A few weeks after my accident, the nurses in the spinal unit were preparing to get me up one morning when I noticed them giving each other a fleeting glance. One of them asked me if I had any pads. For a second I was confused. Then the full impact of what she was saying hit me – like a ton of bricks – right between the eyes. I was stunned. I just shook my head and stared at her, as if in a trance. Oh my God. You are not serious. No. No. No! I cannot cope with this right now. I don’t want to deal with this. I don’t know how. Oh God, please just take me.
I suddenly felt even more self-conscious. I wished the nurses would just cover me up and go away. I wanted to die – and not only of embarrassment. I realized then that I cannot deal with this on top of everything else – ever.
I’ll never forget the day I sheepishly told my mother that I started my first period. Her reaction took me completely by surprise. She jumped up off the edge of the bed, where she had been sitting drying her hair – a big smile on her face – tears in her eyes – as she embraced me warmly. Oh my darling, that’s fantastic, she cooed. I rolled my eyes behind her back. I was highly irritated. What the hell was she celebrating? I was bleeding all over my freaking panties. Dis-gus-ting! Yuck!
She immediately announced it – proudly – to Dad. Guess what Darling? Your daughter has just become a young woman. Dad looked a little awkward, but smiled and said Oh, that’s nice! He picked up the car keys and mumbled something about waiting in the car as he skedaddled outside. I wanted to die of embarrassment. I had purposely waited until Dad was out of the room before telling her. Sheesh – Mom – what were you thinking? Huh! How am I supposed to look Dad in the eye again without blushing half to death? The only reason I had told her, in the first place, was because I needed a pad or something before going off to school.
The first time I heard anything about menstruation was at school from a teacher. I remember sitting amongst the other grade 7 girls, nodding my head and pretending to understand everything the teacher was saying. I had no idea. I was so naïve. I remember trying to find a book in the library, a few days later. But, as soon as anybody came in, I would immediately move away from that section. I eventually gave up and gleaned as much information as I could from my friends at school. A part of me was angry at my mother for not telling me about this. Another part of me was so relieved that I didn’t have to sit through one of those talks with her. We just did not talk about those things. I think I would have died had she tried to even mention the subject.
My mother is old-fashioned and she didn’t like the idea of me inserting foreign objects, like tampons, into my vagina. But, I was a gymnast and I was always prancing around in a leotard. A week before my first major competition I went into a panic as I realized that I was going to be on my period. One of the other gymnasts – an older girl, I had grown quite close to – sat outside the bathroom door – for more than an hour – encouraging me – and coaching me on how to stick a tampon into my vagina. I sat on the loo crying my eyes out, swearing and cursing Eve for eating that damn apple. Thank God my friend was patient and I eventually got the freaking thing inside of me. It felt horrible – really horrible!
For years, I hated that time of the month. As far as I was concerned it was a curse which seriously messed with my head – my body felt fat, bloated and foreign which impeded my sport – and the moodiness interfered with my being. For seven days, every month, my life was hell. Oh God, why was I born a girl?
Then there were times, after I became sexually active with my first love, when I held my breath each time I went to the loo and would breathe a sigh of relief at the sight of the first traces of blood on my panties. Thank God I’m not pregnant.
Then a few years later I married him and I grew to celebrate my period as a sign of fertility and my femininity. I had definitely planned on having at least two babies and I loved the idea that my husband was intrigued by it all – despite his snide PMS comments – which I hated. But, I liked the sense of belonging it gave me – connecting me to the sisterhood. Then there was the primal power and control it gave me to manipulate him – and myself. Oh hell it was a good excuse not to have to go to the gym or have sex every now and again. Oh God, if I could go back, I promise I would go to the gym and have sex with my husband every single day.
