For the last episode of season 6 of Period Story podcast, I’m so thrilled to share my conversation with Claire Baker, the period coach, speaker and author of the book 50 Things You Need To Know About Periods. Claire is a force in the menstrual health community, spreading the message that having a menstrual cycle can be a beautiful thing that can help you know get to know yourself better.
In this episode, Claire shares:
- Why she didn’t tell anyone when her period started
- Her second menarche
- What #adoreyourcycle really means
- How she became a menstrual cycle coach
- How menstrual cycle awareness can help you show up to your life as the full spectrum version of yourself in every phase
- Her recommendations for understanding and charting your menstrual cycle
Claire says that having a menstrual cycle is a gift and that your menstrual cycle can be your ally.
Thank you, Claire!
Get in touch with Claire:
Le’Nise: I’m really excited to have you here and hear about the story of your very first period.
Claire: Thanks for asking me to come and share Le’Nise. I’m thrilled to be here.
Le’Nise: Let’s get into it. So can you tell us the story of your very first period?
Claire: Hmm? I am. I don’t remember my very first period at all, actually. I’m curious how many people you’ve spoken to who don’t remember theirs is it?
Le’Nise: It’s. I think maybe about. I’ve interviewed about. 50, 60 people and maybe one or two haven’t remembered.
Claire: Interesting. Okay. Yeah. No, I didn’t remember mine at all. And I have. I have really tried, but I don’t. And there’s lots there’s lots of you know, that’s not the end of the conversation. Obviously, there’s so much we can talk about around that. And that’s where I’ve spent most of my, the work that I’ve done to explore my menarche self has been really important to me. So journeying with her and you know who I was when I started bleeding, the kinds of things that I was into and the things like information I was taking in and absorbing about my body and my period. All of those things I’ve spent lots of time with which I’m excited to share more on. But when it comes to the actual first time I bled, there’s just nothing at all.
Le’Nise: Okay, that’s so interesting that that you can’t remember that because for some people I’ve spoken to, that’s like a really formative that’s very, very personal, is very, very formative and interesting for you because this is the work that you do that, you know, it’s those early years that you’ve explored, but the very first time there’s just a blank. So can you talk a little bit more about the early years of having a period?
Claire: Yeah, I can. So I remember the things I do know was that I started so I started developing in terms of getting like little lumps where my breasts would be much earlier than a lot of my friends. I was probably like ten. And so I remember my mum saying to me, Oh, you’re going to get your period soon. Like you’re going to get your period soon. And I was like, This is going to happen soon. And it just didn’t happen. And I do remember like waiting for it and wondering where it was and other friends of mine not having luck getting there. Sorry. And I was still waiting for it and kind of willing it to come. And Mum kept asking me and I kind of felt this pressure, this like, oh, when’s is going to happen, you know?
So I know that I was about 14 or 15 because I remember that like I remember not having it. That’s how I know that, you know, I remember it hadn’t happened. And the very first few periods that I had when it did finally begin. I say finally. I mean, it was a totally normal age to get it that just been this pressure for like five years because I’d been told that it was going to happen and then it didn’t. So I was, you know, it was just expect, external and internal expectation. But I remember I didn’t tell anyone. I definitely know that I didn’t tell my mom. I didn’t really tell any of my friends. I just kept it to myself and just managed it alone. And I had no idea what I was doing. So I do remember trying to flush a pad, a pad down the toilet because I had no idea how to dispose of that. I remember stealing tampons out of my mom, she has this little black ornamental box in the bathroom when she kept her tampons. And I remember taking them out of there and again, just having no idea how to use them. So I had inserted this tampon. I was doing a triathlon one day with a friend of mine, and I had inserted this tampon just so it was essentially hanging out of my vagina. Like you could see the top of the tampon hanging out.
And I remember riding his bike just thinking like, This is horrible. How does anyone do this? Like, how do people have their period and go about their lives in so much pain? Because I had no idea how to insert. I just had no idea what I was doing and was trying to read the instructions on packets and just like fumbling my way through, I had no pain at all. I remember some friends of mine had pain or would get headaches and I had I had none of that. I do remember that my periods came quite regularly and I would mark out on my calendar with a star, like when I would expect the next one to come. And I so I started intuitively tracking them quite early, but I don’t have any, you know, beyond just not really knowing what I was doing. They didn’t cause me any pain or anything like that early on.
