don’t have a period, man

That time of the month.

Surfing the crimson tide.

PMS.

Menstruation.

Period.

Holy hell, who the f*** did I piss off?!

These are just some of the ways that society, including myself, refers to that really awesome time, once a month, that affects almost every woman on the planet.

Yes, I am bleeding from my vagina. Some women are ‘lucky’ and only have to deal with this ‘affliction’ for a few days. Some women have some really bad juju, and can bleed for weeks. According to medical research (no, I have no idea where I read it as it was a while ago) us women only lose 1-2 teaspoons (or maybe it was tablespoons, I forget) of actual viable, good blood during our period. The rest of it is our uterus’s throwing the mother of all tantrums, and quite literally throwing its toys out of the proverbial cot. And if you’re really lucky, for the first day or so, you look like you’re birthing the spawn of Satan, or at least 25 million of them. Blood clots. So appetising. And also effing scary, especially at 02h00 in the morning, when you thought you only needed to wee. Or better yet, when you’re in the bath, and this red blob catches your eye and you stare with wide-eyed horror, knowing that that came out of you. Whaaaaaat?! And the cramps? And the bloating? And the fact that not only do I want to eat every chocolate I can lay my hands on, I also snap at my husband for absolutely no good reason, and then give him the silent treatment because he dared to ask wtf he had done wrong.

What’s even scarier is the stigma attached to a menstruating woman. Some cultures do not even allow these women into the house during this time. This is a natural thing, and before I had my tubes tied, my ability to breathe a huge sigh of relief that there weren’t anymore “mini-me’s” on the way. Believe me, a LOT of women use the start of their period as a time to party, because they can!

What’s even more awful is how many women (I’m only talking about in South Africa now), miss work and school because of their period. So many young ladies are forced to use leaves, old rags, even old sanitary towels when they menstruate. In our country, you can find free condoms pretty much everywhere; at clinics, robots, shopping centers, yet feminine hygiene products are nowhere to be found. Oh they can be found in abundance at the shops, with a nice little price tag on them to boot. I am not against the issuing of free condoms; I myself have taken a few from work as seriously, the mess is just not worth it, especially at 00h15, but why are feminine hygiene products not also available? Rape and assault aside, a person (male or female) has the choice to abstain from sexual intercourse; a woman’s monthly cycle is going to happen. She is going to bleed. Whilst I do not expect a tampon to be included in this debate, sanitary pads should be made freely available, just as condoms are. School girls are missing out on their education; approximately 3.7 million school age girls (11-13) are allegedly missing school every month due to this issue. Whilst this is a difficult figure to verify as schools record just that a pupil was absent, not the reason why, almost 78% of these girls live in the lower LSM (living standards measure) bracket. What this essentially means is that these families barely have enough money for food and clothes and other basic necessities; feminine hygiene products are not on their list of monthly essentials. They’re deemed a luxury.

I just do not understand how a pad can be deemed a luxury. What, do people think it’s really glamorous to have a period? Yes, I know and appreciate that as women, we have the ability to co-create life, and sustain that life for 9 months. A male body cannot do that, but this cannot and must not detract from the real issue here. Feminine hygiene should be a basic right to all females.

A month or so ago I was in the ladies bathroom at work, and whilst in the one stall another woman entered. I heard her stop at the paper hand towel dispenser, and dispense paper towel. And she didn’t stop. I don’t even know how many times I heard that handle go down, and it annoyed me. Why was she taking so much paper towel? That stuff isn’t cheap, and we’re always looking at ways to cut costs at work, so when I was done I took my time washing my hands, whilst I waited for her to exit the other stall. As she exited, another woman entered, and I saw that they were both contractors from the plant company that we’ve hired. I asked her quite abruptly why she took so much hand towel, and she blushed and put her head down. I asked her again, more forceful, and she replied

I’m bleeding and I don’t have any money for pads.

I felt my heart stop for a moment. My hard resolve melted and I said to her, shocked, “you don’t have any pads?” She just shook her head, embarrassed. She had nothing to be embarrassed about, I did. I went to my desk and offered her whatever I had. She was so grateful, so relieved, so happy. She was basically going from site to site, and before she could actually work had to go into the ladies bathroom to refresh the paper towel between her legs. Now I’ve used paper towel before, I think most women have. But I’ve only used it as a quick fix, at the shops just to ‘stem the tide’ whilst I run in to buy some tampons. At home if I need to find where I put my box, at work when it just happens and I need to go back to my desk for a tampon or pad. But I’ve never had to go my whole period using just paper towel. Or leaves. Or rags. Or newspaper. I’ve always had the ‘luxury’ of having feminine hygiene products readily available to me.

