So Friday afternoon as I was cutting my seven-year-old son’s hair on our porch, he looked over at our year-old female German Shepherd dog and casually asked, “What’s happening to her right now happens to you, too, every month, right, Mom?”
Oddly enough, the question didn’t surprise me because he has asked it before, and we’ve held an open, on-going discussion about menstruation ever since.
Leaning into whatever ounce of wisdom God has granted me, I began to respond, this time with more detail than before: “Yeah, that’s right. It’s because all females – human and animal – pass through a similar process because we’re capable of producing new life. It’s not a problem and it’s not something bad. It’s because we’re female, and God has designed us to hold new life within us. Someday when you’re a little bit bigger, I’ll go into more details.”
He sat still as I continued clipping his hair into a perfect buzz cut. A few silent seconds passed by, and he seemed content with my answer but willing and eager to accept more, so I thought Why not today? and gently pressed onward.
“Well, the reason behind menstruation is that what comes out is what would have gone to feed the baby and help it grow were the woman or female animal to be pregnant. But if she’s not pregnant, her body doesn’t need the fluids to make the baby grow because there isn’t one, so her body gets rid of them.” Gleny, Jason’s ten-year-old sister who was playing nearby on the porch, began to inch over on a little four-wheel donkey toy to hear the juicy details Mom was sharing.
“For example, someday if I get pregnant, I won’t have menstruation for the nine months that the baby is growing in me, because the baby will use those fluids to grow.” With that his eyes shot upward to make eye contact with mine as if caught off guard by this new information.
“So Aunt Aracely doesn’t have menstruation right now?” He immediately made the connection between this newfound realization and the fact that a married member of our faith community is pregnant.
“Yeah, that’s right.” I began trimming over his ears as he continued sitting impressively still under my bed-sheet hair-cutting cape with a clothespin to hold it shut at the base of his neck.
“Also, your elder sister Diana already has this happen to her every month because her body is changing and she’s becoming a woman. I think mine came for the first time when I was 12 or 13. I used to get kind of grossed out or embarrassed and didn’t want to talk about it, but there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s normal.” I tried not to laugh out loud with the scissors in my hand and two pairs of eyes glued to me as my mind darted involuntarily to the first time my mom gave me the facts of life when I was nine years old. After bringing me into the know about menstruation and sex with a lot of love and wisdom, I looked at her, horrified, and asked in a shaky voice, “And you and Dad do that?” When she assured me that, yes, they did, I said, “Don’t even look at me” and shut down on the topic for several years.
I then carefully addressed the fact that some women cannot get pregnant, and that this can be a cause of great sadness. It’s no one’s fault; it’s just something that sometimes happens. Both of my listeners seemed genuinely sad, and then I added, “But God gives us many different ways to cultivate life and raise children. Some women get pregnant and raise their own biological children; others raise children that God brings to them through other circumstances.” They both seemed content, and all three of us exchanged sincere comments on the subject.
Realizing that we travelled long and far from my second-grade son’s simple question about our dog in heat, I smiled and said, “Do you have any more questions, or does all of that make pretty good sense?”
He smiled a toothy, contented grin as I squatted down in front of him, eye-level, and he said, “It makes pretty good sense.”