I first heard about you in 5th grade Sex Ed. The school nurse came in with something that resembled a tackle box full of pamphlets and giveaway maxi pads, ready to reference heady Latin-derived words like cervix, vulva and urethra. (Et tu, Uterus?) The girls were separated from the boys for the first hour, while we gawked at charts and graphs that told us, in a roundabout way, that we would bleed for one week each month, starting soon, and that this was somehow normal and okay. We were ten.
When the boys and girls reunited for Q & A afterward – a horrible idea, in hindsight – the school nurse used your name to explain why our bodies acted the way they did. Jimmy King, who had older brothers, snorted and guffawed at the word. Hormones. Everyone else did too, because he did. That’s when I suspected our relationship would be complex.
As of today, I have been pregnant and/or breastfeeding for nearly five years straight. While I’ve never enjoyed a calm, predictable relationship with you since our introduction, the past five years have taught me the true definition of volatility. It’s one thing when you’re talking about the stock market or real estate. It’s another thing entirely when it best describes your own insides.
Being hormones yourselves, you can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be affected by you. Demonic possession comes to mind. Hiroshima. The last Challenger mission. Being trapped in an elevator with a swarm of bees. Later, a gaping, yawning sadness. A black hole that steals light, even light from billions of miles of way. And then, just when everyone is ready to buy a neck brace to wear around you, enters a euphoric, creepy happiness. Oh, and you get fat and then skinny again.
Here’s what I want to say, on this, the last day of nursing my precious baby Sweet Chuck: IT’S BEEN REAL. You’ve made it possible for me to conceive and bring two children to term, and then you’ve made it possible for me to feed them from my own body, prevent illness, and bond with them in a way nothing else could have done. For that, thank you. Thank you.
But you’ve also made me hell to live with – hell to live inside of! – when I really needed stability and strength. For that, good riddance.