Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Women bleed

Lybrel is finally here.

This new birth control drug is being heralded as several steps above the color-coded pills that I illicitly (at least in the eyes of my Roman Catholic mother) indulged in during college. Not only does it prevent pregnancy most of the time – women will finally be relieved of menstruating altogether.

Reading Karen Houppert’s editorial about Lybrel reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend’s husband recently. I was sharing with her (and he was, at first, an unfortunate bystander) the news that my Keeper had just arrived in the mail. I was about to be a menstrual cup virgin no longer. The Keeper is essentially a little rubber “cup” that fits inside your vagina and captures the menstrual fluid as it flows.

My friend’s husband was disgusted, apparently by the possibility that I would come in contact with blood.

I tried pointing out that it was, in fact, my own blood, and I was totally okay with it. He was horrified anew. I tried explaining that the Keeper is reusable, which attracted me. But there’s another reason, too.

I had my babies at home – there was a lot of blood, though less than you might think. I also had an unassisted miscarriage at home – even more blood. Blood, my blood, was in both cases a beautiful reminder of the brutal fact that I am human. Not only that, I am a healthy woman – my body is working just like it should be. The blood is proof.

I didn’t even come close to winning him over, though. And, really, I don’t think he’s alone. This is the reason why Lybrel’s existence is so completely unsurprising. Our culture is so thoroughly anti-woman that it predictably would want to do away with everything that reminds us that we are women. And it expects us to celebrate our sexlessness with verve and gratitude. Apparently, we can now get on with life.

For me, several years into my thirties, I am experiencing what I think a lot of women do at my age. I am feeling, to my core, how my body changes throughout the course of the month. And, without a hint of new-agey mysticism, I will tell you – I think it is incredibly cool.

My moods – the ones that Lybrel’s maker, Wyeth wants to anesthesize – shape who I am as a mother and wife, as an activist, and as a writer. As I bleed every month, I do feel the cleansing process of my body – I do feel renewed. (The folks from Wyeth are snickering now, no doubt.) As I cease to menstruate, the passion I feel for life is unequaled – this is the time of the month when my most impassioned emails get sent, when my work building an ecovillage bursts into full bloom, when that damn dissertation actually gets some attention. This is the time when I savor every inch of my amazing husband. It’s when I take my children blueberry picking and dig up every tillable inch of my backyard and plant morning glories and birdhouse gourds and lettuce and beans and beautiful flowers. Sometimes I feel life so deeply it hurts.

After I ovulate, blissfully dancing without calling any new babies, I begin to feel more introspective – the world starts spinning a bit slower. This is when it becomes harder to write – and my children and I spend countless hours at the lake, playing in the sand, marking the time with quiet conversations. It’s also when, sometimes, the darker side of me takes over a little – and I mourn what we are losing. It’s when the stories about Iraq bring me to tears, when I worry most about my friends, states, sometimes countries away. It’s when I need to find the reserves of compassion that I didn’t know I had, again.

So when I menstruate, it is honored, and welcomed. It is a subtle, beautiful reminder that I am human and I am woman. That our culture continues to create drugs that define human potential by the obscene standards of a patriarchal, dominator culture is a travesty; that we women would willingly erase that piece of ourselves that is most precious is a tragedy.

1 comment:

Radhika said...

I don't understand this extent of "sanitization" of all things human. We don't like sweat, hair, blood or any other natural excretions signifying our normal functionality. Many young girls who first encounter their periods are often a bit bemused and alarmed because it is something new and different. I am afraid that options like Lybrel and rhetoric put out by Wyeth will allow them to eliminate this natural phenomenon while they are still in this first phase of reaction and they will never come to realize, like most of us women do, that periods are not an onerous disability we are all afflicted with. In addition, this will probably go the way of HRT in that it will be administered to women for years without first understanding any long-term consequences that it might have.