"I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand." - Chinese proverb

Thursday, September 30, 2010

TRUE BLOOD: Part 2 (of 4)

                                     Scroll Down To Start At Part 1!

The thing was, these damn little Kotex weren't big enough for me. Long enough, really. You'd put the sanitary belt on and twist the neck of the pad through each end to hold it there and you could expect the pad to do its duty. Unfortunately for me I had what's known as a "Heavy Flow."   I didn't get cramps as some of my friends did, but I bled enough for three people at least.  Right from Day One. When I found out that some girls had these quickie periods -- three days or so -- I was LIVID with jealousy and disbelief. Mine were a good 8 days at least. 

I finally ended up having to buy Modess "Hospital Size" napkins, which were marketed as the ones women wore after giving birth. At least they were long enough, finally, and came up far enough in the front and back. I safety-pinned them to my underpants.  (My "period" pants -- special ones, worn, stretched and stained, that I kept in the drawer so I wouldn't ruin the good ones I had.  Yep.  I even had "period" bed sheets.  Much, much later I would talk to a friend in the same situation who had actually worn those adult-sized incontinence diapers to bed.  Why had I not thought of that?)
 I wasn't the first one of my friends to get her period, nor do I remember who was. I think we all got it at roughly the same time, though as far as other signs of puberty, I was a late bloomer. I didn't even have to wear a bra until 9th grade. So here I was, a country girl climbing trees and running bases, riding my bike up and down this country town, bleeding all the while. Not yet allowed to wear pants or jeans in school,  I was grateful for the invention of pantyhose to help hold things somewhat in place.  Really, why had I been stuck with this crap anyway?  I hadn't signed up for it and I wanted it to go the hell AWAY!!

Once, during softball, I was playing second base and looked down to see a thin trail of blood running down the inside of one of my legs. I played out the inning so that the boys, who were in the field adjoining, wouldn't take notice. Same thing happened once on the way home from the bus stop. I was alone, thank goodness. I bled more with every step I took: "Men-stru-AY-tion, men-stru-AY-tion."
 This is why I never wore tampons.  I couldn't trust that I'd have a clue when to change them without any obvious outside evidence.  My friend Beth and I did practice on ourselves, however, following the directions on the box, and we got quite good at it.  Still, they were not for me.  I was also bewildered by the notation on the box's insert that a tampon "can safely be worn by an unmarried woman."  This was just one of those things that my youthful, confounded brain could not even TRY to understand.  What was the difference and why did it matter?  (I wonder how much later they changed "unmarried woman" to "virgin?!") 
 Then came the publication of "Our Bodies, Ourselves" with its frank and feminist articles on things such as STDs, self-defense, lesbian love, and orgasms during labor (!)  I had not come of age in a particularly chaste time in history, yet this book, a compilation of articles by the Boston Women's Health Coalition, was groundbreaking and eye-opening for me and for my girlfriends.  For the world, really.  I almost wish we hadn't had this stuff spoon-fed to us and had discovered it gradually as our moms had.  This book, while empowering and immeasurably informative, was a lot to digest when it was thrust in our faces like this, all at once.  I think that no one knew exactly what to do with all this new knowledge.  Too much, too soon, I think, for me at least.

What was fascinating were articles about the new ways evolving to deal with menstruation.   There was a sort of "cup" you could buy that didn't have to be changed as often as a pad.  There was a procedure whereby you went to the doctor when you started your period and he or she actually "vacuumed" the lining of the uterus and thus, that's all folks -- for this month.  I kinda wished this had caught on, I probably would've been a faithful client. 
Anyway I got The Pill, and I was in heaven. Yeah, sure, let's all have sex, blah blah blah. Make love, not war. But hey -- my period! It was short! It was LIGHT! I adored modern medicine. I found that by careful planning I could even manipulate my uterus to hold off at certain times when it was just not convenient to bleed. (Decades later a pill protocol was introduced to prevent women from ever getting their periods except once a year.  Hmmm...this sounded a bit much, but I think I'd have gone for it.)  

I never got a side effect from The Pill that I remember, but unfortunately, in my mid-30s, I developed cluster headaches, which are aggravated by hormones. I had my choice - go off The Pill and probably experience far fewer of these (known as "suicide" headaches) or stay on The Pill and take my chances. I went off. After that headaches were the least of my problems.

TO BE CONTINUED...Scroll Up Again For Parts 3 & 4!

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