Friday, May 18, 2007

The cost of ignorance is fear.

Today, for your reading pleasure, i am going to tell you about my cervix. You lucky people.

But what i am really going to tell you about is ignorance, and the fear it caused me.

When i got my first period, it lasted for two weeks because of the drugs i had been taking. I decided after that first time, that pads were revolting and uncomfortable and that i was going to use tampons. I had been secretly looking at the illustrations in my mother's tampon boxes for a while to try and figure out what to put where.

But first, i had to find my inside part. I had never located the actual opening, just messed around with the outside bits. When my next period started, i determinedly got into the shower to find the secret passage by feeling around with my fingers and finding the source of the blood.

Eureka! There it is! Oh my god! There's this big lump in there too, up at the top. I have cancer, i am going to die, and me so young too.

Of course it never occurred to me to ask my mother. I just waited around for the end.

It's kind of funny now, and it made a great story to tell Em to convince her that she could ask about anything, no matter how weird, but i was really needlessly afraid for a long time.


Today's post is brought to you by Mona, who usually gives us a word for the day, but today gave us the topic of Reproduction because her boy child just started learning about it all in school and came home with questions.


Lee said...

When my son was 11 he took Family Life Education in school. One day he came home with this little gem.

Son: Mom, I'm SO glad I'm not a girl!

Mom: Why?

Son: Cuz who wants blood in their underpants every month! Gross!

Mom: Indeed.

jen said...

i saw Mona's word and so wondered how you'd work with it.

nicely done.

Maggie said...

God its amazing how in the dark we were left about something so natural. And the fear it created was so unnecessary. But a good yarn for us now - since you survived and all. :-)

Mother of Invention said...

Gosh, I was so arrested in development! I remember my oldest sister standing outside the bathroom window at the cottage on a rock, yelling instructions on how to insert tampax to my friend and I. She succeeded and I didn't (Probably because of that lump!) so I had to go in the lake with an army of pads in my bathing suit. Gawd, I hated my period. It ruined many weekends and I often just had to hang out by myself, writhe in pain and bleed like a stuffed pig. Nope..don't miss it at all!

mrschili said...

Punkin' Pie, at nearly-ten, had the "growth and human development" speech in her health class today. She came home with a pad and some line drawings of boy and girl bits (with fill-in-the-blank lines to identify said bits) and a very casual attitude. We are a pretty open family. I talk about sex with my girls whenever the opportunity presents itself because I don't want it to take on a big, scary life of its own; I want it to be as "matter of fact" as discussion what to have for dinner.

She was pretty good about it. She said she was a little embarrassed about the class - "because the only person I've talked to about this stuff is YOU, Mom" - but assured me that I'd done a good job filling her in on the details.

Here's hoping that comfort an intimacy lasts through when she needs me the most.

holly said...

this is too familiar. when I first started developing, I was certain I had breast cancer, because there were little lumps there. I didn't feel like I could tell mama, she didn't have time for all my nonsense, so after about a week of worrying, I told my best friend. she assured me that not only did I not have breast cancer, but I was an idiot for thinking so. I asked a trusted teacher for a second opinion. God bless her, she was so comforting and soothing. and she didn't call me an idiot.

TTQ said...

Boys have it easy..their parts just dangle there.. They can't help but discover and explorer.

But on the other hand it made it convenient for Mrs.Bobbit.

Anonymous said...

I read your post about the drugs I had been taking, your mother sounds like a piece of work. Sorry, that's unkind but really.

I was lucky I had an older sister who was a nurse and I read all off her books whenever I babysat for her. I had a lot of clinical knowledge but could have used some common sense advice.

Anonymous said...
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Toni said...

Omg! I don't know whether to laugh or cry for you Meno!

mjd said...

I cannot ever remember really discussing periods with my mother. I guess since people including my mother, did not discuss such matters openly that I shouldn't either. Strangely, my mother was a very liberal person, but admittedly I was a strange child. Oh, I found you by hopping your one blog comment to another.

Nancy Dancehall said...

Ugh. Ignorance is a curse, especially 'down there.'

When I was a very young girl my mom caught me 'exploring', and told me I'd ruin my KIDNEYS if I continued. There went my multiples. *sigh*

Em said...

What better way to end my day than reading about your cervix. :)

Her Bad Mother said...

Ah, cervix. Such a nicer word than vulva, I think.

