I Hope the Words on This Site Will Become the Maternal Voice I've Been Searching for These Past 20 Years

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 08:26
Submitted by Betty Dodson

Dear Betty and Carlin,

This September 27th will mark the twentieth year since my mom died. She was 44; I was 13. I’ve just recently come across your Web site. All I’ve been able to think for the past few weeks was that I wish this site had been around when my mom was younger.

My mom was the last of the silent generations, the women that didn’t talk about their bodies and their periods. In the 1960s, she had received “the talk” from her Army Captain father in the most vague of terms. Her mother refused to engage her on the subject. She had no sisters to talk to and, to my knowledge, periods were never discussed amongst her friends. In her words, my mother was "naive, confused and unprepared” about menstruation and about sex in general. I think that was the reason why she read, with zeal and a highlighter, the book “The Silent Passage” when it came out in the early 90s—she didn’t want to be ignorant about the future of her own body.

Between health class and the little bits that my parents told me, I was somewhat prepared for my period and also somewhat not. When my mother talked to me about my period she would describe it in flowery terms and few specifics: a “gift from God” or "internal warning system.” My “monthly friend” was more uncomfortable than my mother’s right off the bat, but she thought that I was exaggerating the discomfort (as I liked to call them, “the stabbies”). Her advice? Pamprin and hot tea.

She would send me to school on days when I couldn’t eat or drink because of the nausea, when I was alternately sweating and shivering every 2 minutes, when I could barely stand up because I was so dehydrated and the cramps were so bad. She would give what she thought were enough “supplies” to get me through the day, but because my flow was so heavy, it would barely last the morning. I would bleed through my clothing and run to the nurse crying and embarrassed. She would refuse to pick me up from school or bring me alternate clothing.

After my mom passed away, I found more sympathy from my father (who would offer to get me “supplies" every other week) and my brother (who would hold my hair back as I was throwing up). Even still, my father never took me to a doctor because, perhaps believing that what I was experiencing was within the spectrum of “normal." It wasn’t until my college roommates suggested that my periods weren’t “normal" that I sought medical care (I believe my words to the doctor were “cure me or kill me”). At 18 of age I had my first gynecological visit (with 3-4 interns staring up my lady bits), my first diagnosis—dysmenorrhea. A few years and a few hospital visits later, I had more specific names for the discomfort: hemorrhagic ovarian cysts and endometriosis.

Flash forward to this past Friday, a little more than 20 years after my first period, I found myself home from work and in bed with very bad menstrual cramps, thinking about my mother’s dismissal of my pain. I had woken up at 4 am the night before with the stabbies and an overwhelming need to vomit every last bit that was in my stomach. I crawled back into bed and searched the internet for solace and validation. I found that—and more—on your site.

Finding your site was bittersweet: In it, I found not only the advice and anecdotes that I needed to hear at the present moment, but also read things that I think my mom needed to know and hear not just to be a better mother but to be validated as a woman herself. The shame my mother felt about her body was given to her by her own mother, and in turn, my mother passed it on to me. I believe your site would have helped my mother become more empowered to know and love her own body and, in turn, invite me to claim my body, my feelings, and my experiences as my own.

Even at 33, I am still searching for the definitions of my own womanhood, especially as it relates to being a motherless daughter (i.e, somewhat floundering and unguided by maternal experience and wisdom). I was robbed of my mother’s guidance on many topics. I never got to know her woman-to-woman, adult-to-adult. I never got to experience the camaraderie that blooms after puberty. I will feel this pang for as long as I live.

It is my hope that the words on your site become the maternal voice that I’ve been searching for these past 20 years, and in that process, I hope to find my own voice.


PS: I don’t want you to think my mother was without any good advice, so I will leave you with a quote from my mother’s last letter to me (written only a few months before she passed away):

"Keep in mind: Women are NOT the 'weaker sex'....as in unable to cope with life. If you take apart the word FEMALE into two parts, you get ‘FE-' (the abbreviation for IRON) and ‘MALE.' Hmmm...Interesting concept: It seems to me, that composition would make us pretty darn strong...not necessarily physically stronger than a male...but, able to deal with most of the things that come our way in life. Perhaps, it is a very special inner strength we possess."

Dear R,

What a heart felt email. D&R would be honored to represent a maternal voice for you. I'm perfectly delighted to be your Grandmother. Native Americans honored Grandmother Wisdom while we too often throw our elders onto the scrap heap of social embarrassment.

