Do I Miss It?

This was the year 1988 when I was in 8th grade. I have a vivid memory of that day. All the girls in our class were asked to take permission from their parents for an extra hour, after school, for the health counselor's visit. I, along with all my friends, was very puzzled at the reason for the health counselor's visit. We thought we were perfectly fine and in good health. Moreover, why would the health counselor come to school? Why not our parents can take care if something is wrong? This did not sound normal to me. Lots of questions like this were floating around in the classroom with all kinds of ridiculous answers. Those days communication was not so clear and open. The next day was not a normal school day; it was more like going to school, to the most inquisitive group of class with the hope that someone must have figured out the answer by now. Sadly no one did! So we waited till the school was over. Once the last class was over, and the teacher left, we took a sigh of relief with a palpitating heart, arms locked behind. We were ready to get the answer to our question. And we did! The Health Counselor came and talked about the phase of our life which was almost there, knocking at the door; the menstrual cycle. She told us about the phenomenon of monthly blood discharge, also known as “PERIOD”. She went on explaining to us the know-hows of the bodily changes that we would go through around that time, and how to prepare ourselves for that. The most dreadful information was, when she told us that it was going to happen to all girls, every single month. She also explained to us that it was not a sin or a bad thing, but it was the way our body notifies us of the next level of our growth and prepares us for other challenges. She explained to us that all this information was not supposed to overwhelm us, instead to get us prepared for the coming situation. Then finally there was the big revelation that we were going to bleed for 4 days every month. And with that, she handed each one of us a packet of sanitary napkins. Now my jaw dropped. The only thought that came to my mind was, how was I going to stay alive after bleeding for four days in a row. Conjectures about menstrual cycles were many and varied. Back then in India, this was a topic no one would talk about in public. It used to be such an unfathomable conversation to have, even with your own mother. There was no internet either so you couldn't google it either. Girls would learn about menstrual cycles when it really happened to them, or from their elder sisters, if luckily they happen to have one. Unfortunately I didn't have one. Talking about periods was such a taboo in our society, that while watching Television, if there was an advertisement for sanitary napkins, my father would immediately get up, go to the kitchen to drink water or do some mundane task. Only later, after the health counselor's visit did I figure out that it was all the pretend task and water needs. The thought makes me giggle now. So many years passed after that. I survived the bleeding of my menstrual cycle; safe and sound. Got married; had two beautiful daughters; life was all nice and pleasant. Going through those four days of cycle became like a second nature. It would come and go just like hair falls and grows back. Instead, if the period was ever late, worrying about it became second nature too. Fast forward a few more years, and a day came when I had to go through an emergency Hysterectomy, and all of a sudden, now no more periods! The most dreadful memory of my life. I couldn't figure out if I should be happy or sad for losing those years' long ritual of bleeding every month. I felt empty. It has been several years that I didn't have my periods. Do I worry now? Do I wonder why my period did not start yet? Yes! That thought comes to my mind with the speed of light, but does not vanish that fast. I feel a kind of stab in my heart, a pain which keeps reminding me what I have lost. “I have lost my womanhood.” The organ of my body which made me what I am, a woman, my companion, is no more in my body now. The routine of bleeding, for four days every month, doesn't happen anymore. Still out of habit, 14th of every month, I wait for my period to start. My despair becomes deeper than the sea. Sometimes I wonder, if I should be happy for the good riddance of every month's trouble and inconvenience, or mourn for the loss of my integral body organ, my “WOMB”, my womanhood. My Body has changed, but my mind still works like a woman. I wish there was a machine that could accurately measure my sadness and display it in numbers and I can record it .

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Jane Doe

Aspiring writer, budding linguist.

Cape Town, South Africa