Le’Nise: What’s really interesting is that you said quite early on to when you were around ten, your mom said, Oh, you’re going to get your period soon. And then when you got your period, you didn’t tell anyone. So can you tell talk a little bit more about why you kept it a secret?
Claire: Yeah, I was totally rebelling against this, like invasion of privacy that I felt like I was constantly experiencing. You know, my mom and I have discussed this. I just grew up in a household where there was no boundaries and it was like people would walk in on each other in the shower or, you know, just comment on each other’s bodies. And I was the eldest of five, and so I remember the like, awkwardness of it changing from being really natural for me and my siblings to be naked around each other and take baths together to then suddenly, like, Oh, I’ve got like pubic hair and my breasts are changing and I don’t feel comfortable being naked around my family anymore. And I don’t like my mom just walking in on me when I’m having a shower and commenting about my breasts and telling me when my is coming.
And I remember one time she was I knew that she’d been checking my underwear to see if, you know, I’d started bleeding. And I just remember I can still feel it. Just this, like protectiveness, like this self-protection of no, you don’t stop commenting on what’s happening and telling me what’s going to happen. And so I felt I feel like it was me claiming my experience and a sense of sovereignty in amidst all of these changes and everyone telling me what was going on and just like, No, I’m going to take care of this on my own. I’m not going to tell anyone. I’m just going to like. Forge ahead. By myself.
Le’Nise: When you got your period, you kept it a secret. But am I right in assuming that you knew what it was and what was going to happen? Because your mom had kind of had those conversations with you early on?
Claire: Definitely. Yeah. Yeah. It’s funny, you know, I have lots of parents who ask me how to best approach these conversations with children. And I, of course, think that being open and honest is is the best pathway forward. I think my mum, you know, couldn’t have done anything differently. You know, maybe she could have given me a little bit more space. But she was so open with me about having a period, about her own periods, about what to expect. Like she’s a nurse and we knew all of the correct anatomical terms from a really young age. We were never allowed to say things like willy or fanny. It was like a penis and testicles and vagina and I knew the difference between all of these, like anatomical parts of myself, really, from a really young age.
So I was definitely educated and informed about menstruation. I just. Didn’t want my experience to be imposed upon in any way. You know, it felt like. And I don’t know the answer to how somebody manages that delicate balance, but how to share information without merging with somebody’s experience, I suppose, which is how it felt to me. It was like so much that it was kind of like I recoiled. Yeah.
Le’Nise: It is interesting though, because when it comes to periods and pregnancy and birth, some people are so willing to share their bad stories, their bad birth stories, their bad period stories. And that protectiveness that you felt is so interesting or you kind of just wanted to have this experience for yourself. Obviously, there are other reasons, you know, as you’ve explained. But I’m curious, how did you expand your knowledge about what was happening in your body beyond this kind of intuitive need to track your cycle?
Claire: Yeah, it’s a good question because I do remember learning at school. I remember all of the girls in the classroom being ushered into a separate room and we were shown pads and tampons and told how much blood to expect. And I do remember being taught how to manage your period, essentially. And so I knew like I knew to take the tampons from mum’s bathroom. I knew how to go and buy pads. And I remember just poring over the labels. I had a couple of books that I remembered seeking out in the library or that I had been given about these sorts of changes that might happen. And reading magazines, you know, you’d learn different things from teen magazines, but it wasn’t something my friends and I ever spoke about. It was very much like a solitary mission to discover, you know, what I needed to know.
But then I started taking hormonal contraception probably about 18 months into having a period. So I then just skipped my period for a lot of the next ten years. I would have it a few times a year, a withdrawal bleed. But I chose not to mostly for that next time. So it really was only maybe 18 months, maybe maximum two years of actually bleeding and having a natural menstrual cycle before kind of opting out of it.
Le’Nise: Wow. So can you just talk us through a little bit if you feel comfortable about why you went on hormonal contraception and whether or not your mom was involved in this decision at all?
