Rosie Sheba is the owner and director of Sustainable Menstruation Australia. This year she will embark on the Sustainable Cycles bike tour across the US to share her knowledge of reusable, environmentally friendly and healthy menstrual care products. My Moontime caught up with Rosie to talk about the benefits of cycle tracking.
How long have you been tracking your cycle?
I started tracking my cycle as soon as I got my first period, at the age of fourteen. My mum gave me a copy of “The Billings Method” and I started writing down how long my cycles were, when I was bleeding, how heavy it was, and started noticing mucous changes. In the early days sometimes my cycles were over 70 days long, other times they were around 30 days. Now, thirteen years later, they are pretty much 32 days.
Why did you start to track your cycle?
My mum talked about this sort of thing a lot, and encouraged me to do it. I’m also a scientist, so I find data collection really interesting, and it was cool to see how my patterns changed over the years. I was also really excited in the early days to know if my cycle was going to be regular, like mum, or all over the place like my grandmother.
Now I know more about it, I realise in hindsight that my grandmother’s cycles were probably all over the place due to her heavy smoking and stressful life. She lived through World War Two as a Jewish woman raising a small boy while her husband was off fighting for seven years, and then emigrated to Australia where life didn’t get much easier. She had two more children and worked very long hours to feed them, and had to deal with a husband who was bottling up a lot of anger post-war. She was also away from family support, and her diet was not particularly well-rounded especially in the vegetable department.
Do you track your period and ovulation and for what reason?
I track my period to give me an idea of when I am likely to get it, and also out of personal interest. I find it fascinating how my period changes with my state of mental and physical health and stress. My period is a nice little indicator of when things need attention in my life, and when things are going really well for me. I also use it as a time to plan some good self-care activities, like a relaxing day off, or some time in nature.
I also track my ovulation, as I am no longer on the pill, and use it in conjunction with other methods as a form of natural fertility planning. I’m not hoping to get pregnant in the very near future (though I’d love to be a mum one day!) so it gives me a great idea of when it’s a good idea to skip out on sex. I still find it tricky to pinpoint my exact time of ovulation, for a few reasons. My schedule is too irregular for basal body temperature to be effective, I don’t usually feel ovulation pain (though I do occasionally), and I have a fairly long fertile mucous pattern. So I’m usually extra cautious.
Do you also pay attention to other parts of your cycle and how?
I pay very close attention to my cycle throughout the month. I find it an excellent tool to use in my life, and it also alerts me to when things are out of balance. I’m much kinder to myself when I’m tracking my cycle, as I don’t blame myself for feeling tired as my hormones change, or get surprised by having super amounts of energy in the lead up to ovulation. I find outlets for my hormonal-based mood changes in the work that I do.
I find different phases in my cycle are really useful for different activities, and running my own business and working as a freelance scuba instructor usually gives me a lot of flexibility to use this to my advantage. Of course there are always events that happen that don’t go according to plan, or need to happen when it’s not the perfect timing in my cycle, but knowing where I’m at allows me to adjust, and conserve my energy when I need it.
Have you used other apps aside from My Moontime and how do they compare? What do you like about My Moontime?
I’ve used a few apps to track my cycle. They all bring different things to the table, and layout makes a big difference. I like the ability to see my cycle in a nice easy “wheel” like in Ovulation, and I think Hormone Horoscopes is a fun (if not slightly silly and very generalised) app that can give you little ideas for each day.
I especially like the symbolism in My Moontime, and ability to link up with the moon cycles. My cycle shifts however, as it’s usually 32 days. So whilst I’m not usually in synch with the moon exactly I still like feeling the energy of the moon, and My Moontime gives me a great little reminder to look out for which phase it’s in. This also helps with my job teaching scuba, as it effects the tides a lot! I’m waiting for the Android version so I can use it more in my daily life!
Do you pay attention to the archetypes for each phase? If so, do you make use of this information in your day-to-day life? How would you say you do that?
I find archetypes in general can be a really great tool in life. I relate well to the ones in My Moontime, as they are a nice visual reminder of how you are likely to be feeling, and the names resonate with me. I have done a bit of reading into archetypes in Jungian psychology and ecopsychology, and I find archetypes can give the imagination a powerful reminder of how to get where you are aiming.
For example, I think of the maiden archetype being quite linked to Persephone in Greek mythology, and the Enchantress being like Athena. Archetypes inspire me to act creatively.
Have you ever made any decisions (in work or your relationship or otherwise) based on your awareness of your cycle?
Definitely! I make these decisions every day, but especially if I am planning an important meeting or event and need lots of energy, I do my best to line it up with the high-energy phases in my cycle.
If I am planning a retreat, or special time of self-care I like to line it up with when I’m due for my period. If I have a really hard decision to make, I like to make it when I’m feeling balanced and well rested, usually in the latter half of the first week of my cycle.
How has cycle tracking changed your perception of your period? And your cycle as a whole?
I find cycle tracking is such a useful tool in my life. This question is hard for me, as I started tracking my cycles from the very start. However it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve really used the emotional, mood and thinking tools that tracking your cycle provides. I have found this so useful in my life, and has really assisted me take control of my life in a positive way. I’m much kinder to myself, and more forgiving, as well as I know when to say no and give myself a break.
By tracking my cycle with an app, I get such a great, gentle, and early reminder of when I’m likely to menstruate. I really look forward to my period these days, as it feels like such a great way to release the energy of the previous cycle, to reconnect with myself, ground myself with mother earth and just really look after myself. What a gift!
Do you discuss your cycle with your friends, partner, family or anyone else?
Most definitely yes! I have always discussed it with my mother, and these days, since starting Sustainable Menstruation Australia, I find it comes up more and more. Most of my friends are pretty open about this stuff, so we often discuss it.
My periods are also pretty in synch with my housemate, who tracks her cycles too so we always know when to tread lightly with each other!
I think it’s really important for women around the world to open up about this knowledge, and share it far and wide so we can all have the support we need, and the ability to love being women together, as well being able to help each other out when things aren’t going well. It’s about truly caring for ourselves, for each other, and for society as empowered, connected and grounded women.
Please check out and support Rosie Sheba at http://www.sustainablemenstruationaustralia.com.au