I’m trying to think of the perfect metaphor for that first post-baby period. It’s kind of like an avalanche, or a broken dam or like a gushing geyser except, you know, upside down. Oh, and except bloodier. Of course, that unstoppable torrent of blood is not rushing down a mountain side or up a river bank where you might be able to protect yourself with a wall of sand bags or, at the very least, flee the scene. No, it comes from within your body and threatens to ruin your underwear and drip down your legs and through the jeggings you put on even though you can’t wear a back up giant maxi pad in them because, dammit, you’ve had three kids and the stretchy material is flattering and you just thought you could get away with it, okay? Are you satisfied yet?!
I see now, too, that it gets worse with every baby. And I don’t know if there’s any science to back this up, but it feels like the longer you get to go without a period, the more the period gods curse you. I went 16 months without a period after my first baby, and my, oh my, was that first period bad. I only got an 8 month break after my second baby, but it was still just as bad. This time, though, I had 14 glorious, period-free months. You just know I was going to have to pay.
In fact, I was so sure I was going to have to pay that I’d been walking around with a box of tampons in my purse for three months. I put them there just before my trip to New York City in August and I am still gobsmacked that I didn’t start my period in the middle of the Martha Stewart keynote or while I was stranded in LaGuardia airport for hours on end. If I’d been on the flight ahead of mine, the one that was actually stranded on the tarmac for three solid hours, then I would have gotten my period. If I’d been stuck on a tarmac for three hours with my tampons packed in my checked luggage then I would have gotten it for sure.
But that didn’t happen. And then, two weeks later I thought I had the worst PMS in the history of womankind and was walking around in a hormone-induced rage for two days solid. I was sure it was coming this time. I mean, I’d been away from my baby for four days in New York. I had not been waking up in the middle of the night to express breast milk and I only pumped once on the last day I was gone. Then two weeks later I was so utterly engulfed in a fury that telemarketers were hanging up on me? It had to be, right? But nope. I guess it was just a bad mood.
This is all to say that I’d been expecting it. I’d been prepared for it, even. I walked around with tampons in my purse for three consecutive months and I remembered to stock up on panty liners. I am a grown, adult woman with three children and I was not going to let the unexpected arrival of a menstrual period get the better of me again. Nope. Not again. This time I was ready.
So when my period finally did arrive on Saturday morning, I didn’t panic. I groaned and complained, yes, but I didn’t panic. I went about my life, popping Advil and attending to my feminine hygiene as necessary. The children were a bit miffed by the sudden “Mommy needs privacy in the bathroom” rule, but whatever.
Then, on Sunday afternoon, I changed my tampon for the bazillionth time and took all three kids out to a family dance party at a local club while Ed stayed behind to do some work. It was loud and crowded and we were still getting our bearings at the edge of the dance floor when I felt it. It was like a sudden drop. My vagina was all, “Un-hunh, girlfriend. I don’t think so.” My vagina is very street. “Holding up an empty tampon is one thing,” my vagina continued, “But this is one saturated mother of a super plus o.b. tampon. This shit is heavy and I am too old and worn out to even bother.”
“Just keep it together for one more minute,” I hissed, doing a couple Kegels while I looked around the room frantically. (The Kegel thing, by the way, was the very essence of too little, too late.) I knew several families there but it was dark and loud and they had their own children to attend to. Still, I did try to abandon my children.
“Hey guys, Mommy just has to go to the bathroom, so why don’t you …”
“I have to go the bathroom!”
“Oh. Well … maybe just let Mommy and Mary go in first …”
” I have to GO PEE!!”
“You said the P word!”
“And if you guys can just wait here …”
“Me too! Me too! EMERGENCY!”
And that’s how I wound up in a three-stall bathroom with all of my children, a back-talking vagina and way-beyond-capacity tampon that was practically crowning.
I told the two bigger kids to go into a couple stalls and take care of business. They were on their own. I brought the walking baby into the handicap stall with me and assessed the situation. It was worse than I thought. We had breached the great panty divide and were well on our way to claiming victory over denim as well. I could hear the kids running around outside my stall doing who knows what. Mary kept trying to escape under the door. I knew I had to act fast. I reached for my purse.
The zippered compartment that had housed a box of tampons for three long months was open. There were also two empty ziplock bags that had been full of Halloween treats earlier that day. (Bribery doesn’t just happen at home, people. Be prepared.) I pushed past the ziplock bags, the travel pack of wipes, three diapers, one small picture book, a handful of crayons and my wallet and found the tampon box. Yessss. I pulled it out and the box was empty.
“NOOOOOOO!!!!!” my despair was audible.
I then continued to lament out loud as I rifled around in my bag for another few minutes. Maybe the tampons had just spilled in my purse. Maybe they were mistaken for candy at first, but then put back? Might there not be one solitary, little, applicator-less tampon hiding away in the crevice of my giant mom bag?! Please just let there be one!
Let the record show that I balled up a two-foot length of toilet paper, shoved it between my legs, pulled up my underwear and my jeggings, picked my baby up off the public bathroom floor and waddled out.
I was frantically messaging Ed, hoping that he could rush over with supplies from home. I got no response. I was pacing the bathroom, looking into the pleading eyes of my two children who just wanted to go out and join the dance party with their friends. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” I kept repeating it over and over again. I was actually pulling at my hair. A young twenty-something woman with no kids avoided eye contact and left the bathroom. I can’t blame her. Run while still can, lady.
I considered my options. I could hope the toilet paper would hold out. Yeah right. I could take all the kids with me and go home or to the store. But then we’d miss most of the event. I could man up and ask someone for a tampon. Okay, let’s go with that.
I walked out of the bathroom and saw the two organizers of the event talking to the bar staff. I tried to wait patiently for about 30 seconds. Then I tapped the one who is not pregnant on the arm. She obviously continued her conversation. I tapped her on the arm again because I was a crazed, bleeding woman who had lost all grasp of the basics of civilized behaviour. Finally (like a whole minute and a half) later she turned around and greeted me warmly like I was not practically foaming at the mouth. She didn’t have a tampon but offered to ask the bartender for me. I nodded. But seriously, when you are running an event with well over a hundred people in attendance what you really need is to attend to the minutiae of my fucking menstrual period. Laura, I owe you big time.
The bartender had the gall to serve the people who were waiting to pay her cash money for drinks before rushing off to the staff room to get me a tampon from her personal stash. (I so owe you, bartending lady.) Then a friend I hadn’t seen for a while came over to chat while I bored holes into the back of the bartenders head. Go get the tampon. If there are any dormant telekinetic abilities within me, they should have revealed themselves then. The same friend held Mary for me and kept an eye on the other two when I finally dashed to the bathroom with the tampon. We never did get to chat. I owe you, too, Rebecca.
Locked once again in the bathroom stall, I looked intently at the packaging and was relieved to see that it was an extra-ultra-super-duper-fat-as-all-get-out kind of tampon. God, I love bar staff. I took care of business and returned to fetch my children and to party with abandon.
Ed did make it out to the event, like, an hour later. He had tampons in his pocket that he found in the basement playroom. “So when you said you got your period yesterday,” he said, “did you mean your first period since Mary was born?”
YES. Yes, yes, yes. And this had better be my LAST first postpartum period, so help me god.