Claire: Mm hmm. So I started taking the oral contraceptive pill purely because of hormonal acne. So I had experienced mild to severe acne from about 13 or 14 years old, so before my periods actually began, until I was about 16. And there’d been lots of visits to the dermatologist for different creams and antibiotics, and I’d taken a few different things that might have worked for a short period of time, like lots of different skincare, you know, just these topical ointments. And it was, it was just for me, having acne was so hard. I found that to be a really difficult part of being a teenager. It was something that I was conscious of every single day from like the second I’d wake up. Like the pain of it. Just the feeling of it on my skin. Being conscious of what people at school thought. The daily process of trying to cover it up with make up and like, Oh, it was just awful. I honestly would have done anything to get rid of it. And so I tried after a number of different, like I said, different medications and topical treatments, my dermatologist suggested the pill and it was incredible. It just worked. I mean, not instantly it took a couple of months, but it worked. And it’s and it continued to work. And that was my number one reason.
It was a number, it was another number of years before I started having sex, which was then like just a bonus that I could I didn’t have to think about any other contraception besides of course, protecting for STIs. But in terms of pregnancy like that was. It just felt like an added extra that being on the pill. Mum was yeah absolutely involved in that decision and she well you know walked me through that process. I remember her reservations and I remember over the years that I took the pill. She would often say to me. You know, you’re still taking it? Do you think maybe you should have a break? She had taken it when she was younger and had had some issues with it, and I think she was just cautious of me taking it and would often say oh maybe it’s time to have a break. And I know now. She does have, I would say, probably regrets. You know, I think as every parent probably looks back on some decisions that they made. That is one she has shared with me that she does think, oh, I wish I had of maybe considered that more before letting you know we take it at such a young age.
Le’Nise: So I remember when we were on the panel for the Business of Birth Control, you said that coming off the pill was like you were seeing everything in black and white and then suddenly everything was in technicolour. That really that really stuck with me because I just it was just such a visceral way of describing it. So how long were you on the pill? Did you say ten years? Yeah, ten years. And so then what made you decide to come off of it?
Claire: Yes. I always look at that first period coming off the pill as like a second menarche because it was so significant that, you know, and as I said, I didn’t remember my first period. So that moment was really quite something. I decided to come off hormonal contraception because it had just for a while stopped feeling like it was in alignment with my own health values. And I had at times attempted to come off it. And every time I did, my my skin would just go crazy again and would break out. And I was like, Oh, I just don’t want that. So. And I remember a GP, I was talking to a GP, my GP about it and he, I remember him saying like as women. Because I tried roaccutane like, which is a really strong medication for acne. And again, it hadn’t worked.
And I remember him saying to me, like, your acne is hormonal. And so no matter how strong the medication is not going to work. The pill is the only thing that’s going to work for you in your skin, because it can essentially shut down the hormones that are causing this problem. So. Yeah, that just really kept me on it for a long time. And then I was about 25, 26 and I was making some big changes in my life overall. I was reconsidering the work that I was doing and I begun practising yoga and you know, I wasn’t drinking so much anymore and making really like I’d always paid attention to my diet, but just really learning more about nutrition and looking at doing a full audit of all the chemicals in my home and just taking more care of what I was putting into my body. And I just started to feel strange that I was taking this little pill every day when I was making so much effort to not expose myself to unnecessary chemicals.
So I think that was really, I think this didn’t feel quite alright anymore and I’d really been working on my gut health and it was incredible. I stopped taking it and I was so worried that my skin was going to break out again and it didn’t, you know, it was totally fine. But what did happen was that I didn’t bleed for a year, so I had one full year post pill amenorrhea, which also coincided with probably the most stressful year of my life due to a personal event. And so it’s funny looking back on like, was it the pill or was it the stress or was it both? But there was the one full year of of not bleeding at all. And that really catapulted me into the work that I do now, because I was suddenly aware of how little actually knew about my body and about ovulation and about, you know, my hormonal cycle. And so I’m grateful for that. Yeah. But it was scary to not bleed for that for that entire time and to not know like what effects the pill had had on my system and whether my period would come back. And like I said, when it did, it was a really significant moment.
Le’Nise: So how how soon were you expecting your period to come back after you came off the pill?