You are a beautiful woman, inside and out. I can identify with your period pain and embarrassment. I too had to go to bed with a heating pad while my Mom made me a whiskey sour. The alcohol did help the pain. Later on I leaned how to masturbate to orgasm, the best solution of all. Turned out I too was diagnosed with endometriosis. At the time I was unhappily married so when the doctor recommended I go on the pill to mimic a pregnancy or have a baby, I decided to get a divorce instead. Once I began having orgasmic sex consistently with my post marital lover my period problem was solved. Regular orgasms alone and with a partner are major healers we rarely talk about.

Welcome to D&R.

Dr. Betty aka; Your BAD granny.

Liberating women one orgasm at a time

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Bad Granny

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 12:05
Tippy123 (not verified)

Dear Betty,
You are truly the best Bad Granny ever!
I love your advice. I pass your site on to everyone. The responses you give to teens and 20s are just as useful to people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond due to institutionally accepted ignorance about educating humans about their healthy sexuality.
My 16 yr old daughter took me to see "Spring Awakening" staged by the Director of a youth theater. The performers were highschool and college students and it was incredible and moving. I heard that some kids parents wouldn't allow them to audition and the Director told them that this is an important story for all parents and teens because it's a story of the destruction of lives that is the product of this sexual ignorance.
sending love,

The Community of Women

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 13:07
Robby (not verified)

Thank you for so lovingly welcoming me into this community.  I know that in this safe space that I'm in good company -- women who have experienced the same bad periods, men who are compassionate and understanding, mothers looking to connect with daughters, daughters looking for answers their mothers couldn't give.  

I just thought I'd add this to the email.... taken 2 months before she passed away.

To my surprise, the Gynefix IUD cured my dysmennorea

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 14:01
An Na (not verified)

Dear R
Thank you for writing such an honest post. I could relate to many aspects of it, but would like to make just one comment:
After years of excrutiating period pain and heavy bleeding, I accidentally discovered that having the Gynefix IUD makes a huge difference. Why, I don't know - if anything, common sense would suggest that having a wire pierced into the uterine muscle would make it cramp and bleed more. That wasn't of course why I had the IUD inserted, but it was a very welcome side effect. Some months I have amost no pain. It is an unusual IUD - no hormones, just a wire with copper beads on it.
WIsh you luck

Grandmother to a generation

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 17:49
Courtney (not verified)

I can relate, and feel the same way. Although my mother is still alive, I never got any sort of information about my body or sexuality. I grew up in the pseudo-perfect family. We all played our roles that we were a perfect family,though it was a broken home. My mother wasn't available and my father was a functioning alcoholic. I spent much of my youth being abused, and working as hard as I could to be good enough. Then started working as early as I could to help my family. It wasn't till I started my period at 16, and thought seriously wrong. That I discovered about puberty. Then I secretly would scour the internet to teach myself. Now 23, and a new member of the D&R family, I feel like I found the voice and guidance I need to be the strong woman that I wanted. Especially Carlin's posts about accepting your body and owning being beautiful. Here's to being apart of a community that is empowering.

Robby . . .

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 19:36

Robby, my first reaction to seeing your mother's photo was what a caring person she must have been---a loving mother with a kind heart. Thank you for sharing your moving story. You've discovered what many of us have done: that Dr Betty, Carlin, and the D&R members are much more than just a source of suggestions about sexual techniques and problems. This really is a community, and I know that you will find much caring and support here.

How did you feel when this happened to you as a teenager ?

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 19:37
anonirama (not verified)

thank you so much for this post as always D&R a step ahead. I was just writing to an alternative Dr. to ask about my problem with the exact same symptoms you describe. A friend told me it could be endometriosis. My period pain would be the first day it would leave me lying in bed vomiting and with diarrhea. My mom always said that it looked like I was giving birth and that is how I felt, something inside of me wanted come out, be born, be free, in the light.

 At the beginning the women in my family would give me pills but I even vomited them. The other option was ER where they give you an injection. But I couldn't bear the thought of having to go to hospital and also have always had fear of medicines. But the other day someone told me something that made me think: ''pain weakens'' and even if pills are chemicals not having pain makes you heal faster and give you strength to focus on other things. I though it made sense. And wondered if my pain had weakened me.

 When I was finally empty I would pass out and the next day I would be lying in bed recuperating. So I missed school quite a lot.

 My periods started when I was 13 as well as depression and I now see a relation between the 2. In a few books that link illnesses to emotions I read that it can be fear of growing up, or something in our unconscious that makes us feel bad for not bearing a child....These of course are theories.

