I didn’t want to always have to pay attention to my body. I wanted to have a life.
Women are not supposed to talk about their periods, we have to be discreet and hide the fact that we have them every month.
Luckily, more women are publicly talking about periods these days. For example, photographer Rupi Kaur did a series on periods. Another woman, Kiran Gandhi, ran a marathon while on her period without a tampon to raise awareness of period shaming.
Personally, I understand that periods are normal and physiological, but despite all the recent public celebration of menstruation, my period has never been something to celebrate.
I’ve always had heavy, painful periods. They were also irregular, so I never knew when my next cycle would start. This fact required constant monitoring of my body, always thinking and planning ahead. It was exhausting. And I lived with that until I had kids.
Because I didn’t react well to traditional birth control pills, I was on the “mini-pill.” The periods were more regular, less painful, but this time, I had three kids to take care of, and the mini-pill didn’t get rid of my discomfort entirely. So two weeks out of every month, I was in pain and no fun to be around.
Until one day, I stood in the kitchen with a knife in my hand, cutting vegetables, and a thought came to my head: “Could I use this knife to cut out my uterus?”
A few days later, I went to my doctor and asked her for the regular pill. She had no problem with that. However, when I asked her whether it was fine to take it back-to-back in order to not have any periods, she asked me: “Why would you want to do that?” I didn’t tell her that I was in pain half of the month. She wouldn’t have understood. She was so convinced that periods were beautiful, normal, and natural that the thought of choosing not to have them never crossed her mind.
So I went to another doctor. He didn’t even blink when I told him my plan, and five minutes later I walked out of the door with a prescription in my hand. I took the first pill that very day, and have been taking it ever since. The difference is huge. I am not in pain at all. I don’t bleed. I don’t have to remember to buy tampons or pads. Of course, since I’m on the pill, there is no chance of me getting pregnant, and the fact that I don’t take a break to have a “mock period” makes it easier for me to remember to take it every day.
Freed from the constrains of female biology, I’ve never felt more feminine.
I think if all you hear is that periods should be celebrated and the pain is all in your head, you’re going to believe that something is wrong with you.
It wasn’t just the pain that drove my decision, it was also the general feeling of yuckiness I felt each month. I didn’t want to always have to pay attention to my body. I wanted to have a life.
In the last few decades we’ve gone from shaming the grosser parts of femininity to celebrating it. We already describe pregnancy and birth as beautiful, fantastic, or even orgasmic, while at the same time ignoring women who get sick of eclampsia, or who simply don’t feel well while pregnant because they throw up all the time.
And now we’re doing the same thing with periods. While some women may enjoy their periods enough to celebrate them, endometriosis affects 5 million women in the United States alone, and women like me, suffer greatly every month.
If we really want to normalize periods and break the taboo, we need to stop talking about periods as if they’re sacred. Instead, we need to talk about them like a normal part of a woman’s life. We need to address the physiological facts about periods, but we should also be aware that not every woman loves getting her period.
And we should stop equating women with their bodies. You don’t have to bleed, have children, or even have breasts or a vagina to be a woman. As Caitlyn Jenner showed us, being a woman has nothing to do with her body, and everything to do with her mind.
Olga Mecking is a writer, blogger and translator. Originally from Poland, Olga lives in the Netherlands with her German husband. Her blog, The European Mama is all about parenting, traveling, cooking and living the European life.