Something about my interaction with this lady, this lady who was in a sense degraded and humiliated by something that happens naturally to her body every month, awoke a fire within me. I know that there are a few initiatives that have sprung up in recent years around feminine hygiene products, but I decided to start my own thing. And all I’ve received is positive feedback. I’ve decided to focus on the ladies in my workplace, as we have a lot of employees who are factory based, and I shudder to think how many of them miss work every month due to their period. How many of them simply don’t have the money for a pack of pads.

With my mom, we’ve purchased in total 12 packs of pads over the past month, which I’ve placed in the admin bathrooms, just to see how they would be received. The first 2 packs of pads took about 3 weeks to be used; the second 2 packs are finished. I have the other 8 packs in my desk, and I distribute them when necessary. I myself have gone down to our onsite clinic in an ’emergency’ situation, only to find that they don’t keep feminine hygiene products. They have condoms; oh boy do they have condoms everywhere. But not a single tampon or pad.

This is not something that I expect a resolution to overnight. There is still so much negativity and ‘hush hush’ around discussing menstruation, and even I felt the same. But I think that the world that we’re living in has definitely changed in recent times, simply because it’s been forced to. Women bleed from their lady parts, fact. Women and young girls are missing work and school because of this, fact. Can I do something about this?

Yes.

Can you do something about this?

Yes.

By the end of the year I am hoping to have a feminine hygiene initiative active at my factory. I’m still not 100% sure as to how to go about it all, whether or not to just leave the pads out for the women to help themselves or to have like maybe a registration and then issue them out every month, but it will happen. Whilst I am not wealthy I have never had to go through what some of the women in South Africa go through on a monthly basis. A period is not dirty. But it can lead to serious health complications and illnesses, when not taken care of correctly. By women using items beside feminine hygiene products when they have their period, they are putting themselves at such a medical risk for infections, but what other choice do they have.

In 2011, President Jacob Zuma promised that government would provide sanitary pads to impoverished women and girls, a promise he has made again and again, but has never delivered on. But that’s ok. Well not really, but it just fuels the fire within me.

Oh, BTW. I’ve written this post whilst on my period, having to stop 3 times to run to the bathroom to ‘change supplies’ as this month, my uterus really IS pissed off with me. Just FYI, maybe TMI but that’s LIFE.

G

adulting; i think i’m doing it wrong

I was never one of those children who wished their childhood away. Whilst I maybe didn’t have the “perfect” childhood, it was mostly happy. I loved school, I loved my friends, I loved my family; life was good. I dreaded leaving school, becoming an “adult”. I was happy in my bubble; many a time I’ve said that if I could spend the rest of my life repeating my matric year, I’d do so in a heartbeat. THAT’S how much I loved school. Then again, 2003 was an awesome year. A happy year. A year with no worries or regrets or “what ifs”.

My life is full of worry now. I don’t focus on the regrets or what ifs because that will not fix anything. But in a nutshell, we’re teetering on the edge of collapse. Finances, what finances. At the end of this month, we’ll be 4 months behind in our rent. Whilst we have communicated our situation to our landlord, he can only be so understanding for so long. And I know that. The husband is now 3 months behind in EVERYTHING. The bank will come for his car at the end of the month, and whatever else they can attach to make up the shortfall of what he owes on it. For the first time in years, I will not be able to meet all of my financial obligations this month. And that scares me something stupid. I have worked really hard to get myself back to a semi-viable financial position, and this month it will all come crashing down. Even with my second job, I will just not have enough.

And my biggest failure of all? Myself, as a mother to my children. I’m not even buying their food anymore; my mom is. I cannot even buy my children milk and bread. Morgan-Lee is turning 7 in October; she was telling me yesterday about what kind of party she wants to have and what presents she’d like, whilst I sat there fighting back the tears because I can’t give any of it to her. Oh she’ll have a party, because my mom will make sure of it. Yet another thing that I can’t do. And yes, a party isn’t a priority but she’s a child. Our financial failures as adults cannot affect her. And I’m trying so hard to not let them. But it is soul destroying when she asks for a chocolate bar, and I honestly cannot buy it for her. I simply don’t have the R6 for a chocolate. R6. And she looks at me, doesn’t argue, and simply nods her head and walks away. I want to die. I want to curl up in a ball and just disappear.

The husband and I are good people. I know that everyone says that “they’re good people” but we are. We really are. We’ve been battling now for almost a decade. It all started with him being retrenched in 2006, and we’ve just never been able to get completely on top of things. We’ve come close, but just not close enough. Then the events of this March-April just sealed our casket. Yes, he is working now and we are both so grateful for his work and monthly income, but he is earning a lot less than what he was, and because we were a month behind in everything when he started his new job in June, it just continued to spiral downwards from there. The amount that he now has to pay out in 1 shot is staggering. And it’s at the point where he is about to be handed over for legal action. Where the bank is threatening to repossess his car. Where his cellphone is about to be cut off because he hasn’t been able to pay it. Where he now cannot provide for his family. And neither can I.