It’s common for a lady to stop menstruating for a period of time after experiencing a trauma or injury like mine. I had not even given it a second thought. There was just so much else to deal with. So when I started my period again a few weeks after my accident, I was shocked. To be honest, a part of me wanted to punch the air with my fist and yell, I told you so! I knew this was only temporary. You see, my body is getting better. I’m going to walk out of here –soon. But, at the same time, I wanted to die. I was barely able to cope with the fact that I was paralyzed from my neck down. I couldn’t even wipe my tears, let alone my own ass. Now this? Forget it!
I learned later that although the spinal cord may be damaged and the body is paralyzed, everything else is still working exactly the same as previously. On the inside of the body, life goes on – as before.
The nurses arranged for a gynecologist to see me and she suggested the contraceptive, Depo-Provera – a three-month injection which should keep me from having periods. It was great. For six years it worked. No period. No bleeding. Nothing.
Then one day everything changed – again. I woke up one morning and I was bleeding. It was as if my body just decided, Fuck you Tracy! I’m tired of being suppressed by this drug. I’m going to do things my way from now on. I felt so confined – so trapped – in this useless body – which insisted on stripping me of the little dignity I had managed to scrape back together since my accident. I have never hated as much as I hated my body at that time.
Three periods down the line – and unbearable humiliation – I was ready to drive my wheelchair in front of a truck. I had had enough. My care assistants were not equipped to deal with the changes in my physical body, let alone put up with my horrific mood swings, anger and depression relating to having to deal with menstruating again.
So, off I went back to the gynecologist, where I made it clear that he has to put a stop to this monthly bleeding – now. He discussed the various options with me and we decided that he would remove my uterus vaginally that very same week. I think he could see that I was at my wits end.. He made sure that I understood that I was a high-risk candidate for anesthetic. But, quite frankly, I didn’t care. For me, the choice was easy – I either stop menstruating or I want to die – as simple as that.
The day before my op, I spent time with my parents, my close friends and I made Chad kiss me over and over again – just in case. I was scared shitless. I didn’t really want to die – yet – believe it or not. I had come to terms with being a quadriplegic and I had managed to rebuild a new life in this pathetic body. And there were, to my astonishment, far more joys to living life paralyzed from the neck down than I had ever imagined.
I made it through the op. Obviously. Otherwise you would not be reading this. And I recovered well. But, I struggled emotionally for a long while afterwards. I always wanted to have another baby. I think I was very much in denial. Part of me still believed that I was going to get up and walk again one day. I guess, I felt as if I was adding another loss to my already long list. Although it was not impossible for me to have another baby, as I was, it would have been quite risky. Oh yes, and… er…um… to make a baby one needs a man. I was divorced just over a year after my accident with no other prospects on the horizon. Sigh
Anyway, I can’t say – now – that I miss menstruating. Good riddance!
It seems every time I develop a question to ask you I read another blog and you answer it. I continue to learn from you – my teacher.
Oh my word, so many things you have to endure that “we” did not even think about. I take my hat off to you, beautiful woman!
Lend me your ear for just a moment and remember back to my primary school days, when “you” folk, the teachers, made us play tennis in WHITE PT/RUGBY shorts and white coloured polo shirts!!!! You’re starting to grin, I can feel it, for more reasons than one, by now you know where my story is headed, and secondly you’re not sorry for making me prance around on that tennis court looking like a dork, oversized tekkies and super oversized WHITE rugby shorts……….
It’s std 2 and I come home from one such fateful day on the tennis court, slip out of my terrible tennis gear, costume on and into the swimming pool, only to hear my dearest mother scream… “Oh my soul, are these YOUR pants…” terrified I run over to her to explain I hadn’t torn them, it was the dooaaaaagsss, slow motion, and there it was.. no longer WHITE oversized rugby shorts, BUT blood red, not just a smudge, like three quarters thereof… oh I could tell this was going to be difficult to explain, still not completely realising what was happening… turns out, no need to, no explanation was GIVEN by me, I sat receiving one of, “the talks”!!!!! Needless to say… many hours spent in the bath that night trying to clean this disgusting stuff from my body, and one super tiny li’let, one jar of vaseline, and that baby took care of itself!!!! Eve has issues, apples are nasty, and forever I “WOMAN” hear me roar, shall suffer once a month, along with the rest of my female friends for her actions!
