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Body Literacy at Work - Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Fall 2007Body LiteracyBy Bree HorelatWorkBleedy, the Menstrual PuppetJoelle Robichaudin theCommunityFemme FertileA Forthright Women’s Magazine for Maids, Mothers and Crones


Harvest of HRHPsJustisse Practitioners Grow in Serviceby Geraldine MatusAs the sun disappears alittle longer every day andthe nights become cooler, I amreminded that it is harvest season.For me, harvest is a time ofreflection and ‘new scribblers’ forrenewed and new intentions. It isa time for gathering and sharingthe fruits of our labours. A timefor reflecting on the viability ofseeds successfully cultivated andthose that might need differentconditions for the next planting.This past year has provideda rich harvest for Justisse ofdream-seeds brought to fruition,with even occasional wild flowersurprises to grace the garden.HRHP Training ProgramCongratulations to our mostrecent Holistic ReproductiveHealth Practitioner (HRHP)graduates Megan Lalonde and Dr.Andrea Beaubrun! Andrea andMegan now apply the specializedknowledge of the HRHP trainingto their health care practices,bringing a deeper understandingof how to achieve and maintainmenstrual cycle health and allthe advantages of fertility awarenessand body literacy. Andreacontinues with her naturopathicpractice in Calgary while attendingto her wee son Xavier, born inMarch. Megan works at JustisseHealthworks, taking on the overflowof clients and sharing herspecial gifts as herbalist, doula,women’s studies’ major and herinvaluable experience with menstrualcycle charting and life. Sheis learning how to train HRHPs.HRHP Trainee Amy Sedgwick,along with her sister KimberlySedgwick, opened a retailand service store on Toronto’sDanforth Avenue this summer,promoting women’s sexual andreproductive health. It is aptlynamed Red Tent Sisters. (Seearticle page 5.) We could use afew of these stores in every city.Maybe the Sedgwick sisters willone day sell franchises.All the best to HRHP traineeAja Tapia who moved from SantaMonica, California, to Seattle,Washington. Actually, Seattle isquite a hot house of alternativemedicine practices. HRHP TraineeLeilani Wong moved from Olympia,Washington, to Portland,Oregon, to begin pre-med studies.We wish her all the best in thatendeavour. Nearing the completionof her HRHP training, Leilaniis bringing the practice to hercommunity with good success.Camille Freeman has finishedher master’s studies in humanphysiology in Washington, D.C.,and will be returning to Marylandto resume her practice as a clinicalherbalist with the added benefitof her HRHP training, whichshe is close to completing.I am truly awed by the depthand breadth of the women whohave entered the HRHP program.They are all terribly intelligent,deeply dedicated to women’swellness and multi-talented inways that marvel the mind. I amtremendously privileged to workand grow with them.SMCR ConferenceThe Society for Menstrual CycleResearch (SMCR) held its biannualconference, Ovulation: TheBellwether of Women’s Health,in Vancouver this year. A groupof us attended the conference toconduct a symposium entitledMenstrual Cycle Charting: APath To Body Literacy. We examinedthe concept of charting as ameans for women to acquire bodyliteracy as it relates to sexual andreproductive health from threeperspectives:1. Basic Principles, Methodologies,and Scientific Underpinningsof menstrual cycle chartingthat have demonstrated thevalidity of fertility awareness asa means to prevent and achievepregnancy and interpret reproductivehealth.2. Functions and Applicationsof menstrual cycle charting thathave demonstrated how women,individually and, in collaborationwith their care providers, can usecharting as a tool to monitor andmanage reproductive health.3. Women’s Reflections on LearningFertility Awareness: Barriers,Encouraging Factors, Effectsand Motivations (2006) reportedthe findings of HRHP traineeRose Yewchuk’s MA thesis.Presenters of these perspectivesincluded Laura WershlerBSc, Sexual Health Access Alberta,Calgary, Megan Lalonde, BA,HRHP, Justisse Healthworks forWomen, Edmonton, Lisa LegerBA, HRHP, Justisse-Healthworks,Parksville, B.C., and me.We were fortunate to haveHRHP trainees Kashka Zerafa,from Ymir, B.C, and Amy Sedgwickfrom Toronto join us. Wespent our evenings sharing ourfindings from the conference andlearning new things about andfrom each other. So we had abonus HRHP conference within aconference.