 I sometimes can't understand how did I go on willing to go through that pain every month, I always thought I was going to die and felt ready for it.

Even if it was terrible, I know it may sound crazy but pain made me present. I was feeling my body, something that I was refusing or wasn't able to do or felt guilty about. Feeling pleasure. So I dread my periods but at the same time I wanted them because I could be with myself in a grounded way.

 I talk in past tense because they have changed since 6 months ago and my sadness. And I met D&R about 10 months ago. The experience has been so profound it seems longer. Maybe because It has open a new kind of life. Change happens.

All I know is that I masturbate more often even if I rely on tension orgasms quite a lot lately since it helped me have orgasms through mild depression since a year ago and I don't own a vibrator (yet) I still breath and do edging. I'm trying  practicing combination orgasm because I think tension orgasm may be the cause of my sciatica and I know the combo and It feels more harmonious and I feel much more satisfied and vibrant. 

In my case the frequency of genital orgasms has been life changing, but I'm still trying to adjust to this new person But most of all I do it without guilt or shame. Even my skin has changed I always use to suffer from skin ailments, which made me feel insecure about being touched and last Friday I was able to share my body with someone and I told him my preferences and masturbated in front (next to) of him, when he said he wanted to penetrate me, I said I wasn't ready yet that I hadn't had an orgasm and that I was a bit nervous. I said that it would take a while, he asked me if I was in a hurry and I said no and he said well then? he saw that I began to touch myself so he left me to it.

He fell asleep I started doing the rock'n roll for about an half hour and then I decided to do tension I orgasmed, he woke up from my sounds and he asked me if he could penetrate me and I said yes, I really wanted it even if he went so deep, so quick he hit my cervix. But I told him it was a bit painful and he stopped. He didn't ejaculate. We both fell asleep. I know it may seem like the average experience but for me doing this, is like....climbing the Himalaya. It is breaking my walls, cells, bodies, ''truths'', lies, culture barriers, learnt behaviours, generational stigmas....

I wish you the best in your new journey and so happy you have found D&R, I can see you can already feel the effects.

An Na:  I'm not so sure about

Robby L.'s picture
Tue, 09/02/2014 - 22:26
Robby L.

An Na:  I'm not so sure about me and IUDs.  Every hormonal birth
control that I've tried has made me sick.  One landed me in the hospital
(a month of migraines!). I also have weird reactions to metal.  I have a
cobalt/molybdenum implant in my neck that caused me to break out in
blisters all over my face and legs.  But I've discussed it with my
gynecologist.  We haven't ruled it out.

Patrick: As with every
person, they have many sides.  My mom had moments of caring and also
moments of great cruelty.  For instance, she was jealous that my breasts
were bigger than hers.  I wasn't allowed to get cute bras, instead she
forced me to wear compression sports bras.  There are many other
examples, but I don't like to dwell on them. I'd rather have faith that
as our relationship matured so would she.

We are complex, aren't we?

Wed, 09/03/2014 - 01:36

Yes, I get that, Robby. My memories of my own parents are also ambivalent. As you say, we all have many sides. I have fond memories of my parents, but both my dad and my mom had severe limitations in their ability to be loving and sensitive to our needs. My mom often ignored us as if we didn't exist; my dad was insecure and emotionally very cruel. Now that I'm older, however, I can see that they did the best they could with what they had, and this has made it easier for me to be both forgiving of their failings and grateful for the good things that they were able to give. If you go back into the D&R archives, Carlin and Dr Betty have both written very honestly about their own painful struggles. With your mom, the passage of time might have made all the difference in your relationship.

How sad. And how great reply

Wed, 09/03/2014 - 04:27
little jo (not verified)

How sad. And how great reply from Betty! So glad you've connected 8-)

I had the same kind of disempowerment taught by my mom, hence my clidoridectomy or better said mental excision. And for what the periods concerns, my fear and disgust of it all made me reject it so well I've never had regular menses, sometimes none for years. I'm very lucky I still have my mom, but we never could have another communication than on the parent to child pattern, and she doesn't want to hear about how discovering my sexuality changed me. She is now struggling with 2 cancers that spread out of a genuine ovarian one she got because she never wanted to be checked 'down there'. I had myself to teach her where her pee hole is i.e...


Wed, 09/10/2014 - 07:45
little jo (not verified)

I'm really happy for you. Orgasms helped me through depression as well. I think women can be depressed because of that 'missing bit' of ourselves when we're not sexually awaken -yet. Check ou Sheila Kelley's TEDex talk about it called 'Let's get naked'.