For me, having a womb and ovaries has affected my life in a major way. Wombs and their functions are still a taboo subject, and our wombs are still controlled by laws designed to control women. Not all women have wombs, and not all people with wombs are women. There are some things that people with wombs and ovaries experience that people without wombs don’t. That might be hard for some to deal with, but ignoring it is feeding the taboo around cis women and some trans men’s natural bodily functions. My biology is an important part of who I am and talking about wombs is still a much needed political feminist act. So I’m going to talk about my womb.
Because I have a womb (and ovaries) I have:
- – bled every month since I was 16 for about four days. Bleeding starts unpredictably so I have always had to take sanitary products everywhere with me for the week before my estimated period due date, during my period and for a couple of days after to deal with it coming back unexpectedly after a bleed-free day. Bleeding unexpectedly and failed sanitary products means sometimes it ruins your knickers and you have to hand-wash the blood out but they’re often stained forever anyway. Always leading up to, during and immediately after my period I am anxious and worrying about bleeding through my clothes and people seeing. Bleeding makes me more vulnerable to anaemia which I suffer from sometimes.
- – been terrified of getting pregnant every time I had sex with a man until I was 33 and comfortable with the idea. This fear was a consistent backdrop in my mind during any plans to have sex with a man, during sex with a man, and most days after sex with a man until I got my next period. Even when it was protected sex.
- – spent hours imagining how I would feel if I chose to have an abortion – to try and prepare myself for it.
- – preferred having sex with women partially because it didn’t carry any risk of pregnancy.
- – had agonising cramps for hours almost every month since I was 16. Pain sometimes so bad it causes me to throw up and have the shits so I don’t know what end to point at the toilet. I have cried in public toilets and had to ask strangers for help.
- – taken strong prescription painkillers every month for years for chronic dysmenorrhea (period pain). Had to make sure I take these with me everywhere for the week before I am due, as unexpected period pain could literally floor me and go from zero to agony in less than 30 minutes.
- – taken steps to avoid pregnancy that have caused me severe pain and bleeding that lasted for months (IUD – it eventually fell out!), or contained very strong hormones with potentially harmful side effects (morning after pill, about four times).
- – had to consider regularly taking or injecting hormonal contraceptives that could have affected my mental health, weight and even risked more serious side effects.
- – planned for unexpected pregnancy leading to child-rearing in case I didn’t choose an abortion in the end. This meant I
- – took secure jobs with lower wages than riskier freelance work with higher pay as I didn’t realise that you could still get maternity pay from the Government when you’re freelance.
- – lived way below my means to make sure I always had emergency savings rather than spending all my money.
- – had to consider my dwindling fertility as I got older (I know it dwindles for people with testes but not as quickly) as I do want children and would prefer ideally to give birth to them myself. I guess dwindling fertility as you age is more to do with ovaries than wombs, but the womb is pretty central to the whole pregnancy thing… This means I
- – had to decide if I wanted children in my early thirties as I cannot make that decision in ten years – it could be too late by then.
- – couldn’t wait years for a partner to decide if they wanted children.
- – couldn’t spend ALL of my thirties hooking up with random hot people when I knew they would be no-good at co-parenting.
- – am starting to preemptively consider what I will do and how I will feel if I am infertile (will I adopt?) even though I am not trying to get pregnant yet.
- – had to bring up my desire for a child early in dating conversations at age 32 as I felt I didn’t have time to wait years only to find out they didn’t want any.
- – will have to try and get pregnant relatively early in the relationship with my partner.
Please add comments about how your womb & ovaries have affected your life.
Also, people are tweeting on #menstruationmatters to #smashstigma around periods – that stigma is holding women back all around the world. Here’s a related blog post about why breaking the taboo is important.
Binti are working towards dignity during periods for all women in the world. Here’s a video they made:
— Binti Period (@binti_period) November 15, 2016