SO relate to this post. I thought that I had cancer for basically my entire pubescence.

meno said...

lee, your son is a smart boy, indeed!

jen, thanks. What a silly girl i was.

maggie, it does make a good story, now.

moi, the pain of being young and ignorant. It is real.

mre.chili, i can tell you from experience that the intimacy will last through when she needs it. You are a great mom.

holly, another familiar story. So sad. We can only try and not repeat these mistakes.

ttq, ha ha ha! so true.

deb, she is a piece of...something.

toni, go ahead and laugh. It really is funny.

mjd, my mother told me once, about periods, but no useful information. And welcome!

nancy, no, no say it isn't true! Kidneys? WTF?

em, glad to give you a good ending to your day. Just be grateful that there are no illustrations!

her bad, the things we had to worry about are so silly in retrospect, and so perfectly natural. Glad to meet another "cancer" victim.

Lynn said...

I 'borrowed' the movie that Twelve's school was showing when she was in 5th grade. We watched it together, and I was able to answer her questions. Hopefully she will come to me if she has anymore.

Stucco said...

Alright, this apparently has a high "weird factor" but I'll tell it anyway. In our home bathroom doors are only closed when visitors are over, or someone is being particularly noxious. Further, Schmoopie uses "O.B." brand tampons (is that an embarrassing thing to disclose? I don't know the protocol here...)

So one day I'm in the bathroom plucking my untoward renegade nasal hairs or something, and Schmoopie is using the potty (I'm calling it "potty" so that everyone will have a delicate and dainty image of her) and asks me to pass her a tampon from the medicine cabinet beside me.

To her shock and confusion, I got one, unwrapped it, used the string to flare out the end of it (as described in the folded up instructional paperwork, which I had clearly previously read and understood), and passed it to her. She could not believe that I knew about these things, and although I think she tends to keep me around for my perpetual shock value, this was a memorable moment.

This is how I underscore to her the importance of leaving my designated reading materials alone on the back of the toilet. I HAVE to read something when I'm in there....

thailandchani said...

Somehow it seems most of us had some weird beliefs when we first started that. Glad you used that as an example so Em won't experience the same kinds of things.



heartinsanfrancisco said...

The drug thing is perfectly horrible and appalling.

I read many years ago that Ingrid Bergman's twin daughters, Isabella Rossellini and her sister, Ingrid, were very tall, especially Ingrid. They did a gruesome surgery on her, shortening her calves by several inches, so that she would not be "too tall."

Ugh. Another instance of so-called "standards of beauty" run amok. Finally, tall women now get the admiration they deserve, and even make the rest of us look deformed.

One way or another, our society must make judgments.

I reached puberty at 11. I hadn't been told anything, and thought I was bleeding to death from a place I didn't want anyone to see.

A year later, my mother dropped off a pamphlet from the Kotex company on my bed, which said that at "that time," girls must not wash their hair, walk in puddles, or take part in gym class. I did all of them anyway, and I'm still here.

gr said...

Doesn't 'cervix' sound like a corporate entity? You know, a Dell computer made with a Cervix hard drive? Or 'drive a cervix!' or 'Bank at cervix!' or even 'I floss every day with minty cervix brand floss'.
OK, so basically men don't have this particular rite of passage, and we spend our pre-teen and teen years throwing footballs at each other and knocking each other down. This is why men and women are somewhat different, and explains why women like to shop and men like to watch sports instead. Scientifically proven.
BTW--six one! That's tall. I bet six 3 would have been fun too. I grew to the towering height of five eight in sixth grade and then...nothing. Give us the scoop--is your daughter tall also?
OK, I have been sipping coffee and havn't posted at my blog yet and so I am a bit chatty...

Ortizzle said...

Hidden surprises, yes indeed. Too bad those little movies they showed us about the facts of life never got beyond line drawings of the exterior parts.

Marsha said...

I was afraid to discuss these topics with my mom too. She did tell me that using tampons and/or shaving above the knee is a sign of being a slut. She would make me tell her when I needed for her to buy me more pads. I hated having to go to her and tell her that. Instead I would steal hers, then I would get into trouble first for entering her room and second for stealing her pads. Fun, memories. I too hope that I have created more trusting and sharing environment for my daugher. It is interesting that so many of us had this relationship with our moms.

patches said...

I was worried you might not find the time to mention your cervix in a post : ). It's proper to say the drugs and the exam should have scarred you for life. If it had been me I'm quite certain I would have spontaneously combusted in the exam room. I was very high-strung about such things at that age. I had two good sources of information but I was so overcome with embarrassment, I couldn't bare the thought of asking either one. My mother was genuinely embracing excitement and enthusiasm about the "woman" thing, and frankly, I was unbelievably pissed that this kind of crap really happened AND it happened to me.

It's good thing Em has you.

Joan said...

I honestly dont remember when I discovered I had a cervix because my mom discussed almost nothing with us. Thank goodness I asked the question "How do women know when they're going to have a baby?" question when I did or else my first period would have been one heck of a surprise...and shock!

liv said...

