It’s not easy being a uterus. We get so much flack just for doing our jobs, from our owners and from society in general. I am lucky in that my owner regards her periods as exactly what they are: a natural bodily function that is not remotely embarrassing. She has no qualms discussing her menstrual cycle and would immediately shut down anyone who tried to shame her. If only the same were true for all women.
Some people would have you believe that I am her reason for existing, like those ultra-conservative Christians in America whose videos she is weirdly fascinated by. I find that insulting, and I’m her uterus. She has plenty of purpose with or without me. She teaches children languages for crying out loud. She makes people feel things through her writing. If that’s not purpose then I don’t know what is. To suggest that her only reason for being is to produce smaller versions of herself is reductive and patronising. She is so much more than just an elaborate container for me.
Lauren and I go way back. She was ten the first time I announced my presence. Younger than most, I know, but she was an early developer in just about every way. At least I had the decency to wait until the weekend, thus sparing her the awkwardness of having her first period start at school. She was staying at her Nan’s at the time, the very person who had forewarned her about the changes that would soon be happening to her body. It was the best possible scenario, if I do say so myself.
I’ve been doing this job for nineteen years now and I must say, I’m very good at it. She’s got it pretty easy, all things considered. I’m regular as clockwork the vast majority of the time. Yes, I cramp a bit, but it’s nothing regular painkillers can’t sort out. She doesn’t have to suffer the debilitating pain of endometriosis or the irregular periods that come with PCOS. It could be a heck of a lot worse. She knows that, so she doesn’t complain too much.
Her main issue with me is my timing. Sometimes I have no choice but to start proceedings at the worst possible time. It’s not my fault. I just do what the hormones tell me. I can’t help it if she decides to go swimming in the sea on the day her period is due. I remember that day in Barmouth. By the time she got out, she looked like she’d been shot. Her stepmom took one look at her, threw a towel around her and marched her off to the toilet.
Sometimes my workings interfere with her sex life. I don’t set out to spoil her fun, but what can I say? I’m working on a cycle. She gets annoyed with me, accuses me of cock-blocking her. What does she think? That I’m here plotting like some evil villain, deliberately timing her period for maximum inconvenience?
What’s that? She’s going on holiday with her boyfriend to one of her favourite places in the world? Start the day before. While we’re at it, let’s bleed really heavily in the car on the way, so that her pad leaks and she has to make a pit stop at a service station. Then, as soon as we get to the hotel where she can freshen up properly, we’ll lighten right up. Hilarious!
What’s that? She’s on the verge of entering into a new relationship? She’s been resisting him for weeks and now she’s travelling halfway across the country to see him? Start four days before she’s due to go. She’ll spend the first night going mad with frustration. She’ll be mouthing the words, ‘Oh come on!’ at her own crotch every time she goes to the loo. It’ll be grand!
What’s that? She’s not had sex for nine months? She’s finally met someone she finds attractive and has a noticeable rapport with? Make her wait another week for her period to end. And during that week he’ll pick up a karate injury that will put him out of action for another few days. She’ll be climbing the walls by the time he’s recovered. What larks!
I don’t do that. What I do is stick to the schedule. Sometimes that means thwarting her amorous intentions, but c’est la vie. On the whole, I’m pretty good to her. I give her monthly confirmation that she isn’t pregnant, which she appreciates even if she pretends not to. I don’t even do some of the annoying things I used to do when she was younger, like sending her period in the middle of the night so that she has to get up and change the sheets. She doesn’t live with her parents anymore, so pranks like that are no fun. There’s no one to ask awkward questions if they find her bundling her bedding into the washing machine in the early hours of the morning.
Speaking of pranks, sometimes I start proceedings a little late. Not enough to genuinely scare her, just enough to keep her on her toes. Like that time she went to live in Russia and I sent her first period a few days later than expected. She was a little nervous, I’ll admit. OK, she was a lot nervous, but she knew there hadn’t been any accidents and that it was most likely the moving 1800 miles that had done it. I don’t know why she was so surprised. Huge lifestyle changes can do that. Still, it was my way of reminding her to keep being careful and not be complacent. Not that she needs reminding. She’s nothing if not cautious.
As a result, things have been pretty uneventful for the most part. So far my only task has been to oversee her menstrual cycle. Each month I get ready for a baby that she has no intention of having any time soon, and each month I have to flush out the lining that we no longer need. It seems silly, losing all that iron every month, especially given her history of anaemia. There was a time in her second year of university when I had to cease operations altogether. For six months I did nothing. It’s strange. Most women would assume they were pregnant if their periods suddenly stopped, but at no point did that even cross her mind. She’s a smart cookie; she’d have known straight away if it was that. I’d have made it clear to her. In fact it was the opposite. Her periods had stopped not because she was carrying a baby, but because at the time she was physically incapable of doing so.
The anaemia was the result of several things. The contraceptive injection she’d been on for a year and a half and that never worked properly most certainly played a part. Instead of stopping her periods like it was supposed to, it made her bleed a little every day for over a year. It was exhausting, quite frankly. No wonder she ended up with an iron deficiency. Of course, she didn’t help matters by crash-dieting and exercising excessively. I know she was trying to wrest back a bit of control after a bad breakup, but she went about it in entirely the wrong way.
It was a relief to get back to normal. No one likes them, but regular periods are a sign you’re healthy, that things are ticking over the way they should. After relaxing the diet, cutting back on the exercise and taking tablets for three months, her iron levels went back to normal. I could finally get back to work, and it has been business as usual ever since. I even made her periods three days shorter, no doubt as a way of preserving some of that much needed iron. The trade-off? Back pain to go with the abdominal cramps. Why does that happen now when it didn’t before? No idea. It just does.
Even before the anaemia diagnosis, she made the decision to dispense with hormonal contraception altogether. It’s probably for the best, given her own experience and the doctors’ suspicions that her mom’s cancer was caused by being on the pill for years. No one can ever prove it, but she won’t even consider taking something if there is the slightest chance it was responsible for her mom’s death. I can’t say I blame her.
I might kill her one day. I sincerely hope not, but something’s going to get her in the end and there’s a chance it might be me. The shadow of her Mom’s cancer is constantly hanging over her. That started off as breast cancer. Female anatomy can be a death sentence, with bad luck and in the wrong circumstances. On the plus side, she’s hyper-aware of her own body and knows exactly what changes to look out for. Still, I can’t guarantee I won’t turn on her. Health is a game of chance after all, and playing is compulsory. Most people lose in the end, one way or another.
Listen to me harping on about death when my function is to create the exact opposite. Notice I said my function, not my owner’s. Her purpose is whatever she decides it is. If motherhood is part of that purpose, then great. If not, that’s absolutely fine. That being said, I do hope I have an occupant at some point. I know that’s her plan, but not for another two or three years. I just hope I can come through for her. That’s the thing. Everything seems to be in working order, but there’s no way of really knowing until the times comes, and by then the stakes couldn’t possibly be higher. There are no dress rehearsals, no practice runs. She’s counting on me. Not right now, but she will be in the not-too-distant future. I’ve been pretty good to her so far. Hopefully, I can keep that up. No pressure.