So here it is, the guest post I mentioned. Please do make time to go visit my friend Becky at her wonderful virtual office at http://www.livingsexuality.com. She is doing a whole series on periods, on being and becoming a woman. A number of really beautiful stories are told, and I have loved participating and reading.
I was one of the lucky ones. My mom sat me down before the big red day of surprise came, intent to give me the big talk about my body and how it was going to be changing soon.
It was a summer day, not much earlier than my 9th birthday. I don’t know if she sent away to Good Housekeeping or if it was from the dollar store, or what, but she brought home this now-you-are-becoming-a-woman-kit, filled with: a 1974 booklet complete with drawings of women and their bodies (that looked nothing like mine), stories about what an amazing and scary time this is, a belted and belt-less maxi-pad, a tampon, instructions on how to use these items, and some really smelly bubble gum lip goo from Bonnie Bell (not sure what the inclusion of this last item was about).
She sat me down, looked at me in a sort of I-am-SO-sorry mashed up with oh-how-precious-is-my-little-girl-woman, and told me about how my body was going to change. She said that it was going to grow things like hair in funny places, breasts, and I would smell funny. She told me not to worry, that all women go through it, I was not alone. She would teach me how to shave (which is a whole other horror story) and be there to answer my questions. Then she sent me to my room to with my new menses kit, to read and “play” with my new womanly stuff.
Now something you should know about me is that I am not an instructions reading kind of gal, never have been. I am a very kinetic and visual learner, tell me a story or show me the movie and I am all good. So there I was, in my room, unwrapping each item, sniffing them, plunging the tampon in and out of its little rocket like contraption, and well, exploring what this whole new world was supposed to be like. I tried on the belted maxi pad and thought it was just a glorified diaper that made me look like I had pooped in my day of the week underpants. Next up, (duh duh duh) the beltless maxi.
I pulled the paper strip back, exposing the gluey adhesive and, again not reading the fine print, just stuck it on the place that made the most sense–my little barely old enough patch of fuzz, down there. Well, let me tell you, it did not feel good, or right. As a matter of fact it sort of pinched a bit. “Ow. Ow ow ow,” I thought. I tried to pull it back, slowly like a tenderly placed fat band-aid. That was not working. Tears, streaming down my face I started to feel panic setting in. The pouty lip quiver, the mom question through the door “Is everything alright?” and “ahhhhhhhh, sob sob sob, no mom, it isn’t!” I ran out into the living room, with guests, and my sister who loves to retell this story, and my mom–roaring in laughter. This was my first memory of the journey with Aunt Flo. Pain, a total lack of natural ability to understand what goes where and how, and worst of all–humiliation, big time.
So it stands to reason that my little red friend has been more like my gigantic crimson nemesis, nearly my whole life. Until last week.
About a month ago, visiting with my doctor after having endured the cold wand of the vaginal ultrasound, she gave me the big news. What I had experienced: the pain, the cramps, the moods, the whole icky smelly, G-d I really don’t understand why I have to endure this each and every month thing, was because my uterus had grown 5 sizable fibroids–one the size of a large orange. She said I needed surgery to either remove these fibroids or remove the whole kit and kaboodle–the uterus–in short the H word: hysterectomy. I feel like I had been waiting to hear this word since the first time the red stuff had shown up on my cute clean underpants.
Two things happened to me that day. One, I was given permission to not feel like I was crazy, and to know, and not doubt anymore, that there was indeed something wrong down there and I wasn’t just another whiney woman who just needs to up her advil intake, suck it up, and move on. No. Something was and has been wrong, seemingly for quite a while. And two, I could let it go. Get it removed. But for me this is much more than letting my uterus go. This is letting go of a lifetime of pain, sexual abuse, memories and relationships gone awry.
Of course I am also letting go of ever being a biological mother. There is somewhere maybe, some place that will grieve this, but as far back as I can remember I have never felt this pull. There are plenty of ways to be a mother in this world. Not having the equipment to get the job done myself, is ok by me. I am letting go of the stories people told me, I am letting go of the stories I let myself believe that were not true. I am letting go of a good deal of what has been a part of me my whole life. Just because I never loved it or appreciated it, doesn’t mean I am not grieving it. I am, with glee in my heart, letting go.
I don’t know what the next phase of life looks like, but I think I’ma go and get me a new set of day-of-the-week underpants, not bleed through them ever again, and see what comes.