I can truthfully say that the wonders of the female reproductive system stumped me. The only thing I was concerned with was how the bear would react to the news that I got my period for the first time. So, I got some red food coloring and dutifully doused the toilet bowl, then called mom. To my horror, she called out, "Shit. George, watch the kids, I've got to go deal with liv and her PERIOD." Classic.

urban-urchin said...

i just can't escape the cervix. it's everywhere these days....

meno said...

lynn, try telling her funny stories from when you were young. I get a great response with that.

stucco, you are a fine, fine man. And you had clearly done your homework.

chani, it's so weird how something so natural seems so shameful, back then.

hearts, after reading that, i guess i should be grateful that i didn't get that surgery. It sounds unbelievably gross. It's sad that your mother was a year late with any information, and then incorrect information at that.

gary, it sure does. "I take copies on my home cervix machine!" Em is not very tall, only 5'5". I reproduced with a shorter guy. :)

ortizzle, i went with Em to a Planned Parenthood presentation when she was in 5th grade. They don't leave much out anymore. I also bought her a copy of "Our Bodies, Ourselves." I was not going to stand for any ignorance on her part!

marsha, i guess i am a slut! What a controlling behavior of her. No wonder you stole them.

patches, i know you have all been waiting for it! :) It is very scary when you are young to think that something this awful will happen to you, and it's so UNFAIR!

joan, i still shake my head over the level of denial among women of that generation. What were they thinking? That it wouldn't happen if they just failed to mention it?

liv, As someone said above about my mother, your mother is a real piece of work. Red food coloring huh? Pretty creative!

Scott from Oregon said...

I wasn't going to leave a comment, due to the umm.. nature of the topic at hand, but then I saw Stucco pipe right in, and I figured, what the hell

My sister was standing in line at a Long's drug store. The gal in front of her had a box of tampax among other things. The tampax had no price, so the girl called out to the bagger boy "We need a price check on tampax."

Apparently, the boy thought she said "thumb tacks" because he came back and asked - "Is that the kind you push in with your thumb, or the kind you hit in with a hammer?"

Mama P said...

I dated a guy once who told me that he found his mother's pads. Instead of telling him what they were, she told him they were shoe liners. He didn't find out the truth until he wore them to school and was teased to death for it. Funny, but sad, too. I will be upfront with Pipsqueak.

GEWELS said...

Laughing my ass off! Only 'cause I've been there- mind you. Too funny!

meno said...

u-u, is your's still leaving itself all over the place?

scott, ha ha ha ha. oh feel free to chime on in. That's the kind of moment where you wish there was a video of the facial expressions.

mamap, oh no, he didn't! Also be upfront with Stink, we don't want him wearing pads to school.

gewels, it's funny and sad at the same time, how many of us have similar stories.

Bobealia... said...

I couldn't get tampons to work for a long long time. One day I thought I would do it, no matter what. The box said you could flush them. I left ten tampons that refused to go in, in the bowl, and forgot to flush. My mom was really upset. Needless to say, I was ashamed.

luckyzmom said...

When my daughter was 5 my Mom said that she knew more about sex at 5 than she did at 21.

Not wanting that for me or my brother she asked our neighbor who was an LPN to talk with us. She told us about a red mouse going into a red garage. The image has never left me and still makes me chuckle.

Sienna said...

I thought I was a goner...first period, wtf!!?? I was at school, thank goodness, scooted off to the library and checked out some biology books (god I love libraries..still to this day).

Is that kinky?

It was with a sense of determination I soon learned about tampons and tampon technique, 'cos I sure wasn't going to wear the shoe liners.

Thing is though, even with the plumbing and (temporary) fright....I took one look at the boys in our class and what was going on with their bodies, hormones, voices etc and thought definitely want to be female...there was one boy that had to stand with a book in front of his crutch if he ever had to stand up front and do class presentation....we all would get presented with a little more than what was on his speech notes.

Puberty! eh.


Mona Buonanotte said...

Whoa. I just read your other post and now I'm all queasy. Dammit, that sucks. I had a similar thing when I was 7 or 8, I had constant stomach aches, and a battery of doctors gave me a battery of tests. One young doctor made me strip naked, and he examined my private parts with no one else in the room. I still remember feeling embarrassed and ashamed, and why did my parents make me do that? Turns out I am just a 'worrier'. Well, no wonder.

Good for you, finding out early about tampons! I was in college, and an 'experienced' girl led a bunch of us 'virgins' into the bathroom with a tampon to show us how they worked. Eureka!

alphawoman said...

I remember my Mom giving me the "starter kit" from kotex and I was terrified and probably traumatized! My first period was on Dec 8th in my 8th grade year. I think I was the last to get "it". The reason I remember is because that is some Holy day of obligation in the Catholic faith.Maybe the Immaculate Conception! Now that holds some irony, doesn't it?