The Monthly - Rosemary Mac Cabe

Finally, a candid conversation about periods. We get it. Periods are personal. Choosing empowerment over embarrassment, we’re here to give a real-life lesson on menstrual cycles and our bodies.  And what better way to do that than from hearing stories about periods from our colleagues, friends and people we have met on this incredible journey. So join us as we talk about- yep, you guessed it - periods. #leaveyourstain

Who are you (we’d love to get to know you!) and what are your pronouns?

My name is Rosemary Mac Cabe and I go by she/her. I'm a writer and content creator – I do some social media management, content creation, blog writing and journalism, which is where my background lies – from Ireland, based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My sister is a designer and ended up here after two decades of working in fashion in Milan, Paris, New York… and I followed her earlier this year, thinking that, if I managed to get a visa to come and work from the US for a few years, I'd give it a go. 

Rosemary Mac Cabe photo

How did you first learn about periods?      

I think it was probably through that book – Our Bodies, Ourselves. My sister, who's six years older than me, had a copy and I was determined to be just as grown up as she was, so read it whenever I got the chance. I was also very into her "grown-up" comics and magazines, and I think publications like Bliss and Sugar magazines had a lot to do with my early education.  

 
Do you remember your first period conversation? Who was it with and what was that like?

My mum used to tell us a story of what happened when she first got her period; she told her own mother she was bleeding and our granny, without saying anything about what was going on, sent her to the local shop with a note that was was instructed not to read, and she came home with sanitary towels in a brown paper bag. Obviously Ireland in the 50s and 60s wasn't exactly a liberal hub, with women speaking openly about their bodily functions! That's honestly the only thing I ever remember hearing about periods – otherwise it was all picked up from the tampon instructions I read feverishly while I was on the loo!

 
When did you get your first period?

I think I was about 14 – I just remember it being way later than all of my friends, and I was very annoyed about that! 

How was it? What happened?

I was with my friend, her brother and their mum, staying in their holiday home in the southeast of Ireland. I just remember coming out of the bathroom delighted – little did I know the torment that lay ahead – and telling her mum I needed to talk to her. My friend Clare says it was the least subtle thing in the world. I think she was embarrassed that her brother would know, whereas I was just so excited to finally experience this rite of passage. I felt as though I was finally a woman.  

 
Do you try to take extra care of yourself while on your period? If so, how?

I don't really, to be honest. For a few years, I had the copper coil inserted and I found that my period got very heavy and painful – during that time I would always have a hot water bottle to hand, and there would usually be a full day I'd take "off". I work for myself, from home, so I can afford to do that: have a duvet day. Now that the IUD has been removed, my period is a lot lighter and, aside from the actual physical manifestation of it – the blood – I could entirely forget that I'm menstruating. 

 
What are your favourite period products?

I really like the idea of using a sustainable, reusable period product, but I haven't had perfect experiences with them. I have a tilted cervix so that makes things a little tricky and, while I had my IUD in, I used a mooncup and the suction ended up removing the coil, which was unpleasant, to say the least, and kind of put me off to be honest. Right now I use organic cotton non-applicator tampons, but I do worry about the sheer amount of waste involved. Because of my cervical tilt, I need to change my tampon every time I go to the bathroom; when I pee, sometimes the urine ends up kind of trickling back to my tampon string and the tampon ends up quite wet. I learned that the gross way – so I do end up going through more tampons than I'd like. 

 
Is there anything else about your period experiences you want to share?

One of the things I try really hard to do is not to hide when I have my period. If I need to go to the bathroom in someone else's house, for example, I'll try to take a tampon out and just carry it, normally, with me. The kind of instinctual thing is to hide it away or stuff it up my sleeve, but why?! Half of us menstruate and we shouldn't be forced to hide it from anyone. Growing up, I was always taught, for example, never to mention the word "period" in front of my Dad. Why should he get off scot-free?! Now I make a point of discussing it, if it comes up; if I bleed through my pants, for example, or if I'm having bad cramps, I'll say, 'ugh I need to change, my period has soaked through my clothes' or 'I have really bad period cramps'. I want to try to normalize talking about it, even if it's just among my own friends and family.  

 
Have the last challenging months affected your period and if so, how did you best navigate?

I haven't noticed any big differences in 2020, to be honest; I had my IUD removed late last year, so that's made the biggest, most obvious difference. Otherwise I couldn't say that I've noticed a correlation between Covid and my period really – I guess this whole year has made me figure out how to be more productive during time at home, and to find ways to calm my brain down. I've started making pom poms for a pom pom Christmas wreath, for example, which is a nice way to get away from the news cycle! I've basically been trying to find ways to relax, take deep breaths... and I've taken a lot of baths in 2020.

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