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Very personal account penned by Mia Klitsas, Moxie Founder.
I free bled once (for one menstrual cycle) - and honestly, I hope I never have to do it again.
For those who haven't heard of it before, 'free bleeding' is when a person experiences their period without the use of any menstrual flow/blood 'blockers' (like pads or tampons, as an example).
I just want to preface all this by saying that I do fully appreciate that I’m in a privileged position whereby I have access to adequate menstrual hygiene care and that I also have the freedom to choose whether or not to free bleed, as I did this month - many are not afforded this choice due to their circumstances (whether they be people at risk, or living on the streets, or those who simply cannot afford fem-care products, to those who are impacted by cultural issues that prevents them from having access).
This post and experience is not intended to offend or critisize anyone else's circumstances or choices - it stemmed from a genuine interest and desire to better understand what it might be like for people who free-bleed, whether it be by choice or not and to then share that experience with others who have been wondering about it, too! I'm a firm believer that education and experience sharing empowers us - it allows us to be more empathetic and generally just better humans!
I have to admit, I've always thought that free bleeding wouldn't be very convenient or conducive to my lifestyle, but they say “don’t knock it ‘til you try it” - and so, I didn’t. Some of you may have read our previous post on free bleeding and whether it's a “yay” or a “nay” amongst Moxettes – I was really intrigued by people's responses and was super curious to give it a go myself. Here’s how my free bleeding period went down…
A.k.a. "the heaviest day of the darn thing". I was incredibly cautious as to what kind activities I chose to partake in today… I just really didn’t know what to expect?! The first few hours of the onset of my period can be heavy and I also experience really bad lower abdominal cramps, too. Admittedly, I wasn’t excited for whatever was ahead of me.
I wore my favourite light-coloured jeans to work today and a g-string – a little brave perhaps, I know. I didn’t do this on purpose though - I just went about my business as I normally would on any other day (period or not).
As I began my day, thinking about what may lie ahead, I was nervous - but at the same time, I felt liberated. I did feel a sense of empowerment, maybe even a bit of entitlement? Like “look what I can do BECAUSE I CAN and how awesome is it and also I don’t care what anyone else thinks!”. Not caring, or trying not to, or convincing myself I didn't (obvs a mixed bag of emotions, here), was quite freeing. That said, the 'unknown’ is equally as stressful and I couldn’t get the ‘because I can’ sentiment out of my head. Some people don’t free bleed just because 'they can' - anyone with a period can, technically, but some are forced to because they don’t have adequate access to menstrual care and so they have to.This thought stayed with me a lot throughout the day.
By the time I got to work, I had already bled through my jeans.. I had to go back home and change, which was super inconvenient TBH, because I had to cancel meetings/re-shuffle my day to make up the time, which not only affected my work but that of others, too. I was committed to the free-bleed but I wasn’t prepared to sit in it at work for the rest of the day, nor have to explain my bloody pants to my colleagues/clients - not if I was going to bleed at that rate. Reality set in and I sensed a shift in my thinking, in that I suddenly realised that I did care what people thought/would think.
Number of pairs of jeans soiled today: 3 (and a pair of PJs).
I don’t know whether my period is heavier than usual, or if it just feels that way because I’m not wearing anything? I’m usually a tampon girl (during the day) with an ultra-thin liner for an extra layer of protection and an overnight pad at night (no tamps at night, remember, Moxettes?!).
Things still felt a lil’ heavy duty today and so OK I CHICKENED OUT a bit and wore black jeans (thinking as if somehow, black jeans would save me?!). After yesterday’s disaster, I wasn’t prepared to have to go home to change in the middle of the day. I was hoping I might be able to hide it a little better. I'm starting to wonder what the purpose of the free bleed is, if it's being done by choice: is it to make a statement (and if that's the case, I shouldn't care whether or not it shows and what people think); is it for comfort; is it just because I want to (no particular reason at all)? I'm confused.