Children, blessed are you with Chad! Treasure just that…
Deirdre’ you make me laugh – and cry – with your story. I will never understand why *they* make children wear white to school. But you know, back then, rules were rules and we all just followed them like sheep. Sadly. I always wanted to be different. I guess now I have learned that one must be careful what one wishes for.
Lots of love to you. Thank you for sharing your story.
I lived in NST for a number of years, and had dealings with a number of people connected to you. Strangely, at the time, I often wondered if I might approach you or be of any assistance. Unfortunately, the circumstances at the time were prohibitive… personal lines that were drawn by others.
I wish that i had thrown caution and cows to the wind! Your sense of humor is deliciously wry, and I’m loving this blog. I regret no getting to know you, even if my only contribution might have been to make you laugh more.
(I had my womb incinerated too, after years of fruitless attempts at disciplining it!)
Much power and love to you.
Thank you so much! Perhaps one day we will have an opportunity to meet again.
Oh that brought back haunting memories…
I got my first period in std 1, I think I was 9.
I still to this day cannot believe that the teachers at my school didn’t stop me or ask or take me aside, instead I walked aimlessly around all day with a huge red stain at the back of my uniform. I noticed at home time, when I thought I was dying from some rare disease.
I wrapped my jersey around my waist and when I got home, I kept changing clothes until I had nothing left to wear.
I don’t remember telling my mom or her reaction. I do remember being pissed off the following month (I had thought it was a once of thing)
Thank you for all your wonderful stories. They are inspirational and courageous.
Hey Gina, your comment really gets my heart… made me cry. It’s not fair that a little girl has to go through such anguish. Thank you for sharing your story with me.
Hi Tracy, another wonderfully honest and entertaining blog, reminding us not to take stuff for granted. Wish the curse would stop too! I’m counting down to menopause. Stay well!
Thanks for your kind words. I’ll be counting down with you. 😉
Tracy, shoo. The things that you have dealt with and the way you have dealt with them.
But this! It could easily have been a last straw. Instead you write it and give it a humorous twist with the realism in gentle doses.
Thank you for opening my eyes. I will never complain about it again (ok honestly I won’t moan about it much) but I can do what needs to be done myself.
Once again thank you for this and I’m glad to have found you on this site.
Hey it’s good to see you here too.
You have my full permission to complain as much as possible about this. It’s horrible! And so unfair.
I’m with Phil. You will have one amazing book
I can see why you’d want the bleeding to stop. Messy on many levels.
I had unbearable cramps since the beginning. So bad, I couldn’t function for most of the first two days until I turned 25! Heating pads, legs at an angle against the wall, rosary beads, Hail Mary’s, etc. The various drugs put me into hyper nervous/nauseated states and didn’t really relieve the pain. Finally, I found something that made me able to function, although I still experienced a fair amount of pain. Almost worse than the pain was the emotional distortion. I’d look in the mirror and hate my hair! objectively, of course nothing changed, but subjectively it seemed my curly strands were as out of control as I felt with the pain. Luckily, that went away once I made peace with my curls/waves.
I’ve written about this yet never finished the essay. Maybe time to do that.
Thanks for this great prompt! You are a writing angel …
Oh G. you must finish that essay. Don’t delay. Would love to read it. Thanks for your lovely comment. 🙂
Amazing and heartfelt as always. When are you publishing you best selling book (because you have to). Thank you.
I had suppressed my memories of when I went through puberty. I made the mistake of telling my mother that I finally had my first hair, the embarrassment that following haunts me again. I worked on on burying those memories 🙂 First, my mother wanted to see it… ummm, ok – weird. Then while talking the neighbor she proudly professes my one new hair to her, if the earth could just swallow me.