CollaborationsJustisse continues to introduce Grant Mac-Ewan College Holistic Health Practitioner studentsto the use of menstrual cycle charting andfertility awareness as health care tools. Rumourhas it that these presentations are popular.Collaborations with Sexual Health AccessAlberta (SHAA, formerly Planned ParenthoodAlberta) and Planned Parenthood Edmonton(PPE) continue to bring more optionsfor reproductive health care to women in theprovince. Justisse has conducted several workshopsfor SHAA and PPE volunteers and staffto demonstrate the viability of menstrual cyclecharting as an option for birth control and toconvey the importance of women acquiringbody literacy in order to make fully informedsexual and reproductive health choices. SHAAcontinues as a strong advocate of body literacyand the use of fertility awareness as a viablebirth control option. SHAA and Justisse pooledresources to facilitate the HRHP training ofSHAA staff member Lana Leitch.Wanda the Wandering UterusLisa Leger had the imagination of a cartooncharacter, Wanda the Wandering Uteruswhose adventures debut in this issue (see page5). This has inspired Megan Lalonde and me tobring out the uterus costumes from the July/06Wandering Menstrual Show to develop a stagescript of Wanda and G-Spot; the wanderinguteri who sashay across the stage with many abloody tale to tell of the state of reproductivehealth. Stay tuned for pathos and comedy.Fertility Awareness Charting CircleThe dedicated women of the not-for-profit FertilityAwareness Charting Circle (FACC) beganwork with Justisse this year, training as BodyLiteracy Advocates to deepen their knowledgeof fertility awareness to better serve the womenwho come to their circles. Learn about themand the dates of their public sessions at www.fertilityawarenesschartingcircle.org.The best of our harvest is the trust and storiesof the women who come to Justisse for ourservices. They are our best teachers; they keepus humble and newly challenged. They makeour work rewarding.Geraldine Matus is Director of Justisse Healthworksfor Women. Through her practice, sheoffers counseling therapy and holistic reproductivehealth care as well as training forHolistic Reproductive Health Practitioners.Femme FertileFall 2007Featured in this Issue:2 Harvest of HRHPs: JustissePractitioners Grow in Service4 Scarlet Summer : It’s Timefor Menstrual Expression5 Red Tent SistersPlease Keep in TouchWe welcome your questions, comments,story ideas and expressions of joy, piqueor outrage.E-mail: editor@justisse.ca.Mail: Editor, Femme Fertile,Justisse Healthworks for Women10303 - 65 Avenue,Edmonton, ABT6H 1V1The Adventures of Wandathe Wandering Uterus6 Nature vs. New ReproductiveTechnology: InternationalDelegates Confront the Issues7 In The Company ofWise Women: ConferenceConfirms Course for HRHP8 Women’s Health EventsValuedContributors:Megan LalondeLisa LegerLana LeitchGeraldine MatusAmy SedgwickLaura WershlerKashka ZerafaFemmeFertileA ForthrightMagazine forMaids, Mothersand CronesA publicationof JustisseHealthworksfor WomenGeraldine Matus,DirectorDeborahWitwicki, EditorHealthworks Bldg#210 , 10303 – 65AvenueEdmonton, ABT6H 1V1phone780.420.0877tollfree1.866. Justisse(587.8477)


Scarlet SummerIt’s Time for Menstrual Expressionby Laura Wershler (left) and Lana LeitchHow about some menstrualexpression for a change?Recent approvals of Seasonale(Canada) and Lybrel (U.S.), drugsthat, respectively, limit or completelyeliminate menstruation,have prompted a flurry of mediaattention to menstrual suppression.So the women of SexualHealth Access Alberta (SHAA)decided to fight back for menstrual“rights” with Scarlet Summer:“An evening for women of all agesto explore our complex connectionsto the menstrual cycle”.This past August, over 30women brought friends, familyand the warmth of summer to theScarlet Summer workshop at theCalgary office of SHAA.SHAA Executive Director LauraWershler notes that the goal ofthe evening was “to give women aplace to think, learn, discuss andlaugh about the menstrual cycle,pay it a little attention in an agewhere there is so much encouragementto just make it go away”.As guests arrived they were“pinned” with the name of aFamous Scarlet and had to guesswho she was by asking othersquestions. A Scarlet was identifiedas a woman who – like theliterary heroine Scarlet O’Hara– speaks her mind, commits toher beliefs, is self-sufficient anddecides, for better or for worse,her own destiny. Scarlets includedcivil-rights activist