So as you'd expect, I still bled through my black jeans. It’s just that you couldn’t really see it as much. I did bleed onto one of the chairs in the boardroom at MoxieHQ (eek!! sorry team! I had it professionally cleaned) and I’m almost positive I did at the café where I went for lunch, too. Going out in public was a pretty big step for me. Admittedly, I did feel super awks the whole time. It wasn't relaxing and I was constantly conscious of the trail I might leave behind, and of people noticing, and pointing, and laughing, and being embarrassed for me, and me being embarrassed. I get it, it's called "period shame" and it's exactly what some people are trying to overcome by free bleeding - but we have a long way to go (or at least I do, it seems). I feel like I can deal with the mess on me, albeit inconvenient, but I struggled with the idea that others might be affected by my choice. I'm thinking that leaving period blood around on public seats (like public transport or on the seats at work) is pretty unhygienic, both for the people who have to clean it and also those who may unknowingly sit in it.
I woke up to period blood on my sheets and it even went through to the mattress protector. I immediately panicked and thought that it had gone through to the mattress, as well. Luckily, it hadn’t, but it was then that things started to just get – well, I really had to overthink every part of every process of my day – and prepare myself (i.e. do I sit on a towel in the car? At work? Do I sleep with one on the sheets?). I feel like I’m just creating more issues and complexities for myself and those around me.
Anyway, I fully expected to have a bloody sheet episode. So thank you, next (though in selfishness/fairness I didn’t bother to ask my husband how he felt about waking up next to it/in it? A topic for another day!).
How am I feeling about things so far? Well, TBH, it sux. I'm doing more washing than usual, I'm on edge the whole time and I just don't feel comfortable.
A teenager on the street told me I had bled through my pants today. I’m sure it was well-intended. I responded by assuring her that I was well aware of the situation down below and that I was actually doing it on purpose. Honestly, she looked a lil' confused by it all.
Socially, this experience is certainly challenging, particularly in a society where people generally don’t free bleed (by choice). I can’t help but wonder if we’re trying to change habits for a thing that’s not actually a thing? As in, do those who are forced to free bleed think that we’re a bit socially tone-deaf for doing something to make a (albeit well-intended) point, when probably what these people really want and need from society is just access to adequate fem-care? How do people who free bleed NOT by choice feel about people who do it purely because they want to? Is a ‘shame-free period’ bleeding freely, or bleeding however you see fit, on your own terms? I think back to the 'bleeding in public idea' and start to wonder what our streets and public areas would look, feel and smell like if EVERYONE started doing it. On the face of it, it seems like that would create more problems than solutions...
Gym day! Things are little lighter today, but SO ARE MY PANTS, because leggings don’t offer much protection at the best of times, do they?! I’m not going to lie, I was fearful today, even though my period is pretty much donezo by now. But you just never know... I haven’t not worn a tampon or pad whilst on my period before and so who knows what it’s going to do...
I was really uncomfortable during the session because I didn’t know if I was sweating or bleeding through my pants. I kept checking (discreet glances to my crotch and a few sneaky bathroom breaks). It did interrupt my session (I know, a first-world problem, but still a problem, nonetheless) and had me on edge the entire time. It wasn’t a good time. I managed to stay ‘dry’ until the end of the session when I felt that bubble-like drop (you know the one!!) and I knew it was back for (hopefully) one last hurrah.
So my period is pretty much finished, but I do have some sporadic and very light spotting. I have an event today. As in, I’m speaking in front of a group and I’m planning on wearing MY FAVOURITE SKIRT and I’m not changing those plans. In the name of research and the sisterhood, HERE GOES.
Update: I bled a little bit on my undies, but nothing on the skirt! Huzzah!
So, there you have it, Moxettes. When I read back over this little journal, it all seems pretty uneventful. I got through it fine, in the end, because I was still lucky enough to have other creature comforts at my disposal like fresh knickers, a shower and access to a bathroom whenever I felt like I needed it. If anything, it was mostly inconvenient because at times it did get a bit messy - especially at the beginning of the cycle, but I actually didn’t bleed as much or as often as I thought I would've.
Free bleeding gave me a real sense of awareness around my cycle (super interesting to learn what it looks like and how my period behaves throughout!) but also an insight into what it might be like for those who free bleed not necessarily by choice, but because they don't have access to fem-care - and, it really made me appreciate my own circumstances because I personally would not choose to free bleed (though no judgement to those who do!). One thing I will say, though, is... don't knock it 'til you try it - decide for yourself, Moxette.