of the menstrual cycle and the energies of the four ‘seasons’ which was related to well by the women. I went though some tips and tricks with them about the different phases of the cycle, and then we shared some stories about our own menstrual experiences, discussed the visualization and I explained to them how to chart the cycle to encourage them to find their own pattern to work with.

It felt very much that the Birth Control used by the women dampened down their cyclic dynamics and made the cycle less obvious. But there were still some physiological and emotional things that showed through despite the drug. Many of them reported premenstrual anxiety and feelings of overwhelm which was helped greatly by discussing the purpose of working with the ‘inner critic’ in the pre-menstruum.

There was also a midwife at this workshop who gave me an interesting insight of her experiences of birthing in the USA. These particular hospitals and woman’s stories that follow might be extreme examples but nonetheless are worrying to me.

She told me that a particular hospital in Boston has a 85% caesarian section rate. Yes, 85%!!! When I asked why – was it an emergency hospital where women are sent last-minute? – I was shocked to discover that no – it is apparently a ‘normal’ hospital. Scary!

I learned about this whole generation of women who want to have a surgical birth to avoid pain / changes to the size and shape of their vagina. There are also women who want a vaginal birth but are persuaded by the doctor to have a C-Section due to minor (and I mean minor) complications, delay or long labour. And they are so scared and vulnerable they accept the ‘help’ and their baby is born by surgery. I was amazed that doctors would do this, but apparently the reasons are it’s a lot easier for them, being able to schedule in births to daytime hours instead of unpredictable night-shift births and that the birth process doesn’t take so long the C-section way.

If this is true I am completely disgusted with the hospital. Denying the woman an empowered birth, disrespectfully cutting the precious womb organ open, denying the baby the normal flora and natural immunity by passing through the vagina, for schedules and efficiency? It shocked me and I felt saddened by this narrow view and lack of respect of this primal and sacred process.

I suppose I must accept that some women don’t see it as sacred and therefore why should they care? I still can’t help but think it is our very much patriarchal culture that is influential in this. Is it that women are being denied the opportunity to experience a process that is in reality nothing short of miraculous? Is our culture influencing us so much so that we favour these methods for looks and bodily comfort?

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It is with such feelings of disbelief I continue doing what I believe in – raising this feeling of empowerment around the cycle the process of menstruation and our physical and emotional bodies. Stories like this make me even more determined…

The Magical Menstrual tour continues…..

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(and this was my bed in Boston)…. 🙂
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