Rosa Parks,artist and pop-icon Yoko Ono andsinger/poet Patti Smith.The game set the tone for anevening of discovery, cultural-critiqueand inspiration, conceivedto create a comfortable space forwomen to learn more about menstrualcycle function and challengethe ‘taboo’ status that toooften shrouds the topic.Guests viewed GiovannaChesler’s documentary Period:The End of Menstruation? – afilm that investigates the complexitiesof menstrual suppressionand attention through thedeeply affecting commentaries ofLeft to right: Marilane Koutis,Maryam Pobee, Erin McKay, JoelleRobichaud.women, health care providers andothers. Attendees discussed suchquestions as: Do we girls andwomen have enough knowledgeto make truly informed decisionsabout health issues related toour menstrual cycles and birthcontrol? What role does moneyand or/politics play in the wayour culture regards or treatsmenstruation? Who profits? Whobenefits? Who pays?Overwhelmingly, it was agreedthat: No, even decades into thewomen’s movement, we still donot have easy access to the informationwe need to understandour menstrual cycles or fully informour sexual and reproductivehealth decisions.After the film discussion,SHAA Program Assistant LanaLeitch invited guests to dig intothe baskets on each table containingyarn, fabric, magazines, constructionpaper, paints and othermaterials. She encouraged everyoneto express freely, through artsand crafts, their stories, thoughtsand feelings about menstruation.As hands got busy, requestslike “Can you pass the glue stick?”punctuated ongoing conversationsabout menstruation. Participantsshaped materials into evocativeworks of art which includedcollages, mixed-media paintingsand 3-D constructions. Eachpiece depicted images or symbolsthat had personal significance forthe crafter. The confidence andpassion of each woman and girlwho presented her unique, creativepiece was evident.Twenty-eight-year-old adolescentcounsellor Nikki Dueck and14 year-old student Hilliary Burtstood together to explain theirart – the female symbol, ringedwith red feathers and paintedwith positive and negative wordsdescribing the experience ofmenstruation in their lives. Withobvious emotion, Hilliary explainedhow she came to feel thatit is great to be a girl.Participants expressed theirappreciation of the event. Seepage 8 for news on Scarlet Fall.Contact info@sexualhealthaccess.org. www.periodthemovie.com.Laura Wershleris the ExecutiveDirector andLana Leitch is theProgramAssistant atSexual HealthAccess Alberta.Charlotte Howe,SHAA SummerStudent


Kimberley(left) and AmySedgwick.Their Torontostore was namedafter AnitaDiamant’s novelThe Red Tent,which describeshow women ofbiblical timesgathered in atent to celebrateand tend tomenstruation,child birth andother aspects ofwomanhood.By Amy SedgwickThis past summer markedour opening of a women’sreproductive and sexual healthstore — Red Tent Sisters — inToronto. The store grew outof my desire to bring forth the“blood mysteries” that I was becomingintimately familiar withthrough my studies with GeraldineMatus, Director of JustisseHealthworks for Women in Edmonton.It grew out of my sisterKimberley’s desire to run a storein our home town similar to VenusEnvy - a feminist book/adulttoy store in Halifax and Ottawa.It seemed fitting that the timefrom conception to birth of ourbusiness was nine months. Thestore truly feels like a being of itsown, with its DNA born from ourtalents and histories. Red TentSisters brings together a retailsection (my sister’s domain) thatsells reproductive and sexualhealth products, including alternativemenstrual products,adult toys, books, goddess worrystones, birthing tubs and menstrualcharting supplies. The servicesection (my domain) offersworkshops and classes relatedto fertility, sexuality, contraception,pregnancy, child-rearing andmenopause. In addition to teachingthe Justisse method of fertilityawareness, we host ceremoniesfor miscarriage, abortion andfirst moon as well as workshopson masturbation, parenting andnatural approaches to menopause.We offer knitting ‘stitch’n bitch’ sessions on a variety oftopics, such as menstruation, toencourage informal dialogue betweenwomen. We also host a freebook club and feminist cinemacircle to engage the community inissues of women’s health.I always struggled with tryingto choose my calling. But, mycalling has unquestionably chosenme. I couldn’t be more honoured.The Hysterical Adventures ofWanda the Wandering UterusThis Cycle: Wanda Goes to UniversityBy Lisa LegerThe idea for Wanda came from a group of Justisse teachers at the2007 Society for Menstrual Cycle Research Conference, laughingabout the ancient Greek theories of female hysteria being causedby the uterus wandering throughout the body and wreakinghavoc. The unfunny part of the story is that blaming the femalebody for women’s behavior continues in various forms today.


