Another week gone, another month over and another pack empty, and anxiously, something has gone missing. She's been with me since I was a blossoming young woman, her presence unmistakable and predictable every month. I've greeted her arrival with relief, even with exhilaration, despite her typically inconvenient timing and repeatedly painful presence. During those few days each month I was reminded of my uniquely feminine function with what some would say was a spiritual link with Gaia and others might argue was my biblical cross to bear. But this week, last month and for several months before, my period has gone missing.
I've been taking some form of birth control for nearly 20 years. More than half of the sexually active women in the US use birth control. The exact numbers are up for debate, depending on the study you reference (Guttmacher Institute) or article you read (Washington Post), but the information is compelling. The reasons to use birth control go far beyond preventing pregnancy: advancing economic and educational opportunities for women, reducing risk of certain types of cancers, treatment of acne and menstrual pain, just to name a few. But as a newly independent woman in college, birth control represented a freedom to explore sex and sexuality on my terms, on a predictable schedule, and with the added benefit of keeping that pesky pimple or two at bay. What a glorious revolution!
Over the years, I've experimented with different types of birth control - different varieties of the pill and the vaginal ring - and my period came and went. Sometimes heavy, sometimes light but always there at the end of the cycle like clockwork. Prior to the brand of birth control pills that I currently use, I tried the ring. The freedom from the daily dosing of pills appeared to be a dream come true. However, after a few months, my period came with increasingly debilitating headaches and crippling pain. For two days out of the five, I was a crumpled ball of stabbing aches, pains and cramps. So back to the pill I went in the hopes of relief.
My latest pill offered relief from the terrible period. Her recent visits had caused such unbearable anguish that the thought of a shorter, lighter flow was, again, music to my ears. For the first few months, she was a regular appearance, brief and predictable. As time progressed, her stay was more limited. Then, eventually, altogether scarce. No pangs of menstrual pain declaring her imminent arrival or the telltale spot of the impending flow appeared. My period has disappeared, and without so much as a goodbye.
It's not to say that I don't bleed. I have had a number of distressing moments in recent history with a sexual partner who, with each aggressive thrust and buck, seemed to free the deluge within my womb. Sounds a bit dramatic, but the confusing nature of her reappearance at a most inconvenient time, caused me great alarm. I no longer had control.
to be continued
Now, in light of her regular monthly absence, so many questions arise...to bleed or not to bleed? Is it my body taking control? Is there something terribly wrong? Am I fucking with the natural order? Most of them remain unanswered and forgotten until those last 4 days of the pill pack when she should come knocking at my door. It is not uncommon to miss your period completely using this brand of pill, but the most vexing question remains: do I miss my period? She signified my role as a woman to the world but did not define me as one. There was a small beauty in the pain, offering me a reminder and an opportunity to rue or rejoice in my body's potential ability to create life.
One day, she will leave me forever, a relic of time and age. But I can't help but wonder...have we shamed our periods into hiding, labeling them inconvenient, messy and repulsive? More questions for a curious case left unsolved.