(Disclaimer: I am a man writing ignorantly about menstruation. Proceed with caution and enjoy making fun of the way I describe things in the comments section. I’m not intimately familiar with the controlled vocabulary that women use to discuss this topic and will likely make more than a couple laughable blunders.)
It looks like my wife’s first period since the inception of this blog is going to be upon us shortly. I share this with a little hesitation. Infertility is our shared struggle, but the decision to share it with a world of strangers was my decision. I conceived (if you’ll pardon the pun) of this blog largely as a place for my own expression and experiences. While I try to be intensely supportive of my wife, a period is an intensely personal experience.
So I will resist the urge to share too much or to over-interpret my wife’s emotions here. But since my wife’s menstrual cycle has a lot to do with our reproductive health, it’s really an unavoidable topic.
My wife has extremely painful periods. I know women who are largely unaffected by the pain associated with their periods. Neither of my sisters experience cramps that are painful enough to make day-to-day functioning unreasonable. Both of them typically take some form of pain medication to help them get through it and uncomfortably go about their business with a little more dampness than usual. Obviously, they don’t welcome the pain. But the pain doesn’t sideline them.
This is not the case for my sweet (and though-as-nails) wife. When she has her period, she routinely passes multiple blood clots the size of golfballs. The pain is incapacitating. In spite of doses of ibuprofen far exceeding recommended daily usage, she cannot even come close to managing the pain. When her period comes, she can count on the worst pain to make any kind of functioning next-to-impossible for at least a couple of hours.
I know that some women struggling with irregular (or no) menstruation might be seething at the insinuation that anyone (particularly a couple having difficulty conceiving) could dream of complaining about a painful period. I sympathize with that feeling but hope that if any of you do resent the idea of complaining about a period, you only extend that frustration and anger to me — the one writing this blog, not to my wife who suffers in private grace.
My wife works as a nurse at a medical facility that is not very accommodative of anyone who calls out on a weekend day and this weekend happens to be her weekend to work, so she’s nervous about it. There are 800 mg of ibuprofen on the bedside table that she’s prepared to take in an effort to delay the cramps should she wake up in the early morning with the feeling that they might start during her shift. If they start during her shift, it will be next-to-impossible for her to meet her standard for patient care. She’ll likely spend a good portion of her shift cowering in pain and crying in the bathroom.
Of course, if it doesn’t come today (Saturday), she’ll have to repeat this whole fiasco on Sunday, fearing that incapacitating pain could come at any moment.
So, if you’re me, you’re probably wondering: This is all very interesting, but how does it affect ME?! (I feel fairly confident in my assertion that I’m the only jackass who gives a rat’s ovaries how my wife’s period affects me.)
My wife’s pain and suffering really only affects me as much as I let it. But I let it affect me a lot. When my wife feels such horrible pain, I agonize. How could I not? I do not pretend that my difficulty in any way compares to hers, but watching my wife suffer is truly one of the most difficult things I ever experience. If there were ANY way for us to trade places, I’d do so an instant. (It’s real easy to SAY that… To such an extent that I sincerely hope none of you are giving me any credit for it, sincere as I believe myself to be.)
It also affects me emotionally in very much the same way that it affects my wife. That blood represents another month of failed efforts. When my wife breaks out the extra-thick pads, we know it will be at least ten months before we have to stock up on diapers. She doses up on ibuprofen and I know that it will be at least one more month than I’d like before we’re immunizing our child. When she curls up into the fetal position, I know full-well that it will be at least another four weeks before we can create a member of our family who knows no other position. And I know that we might have to do this all over again next month.
So it looks like my last blog post is at least a month out. Shoot!