Nature vs. New Reproductive TechnologyInternational Delegates Confront the IssuesBy Lisa LegerPatient advocates, policymakers, scholars and researchersfrom around the worldattended the conference, NewReproductive and Genetic Technologies(NRGT) Nobody’s ChildEverybody’s Children, this pastMay at the Nanaimo, B.C., campusof Malaspina University/College.I was invited to critique assistedreproductive technologiesfrom a clinical perspective anduse examples of menstrual cyclecharts to illustrate the usefulnessof fertility awareness. Conspicuouslymissing were thosewho wield the technologies inquestion; no infertility doctorsor pharmaceutical reps camealthough nurses and counsellorsfrom fertility clinics did attend.Discussions centered on howNRGTs should be regulated; peoplefrom New Zealand, Israel, theUnited Kingdom and the UnitedStates shared what was allowed orforbidden in their countries. Theconsensus was that it is wrong forovum or sperm to be sold and forwomen to be exploited in surrogatearrangements that offermoney for reproductive services.The practice of donor anonymitywas challenged by Eric Blythfrom the Department of AppliedChildhood Studies in the UK.Blyth argued that familial andgenetic information about bothbiological parents is important toone’s health. He illuminated thepsycho-social factors that providemeaning to a child’s life (whatvalue am I when my “dad” gotpaid to ejaculate into a jar?) andthe importance of familial ties toforming a child’s identity (whyam I musical and fond of beets?).University of Alberta ethicist LauraShanner analyzed the secrecyof the anonymous donor arrange-ment and pointed out that “donorchildren” are denied choice whenthey are kept from vitally importantknowledge about themselves.Keynote speaker MaureenMcTeer, who served on the federallyappointed Royal Commissionon NRTs, made it clear thattechnology is racing ahead ofsociety’s attempts to regulate it.She shared delegates’ frustrationthat the commission’s report waspublished years later than expectedand that Canadian regulationsare just now being implemented.The federal government sentrepresentatives from the fledglingAssisted Human ReproductionCanada, the agency that willenforce these long awaited regulations.Spokesperson EleanorWilson admitted that the agencyfaces challenges enforcing theregulations and also acknowledgedgaps regarding newer practicessuch as medical tourism.My favourite presenter wasKeynote Louise Vandelac, PhD,from the Department of Sociology,L’Université de Québec àMontréal. Vandelac also servedon the Royal Commission andhad suggested, in the early 90s,that Justisse teachers should beinvited to present to the commission.Her talk was entitled Reproductiveand Genetic Engineering:An Ecological and AnthropologicalBreach. Finally, someonewas speaking about causes andprevention of infertility! Vandelacraised environmental issues suchas the impact of Persistent OrganicPollutants on reproduction.She pointed to social trends (suchas women delaying their childbearinginto their 30s) that canincrease the use of assisted reproductivetechnologies (ART). Shediscussed the detrimental effectsof hormonal contraceptives onreproductive health and summedup with: “Maybe we are a specieswhich is endangered.” Vandelactalked about “medicalization”; thenotion that science can solve everyproblem. She noted that ARTdoes not cure the fertility problembut merely bypasses it; she proposedthat this approach actuallytakes attention and resourcesaway from avenues of prevention,diagnosis and cure. This isexactly the problem that fertilityawareness educators have beenpointing to all along; the safe,simple and useful act of chartingis overshadowed by heroic, hightechinterventions.I hope that Vandelac’s wordshad a grounding effect on delegates.She reminded us that weare talking about the reproductionof human animals living incommunity upon the earth. Personally,I find that the academicstudy of complicated humanexperiences can get in the wayof generating concrete solutions.I left the conference reflectingthat “actions speak louder thanwords”. My commitment toteaching fertility awareness andreproductive health was renewed.Lisa Leger, B.A. is an HolisticReproductive Health Practitioneron Vancouver Island. She teachesthe Justisse Method of fertilityawareness in a pharmacy whereshe works as the Natural HealthConsultant.Conference Web Site: www.mala.ca/nrgt; Centre for Genetics andSociety: www.geneticsandsociety.org;The Center for Bioethics and CultureNetwork: www.cbc-network.org;Infertility Awareness Association ofCanada: www.iaac.ca; Infertility Networkwww.infertilitynetwork.org.


