by CZERIZHA KAIZEL S. ADZUARA
THERE WAS a streak of brown in my underwear. I knew what it meant. Yet, I rigorously rubbed the fabric and hoped the sight would disappear down the drain. My 11-year-old wrinkled fingers wrung it in denial.
At that moment, the stain was an anatomical proclamation. It was the commencement of my future monthly agony. Absurd that I was, I felt like my body betrayed me when it knew how much I dreaded this day to come. “Too soon”, I told myself as I held my abdomen. “You can bear now,” it answered with the clot between my legs.
The German word menarche is derived from the Greek words men, the genitive of menos, which signifies month, and the word arkhē which means beginning. Now that I am a woman-grown, I found it fascinating that there is an etymological connection between the words menarche, menstruation, and the moon. Perhaps this knowledge would have eased me when I had my first bleeding.
I started to bleed every moon’s turn. My body listened, and one of the first things that I noticed was the widening of my hips. Thanks to my sexual reproduction lecture in fourth grade, I learned that this is for the preparation to carry the moon.
I was also taught that one will not bleed once she carries the moon in her womb.
However, I witnessed how my mother carried the moon twice.
During the nights of my mother’s pregnancy with my younger sister, I was accustomed to caressing her belly. I was six. Sometimes I felt my sister’s feeble kick and saw a sudden movement in my mother’s skin, it somewhat looked like a shift of the tides.
There was a time when I got my toys in bed. I had a set of two: a princess tiara and a mini figure of a red Ferrari. I placed the tiara upon my mother’s belly, an attempt to crown my sibling who was underneath my mother’s skin. My parents wanted a boy, so they joked that I should drive the car on her belly instead. I gently followed. In her following pregnancy, they also expected my youngest sibling to be a boy. A son to carry the family name (instead of the moon), but the attempt did not succeed.
Every labor of my mother used to be a cusp in our household. As the adults were in the hospital accommodating her, I waited in our home in silence. There was always an eerie quiet in waiting, the house was saving up for the lingering noise every time my new siblings arrived.
My mother always left the house with the moon in her belly, and she always returned with stitches and a life.
The succeeding nights were not as serene as the times I used to caress my sibling through my mother’s flesh. The nights were full of wailing and sometimes rage. The smell of milk and diapers became a common characteristic in our room. Cans of Similac infant formula piled up in the kitchen—imagine the lack of cash it took to have them. I wonder about the caliber of mental and physical strength it took to navigate all of them—a venture that mothers perform daily.
There were also times I had to understand that my mother could not entirely accommodate me when I am in need, especially when she had to take care of my two sisters alone.
“Agbalin kan to met nga ina.” You will also become a mother, she explained. At first, I took it as an explanation. It was another way of saying, “Someday, you will understand, my daughter.”
It gradually became a warning for me. The shades of brown I had to rinse off were a notice of my capability to bear life and the moon. It was valid for me to be horrified when I was younger regardless of how absurd my reaction was. As it was also instilled in my innocence that being a mother is the peak of one’s womanhood.
Nonetheless, I refuse to merely quantify my worth as a woman on what I can bring forth to this world using my body.
As much as I wanted to glorify the strength and beauty it takes in motherhood, it is not a labor contract that I am willing to sign. For now, I’d rather bleed. F