Claire: I expected it would take a few months. I think I think that was like from what I had read, I thought, well, I guess it’ll probably come back within a few months. And I was seeing an acupuncturist at the time who said to me, You know, if it gets to six months, maybe then you might need to you know, we need to look at what’s going on and it got to six months. And so I then went and had various ultrasounds where they I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome. I’m still not convinced that I actually had it, but they gave me that diagnosis as an explanation for not having my period. And then I remember, you know, again, this acupuncturist saying, okay, because the nine or nine months we might need to do some more investigation. So I had blood tests. I was kind of getting things checked out throughout the year and, and, and ah, I’m saying, ah, if I get to 12 months, maybe you might need to talk to your doctor about metformin, the drug that can stimulate ovulation. And it’s like, I really don’t want to do that.
And it was interesting because I got to got to nearly yeah to 12 months and I had been so like it reminded me almost of that first period of everyone being like right it’ll come at this time. It’ll come at this time. And I was so tightly wound, like, when is it going to come back? Like it was that same feeling. And I and I really remember letting go of it. I was going into a new year and I was like, you know, I’m just going to let this go. And I just have to trust my body that like it’s doing what it needs to do. My skin hasn’t broken out. I have lots of energy. I feel good. I’m sleeping well, like all other signs point to the fact that I’m well, it’s been a really big and stressful, like unexpectedly stressful year. I’m just going to take the pressure off. And then I think, you know, it was a few weeks after that that I began to bleed. And so I feel like that’s just the lesson of my life, to be honest, is just like let it go.
Le’Nise: And what was that experience of what you call the second menarche like.
Claire: Hmm? I mean, it was so exciting. Or I’ll never forget it. Waking up saying that I blood in my underwear. I’m like, oh, god, is is it like it’s actually happening? And I texted my acupuncturist right away. You know, she was really on the journey with me by this point. My God, I got I think it’s starting. And she’s like, just get up and go for like a really gentle walk to just kind of get get everything moving. Okay. So I went for a gentle walk and it started. Yes, I started to bleed more over the day. And then it was like just excruciating pain. It was so full on. I actually I actually vomited. I was like vomiting from the pain, which I’ve never done since, but it was really, really full on. And I’d say the first few were like that. They were pretty intense experiences. So on one hand, I was, you know, thrilled and celebrating and really excited and relieved and also in quite a lot of physiological pain.
Le’Nise: And what did you do about the pain?
Claire: At the time, I think I just took some pain medication and was like, okay, whatever I need to do right now to just get through this like this isn’t really full on. But I was still seeing this acupuncturist, I was, you know, still doing really committed to doing the things that I had been doing for that 12 months to try to get my body back into a place where it was able to ovulate again. And so, yeah, that included like stress management, sleeping and eating well and not over exercising, things like that, which, you know, it’s a warmth in my body warming food. I and you know, and it’s been what, now, like ten years since then, those things still, I know that if I let some of those things slip for a bit, that that pain will come back like that. That has been my experience that if I have had a really couple, like a couple of stressful months or. Yeah like having more alcohol or coffee that I know my body really my system really likes. Then, you know, my body’s not backwards and coming forwards like it will. It will tell me. Yeah.
Le’Nise: I‘m. I’m actually the same way. You know, I, I suspect that I have mild endometriosis and I have a lot of things that I do to keep everything in check. And if I let anything slip, you know, it will you know, it will come roaring back the pain. And it’s interesting because when you talk about and we’ll talk about go into work in a second, but when you talk about, you know, things like, you know, understanding your menstrual cycle, you know, you use the hashtag adore your cycle and there’s this expectation that, you know, you will always have a great menstrual cycle and a great period. And I’m really glad that you’re being so honest in what you do and how you manage it, because it’s not as simple as like you take a few pills and then presto, you know, no more pain and you know, no mood changes at all and all of that. So can you talk more about the journey that you went on from getting your period back, managing having a period as as an adult to then getting into the work that you do today?
Claire: Mm hmm. Yeah. It was incredibly intertwined. I, at that point, had already started working with women as a health coach and had trained and was seeing clients and was still very much in the early days. And so as I was learning more about fertility and ovulation, my hormones and, you know, tracking my periods, I was guess. Yes, sharing quite organically this information as well with clients or sharing resources, books that I was reading, teachers that I was learning from and it quite like early on it became an aspect of my work. In the sense that I just didn’t quite understand why in my own certification as a health coach, there had been no mention of the impact that having a menstrual cycle might have on your health and on your, you know, the way that you feel and your self-care and nutrition and how movement might change. Like everything I was taught was was very holistic, a very holistic training, but then it was also incredibly linear and really didn’t include like the female bodies experience at all.
