The Cycle of Red

When I was 12 years old, my menstrual cycle began. My family was aboard a flight from Seattle to Orlando. I clearly remember stepping into that tiny lavatory, the sounds of the engines roaring and vibrating all around me. I can still see the dark red stains on my underwear, the expression on my face as I caught my reflection in the small, warped mirror. I was still unsure, so I exited the lavatory cautiously. I walked down the narrow aisle, feeling unsteady as I tapped my mother’s shoulder and asked her if she could come “look at something for me in the bathroom.” Puzzled, she followed me to the back of the plane and together, we crowded into the lavatory. “Yes!” she exclaimed “That’s it, alright!” She opened the door and called the flight attendant, who directed us to a stash of maxi pads underneath the sink. The bulk of it was uncomfortable and foreign. I felt it between my legs as I walked and I fidgeted in my seat at the new sensation there. I wondered if anyone could tell that there was something womanly in my cotton briefs. Maybe they could tell just from looking at me. I snuck glances at the other passengers out of the corner of my eye. My mother lowered my tray table and set her pocket calendar down, opened to the month. She drew a red pen from her purse and spoke. “You will need to keep track of your periods, to make sure that they are normal and regular. You will be able to anticipate when the next one will begin.” In bold red strokes, she wrote the letters “MP” inside the box indicating the current date. I stared at the ink, red like the blood that would flow for me each month, the blood that would never fail to appear. Blood like clockwork every 28 days. For the next six years I would ignore my mother’s advice about the calendar, the charts, the red pen. The blood would always surprise me, just as it had that first time, in the skies somewhere above the Midwest. I would curse it as it ran down my legs, diluted from the water of my shower. I would curl up in a ball in my mother’s bed as my uterus tightened and cramped. I would beg and pray and wish for the ending, the absence of color on the tissue paper.
And then, in my eighteenth year, I fell in love and the color of red took on a whole new meaning for me. It was the color of his hungry lips as he took me and consumed me. It was the flush of my cheeks afterwards, aglow with satisfied passion. I almost didn’t notice when the blood did not come. It was the first time I had ever willed it to arrive. I would cross my fingers every time I walked into the restroom. Days turned into weeks and still, it remained absent. And yet, for the next nine months, that deep dark crimson red formed an escape route and began to seep through the surface of my skin. The flow of blood was replaced by glistening streaks that appeared on my breasts and my abdomen. My body was stretching, making room for him, for the unborn child that turned my hatred of menstruation into gratitude and love.
His entrance into the world marked the return of blood. It flowed as furious as a river. There was too much, they said. It was everywhere, pooled beneath the birthing bed in an enormous puddle of scarlet. It had poured from within me, draining my skin of it’s color and rendering me weak and lifeless. None of that mattered to me, I was oblivious to it all. My eyelids fluttered and fought to remain open, as I intently focused my gaze on the only thing in that hospital room that mattered. His tiny face, new and red and his mouth open wide, screaming. He was bathed in my blood, still attached to my body. The cord was severed and the blood was wiped clean. I brought him to my breast, where he would suckle me raw, the red now blossoming from my nipples where he found nourishment and comfort. We would always be connected. He was mine and I was his and I would forever remember his beginning, in the cycle of red that made me a mother.

3 Responses to “The Cycle of Red”

  1. 1 ladyareto December 4, 2006 at 3:47 am

    that’s beautiful

  2. 2 Magdalena December 4, 2006 at 7:39 pm

    This is very nice to read.

  3. 3 Jack's Raging Mommy December 6, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    I didn’t realize you had switched your blog over, so I thought someone had stolen your post 🙂
    I like the new digs!

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