Monthly Rhythms

If you get squeamish about bodily functions, this may not be the post for you to read. If you are intrigued by statements like that, read on! 🙂

I was twelve years old. I was in seventh grade. I woke up on Thanksgiving morning, went to the bathroom and right away I knew something had changed. I found my mom and asked for a pad. We got in the car and drove a few hours to a family gathering. I remember going to the bathroom more than usual, unsure how often I was supposed to change the pad. Aside from the shock of blood that morning, the day was kind of uneventful. I wasn’t sure why getting a period was such a big deal.

And then.

The next day everything changed for real. I had never experienced pain like that before. I may have stayed in bed all day. I can’t remember exactly. I also don’t remember if I threw up that day, or if that part of my monthly rhythm started in the months to come.


I was sitting in a language class. I can see it now — brown carpet, a blackboard across the front of the room. The door to the hallway was behind me and to the right. I was in an aisle seat so it wouldn’t have been hard for me to get to the door.

At this point, I wasn’t very experienced with vomiting. I didn’t know the signs quite yet. So, before I had a chance to leap up and find a trash can or run to the bathroom, I threw up right there in the classroom. I was mortified. The class was disgusted. I can’t imagine what the teacher felt! Immediately I was sent to the nurses’ office.

I didn’t have the flu or food poisoning. I was on my period. At this point the symptoms were separate. Sometimes I’d have horrible cramps. Sometimes I’d throw up. I never knew what to expect each month.


However, it wasn’t long after that when the symptoms started working in tandem. Cramps would start to appear and then the vomiting. I would have to stay home from school because of the severe pain and the inability to stop throwing up.

I was lying in my bed moaning because the cramps were unbearable. I found that if I could just hold my breath, even for a few moments, the pain would subside. But as soon as I had to breath again, the pain would return with a vengeance.

All of the sudden, I jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom. It only took a few trips before I’d begin dry heaving. There was nothing left in my stomach but that didn’t keep my body from trying to dispel any remaining ounce left in my belly.

I understood the technicalities of what was happening — the lining of the uterus was no longer needed so it was dismissed. However, I didn’t understand why it was so incredibly painful.


Once, during my senior year, I could feel the cramps coming on so I got permission to leave early. On my way home, while driving my manual 1989 Ford Escort, I could tell I was about to throw up. I didn’t know what to do. I saw an empty McDonald’s up in the console and… it was incredibly unsafe and absolutely disgusting, but at 17 that was the best I could come up with in that situation.

The first time I got my period while at college, I knew I couldn’t keep this monthly ritual going. I couldn’t miss class once a month because of pain and vomiting. It was around this time that my mom took me to the doctor to get a prescription for birth control. Although it didn’t fix everything, I still needed a prescription to manage the pain, I did stop throwing up and that was a huge relief.


this is not your fault

I know I didn’t think about this while I was in school, but as I grew older I thought, In the end all of this will be worth it.

All of the waking up in the middle of the night with severe cramps. All of the embarrassing moments of throwing up. All of the missing out because I couldn’t get out of bed. All of that will be worth it once I have a child.

I ended up being on the Pill for almost twenty years. We met with the infertility doctor. I sat across from her with tears streaming down my face asking, Is this my fault?

No, she said, this is not your fault.


So, during weeks like this when I still wake up with awful cramps, I’m left wondering, Why? Why all of the suffering? Why all of the inconveniences? It was all for nothing.

My ovaries quit working, but my uterus just keeps going month after month. I appreciate your efforts, friend, but I think it’s time we let this go.


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