And so I was just curious how like I said, it went from for me like black and white to technicolour. So I was like, well, this is like pretty full on going from being in a very linear state for ten years to suddenly having this very cyclical experience. Like all if it’s affecting my choices around how I care for myself when I rest, when I’m sleeping more, how strong I feel at different times in the month and fluctuations in my libido. Like naturally my motivation, it’s affecting so many things. Naturally, this would also surely this is affecting know clients I’m working with and I was just really curious at the beginning. I was like, Do you notice this as well? Like, you know, how can we sit here and have a conversation about your motivation or energy level of your self-care without talking about this?
So I just started to encourage my clients to just track this cycle and just take what they were noticing about how they felt at different phases into, you know, in bringing it into our sessions. So that was always like an aspect of my work. And then I would say a few years in I just became you know, more and more connected to my own cycle. I did a few more trainings and it was more educated on what was actually happening in the body. And I felt like, Yeah, actually, this is, this is where I would like to centre, to centre my work now. It’s been an aspect for a number of years, but now actually I really want to own and be more vocal about how important I think this is. And ah yeah, it was quite a, I was terrified to do that. I really didn’t want to do that. I felt like I didn’t really know anyone else at the time who was calling themselves like a menstrual cycle coach or period coach or whatever. And I didn’t really want to be known as that person. I was like, Oh, I’m kind of happy to just be like a women’s health coach who talks about this stuff, and I really want that to be the central focus of my work. And I had so much resistance to it.
And then I remember really making the decision. I was like, Nah. Like, this is so important to me. I really do want it to centre this more. And it was just extraordinary when I, when I did that and I and I created a series of workshops and my first e-book on the topic that was in 2016 and. And brought everything that I had been learning. And and again, like kind of behind the scenes with clients for a number of years to the to the front of my business. And yeah, the response was just incredible that people were so open to it and supportive and welcoming. And for anyone who was like, Oh, I don’t want to hear you talk about periods all the time. Like, I want to go back to when you were just talking about like, okay, oh, that’s that’s fine. You can go and do, you can leave. You don’t have to be part of this conversation anymore.
But it’s always been like my work is yes, it is about the menstrual cycle and menstrual cycle awareness and charting and getting to know your own body. But all of those other aspects are like they’re all there too. Like, my work has never been about helping people necessarily with like period pain per se. Like, I don’t diagnose, I don’t prescribe. That’s not what I do. It’s always stayed in the like full spectrum experience of somebody’s life, whether that’s their creativity, their relationships, their health, you know, their spiritual practise. Like, I really believe that if you have a menstrual cycle, you know, I’m interested in like hanging out at the intersection between all of those things and how you ultimately shape your life in each shift, in each separate phase. So it’s less about like definitely it’s not, it’s not medical and it’s definitely less about. Yeah. Supporting, I guess it’s less about. Supporting people through I refer on a lot. You know, you look refer to other practitioners whose skills are in, you know, adding supplementation, for example, or really, you know, supporting someone like you do through the, you know, the nutritional aspect of dealing with, you know, more severe menstrual issues. I’m really interested in well, who are you, you know, in each phase of your cycle? And how can I support you to really show up to your life as the full spectrum version of yourself in every phase, you know, because we do change and fluctuate. And I think that that’s really beautiful.
And I want people to know that having a menstrual cycle, you know, it’s a gift and it can be your ally. And yeah, I say like, you know, you said hashtag adore your cycle. That definitely doesn’t mean every period is a dream and it’s like rainbows and unicorns all the time. Like we get into lots of shadow work and looking at our vulnerabilities and our sensitivities. But I love that. Like I love the light and the dark lens that it offers us to really be like who we actually are and owning those, those darker sides of ourselves that come out at different times in our cycle and exploring that, not just like medicating it or labelling it and hiding it away. So yeah, that’s, that’s how I got to where I am. Mm.
Le’Nise: It’s so interesting hearing you express the, the reticence you had about calling yourself a period coach or menstrual cycle coach and even kind of going deeper into this space, given what you do today and how deep you are into this work. And I’m curious, you know, what do you say to people who say, well, actually, you know, like, do we even need a period? Do we even need a menstrual cycle?
