“Aunt Margie” wasn’t my real aunt but a close friend to my parents. In the South in the seventies it was traditional for kids to have a lot of adopted aunts and uncles, and you always addressed them or any other elder as “Ma’am” or “Sir.”
Aunt Margie used to take me places with her when I was a kid and she knew just about everybody in our small town. One day I was out and about with her and we stopped at this lady’s house. The lady was probably in her sixties or seventies, and Aunt Margie said she wanted to check on her because she had just had surgery.
I remember the lady being nice, and Aunt Margie visited with her and attended to some needs she had. Soon, we were on our way again. When we got back in the car Aunt Margie said she checked on her often because she was a widow and had no children. I was around eight years old, and this was the first time I had heard of a woman with no children. It was a foreign concept to me. No kids! Now, at this point in my life my limited knowledge of where babies came from was this…when a girl grows into a woman she could choose to either marry or not marry. If she chose to marry then God would decide when it was time for her to have a baby. Then he would put a baby in her belly, and after nine months it would be born out of her you-know-what.
I remember asking Aunt Margie why God didn’t ever put a baby in her belly. Aunt Margie was pretty progressive for the day and she would always tell it like it was. She told me something to the effect of: “Sometimes a woman’s womb doesn’t work right, and she can’t get pregnant. That’s what happened with Mrs. _______” (I can’t remember her name now).
Well, I was kind of blown away by that and from that day on, on the fringe of my 8-year-old year conscious I was worried if my womb would work right. If I knew one thing in my life it was that I wanted to have babies. I was further confused by information that other 8-year-old girls shared. One day a boy kissed me in front of everyone at recess, and my friends started saying, “Oh…you’re going to get pregnant now!” I was terrified. I started watching my belly and trying to tell if I could feel a baby kicking. Girls had started talking about having periods and how you have to have your period before you can get pregnant. I told them that I didn’t have my period, but they assured me that it didn’t matter. If I had ever kissed a boy the effect would last until I got my period and then I would be pregnant. I know how silly that seems now, but back then I was terribly concerned that I was going to be an unwed mother.
Fast forward four years and I did get my first period. I remember I had been to a one-day Bible School at a church in town. I remember having a stomachache like I had never had before, feeling cranky, and having a nosebleed during the puppet show. The day had really sucked. I finally got to go home and mom and dad were having folks over to dinner that evening. Mom was in the throes of getting dinner on the table when I went to the bathroom and discovered I was bleeding from…there. Even though I had learned what a period was and what was going to happen I nearly threw up at the sight of blood coming from that area. I remember screaming for my mom, and she must have thought I was dying because she was there in a split second. When she saw what was going on she smiled and then cried, and like the loving mom she is she showed me exactly what to do.
Strangely, I didn’t have another period for two years.
When I was in eighth grade Mom decided that it was time for me to see a gynecologist for my lack of menses. She made the appointment but told me not to tell anyone about it. The day of the appointment I was nervous. It was an afternoon appointment. I thought I was just nervous but I felt sick…I mean really sick with chills and everything. By the time Mom picked me up from school for my appointment I was in bad shape. She asked me if I was still up for the appointment. I said, “yes” because I didn’t want to have to be nervous anymore. Now, Dr. Hawk was one of two OB-GYNs in town at the time, and when I went in he was at the hospital delivering a baby but was supposed to be back at the office “soon” the nurse said. They went ahead and made me get undressed and lay on that godforsaken table. My back hurt and I was running a 103-degree fever at the time. The nurse had compassion on me and got me a blanket and made me as comfortable as she could. Finally, Dr. Hawk arrived. I don’t know how the man ever got to a delivery on time, because he was always so SLOW! Anyway, he looked me over and said, “Child, you’ve got the flu! Are you up for this?” I said emphatically, “Yes, let’s get it over with!” Mom told him about my lack of menstruation after my first cycle. He said that he had seen a few other girls with this phenomenon. He then proceeded with the pelvic exam. If a pelvic exam is not bad enough try having one while you have a raging case of the flu. Believe me, it adds a whole new dimension to the experience. I proceeded to throw up in the middle of it…I think partly from embarrassment and partly from the flu. Luckily, the nurse had anticipated this likely event and had provided me an emesis basin early on. I know that Dr. Hawk was grateful for that, because if I hadn’t had the basin I would’ve probably puked right on his head!
Anyway, once that ordeal was over he said I had a beautiful normal-looking uterus, and he just thought my hormones just needed a little synchronizing. He suggested that I try a few months of birth control pills to regulate my system.
My mom was mortified at the suggestion, but gentle ole Dr. Hawk assured him that birth control was not just for preventing babies that it did wonders for the hormones in pubescent girls. She allowed it, and got me the pills, but she swore me to secrecy about it. It was a small town, and the big scandal that year was that there was a 14-year-old girl in my class who was pregnant. She didn’t want people to talk, and I understood. Believe me…I didn’t want anyone to know I was on “the pill” either. If they did I would be labeled a slut…Vicki the slut. There was no way in heck anybody was going to know I was on the pill.
Little did I know this was the first of many, many years of embarrasment and struggle over my “womb that didn’t work right.”