Recently I had the chance to sit with a new mom, offering to hold her baby as she juggled her dinner, a diaper bag, a burp cloth and the stroller. I remember those days, because oddly and honestly they weren’t that long ago in the whole scheme of things for me.
I remember after Elly was born wondering if “normalcy” would ever come back to my world. The “fog” induced by fluctuating hormones, lack of sleep and so many people with needs I was supposed to meet left me crying in front of the canned soups one day at the grocery store. I felt crazy, and depressed and at a loss for the words to really express what was happening inside of me. It felt different than when the others kids had arrived, I was older and there were so many dynamics, and I couldn’t imagine what normal would feel like or how it could return for me.
Normal never returned, not really. Life was changed.
I felt different, no longer fitting with my friends who were only parenting teen agers, and not really fitting it in with the twenty-somethings mothering their newborns and toddlers. Finding women to relate to was difficult.
Connection based on life circumstances was not really a solid basis for growing friendship with me anymore. The friendships that weathered that season of my life were the ones that grew in deeper soil, where greater vulnerability was offered and received and the complexity of my world was welcomed and cared for with kindness, curiosity and creativity.
There have been other places of change, our move away from Texas and the circumstances surrounding it left me again wondering about “normal” and if it would come back. A new normal came and for 3-4 years we lived into it and enjoyed what felt like the beginning of something that would last a long time.
This year normal has taken a huge hiatus.
I don’t think its ever coming back.
Actually, what I know deeply and truly is that we will never be the same. I will never be the same.
There have been very obvious departures from normal and there has been a less obvious departure from normal for me as well. I have been quietly navigating the realities of peri-menopause.
It’s curious that the symptoms are strangely similar to the symptoms of post-partum. Sleepless nights, fluctuating hormones that leave you in a bit of a fog, the ten pounds you can’t just can’t seem to lose and the periods that just aren’t quite normal.
The same symptoms that show up after you’ve birthed life show up again signaling that you won’t be birthing anymore life.
I bled for three weeks this month.
I’ve miscarried five babies, birthed five babies and been having my period for nearly 37 years. I feel quite familiar with the mechanics of blood loss.
And yet, day after day as the bleeding continued I wondered about my life…I know that probably sounds so dramatic…but its true. I wondered about this past year and about the future. I wondered about “normalcy” and if its ever coming back. I wondered about the fog and my forgetfulness and my tiredness and the extra pounds marking my mid section.
I wondered about the bleeding I’ve done in the past 37 years.
I’ve bled for a lot of life.
I’ve bled for a lot of death.
Either way, I’ve bled.
Here’s the thing….as women the first sign that we are life givers, that we can carry life inside of us is the presence of blood. Each month you bleed. After you give birth you bleed. When you miscarry you bleed. When you can’t get pregnant you bleed. And, when its nearly the end of your child-bearing years you bleed in a way that signals change, your body letting you know that it’s almost over and soon you won’t bleed anymore.
Something that has been part of “normal” is coming to an end and its not coming back.
Some days I really just want it over, really, I mean take my uterus now I don’t need it and it’s served me well. Other days I wonder about what else won’t be coming back, I am changing and there is loss in that.
While I certainly don’t care about the cessation of monthly bleeding and all that comes with it I also know part of the rhythm of my life is going to end. A marking of my days will stop. 28 days won’t matter anymore.
The physical reminder each month that I am a woman will no longer be present. I wonder if I will ever wish for it to come back. Perhaps. I know that the bleeding in my heart will continue. Where it bleeds for life and where it bleeds for death.
For what I do know, what has not been lost in the fog of fluctuating hormones, is that to be a woman is to bleed.
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12). Married for 28 years, she is mother to five kids. After a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is. Founder of Red Tent Living, she writes here.