Claire: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I came across an article just recently actually I think it was a Cosmo piece about how we don’t need to have a period and how you can skip it and just not have one. And hey, like I said at the very beginning, I chose to have very few periods over, you know, an entire ten years of my life, an entire decade. So I get it because. Sometimes it is incredibly inconvenient when we live in the world that we live in. It can be painful for some people. Some people genuinely, really, really struggle like physically and psychologically. Our world is not set up so that people who menstruate at all and there’s such a lack of support and resources, it’s expensive as well. It costs money, you know, every time you bleed. So I like I really understand. And I have such a like non-judgmental lens through which I see anyone who chooses to take, you know, oral contraceptive pill for lots of different reasons, including not having a period, but.
But I believe in its power to bring groundedness to our lives, to bring a sense of self authority through, you know, through self-knowledge and really embracing our nature as it is like when we embrace and accept who we are it creates so much ease in our life and it’s such a sense of belonging. And any time we as humans try to be anything other than what we actually are, our true nature, it just causes pain and suffering. And I truly believe and have seen this through the lives of so many of my clients, that when we really just accept, accept our nature and learn to live in greater harmony with it. There is there is a real magic that occurs in people’s lives. And it doesn’t happen overnight, but there is something that I think we lose when we suppress when we suppress who we are. And by suppressing our inner biological and physiological function of the menstrual cycle, it’s suppressing a really large, really large part of who we are. And that’s not even getting into the actual chemical changes in the body and how that actually affects, you know, the different hormones and the different systems. It’s a ripple effect. The menstrual cycle doesn’t live in isolation from everything else, it’s connected to other parts of our system. But I’m really looking at it through the lens of yeah, of like who we are as humans and our capacity for creativity and to connect with other people and to and to be ourselves in the world. I think I do actually think that we are denying ourselves in a part of of life of not knowing this cyclical aspect of us. It’s like we’re like the seasons, you know, we’re like the moon and like we do change. And it is hard because that’s not the what society. The society doesn’t make it easy to be like that. Like we’re like circles trying to fit into a square hole, but. Yeah. There’s a real depth and a lot to discover. I think about yourself by getting to know who you are across your menstrual cycle. It’s very beautiful and painful. That’s life.
Le’Nise: So someone’s listening to this and they’re thinking, okay, really interesting. I’m thinking about coming off hormonal contraception or I’ve just come off or I’m just really interested in the idea of charting and tracking my cycle. I have no idea where to start. What would you say?
Claire: Well, you can start today. That’s the best bit. You don’t have to wait. And, you know, my approach is really about getting to know your own cycle. So it’s it’s useful, of course, to learn about the different hormonal phases and how oestrogen and progesterone and that fluctuations can, you know, impact on your how you feel across the month. Those things are useful, but my approach is definitely about getting to know your own, your own body and your own experience.
And so I would suggest starting today and then every day moving forward, finding a method of charting that works for you. So some people love apps like the Clue app or various other apps. Some people really love pen to paper, and that’s an approach that I also love. So be someone who journals. You can just start by adding what day of your cycle you’re on next to the date, and to figure out which day you’re on, you simply look back to when you had your last period and the first day of bleeding, full flow bleeding is the first day of your cycle and you just count forward from there. So for example, you might be day sixteen today and you can use a chart. I have some free charts available on my website and you just start paying attention every day. Like, how is your physical body today? How is your energy levels, any like cravings in particular foods. Mentally, what’s going on in your mind is that, you know, a noticing a difference in focus or any like the quantity or quality of thoughts emotionally. How you feeling? And then, you know, spiritually is something I encourage people to do, to do like how connected do you feel to yourself or to nature or to the world around you? You can also think creatively, sexually.
