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Adore Your Cycle – a book review

January 25th, 2017 | no comments

This is a new kind of post for me – a book review! There are have been a few books that have changed me in some way, and to be honest, its unfair keeping all this brilliance to myself. Its a bit shocking given how many books I’ve read in my life but you’ve gotta start some time, right? The content of this read has probably had the biggest impact on my ability to accept the fact I’m female, and the worst of my VWD symptoms.

A warning: Its a bit long, so grab a cuppa and give it a read.

So, here we go!

What’s it About?

Adore Your Cycle by Claire Baker is about the female body, menstrual cycles (all of the cycle, not just the period!), the express biological reasons for each phase and our wonderful hormonal makeup. But its not a sciencey book (though science does make an appearance). At its heart, this 140 page e-book is about understanding, accepting and loving the female body for what it is and how it works, rather than trying to pigeon-hole it into a pre-determined idea of what female should look like. In AYC, Claire steps the reader through each phase of the menstrual cycle, explaining the physiological changes, the benefits, hormonal changes while weaving in the social constructs around the phases of the cycle. You’re guided through journalling prompts which highlight for you where you have your own misconceptions, areas to work through and (I’d hope!) positive relationship with your cycle. Through each section, personal stories from the author, health professionals and readers and clients of Claire’s help you understand new perspectives on the menstrual cycle and how appreciating it could better suit your life. 

Through each phase of the cycle, you learn about the peaks and ebbs of energy, creativity and mood that happen for women, and how to use each phase to its advantage for your life. Got a project that needs a bunch of work – can you schedule it when you’re due to ovulate? That new series you’ve been waiting to watch on Netflix – maybe you can pencil that in for your period week, when you’ll already be needing some hibernation time. Its this understanding of the cycle and how you can work your life into it (rather than trying to push biology into our idea of what life should look like) that has seen my previous negative attitudes towards my own body fall away.

The phases of the cycle with Claire’s beautiful Menstrual Muses – an archetype for each phase of the cycle. 

But who is Claire?

The workshop mistress in her element

As a woman with a rare disease that makes periods living hell, its Claire’s history with her own cycle that makes me connect with her. As explained in chapter one, Claire had PCOS, a condition where cysts form on the ovaries, then burst, causing incredibly painful ovulation and cycles. It should be no shock that she hasn’t always had a great opinion of her menstrual cycle and reproductive system! After deciding one day that the way she’d been living (not taking care of her body, taking the pill to suppress her PCOS and skin issues, and not understanding the benefits of having a real cycle), she decided to change her relationship with her health and body. In her own words, “It was great, until it wasn’t”.

So Claire also has some professional quals, but its her lived experience with a female illness and the havoc it plays on your body and your relationship to it that has seen me be an avid reader of her blog and books for years now. No one understands the patient experience like another patient – this is why I keep coming back for more!

 

This is a crazy concept – I have endo/PCOS/VWD/insert disease here
.

This is exactly why you need to read this book! While the average woman doesn’t get the best impression of our cycles – they’re built up to be something you cope with, something we can’t be honest about with even menstrual product companies using plain water or blue liquid in commercials, women with hormonal or bleeding conditions have even more reasons to dislike their cycles. Imagine hating your lungs and breathing (if you have asthma, CF or another respiratory condition, perhaps substitute for your heart and its beats). Every time you breathe, you think terrible things about your lungs – they suck! Why do they make life so hard for me? This is such an inconvenience! Can you imagine holding all that hatred and upset that you direct at yourself every time you breathe? Women don’t get a choice over being female, its just they way we were born. Having a menstrual cycle is an undeniable part of that. Adoring your Cycle is the ultimate “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” – our bodies are fixed, but the specific details of our life are not. Instead of thinking “what if I could nip and tuck and beat my body into submission for the life I think I should have”, what about trying “I’m going to adjust my life to meet my body where it is”?

 Having painful, heavy, debilitating cycles is something I’m incredibly familiar with, and not something I’d wish on anyone. My VWD is something I’ll live with every day for the rest of my life – much like being female, there’s no escaping it for me. Which is why learning to appreciate and even adore my cycle has been a huge part of the changes I’ve made for my health over the last 5 years.

The difficulties experienced during the period for women like myself and Claire make the AYC concept even more important. If you can learn to do your acting, planning, and achieving when your body is best suited to it, everything else can fall away for self and health care to reign supreme when you’re given no other choice.

