The Red Pee
I grew up in a family that didn’t talk. We didn’t talk about most things and especially didn’t talk about bodily functions. I knew that even uttering the word vagina or period under any circumstances was absolutely not acceptable and even as a grown woman I know not to mention anything of the sort.
To me, this was not ideal and I am raising my family differently. I want my children to understand and accept body normalities like menstruation without any sort of awkwardness. However, I also wanted to avoid overexposing them to the point where they’re passing out menstrual cups to their friends at soccer matches.
I believe we have achieved balance.
As a busy Mom, I often find that alone time is hard to come by. Non-existent in fact. With 4 children very close in age, I often find that I have zero alone time. Zero. That means that they bombard me in all situations, including the bathroom.
I woke up one-morning mid-cycle and with a little bit of excitement, perhaps even a bit giddy, I headed to the bathroom. They were all still sleeping and I was excited to be alone. I rushed to the toilet, pulled down my pants and sat.
You see, I had my period and knew that I could make it to the toilet in time before gravity took over and I gushed all over my pad. I sat for a few moments on the toilet and just bled. It’s a sort of menstrual cathartic purging. This is a morning period ritual of mine and until this very moment, no one other than me even knew about it. Now you do.
However, this alone time didn’t last long. Before I knew it my 4-year-old son was standing in front me of yelling “Mom, get up! I have to pee!! Now!!”
I tried to coordinate flushing and standing up before he saw the commode but I stood up from the toilet and there was still red swirling in the bowl. My son was shocked. He looked down and saw red. “Mom, are you bleeding?” I paused for a second. I could tell that he was worried about me and I wanted to comfort him but I also wanted to be honest in a way that’s appropriate for 4-year-olds.
“Yes,” I said. “I’m bleeding, but I’m okay, it’s just the red pee.”
The red pee was a term I heard a college professor use many moons ago when describing the moment his daughter found his wife’s tampons. At the time I thought it was strange, however, in this very moment…it surfaced and seemed very appropriate as I heard the words coming out of my mouth.
“The red pee?” he asked.
“Yes honey, once a month Moms get the red pee. It’s how we have babies like you.”
“Oh,” he said, “the red pee” and turned happily and took his turn at the commode. I couldn’t believe that that was it. The into-to-periods moment I anticipated and spent hours thinking over…was over.
I later had a longer discussion with him when I wasn’t quite literally caught with my pants down.
With basic and non-pressured instances like this, my sons have accepted menstruation without bias or judgment. Free from shame, fear or the weight of social pressure. Something that made my teen years very awkward and produced anxiety as I placed my pads on the belt at the checkout line at the grocery store…my child accepted in a few seconds here, a few there and moved on.
Every so often my son will see me stacking pads or grab a menstrual cup from my stash and say, “Oh, this is for Mom’s red pee.” We have anatomy books, he knows “period” as the general term and there is a uterus model on the shelf and to them, the body is normal. As it should be.
Maybe my children will start feeling uncomfortable about menstruation as adolescents or perhaps having a basic and positive understanding at such an early age will lead to mature, responsible and accepting young men who not only understand menstruation but don’t waste time feeling as though it’s gross or non-discussable.
Could normalizing periods be so simple?
Teaching children young, in small doses and with reality?
See my cloth pads & cup shop list + coupons with to get your own postpartum cloth pad for heavy days.