A Tale of Two Mothers

This morning on the way to school, Monkey asked me what a period was. I asked her if she knew how babies were made, and she was sort of fuzzy on that, so I told her that in order for a baby to be created, there has to be a cell from the mother, the egg, and a cell from the father, the sperm. If the sperm gets inside the egg, (and everything goes well for the gestation period), a baby will eventually be born.

I told her that when a young woman goes through puberty, her body gets ready to eventually make a baby, and one of the things that happens is that an egg gets released from your ovary (which she was astonished to learn already contained eggs, and did before she was born) and travels through the fallopian tubes to the uterus. And that the uterus tries to make itself a comfortable place for a fertilized egg to hang out.

But most of the time, I said, the egg doesn't get fertilized and then it has to leave your body, along with the lining in the uterus. So when you get older, you will eventually get your period, which is when all that leaves your body, and it comes out in blood. She asked me if it hurt like when you cut yourself. I said some people (like me) get cramps, but you can always take ibuprofen or something to make the cramps go away, and I also told her that my cramps aren't too bad, and they really ease up if I make sure to get some exercise during my period. She wasn't thrilled about it, but she asked and I told her, and we can talk about these things.

I know, you know all that already, right?

Now I'm going to share the period talk I had with my mother, circa 1983. I should preface this by saying I got my period when I was 11, in 1980. I didn't tell my mother when I got my period because we didn't talk about these kinds of things. We didn't talk about boys, about sex, about drugs, about anything.

So it's a few years after I've been dealing with my period (because lucky me never went through a time when my period didn't arrive every month right on schedule, right from the first month), and my mother grabs me one evening and pulls me into the kitchen. It's probably about 9 o'clock, the house is quiet, and the lights are low.

Mom: Do you know about your thing?
Me: My what?
Mom: Your *monthly* thing?
Me: What? Oh, yeah. I've had it for a couple of years.
Mom: Okay


That is the most in-depth conversation I've ever had with my mother about the way a woman's body works. From a woman who had 5 kids herself!

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