In understanding each phase of your cycle and what they do, you can learn to appreciate the whole cycle. Its so much more than just bleeding or not bleeding!

 

Really? The biggest impact on my relationship with my genetic condition?

I used to hate being female. I actively disassociated from it – I described myself as an egalitarian or humanist before using the word feminist, I struggled in my relationships with other women because like my own female body they were difficult. I saw no problem with never having a cycle or a period, despite the fact it was the very thing that makes me biologically different to males. I absolutely hated having periods. It wasn’t just because of the VWD, but they felt like an inconvenience, an interruption rather than something my body does to be at its healthiest. If you’d told me there were benefits to naturally ovulating and even bleeding, I would’ve probably ignored you. 

My cycle, but specifically my periods are my worst bleeding symptom by far. I’ve shared specifics of this before, but the blood loss, pain and exhaustion leaves me disabled and dependent without appropriate management. Having my current medical plan absolutely plays a role in being able to appreciate my illness and body, but even when I’ve had difficult cycles since my change in treatment, appreciating that my body can even have a period after all the trouble my reproductive system has been through reduces my stress and even my pain levels. And that’s not even going into more depth with this idea and managing my life around the flow of my cycle.

Journalling exercises through Adore Your Cycle helped me see where I still have beliefs to work on. Glass of wine is optional.

Is this for everyone?

At its basic essence, AYC encourages you to love your body the way it is and the way it was made to be, and that is for everyone! But for period-having-peeps, even if you’re on the pill, or have a condition that makes having a cycle really difficult, there is still something here for you. Maybe one of the journalling exercises can show you where you’re holding on to anger unnecessarily. Perhaps you can start just by doing some meal prep before you periods so you don’t have to cook those days. Or chatting to your partner/family/bestie about your cycle so they know what’s going on for you at each stage, and can help you manage it better.

Neither Claire or I are fans of the contraceptive pill for treating medical conditions like the ones we both have experienced, and she does touch on this in the book. Aside from medical concerns that are explained, taking the pill cuts women off from the very part of them that makes them female! As someone who has taken it for 13 years of her life, I do strongly empathise with anyone using it to suppress an underlying condition, because those can be a real pain to live with. Despite my own views and experience, I wont every tell you you’re wrong for taking medication that makes your life easier – if it works for you in your context, then I think you’ve made a great decision. And don’t worry, you’re not excluded here either. In section 3 of AYC, Claire touches on the concept of experimentation – take what you need right now from her book, not all of it in one go.

The Gentle Experiment concept is one I’ve seen Sarah Wilson mention in relation to her work around quitting sugar – it resonated with me 5 years ago when I read her first e-book, I Quit Sugar in that context, and its just as applicable here. Take a little bit of what is shared, give it a go. If it feels right or even interesting, try a bit more. If not, take a step back and head in a different direction. Very gently-does-it meets the scientific method, and I think for a lot of people, is a lot easier on their brains than a cold turkey approach.

An anti-pill approach as Claire describes in AYC, despite the history of the medication, doesn’t make you anti-feminist either. In fact, I’d say it makes you decidedly feminist – in appreciating the female form and all it is meant to be, you are definitely promoting the “equal but different” recognition feminism aims to achieve.

 

The Verdict?

I hope you’ve picked up on the fact by now I very much enjoyed Adore Your Cycle! I believe learning to love your body because  of its faults or difficulties is paramount to having a wonderful life, and for women, this work is part of that. You can’t get by disliking or hating such a fundamental part of your body and still like yourself and your life (trust me, I tried for years). Through each chapter and journalling exercise, Adore Your Cycle helps you reframe your stories about menstruation and femininity to find a place where you no longer hate your body for what it is, or can at least see your way there. And that’s something all women need.

Get your hands on a copy:


You can get a copy of Adore Your Cycle here: for $AUD24.00. Until the end of January, Claire is also having a sale until the end of January where you can get her e-collection of books and meditations for just $A35, which is amazing value – aside from the books and meditations, it also includes access to Claire’s Facebook group for cycle lovers and yoga classes for each phase of the cycle – pretty cool! (Wanna say thanks for me sending you there? Click this link to purchase ).

This review is all my opinion – I was neither paid to write it, nor did I get my copy for free, or was this post read by the book author prior to publication. The above link in the final paragraph, should you choose to grab the e-collection does provide me with a small referral commission.

Thankyou to Claire Baker for sharing with me the images you see here from Adore Your Cycle. And her wonderful book!

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