You know, there’s so many different aspects of ourselves we can bring to a charting practise, but it can just be a few words. Today I feel energised, you know, a bit like maybe a little bit anxious or nervous mentally and, and, you know, and spiritually feeling quite connected to myself and to simply just start to notice, like today, I slept more. I had trouble sleeping last night. Today I feel really connected to my partner. Today I feel really frustrated with work and there’s like over about three months I notice it takes to begin to start to to recognise these patterns. All right, so on my day 20, I seem to always want to quit my job and, like, run away to another country. And that’s when I notice a lot of self doubt or in a, you know, inner critic attacks happening. Okay, cool. That’s really good for me to know. That’s gold. And then on cycle day five, I notice, oh, this is sort of like desire to want to reconnect with people again. But I’m also feeling like still quite introverted. So that’s an interesting inner conflict to begin to look at and these patterns will start to emerge. But it takes time and it does take. It takes a daily commitment because I found that charting in retrospect doesn’t really work. It has to be just like noticing and just a mindful practise each day to see where you are and documenting it down somewhere. And then after about three months, just beginning to look for those patterns.
Le’Nise: It’s so interesting when you talk to people and there can be a real resistance to going deep because we’re so attuned to the external. And then asking people to tune in to what’s happening in their bodies. It can be hard for some people because they’re not used to slowing down and thinking, Well, actually, what do I really feel? What am I really thinking about this? Because, you know, there are so many distractions in the world. So it’s so interesting the approach that you take and also to hear your own approach that you use pen and paper, which I find really interesting. So can you just tell us a little bit more about you, do you have a journal day by day calendar. Like what? How do you actually do it?
Claire: Mm hmm. Yeah, I’m so old school. I think the less time I spend on technology, the better. Yeah, I have a journal first and foremost for me, I am, but. But I think what’s important to note there is that the best method of charting is the one that you’ll actually do and one that suits you and that can easily, like, fit into habits that you already have. So if you’re someone who you know, you know that you’re going to use an app on your phone because you’ve already got a number of things you check in with their every day then. Brilliant. I love journaling and always have, so it just makes sense for me to, like I said, just start to add that cycle day next to the day. And usually before I begin a journal entry, I’ll just make a couple of like really simple notes. So, you know, if I’m bleeding, I’ll write down like how much I’m bleeding, you know, what I’m noticing physically in my body, how I’m feeling and you know where I am today. I’m cycle day ten. I’m noticing, you know, changes in cervical mucus. All of my fertility charting, which is separate to menstrual cycle awareness, actually does go into an app. I use Kindara for all of my fertility charting, but for menstrual cycle awareness, which is more about, you know, like the whole holistic human experience. Yeah, I just made a couple of notes of thoughts that I’m having, like how I’m feeling that day and and I’ll usually flick back oh hey, cause I’m cycle day ten today. How did I feel on cycle day ten last cycle? How about the one before that? And how about the one before that? And you know, these things start to start to emerge.
Another method people are listening who like pen to paper, is by just getting a getting a notebook that you dedicate to this practice and and dividing each page into four and then say the first page is four lots of cycle day 1, 2 pages, cycle day two. So you just fill in one quadrant for four different cycles so that by the time you finish full cycles, you’ve got a whole page with, with notes from, from that cycle day. So you’ll be able to see, okay, on cycle day ten on these four cycles, this is, this is how I felt. And that’s quite a simple way to just begin to to pay attention to these patterns. But I do have charts that I don’t use so much anymore. At the very beginning of my journey, when I was learning about this, I used I use them and they’re circular charts. I’ve got a couple that you can download for free and they show one whole cycle on one page. And again, this is just a small space for a couple of notes, things that you’re observing. You can also chart where the moon is at and notice what phase of your cycle you’re in. If that’s interesting to you, dreams is another good thing to write down how you know as your dreams change. And then that way, once you complete one full chart, it’s just on one page and it’s not stopping and collecting these charts. And you can again go back and look at these patterns.
I also find it interesting with the handwriting to see how handwriting changes so often when I’m looking at a client’s chart, I’ll notice when they’re writing really neatly and they’ve taken their time, or when they’ve just like scribbled something down or when they’ve like left whole days like whole sections blank. Because that is, that’s really interesting. Like that has a lot of information just in, you know, the way that we’ve documented, like when we’ve, when we’ve been more diligent and we’ve really practised that mindfulness or when we’ve just been like whatever, you know? And that’s an interesting observation in and of itself. So I find handwriting to be quite revealing in that way. And I just love the practice of. Acting and taking that time to be off my phone.
