Sunday, May 4, 2014

Remembering the Moon

Every Native woman has or will at some point in her life hear the term, "remember the moon." It is a sort of code phrase for, "remember when your period starts." I first heard it when I was invited to a sweat. I don't sweat with any men other than my husband to begin with. But I had been invited and was reminded of how my bodily functions can effect certain ceremonies. While sitting far from the lodge by a separate fire, cooking for the men who would later emerge, I focused my thoughts on the phrase. Sometime later I had a chat with an elder woman at D-Q University, where this all took place. She informed me that in the old days, Native women watched the moon to determine when they were starting. That of course has changed now with diets, environment, social behavior and of course, the calendar itself. I attempted to track my menstruation cycle by the moon and a year later gave birth to a daughter. I quickly learned that this method is less reliable today for a number of factors. That was however four years ago. I have not taken birth control or been pregnant since.

Prior to my daughter I tried more than one method of hormonal birth control. The most effective for me was Depo Provera. But I couldn't shake the looming fear of sterilization. This is something that has and continues to happen to Native women by nurses and doctors who want to "control the Indian problem." I am also prone to bouts of depression and mania known as cyclothymia. In an attempt to understand the state of my mental health I subsequently rediscovered the original form of birth control known as Remembering the Moon. Your OB/GYN will call it "using the calendar."

The Basics

The average woman has a 28 day cycle. That means, from the first day of her period until the day before her next period is a 28 day timeframe. On the 28 day cycle, a woman ovulates about the 14th day. On a 26 day cycle, such as mine, a woman will ovulate on the 12th day. The is where remembering the moon, or correctly utilizing a calendar is crucial. Knowing when you're expected to ovulate can mean the difference between conceiving and not conceiving, no matter which one you desire. Sperm has about 3 days to reach the egg. So unprotected sex up to 3 days before or after ovulation could result in a pregnancy. Two factors are mandatory for pregnancy, ovulation and fertilization. This may seem like I am repeating what everyone already knows. But just one look at Yahoo Answers will show you just how few people are aware of how their own bodies work.

The Mechanics

Use a calendar to mark down the first day of your period. This is day 1 of your cycle. Mark each day of your period. Three to five days will likely result in a 26 day cycle. Five to seven days will likely result in a 28 day cycle and seven to ten days will likely result in a 30 day cycle. This is only important the first time you begin this method and when your period suddenly changes.

On a 26 day cycle, you will likely ovulate approximately 12 days in. So, from the day after your period until about 3 days before (day 9), would be your "safe week". The same is true after you ovulate. From day 16 to 26 is your second "safe week". The very next day is day one of your next cycle.


You should not only track your periods, but also your symptoms. Changes in mood, sleep patterns, ability to focus, etc. can all help you with fertility tracking, PMS management and identifying causes for depression. You can use any calendar or journal, but one that can fit in your purse is best. Using your smartphone is a great idea as you can send calendar alerts to yourself. You can also try This site will send you alerts and track you symptoms, cycle and fertility.