In the Company of Wise WomenConference Confirms Course for HRHPBy Kashka ZerafaThe Society for MenstrualCycle Research (SMCR)Conference, held this past Juneat the University of British Columbia,was an exciting event forme. It was my first conferenceand also my first opportunity tomeet other Justisse practitionersand students. Although I found itoverwhelming at times, I was ableto keep up thanks to the inclusivenessof the Justisse women.At least one of us attended eachsession and, after every day, wegathered for a debriefing of theevents. By watching the sharp andarticulate women of Justisse inaction, I saw how important it isto ask the right questions and tobe a critical thinker with regardsto scientific research. I oftenlearned more from the questionsand contributions to the discussionthan I did from the researchpresented.I was pleasantly surprised tofind that the majority of projectspresented utilized menstrual (andmore rarely ovulatory) reproductivesymptomatic charting methodsto collect data. I was touchedto witness the educated womenin the field of reproductive healthand science as well as the generalpublic eagerly taking any chancegiven to share personal experiencesof their reproductive beings.I think it is probably rare tofind an academic conference thatacknowledges and incorporatesthe human behind the brain insuch an intimate way.I enjoyed getting to know othersin my field as well as confirmingmy experiences of the HolisticReproductive Health Practitionerprogram with other students.The last night I slept in the Justissedorm where I awoke froma powerful dream. I had beentreading water, circling the parameterof a dark basement withexposed plumbing on the ceilingand only a few barred widows. Iwas in this jail with lots of otherwomen going around and aroundin silence. I tried to escape a fewtimes but was always caught andput back. Then, I climbed outthe window and up the buildingto roof-hop. I stepped on a rustytriangular piece of metal whichcut a vaginal shaped wound in thecenter of my left foot. It was soLeft to Right: Kashka Zerafa, AmySedgwick, Megan Lalonde, GeraldineMatus, Laura Wershler, Lisa Leger.painful, I couldn’t continue. Onthe ground level of a store front, Iwas ushered inside by the Justissewomen. They placed me on a massagetable where they nurturedme and tended to my wound. Asoothing sensation spread throughmy whole body so that it was nolonger in pain. Thoughts of fleeingevaporated as I was envelopedby the activity of the women — Adream confirmation that I amwhere I need to be, on my path tobeing of service to women. I amblessed to be a growing memberof a powerful network of gutsy,intelligent and compassionatewomen. I have experiencedthe truth of the Justisse motto:“Around every wise woman aremany other wise women!”Kashka Zerafa is a Menstrual andWomen’s Health Activist, MassagePractitioner and HRHP student.Don’t It Always Seem to Go...Executive Director of SexualHealth Access Alberta LauraWershler sees a metaphor specificto women in Joni Mitchell’s famoussong Big Yellow Taxi. Here are thelyrics along with some of Ms. Wershler’sthoughts in parenthesis:They paved paradise (the femalebody eco-system) and put up aparking lot (a wide open, barren,infertile space)With a pink hotel, a boutique (themindless pink princess philosophy– Paris Hilton hangs out there)And a swinging hot spot (a euphemismfor the sexual freedom promisedby menstrual suppression drugs;too bad they cause irregular bleedingand diminish a woman’s sexual interest,intensity and sensitivity)Don’t it always seem to go?That you don’t know what you’ve gotTil it’s gone –They paved paradise and put up aparking lot.Ms. Wershler is sending out JoniMitchell postcards with the song’slyrics inviting us to stand up for ourhealth as women: “Will hormonal contraceptivedrugs become the standardof-care‘treatment’ for being female?Menstruation is not a disease! Pleaseuse your voice to speak (out) about thisimportant issue.”