The gynecologist recommended to my ex wife that she should have her hysterectomy since her brittle bones made it dangerous for her to bear children. That and ha having both ovaries removed caused her to change, she was no longer a woman, she no longer had any drive or interest – she changed. for the worse…
Tracy, every one of your posts draws me in. EVERY ONE. I read every sentence, just soaking it in. Your words are beautiful and inspiring, even when they are about “the curse”!
Beautifully written. You are so inspiring Tracy. You have well and truly hit the nail on the head with this piece, as my daughter has also “just become a young woman” TODAY ! So… i am sitting here with a big smile on my face. Thank you.
Thank you Jillian. A part of me wants to congratulate you on your daughter becoming a young woman. This makes me smile. I am more like my mother than I care to admit.
Tracy, thank you once again for tackling a subject that is so often considered taboo. I found this post a particularly poignant reminder of the simple – and not-so-simple – ways in which you have made accommodations in your life since your accident. I continue to marvel at your modesty and humor. You are a remarkable person!
Thank you Kristen. I really do appreciate your kind words. 🙂
I must admit that I was afraid to write about this sensitive subject because very few people seem to speak of it. But, I have been asked the question by one or two brave souls in the past and I know the question has been on many others minds. When I started writing my blog I made a promise that I would always be open about my experiences and life as a quadriplegic and always speak the truth.
I’m so struck by this, Tracy. Regardless of your physical condition, your body continued to welcome and invite life, to shed itself, to cycle, to continue living. For so many of us, our response to such has been negative and yet, I wonder how we might redeem it; how we might understand it as the reminder of our power as women. I SO want my two daughters to understand their periods as something that sets them apart, that reminds them they are unique and potent and life-bearing as women, that the cycles of life comes forth spontaneously in a woman’s body; that as such, they are an unstoppable force.
As much as I can only begin to imagine the hassle and angst this created for you, it is still an amazing thing to realize that your body’s rhythm continued. The cycles of life continued. YOU were/are an unstoppable force.
And still, I’m glad that at least one of the many struggles with which you must deal over and over is not this one…
SO touched by your ongoing vulnerability and strength.
Ronna I often wonder how I would have approached the subject if I had had a daughter of my own. I most certainly would have wanted her to experience menstruation in a far more positive way than what I did especially since it is a part of one’s feminine being for a long time.
I’m glad that I don’t have to deal with it anymore as I have enough other challenges to deal with on a daily basis.
I value your comments. Thank you.
You made me smile. Yes, i also had a hysterectomy…..by choice. That time of the month was HATEFUL.
I have never felt more woman, more beautiful than after the op til now.
It’s so wonderful hearing you speak of your femininity in such a positive way Dorothy-Anne. You are an inspiration to many.
The stories of your past make good reading every time, Tracy. I thoroughly appreciate the work you put into crafting the experience of sharing them properly.
You and I share the desire for parenting, but we both function under limitations to the ordinary expression of it. You can’t hold yours in the ordinary physical fashion at the moment, but this is also what all moms must go through once their teenage sons hit the time in their own lives when they (temporarily) don’t WANT to be held, at least not by mom. Like any mom, you’ll live to enjoy the other aspects of true connection you have with Chad.
Despite my hopes, I thought I would never become a parent, yet I am now in so many ways a parent to 8 children each day. I couldn’t have predicted it, but the power of my intent to make things occur still made it manifest.
Because you are a woman of refinement, I am timid to point out the fact that women do not need a man to have a child. They only need a certain male-produced product substance. They don’t even need a vagina or uterus these days. Just the required seed products. Certainly my lesbian (married) friends aren’t looking for a man to share their parenting duties with.
Hi Mikey – I am certainly aware of all the various methods one can have children today. Perhaps, it is just my old-fashioned values and conservative mindset that prevents me from exploring further.
I’m so pleased to hear of your work and your “8 children”. It warms my heart to know that there are Earth Angels like you out there.
Thank you for your comment. I really do appreciate it.