Wednesday, June 6, 2007

the end

that time of the month – on the rag – period – menstruation – monthlies – the curse – Aunt Flow – riding the cotton pony – surfing the crimson wave – monthly bill

Being a woman isn't all fun and games. And once a month, for most of us, it's down right annoying. Over the years I have tried to come to terms with my menstrual cycle, but the legions of stained sheets and underwear, the cramps and bloating, the days spent feeling just plain uncomfortable has hindered this process.

It all began back in 1984 when I was 13. Like many girls, I knew about my period, knew it was normal and nothing to be ashamed or afraid of, but, like many girls, I was ashamed and afraid. I hid it from my mom for several days, using little wads of toilet paper, but eventually she noticed the tell-tell sign of blood on my panties (being the first time, it wasn't much). She came to me and asked me if I had started my period. She was kind and understanding. She showed me how to use a tampon. Maybe it'll be all right, and this isn't going to be such a big deal I thought. But the next morning, I forgot (or maybe was afraid) to take the tampon out. I went to school and proceeded to get freak out. Would everyone know? What if this tampon never came out? What if I bled all over? I started crying and couldn't stop. I just wanted to go home.

Before they could send me home, I had to tell the secretary what was wrong. But of course, that's what was wrong - I didn't want anyone to know what was wrong. She asked me to come into the filing room with her, where she proceeded to pretend she was looking for something while I mustered up the courage to tell her. When I finally stammered out that I was having my period, that's all she needed to hear. She magically found her file, and we walked back to her desk where she called my mom.

I remember a feeling of immense relief going home. I knew I’d be able to start the day over, which was what I needed. I took a shower, removed the offending tampon, and my mom took me shopping at The Gap – a stereo-typical female response, but it worked in this instance, at least for the time being.

That was 23 years ago. Along the way, I’ve gone through many changes that have directly affected my menstrual cycle and changes because of my menstrual cycle. I learned that I will never wear white pants again after a leakage accident at school. I started the pill in 1989 because my cramps were getting so bad and my flow was so heavy that I actually passed out once. I was on the pill for more than 15 years before deciding that while controlling my period with hormones is great for the way I feel maybe it’s not the best for me overall. I’ve changed from bleached whitened tampons to natural cotton ones, and even toyed with the idea of using one of those cups (though I haven’t brought myself to buy one yet).

But, like I said, I’m still trying to come to terms with this monthly process. There are days when I just want to have it all taken out and get it over with. When I’m having my period, I still worry about spotting, because (now that I’m no longer on the pill) my period is quite heavy again. I don’t cramp like I used to, but I’m also much more physically active than I was back then. Of course, now that I’m in my mid 30’s, my period has taken on a new meaning – the one it has always supposed to have – conception.

I don’t have any children, my husband and I are discussing it. But obviously, after 23 years of my body going through the cycle (that's roughly 276 times by-the-way), I suspect my ovaries and uterus are almost as sick of it as I am. Let’s just hope we can end this period in my life on a more positive note than we started it.

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