My first hospital stay was in the third grade. The male nurse stood over me after surgery, and explained I may never have children. I was admitted with a severe bladder infection. I remember the late onset of my period as a stressful time. I felt I was the only girl in gym class who had not bled.
IS THIS WHAT BEING A WOMAN MEANS? These were my vengeful questions in doubled over positions, sweating. At first, I didn’t understand that I would need to prevent the public humiliation. With cramps, I would be immobilized at school, unable to walk. Eventually, I learned to ask for pills to help with inflammation. As a rule, I took anti-inflammatory pills for the entire week of my period, which during high school lasted five or six days and arrived every six weeks.
At Tulane University, my monthly period cramps were alleviated, when I started taking birth control. I have doubts that hormonal pain therapy really addressed the problem. Unfortunately, my need to finish my degree, and let the good times roll prevented any sustained health intervention.
According to the National Institute of Health, the direct cause of this condition is “tissue implants outside the uterus [that] stay in place when you get your period.” These tissue implants do not get expelled when you bleed. The cysts that form can interrupt normal urination or bowel movements. They may cause pain during intercourse. Most information regarding the woman’s cycle is predicated by a vague clause like “not all women” or “some may experience this.” The vague and inexact language continues to frustrate me. It’s me who gets to explain to sympathetic others “I’m menstruating.” The embarrassment and guilt this natural function creates needs to stop.
Severe menstrual cramping is my consistent monthly event. When my periods are regular, I can plan to use vacation or sick days during the event. Not one doctor has offered to address the problem. I have used interventions which were personal choice prevention techniques. Things I believe to work best are specific “women’s” exercises (kegels),” massage, and vegetarian diet choices.
Other women have shared that herbal supplements like black cohosh or evening primrose oil offered them relief. I have tried these and have not abandoned them as an alternative to having my uterus removed. One thing that I find bothersome is the inconsistency of herbal products. One brand may have great results, but it is not available locally.
Thank you again to all women who are child-free by choice. I may have conceived, but I have never carried an embryo. This fact causes me to avoid discussions of family in the workplace or even socially. I learned to discuss infertility socially is a conversation-ender. The urge to share about their own experience as a mother causes many women to say things like, “Don’t worry, you’ll get pregnant when the time is right.” What impresses me most are the women who challenge the archaic idea that a girl is never a woman, until she has children.