We have both been responsible for certain financial obligations in our household; I cover our medical aid, car insurance, school fees, internet etc, whilst he covers the rent, most of our electricity, 90% of our groceries, big appliance payments etc. So he pretty much runs our house. And for the past 3 months, he hasn’t been able to. And he’s burnt out. What has happened to us, to him, has crushed him. He’s hanging on for our kids, and I know it.

I have been yearning to write a blog post for weeks now, but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to do so. I have just felt empty and uninspired. Lost. But when I write, it helps me. So it’s been a kind of catch 22. On my drive to work this morning I thought of the title of this post, and it’s just gone from there. It’s not normal to struggle so much in life, is it? And yes, I know that there are families out there with far less than us, that there are families living in war-torn countries, families fleeing across the ocean, facing peril and death. But I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about my family. My children. The ones who rely and depend on me; the ones who I am currently failing.

I saw my shrink on Tuesday; she upped my meds to help me “cope” with our situation until things calm down. I don’t feel that they’re making any difference; maybe my body has become used to them. I dunno. All I know is that I feel April creeping back up onto me, and I don’t want that. But every day I feel just that much less in control. And that frightens me.

The 1 silver lining is that if we do have to move out of our home, I have amazing, phenomenal friends that have agreed to take us in for a few months. I’m talking all 5 of us. Obligation free. Knowing that if everything does fall apart but my children will still have a roof over their heads and food in their tummies, eases my burden. My worry. My stress. I don’t have much in my life, but I am beyond financially wealthy with these guardian angels in our lives. Knowing that my children will be safe and protected and loved and warm. Knowing that they have a place to go. Thank-you. Just, thank-you.

I am dreading payday. It’s exactly 1 week away. But, I am also trying to teach myself to stop worrying and stressing about the things that I do not have any control over. It’s so much easier said than done, but I have to try. For my own mental well-being, I have to try.

I have always been open and honest in my blog posts, whether I’ve been happy or sad. This is my platform to be real, to express myself. It’s not attention seeking on my part; writing helps me. Writing is my release. Words are my medication.

I just wish words could fix our mess.

Not this time.

G

my darkness

Things have been good recently. Not good financially, but good emotionally, mentally. I’ve been happy. I’ve been positive. I’ve been smiling. I’ve been ok.

Not today.

I felt it when I woke up this morning. I felt it as I popped my pill before leaving for work. I felt it as I sipped on my first cup of tea. I felt it sitting behind my desk. I felt it.

My darkness is back. I don’t know for how long; a day, a night, a week, a month. All I know is that it’s back. And it’s rattled me. My shoulders feel heavy, my eyes dull. All I want to do is curl up in my bed, close my eyes and forget about everything.

I’ve known for a while that I have a darkness in my life, but I’ve never addressed it until recently, when I honestly didn’t have a choice. The darkness had all but consumed me a few short months ago, and I don’t want to feel like that again. But it’s a constant battle, one that I feel I may have lost for today.

But.

The sun will rise tomorrow morning, and with it, a new day. A new day to take another step forward in pushing back my darkness. A new day to say, I am here.

I am still here.

G

This post was written in response to the Daily Prompt.

the day i watched my mother fall in love

I remember the day that I told my mom that I was pregnant with Morgan-Lee; her face said it all. It was Thursday the 5th of March 2009, the day before my 23rd birthday. I was 22, engaged but still living at home with her, and she was disappointed. I don’t hold that against her; I think I was a little disappointed in myself as well. The news of my pregnancy received mixed reactions from our families; a lot of family members on my side thought I had thrown my life away, and there was both happiness and disappointment on the husband’s side. But all-in-all, everyone accepted the fact that we were going to have a baby.

Tuesday the 5th of May 2009. That was the day that I saw our daughter for the first time. The husband couldn’t come with me as he was travelling for work, so my mom dutifully accompanied me to the gynae, who also happened to be her gynae, and who delivered my brother back in 1992! It was the first of many trips up to Ladysmith some 200km odd away, as the doctor had decided to move, and as I wasn’t on medical aid, his offer of free consultations had to be taken up!

"Meeting" Morgan-Lee for the first time on the 5th of May 2009

“Meeting” Morgan-Lee for the first time on the 5th of May 2009

I remember sitting in his rooms, waiting nervously, so excited yet so scared at the same time. I’d already had a DNC in 2004 at the age of 17; what if something was wrong this time around? I remember lying down on the bed, and then looking to the sonogram. And I watched with big wide eyes, as this little ‘thing’ appeared on the screen, darting from one side to the next, with even the doctor exclaiming how active it was. I then looked over at my mom, who had her mouth slightly open, her eyes glistening. I even remember her gasping quietly. I watched her silently watch this little thing bounce around inside of me, her baby girl now about to have her own baby, and I watched her fall in love. It was a pure, unscripted moment in time, one that I will cherish forever. When my mom saw her first grandchild for the very first time, I knew that my baby was going to be the most loved and wanted child in the world, all from the look on her face.

