I distinctly remember the day in fifth-grade when I walked out of my class for the first time with fear holding my hand. It was the day of the “talk.” The pronouncement that soon I would be parading out of my girlhood and blood would start to leak out of a place that didn’t seem right. But I didn’t have to worry, a heavy pad or tampon would help to conceal the external flow, the proof that my insides were shedding layers.
I didn’t want any of it, the pads, the boys, the boobs, or the body.
Now 18 years later after getting my first period and losing what felt like my childlike innocence, I still feel unfamiliar with myself as a woman. Most days, if I’m honest, I long to be a kid again. The purity and simplicity, the playfulness and the carelessness. Adulthood is inescapably broken. Bloody and messy. Awkward just like the teenage years felt.
There is still so much shedding going on inside. It can’t help but come out in the open either. The same fear I felt in the fifth grade tells me to resist it.
Deny the stress and overwhelm.
Keep the anger secret.
Don’t show the tears or the confusing emotions.
Put away the past, leave the scars alone.
I guess you could say I have problems with maturing, growing, becoming.
But I suspect I’m not alone.
We are embarrassed by the blood that sometimes stains our clothes, coming out in way we were not prepared for. And rightly so. Every woman I know has a story of the day her period came when she was in the pool or in the white pants. As a result, we still sense shame trying to steal our confidence, the truth that we are becoming a woman…and it’s not always pretty.
My fifth-grade self likes to remind me that she is still unsure about this whole business of change and growth. She never considers the process of becoming to be beautiful. She only dwells on the loss. It’s easier for her to stay in denial, to go silent, be shy, protect, cover, or run away.
There was a time after high school when I thought I had finally succeeded against my fear of growth. With excessive exercise and extreme self-control, I managed to stop the change inside me from continuing.
I lost my period for a long while, but it was more than that.
Now, I was in control. No more imperfection. No more of my messy insides seeping out into the world. No more trying to find my place to belong. I felt invisible.
At 75 pounds, I was finally tiny again. I assumed I had recovered my innocence. If I couldn’t re-gain my child-likeness in age, I would do it in size, by shedding pounds. My soul was slowly dying too, stripped of my ability to bring forth life into the world in more ways than one.
I needed the cramping, the heaviness, the river of red to create vibrant health and wholeness.
I have always wished there was another way to maturity, but since then I have discovered there is not.
We desperately want to walk innocently through our days, free to run and play and dream without the perpetual relational blow-outs, bad news, diseases, or wars that plague much of this life.
I mourn the loss of those days. My fifth-grade self taps me on the shoulder and wants me to stop all this growing business and escape the heartache that goes with it. Her solution to the grief is always is to get smaller in body and soul. Don’t let people see who you really are, slink back in fear.
If we are to give God permission to change and grow us, we must welcome the vigorous waves of contractions as signs of Spirit-filled life springing up from within.
Although, it doesn’t feel like it, everyday we are becoming His child again.
Sometimes I look at my tiny four-year old girl and I’m envious of her delight, purity, and freedom. And then I catch myself.
At 35 years old I’m beginning to see the endless opportunities He’s giving me to step into my identity as His daughter.
Instead of diminishing myself, disappearing into the background, or the baggy clothes, maybe it’s time to let the blood of new life flow and be shed without shame. Beauty and pain are intrinsic parts of the birthing process. They hold my hands and walk with me through every kind of change, reminding me of who I am becoming and who I will always be…His child.
And there’s no way I could ever again go back to stifling this life He is unleashing!