I believe the when we talk about our own experiences, we can help others out there, who might have questions about their own feelings, emotions, or the physical changes in their bodies. This is why I started the meme The Menopause Diaries, and why I write about my experiences with menstruation, even though I haven’t menstruated for 29 years.
My menstruation history
I still clearly remember that one morning before school, in the weeks just before I turned 11, that I went for a pee and discovered the blood. I sat there staring at the dark red smudge in my light-colored nylon knickers. It didn’t frighten or scare me, as my mom had told me the basics of what I could expect. What she hadn’t told me is about the pain and discomfort that could come with it, because she had never experienced it herself.
In the first year of menstruating, it was just that… I menstruated, irregularly, and I just took it for what it was — part of me.
But then it started…
My periods changed to heavy and accompanied with discomfort. Okay, discomfort is lightly put. On the second to the fourth days it was like someone tried to tear the flesh from my inner thighs. I barely ever had pain in my tummy, and only occasionally in my back, but my legs… oh gosh, my legs. They were painful and heavy, and alien to me. But, I just accepted that it was what it was: heavy bleeding for three days, my alien legs and irregular periods.
Sometimes my periods returned after exactly 28 days, but that was always the exception to the rule of returning after 14 days or 60. I never knew when it was going to happen. At school I always feared for the moment the back of my school uniform would be as stained as once had happened to one of my friends, when her period unexpectedly started in class, and she only noticed when other children (boys and girls) started laughing when she got up.
Pregnancy and the pill
Then I fell pregnant at the age of sixteen, and during the pregnancy I didn’t menstruate. Once my daughter was born, I started on the pill. Oh gosh, that was bliss! I knew exactly when my menstruation would start, and most months I had no discomfort at all. My periods were still heavy, but other than that, all was well. When I got married, I stopped taking the pill, and it took me more than a year to fall pregnant. After my son was born, I got back on the same pill again, and continued with it after my divorce when my son was ten months old. I stayed on the pill not only because it would prevent pregnancy, but mostly because it helped with my menstruation cycle.
It was about 18 months, maybe two years, after the birth of my son that I started having problems with my menstruation. Despite being on the pill, I sometimes menstruated for three weeks, dried up for two days and then started menstruating again. The doctor called it ‘breakthrough bleeding’. I never skipped any periods, so that was not the reason for the breakthroughs. He put me on a different pill, but that didn’t solve the breakthroughs. With this breakthrough bleeding, came the discomfort… my legs, my back…
Since I had two kids and didn’t want more, I actually asked the doctor for a hysterectomy. He refused. The reason: I was too young. He said I might want to have more kids if I married again, which of course was a reasonable statement. Without the doctor’s consent the operation wasn’t going to happen, so I stayed on the pill. The breakthroughs continued, as did the discomfort, despite switching from pill to pill. I asked him again to do the damn operation. He refused again, asking me: “what if one of your kids dies, and you want another to replace it?”
I kid you not. He seriously asked me that, and in no uncertain terms I told him that IF one of my kids passed away, having TEN other children will never replace the one I have lost.
So my trips to the doctor continued, until he switched me over to a stronger pill (his words) and suddenly… BLISS! My periods were regular again. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Finally!
Eight months later, I started having breakthrough bleedings again. I went back to the doctor and asked him to put me on a stronger pill. He told me it wasn’t possible, and blew my mind with his next words: this pill you’re on now already is carcinogenic.
I mean, seriously, wasn’t this something he should’ve told me before he had put me on this pill? He came up with two things he could do: he could sterilize me, but it wouldn’t solve my menstruation problems, or he could remove my uterus and that would solve the menstruation problems.
Of course I chose for the latter.
I was admitted to the hospital towards the end of January 1992, and my uterus was removed. My ovaries were left in place. I had the operation in the military hospital where I worked, and the male nurse who assisted with the operation afterwards told me that there were ‘quite a number’ of fibroids in my uterus. Whether those were the cause of the bleeding or the result of the carcinogenic pill I was on, I still have no idea.
Menstruation and menopause
Somewhere in my thirties, I started noticing my breasts being painful for a couple of days — mostly my nipples — and then it would disappear again. The first couple of times I took no note of it, but since Master T couldn’t come near my nipples in those times, he mentioned that it seems to come with regular intervals. Sort of. That’s when I connected it with my menstrual cycle.
The cycle of painful nipples was with me for years, but somewhere in my forties I noticed that the times between them got longer. There was a time when my nipples would be painful at the same time our youngest daughter were menstruating. I have read somewhere that when women live together in the same house, pheromones might cause their menstrual cycles to align. Interesting stuff!
Nowadays, I barely ever have painful nipples. I think in the past year I had it once, which I think means that had I still menstruated, my last period would’ve been the same time my nipples hurt the last time. Most women notice they are in (peri-)menopause when their periods change or stop. For me, my nipples are my gauge…
Note: This was originally posted in January 2019, and now updated for the memes The Menopause Diaries and Sexual Health.
© Rebel’s Notes
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