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Cambridge author's book explains the menstrual cycle in a way that children can understand



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Cambridge author, Elizabeth Peck, has written a book explaining the menstrual cycle in a way that her young daughter can understand.

Author Elizabeth Peck. Picture: Keith Heppell
Author Elizabeth Peck. Picture: Keith Heppell

Elizabeth, who lives in Trumpington, has grown in her love of writing since the birth of her daughter in 2015.

The inspiration for Why Does Mummy’s Tummy Hurt? – out now and published by Austin Macauley – has been her desire to communicate both everyday and profound truths about the female body to her now five-year-old child in ways that are both accurate and heartfelt.

Exploring ideas from the menstrual cycle to the meaning of beauty itself, Elizabeth, through her writing, hopes to allow children to consider concepts that help shape their understanding of the world.

“It [the book] was borne of a very practical problem,” explains Elizabeth, “that I wanted to go to the bathroom occasionally by myself, and when she was about two she would either sit outside and howl, or she would want to come in – and it would just be a hassle every time.

“I thought that firstly, I would like her to understand what was going on so she’d actually let me have the privacy, but also I thought I can’t be the only person with this problem – it’s just a well-known thing that young children will follow their mothers anywhere. So that’s where it came from.”

Elizabeth had previously written poems as a hobby and decided to use that medium for the book, noting: “It’s always nicer through rhyme and rhythm.”

On her daughter’s initial reaction to Why Does Mummy’s Tummy Hurt? – before it had ever been published – she adds: “I ended up using the poem without the pictures first; I read it to her immediately, pretty much, and talked her through it.

“She found it interesting, I think, and was asking questions – ‘Does it hurt?’ ‘So it tidies out when there’s no baby there, and what if there was a baby there?’...

"I was nervous about it in case it was upsetting – the idea of blood and pain and things like that could have been difficult, which I think is why, in my experience, most mothers don’t broach it with their children.

“But she just took it in her stride really, I suppose children do – they just accept how the world is when you tell them. Her main reaction was that she was interested and actually very understanding – she said, ‘Oh, okay, I’ll sit and wait outside’. So it worked, basically.”

Author Elizabeth Peck. Picture: Keith Heppell
Author Elizabeth Peck. Picture: Keith Heppell

This success has led to Elizabeth sharing her book with other parents. “Seeing that it did work with her made me think that other mums might appreciate it as well.

"So that was when I got in touch with an artist – I’d already known her from a different project I’d done – and said, ‘I’ve got this odd children’s book, would you be interested?’.

“She was really positive and went, ‘I think it’s a brilliant idea; it’s good to talk about things that are sometimes taboo or difficult or not usually talked about’. She was really on-board.”

Since its publication, Elizabeth has shared the book with friends. “I’ve had really lovely feedback from friends and family and colleagues,” she says.

“It’s really interesting the number of stories that have come out that people will share. One lady was telling me she’d been on holiday with her daughter and said, ‘I wish my child had already known this at that time because it would have made that situation easier’.

"People were sharing it quite willingly and gratefully almost, saying it would be really helpful in the future.”

Elizabeth stresses that the book is for mothers of both sexes. “The book is really for the mother’s sake,” she observes. “Originally it was very much aimed at helping the mum – little boys will follow them to the bathroom just as much as the girls will.”

Elizabeth reveals that her book has also been used by older children to gain more of an understanding of the female body and adds: “It’s just kind of sharing the idea that actually bodies are amazing, rather than it being something hidden that you’re not allowed to talk about.”

Why Does Mummy’s Tummy Hurt? is available from austinmacauley.com.

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