…I’ll just write and see what happens.
There have been a lot of media reports and coverage on menstruation and periods just lately. Primarily following the frank disclosure by Heather Watson, the British tennis player who was knocked out in the first round of the Australian Open, who cited ‘girl things’ as part of the reason behind not playing at her best. Having competed at swimming all through my teenage years, I know that my performance was definitely affected by my cycle. Swimming at Crystal Palace one weekend, I didn’t even make the qualifying time in my heat, a time I would normally have beaten easily. I can still remember feeling sluggish, swimming as hard as I could, but just not getting anywhere. Out of so many races how and why do I remember that one in particular? I’m not sure, I may have had a strip torn off me for a wasted trip, I don’t know.
I’ve got dysmenorrhea, which is not just period pain that makes you wince. I can be doubled over and bed-ridden, curled in a ball around a hot water bottle, sleeping off a codeine induced stupor as that is the only way to survive the day. Some days I’m lucky and have to go to work, I sit at my desk in a pain-relief fog with a hot water bottle on my lap, counting the hours until I get home and can crawl back to bed, Hubs taking over household and parenting duties from me.
TMI paragraph if you want to skip: When I have no option but to leave the house on my worst days, I have every bathroom on my radar. I change on the hour, but still can flood and leak. Aside from the usual pads and tampons, I also carry spare undies, a travel bottle of baby wash, a face washer and do what I need to do out the house as quickly as I can, so I get back home.
Until a few months ago a different medication had made my cycle bearable, but now for whatever reason, I’ve gone haywire. I’m at the beginning of being investigated again, with a blood test taken Wednesday to link in with my cycle and hormone levels. I have to take a ridiculous iron supplement daily, otherwise I fall off the charts. Combined with other food malabsorption issues I have as a coeliac; calcium and Vitamin B12 in particular, I take lots of supplements.
Last week Peanut was watching me in the bathroom, as you do when you’re a toddler and into everything. He asked what I was doing, so I told him, I was having my period so I needed to change my pad. He thought it was a nappy to start off with, I said that it was similar, but not quite the same. We are firm believers in if a child asks you a question, you should do your best to answer it openly and honestly. I explained enough to satisfy him, but not enough so that he went off and told everyone what was going on (which has been known before now!).
When I was growing up, mum and I called tampons ‘doofees’, why we used euphemisms, I don’t know. Why we tried to sanitise the language we used around what is a normal every day occurrence, I don’t know. Why advertisers use blue liquid, I don’t know.
I don’t want my son growing up that periods should be anything to be ashamed of. I want him to see that yes they can be debilitating for me, but you know what? I get out and do stuff any way. I stop when I have to, I get poleaxed with pain if I don’t and try to carry on. But again, that teaches me that I need to listen to my body and treat it with respect. I want him to understand that the women in his life just do this, get on with things and it is perfectly normal. I don’t want him to be ashamed or embarrassed or ignorant of what is an amazing cycle. Without it, we don’t get anywhere – literally.