I finally realize my mother was probably right…
It’s about 1981 and I’m 10 years old. I’m in the fifth grade and it’s time for the much anticipated sex education curriculum at school. We are separated from the boys and told we are to bring our moms for a “special movie” to talk about growing up. Our bodies will be “changing”. We all heard about this “change” about to occur in our bodies. Most of us girls have older sisters who gave us the run down. I, however, didn’t have an older sister. I had my mom to tell me these things. And I had Judy Blume. Thank you, God, for moms and for Judy Blume.
My mom sat me down and told me how in a couple of years, I would be “becoming a woman” and every month my uterus would shed it’s lining and I would bleed for a week.
I remember thinking, “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? WHY WOULD I BLEED FOR A WEEK EVERY. SINGLE. MONTH?” I was the quintessential tomboy. I climbed trees and collected tadpoles, and played sports and did everything I could to keep up with my older brothers and their friends. I hated wearing a dress, had no interest in wearing a bra like some of my friends, and I sure didn’t have time to bleed for a week from “down there”. What a crock.
“Well, why?, “ I remember asking. “Why does this have to happen?”
My mom answered, “It’s Mother Nature’s way to prepare your body for having a child someday. When a baby is not created, your body has to get rid of the lining and the cycle starts all over again.”
So I asked the next question…”Well, how are babies made?”
Insert uncomfortable silence. “We don’t have to talk about that now,” she said. “Just know that it’s normal and natural for your body to do this as you grow older. I don’t want you to be scared or surprised.”
Mother Nature, huh? She must not like us much if she wants us to go through this. In fact, she must hate us. But if my mom said it was normal, then OK. I believed her.
But then she said, “In my day, we called it ‘The Curse’.”
“The Curse? Why?, “ I asked.
“Because Eve ate the apple in the Garden of Eden and now women are cursed with menstruation and pain during childbirth. And because every time you go on vacation or have something special planned or are wearing white, you’ll get your period.” My mom laughed when she said this.
“What???? I have to pay for Eve’s stupidity? And what does wearing white have to do with anything??? I guess I just won’t wear white, ever.” These are all the thoughts that went through my head. But again, I didn’t have time for this growing up stuff. There was a baseball game going on at the vacant field in my neighborhood and I was the pitcher and everyone was waiting for me.
Fast forward a couple years and I was still a tomboy, but I had a copy of “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.” I had read it about 4 times. Margaret was very excited to get her period. So maybe I should be, too. I found out how babies were made, (thanks to our Encyclopedia Britannica and Amy Skrekrut who demonstrated on her hands what goes on…)
My friends and I were curious about this period thing and when it would happen to us. We took bets on who it would happen to first. Our best bet were the ones who were “most developed”. We even sat around my friend Annie’s basement and asked the Ouija Board when it would happen to us. I put the notion of “The Curse” out of my head.
And then it happened to me…An innocent 12 year old girl/woman. Instead of celebrating my womanhood, I cried and cried. My mom was there for me. “Why are you crying? This is normal and natural, it’s ok.”
But I wanted to GO SWIMMING WITH ALL MY FRIENDS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD!!! And now I couldn’t for 5-7days!!!!
“Well,” my mom laughed. “I told you it was The Curse.” I moped and moped. This becoming a woman thing sucked.
(On a good note, surprisingly an Atari gaming device was added to our household that day. I hung out at home playing Megamania while my friends hung out at the pool. I am still so thankful to my mom for that silent gesture. I knew it was a stretch in finances to buy it, but I think she just wanted to make me happy.)
So the years go by and periods come and go…
In Eighth Grade when I was a cheerleader, our uniforms were white and we had to wear white skivvies underneath. In the Big Game of the Year against our rivals, we had to perform a dance routine at halftime on the football field. Yup, you know who came to visit for that—Aunt Flow.
The night of the Sleepover of the Year with your friends and your brand new pink sleeping bag…there SHE is.
The all day field trip to the state capitol and having to approach your teacher for some “supplies” because you are not prepared properly
The day you actually DID wear white pants…
The much anticipated trip to the Bahamas in college…
Meeting my future in-laws for the first time and spending the weekend at their house…
Just some of the many moments that come to my mind. And my mom and I would always laugh…”Well, it’s the Curse.” (And we didn’t actually believe it was a Curse on women. It is more like Murphy’s Law.)
But now that I am in my mid ‘40s, I’m starting to wonder…because now I’m in another phase of my ‘womanly’ life…
And I ask, “Why? Why Mother Nature? Why do you hate us so?” It’s night sweats and sleeplessness. It’s gaining weight around the middle. It’s irregular cycles and forgetfulness and hot flashes and “flooding”. It’s intense mood swings, crying spells, irritability, headaches. My skin is drier, and oh shit! Is my hair thinning??? I’m not cute anymore! Dear God, it’s freaking awful! Maybe my mom was right?
But I can’t forget that even with all these symptoms and issues and what not, my body has been good to me. When the time felt right to conceive a child, boom! It happened. And the same for my second child. My womb held those babies safely and securely for nine months. I was able to successfully nurse both for over a year. I never had issues with cramping or migraines or anything else my friends would complain about. I was always so amazed at what the female body could do, I spent my professional career in Maternal-Child Health.
I talk to my mom about these things…”Oh, it’s OK, you’re just going through the beginning of The Change.” (First, The Curse, now The Change).
“But it’s awful, Mom!”
“I know, honey,” she tells me. “But in a few years, this will all be done. You won’t have to deal with it anymore. This is normal and natural. Just another phase in your life.”
“Ok,” I believe her.
But then she pauses…”Yeah, soon you will be done with this phase of your life and you’ll be free.”
“Freedom,” I think. “That sounds nice.”
Another pause…”But then you’ll dry up like a prune.”
I laughed so hard I peed my pants.
I just love my mom so much.
And by the way… Thanks for nothing, Eve!