Justisse Healthworksfor Women Special EventsJustisse Lecture SeriesHealthworks Building10303 - 65 Avenue, EdmontonHosted by Megan Lalonde, Clinical Herbalist,Holistic Reproductive Health Practitionerand Birth Doula.Wednesdays at 6:30 pm:Oct 10 Cramps and PMSNov 14 Perimenopause and MenopauseDec 12 Pre-Conception NutritionJan 9 Menstrual Arts and CraftsFeb 13 Breast Health andThermography ExplainedMar 12 Healthy Practices for HealthyCyclesWomen’s Health & MenstrualCycle Charting CircleTuesdays at 7 pm: Sept 18, Oct 16and Nov 20.Hosted by Organic Roots8225 - 112 Street , Edmonton.Woman of all ages and stages are welcome.In a supportive environment, womenwill learn to observe, chart and interprettheir signs of fertility and infertility toavoid or achieve pregnancy and monitorand support their overall health.Film Screening & Book LaunchThursday, November 15Metro Cinema7 Sir Winston Churchill SquarePeriod: The End of Menstruation?—A Documentary by Giovanna CheslerComing Off the Pill—A Book by Megan Lalondeand Geraldine MatusFundraiser for Fertility AwarenessCharting Circle.Our Beauty Our BloodFebruary 8 - 10, 2008 (Fri 5:30 pmto Sunday 1 pm)An experiential “Red Tent” retreat formaids, mothers and crones. Discover thedeeper meaningfulness of women’s beautyand blood mysteries.Star of the North Retreat Centre3A St. Vital Avenue, St. AlbertFacilitator Geraldine Matus,MA, Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner/Midwife,Counseling Therapist:Imaginal and Depth Psychology.Around Every Wise Womanare Many OtherWise WomenFor you and the other women in your circle offriends and family. Justisse Healthworks forWomen offers these services:• Counseling therapy• Fertility awareness education• Contraceptive counseling• Sexual and reproductive wellnesseducation and counseling• Perimenopause and menopauseconsultation and care• Holistic Reproductive Health PractitionertrainingVisit us online at www.justisse.ca or call today to set up yourpersonal consultation 780. 420.0877 or 1.866.Justisse (587.8477).JustisseHealthworksfor WomenAttending women -- body and soul -- fromfirst menstruation to beyond menopauseHealthworks Building#210, 10303 - 65 AvenueEdmonton, AB T6H 1V1CanadaScarlet Fall:It’s Time for Menstrual ExpressionSaturday, November 17, 10 am to 2 pmSpecial Preview of Our Beauty Our Blood,Red Ribbon Arts, Recovering the Blood Mysteries.Hosted by Justisse Healthworks for Womenin collaboration with Sexual Health Access AlbertaHealthworks Building10303 - 65 Avenue, EdmontonTo register or for more information on theseevents, contact Justisse Healthworks forWomen at 420-0877 or www.justisse.ca.

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