It was quite a remarkable thing to witness; watching my mom fall in love.

And I’m so grateful and blessed that I did.

G

 

tomorrow is not just another day

To my darling Morgan-Lee

I have failed you as a mother. Now just hang on a minute, because no amount of “no you haven’t” being indignantly shouted at me will make me change my statement. But let me explain to you why I am at peace with this decision, and how admitting this will help shape me into a better mother for you and your siblings.

You my poppet, can be a bit of a handful. All too often I send you to your room to play, or send you outside to jump on your trampoline, or tell you that I’m just too tired when you ask me to join you. I tell you to hurry up in the bath, even though I can hear you regaling fantastic stories in the water, all whilst your fingers and toes go all pruny, and your lips are blue from the cold. I get frustrated when you’re lost in thought, or are distracted by something that I just don’t see, or choose not to see. I all too quickly want you in bed during the week, so that I can get to relax for a bit, but in doing so, I’m missing out on your childhood. Your innocence. Your want to spend time with me.

You LOVE bedtime stories; most children do. At least 4-5 times a week you ask for a story, and most of the time I say no; that I’m too tired. I’m so sorry my love. There is no excuse for me saying no. Yes I’m tired but that’s not your fault, and it certainly shouldn’t be your problem. You’ve also started asking for a lullaby every now-and-then, something I think that was brought on by the Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore movie “Blended”, and I’ve happily obliged. Admittedly enough I’ve had to Google the words every single time, but watching you wistfully smile up and me as I sing you to sleep, fills my heart so deeply and so beautifully I almost want to cry.

You just want to be involved in EVERYTHING! Sometimes this isn’t always possible, like cooking supper, or doing the shopping, but you’re so eager to help and be involved, and I’m so sorry that I haven’t included you more. I tell you far too often that “you’re a big girl now” but in actual fact you aren’t a big girl; you’re 6.5 years old, and you’re still my baby. You’ll always be my baby.

I’m so sorry that the past 18 or so months have been so tough on you, but my word how you’ve come out fighting. I know that I don’t pay nearly enough attention to you as I used to or as I should, and I can only use your brother and sister so many times as an excuse. I can only use my tiredness so many times as an excuse. Because in 10 years time, when you’re entering your young adulthood and probably want nothing to do with me, I’m going to yearn for these days, these days when I could do nothing wrong, when I was your hero, when all you wanted to do was cuddle and hug and kiss and love.

I know that I’m going to miss your butterfly kisses, your wet raspberry’s into my neck (which I detest), your tickle attempts, and your early morning cuddles. I know that I’m going to miss you coming to me to tie your laces, you asking me to zip up your jacket, and to put your hair up in a ponytail. I know that I’m going to miss washing your hair, scrubbing your nails, and your sweet innocence.

I’m so sorry that I have in a way, forced you to become more independent than you should be, and I promise you right here and now that your mommy is going to be making some changes, and has already started making those changes.

  1. If I am able to read you a bedtime story, dang it you’re getting one! No more excuses of I’m tired, or “maybe tomorrow night”. The same for your lullaby.
  2. You want to snuggle with me on the couch or in my bed or even in your bed until you fall asleep? You got it my angel. Every. Single. Time.
  3. You want me to wash your hair, even bath you? Done.
  4. You want me to watch you brush your teeth, and sometimes even brush my teeth whilst you’re brushing yours. Ok.
  5. You want me to be your make-up model… Yeah ok!
  6. You want to bake a cake? Well I haven’t burnt the kitchen down (yet) so why not?!
  7. You want me to walk you to your classroom, give you a hug and kiss in front of all of your friends? You don’t even have to ask.
  8. You don’t want me to walk me to your classroom because “you’re a big girl”? I won’t let you see the tears in my eyes as I wave you off my love.
  9. You want to hear how special you are, and how damn much I love you? That my sweet princess, you’ll never EVER have to doubt.
  10. And my final promise… I will never again say, “maybe tomorrow”, because tomorrow is not just another day. It’s the day that I ‘felt like spending time with you’. I always want to spend time with you, even when you think that I don’t.

I will never again use the twins as an excuse, or my long work day or lack of sleep as an excuse to send you off to your room to play alone, or leave me in peace. You are just an important as your brother and sister, and I am so damn sorry if I ever made you feel like you weren’t.

You are my princess-pie, my poppet, and I love you the mostest.

Mommy
xoxo