Le’Nise: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I remember once I was with a client, and she was. When I see my client, I. I have a notebook and I take notes and she was quite surprised that I was writing everything down then, you know, she was like, it doesn’t your hand hurt, you know, and she’s saying how she just doesn’t write at all. But I like you. I really like that practice of like just seeing something really tangible and of course, being off my phone. I’m curious, what’s the most surprising thing that you learnt about yourself when you started tracking your menstrual cycle?
Claire: Yeah, gosh, there’s been a few. I mean, it’s been, you know, from something as practical and so many practical as like our coffee doesn’t actually really work for me. You know, like I always used to think, I’m a big coffee drinker, I love coffee. And then I realised that I think I actually I’m noticing on the days that I have that I’m actually like really anxious. And for a while I thought it was just at different points in my cycle. I could metabolise it better and I’d practice, I experimented with that for a while, but then I had to kind of come to the sad conclusion that I just don’t think it really works for me. So that’s been, you know, things like that, like, okay, like when different things work for me at different times and that can be anything from exercise to food to different kinds of socialising.
But, it was through charting my menstrual cycle that I realised that I had symptoms of hypothyroidism. And so then that led to a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s and that came through entirely through noticing changes in my menstrual cycle and what was, what was happening, which was incredible because that was great data to be able to take to my GP to then get the necessary tests that I had to get done to receive that diagnosis and has continued to be my like, you know, rather than getting blood tests every month, you know, I get those regularly too, but I know what to look for in my own cycle to be able to read my body and listen to say like, how is everything going? Like, is everything humming along now? And, you know, those symptoms have have alleviated and that’s been incredible to have that feedback every month about my health.
And there’s also been things like leaving my last relationship. I, you know, cycle after cycle after cycle was journaling on how unhappy I was and how I just didn’t want to be in that relationship whenever I was in the pre menstruum, the week before bleeding and yeah yeah it’s like that’s the time in my cycle when that truth really rings, rings true for me and I can see things more clearly and what’s actually going on in my life and I really believe in listening to that. So it is also, you know, menstrual cycle awareness has supported me to make some very big decisions like, you know, where do I live, relationships, work, you know, it’s really supported me through making great work decisions, by taking time when I bleed to just like rest and let those answers come and take time away. So it’s taught me how to respect the creative cycle and how to listen to my intuition and my body in a way that I don’t know if any other, like I’m such a type-A, like I’m so inherently ambitious. I don’t know if any other practise really could have got through to me in the way that learning to listen to my my menstrual cycle has.
Le’Nise: So if someone’s listening to this and they’re thinking, I really want to learn more about this, I really want to work with Claire. Where can they find you and can you talk a little bit more about the work that you do.
Claire: So you can learn more? The first place to go it would be to my website, which is a Claire Baker.com. And my classroom at the moment is the best place to go to learn more. And I’ve got courses that teach you how to journal your cycle. So the process that I described about, you know, beginning to bring menstrual cycle reminiscence, your journaling practise. That’s a course that I’ve created called flow that people can learn how to how to do that. I’ve then got more courses that explore the creative aspect of the menstrual cycle, identifying, you know, when you feel most creative, I’ve got one’s on self-care and they’re the best places to start. Definitely. I also offer one on one coaching services and teach workshops and circles throughout the year too, and that information is all there as well.
But I would usually recommend somebody starts by by taking a course and beginning to learn how to how to practice menstrual cycle awareness. And then when we begin to actually do some one on one work together, it’s fun because there’s lots of juicy data to work with and we can go a bit deeper together than.
Le’Nise: Amazing. And if you want to to leave listeners with one last thought from all the amazing things that you’ve shared today, what would that be?
Claire: Mm hmm. That it doesn’t have to, you know, having a menstrual cycle really doesn’t have to be a burden in our lives at all. I you know, like I said, I’m not bypassing the shadow aspects and the pain that it can that it can bring. I would never, ever do that. But there is a lot of beauty and magic as well to be found in being in a body that bleeds and and living in a greater congruence with our cyclical rhythm. It’s quite extraordinary experience to have in this lifetime. So I would just encourage people to invite that possibility in.
Le’Nise: Amazing. I love that. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today. All the links will be in the show notes, including links to Claire’s website. And yes, thank you so much again.
Claire: Oh, it’s been really fun. Thanks for asking such great questions. I love this project.