I wake up as suddenly as if someone has yelled into my ear. For a moment, I’m disoriented, befuddled with sleep, trying to get my bearings. It’s still dark outside, and everything is quiet. What woke me? Then I become aware of the warm stickiness. Shit. I switch on the light and reluctantly lift the duvet. There is blood everywhere. It looks like somebody had committed a crime in my bed while I was asleep. I stare at it momentarily in horrified fascination when I suddenly remember my mother’s words. Thirty years ago, at 13, I got my first period. Bewildered and vaguely embarrassed, I went to her for help. She gave me pads and tampons (which I wouldn’t use for years because tampons intimidated me) and her trademark tough love pep talk that is her parenting style. She asked me how much I was bleeding, a question I had no idea how to answer. “I don’t know,” I remember saying to her. “I have nothing to compare it to.” “Well, just so you know, sometimes you’ll bleed like a stuck pig. Just be prepared.”
Fortunately, her dire warning was unnecessary. My periods were mostly fairly light and as regular as a clockwork. I never suffered the indignity of getting up from a chair at school or work with blood on my pants thanks to an unexpected period. Until now, that is. Perimenopause has arrived, and she has brought my mom’s dire predictions with her. This latest bloodbath in my bed is sadly not an isolated incident. My periods have been annoyingly erratic for the past couple of years. They come whenever they feel like it without regard for their expected arrival. What’s even worse is that they now arrive with a vengeance. I’ve had more blood on my bathroom floor than I imagined possible simply by lowering my pants. Blood collects in puddles on my saturated pads, gushes out when I remove my tampons and flows in a thick stream when I’m peeing. My periods come closer together with more blood than ever before. My world has transformed from an orderly, contained 28 day-cycle into chaos. The stuck pig has joined the chat.
In the hush-hush world that is women’s second spring, we whisper in corners about hysterectomies, the lucky ones who got one extolling its virtue. I’m torn between wishing for one to end the bloodbath and thinking that surgery is too extreme. I’ve heard that some male doctors are reluctant to prescribe a hysterectomy to their patients, deeming it unnecessary if the suffering isn’t significant enough, in their opinion. I haven’t approached the topic with my (young and male) doctor yet. For now, I continue with my monthly bloodletting, hoping the pendulum will soon swing the other way and give me decreased bleeding and longer periods between menstruation.
In the meantime, I can tell my mom that she was right. And that I wasn’t prepared at all.