The squeamish amongst you may be wise to skip this post. It is late, three days removed now, and the emotion has subsided to a memory which I shall attempt to untangle here.
On Thanksgiving day, I woke up to blood. Not the confusing rust I found 15 years ago, but bright as a robin’s breast against fresh driven snow. My first bleeding, I crumpled my panties and slipped out the back door to throw them in the trash bin. I thought I had defecated in my sleep. The dark color was more brown than red and it was the first thing that came to mind.
Eventually I realized. By the time I did, I’d already spotted the cushion on the window seat. And so, mortification defined my first morning as a girl grown: as it did the rest of my adolescence.
My menstrual cycle plagued me. I found it entirely uncomfortable, not to mention inconvenient. I also found it rather gross, and felt dirty until it passed. I was very sick sometimes. One morning, it arrived and brought with it cramps that I can now with all honesty say rivaled childbirth. I threw up in the middle of the kitchen floor as we were heading to church. Disgusted and exasperated, as anyone would be, my mom asked me if I was “pregnant, or something.” Still squeamish at the thought of kissing a boy, I wished I could shrink into the floor. Instead I shrunk into the couch and did my best to pretend I knew what zen was and, moreover, was its master.
Needless to say. a huge perk of starving myself was a reversion to childhood. Infertile, I could go through my days not worried about the next time I would leak through my pad or have to explain to my swimming coach why I was absent for yet another week. (Anecdote: I attempted to wear a pad inside of my suit to a swim meet. I did not want to miss my race for which I had diligently practiced. Not only did I come in last, I suffered a humiliating walk back to the locker room as pad-goop seeped from my nether regions down my leg onto the deck. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a tampon.) Free of the burden of women, I didn’t have to worry about red stains on my white uniform skirt, or stomach-aches that required the entirety of my attention during valuable classroom time, or any of the other silly stuff that almost-grownups have to worry about. I had evaded my body’s monthly betrayal, and was glad.
Eventually I ate again. Throughout college I had it down to a science: keep intake just under the threshold to be able to skip periods, but sufficient enough to have some chub on my cheeks so as not to raise suspicions. It was a fine, dangerous game I played.
Four years ago I found heavy lifting, and a desire to excel. I began to eat a “paleo” diet and in order to fuel my lifting I ate enough to welcome my period again. This time I had no unsavory symptoms. Why, I cannot say. Then, bean was conceived, and my body held onto the material that would be home to my son for nine and a half months, so periods ceased once more. After bean arrived, all my reading on breastfeeding convinced me I had a year before I needed to worry about my period.
But a year was actually half, and here I am, bleeding again. Now we come to the point of this story: I was so sad when it came. Unlike the past, it was not a sorrow for my lost childhood, but for whomever-came-after-bean’s lost childhood. I know this egg was not a child; it was on the short side of half of one (assuming a child is an egg, a sperm, and a good bit of someone’s and/or God’s love.) Still, I felt loss.
Suddenly every moment with bean seems a blessing too easily lost. I can hardly take my eyes from him.