While sifting through the Google reader that I keep of all the Smith alum blogs, I stumbled across some incredible words from Smithies around their uteri. In light of all the discussion going on about rights and bodies, I thought it would be meaningful to share these personal stories. In my mind, these are the grown up versions of the stories we told at Smith — those conversations we had around the table in the dining room, long after brunch was over, or sitting five to a twin bed on a random Thursday night. These are those same stories of strength, pain, freedom, and passion, but in the context of adulthood.
From Sun Runner ’97, a story about how her uterus made her life miserable and the operation that set her free (emphasis added):
By November 2006, I had been poked, prodded, procedured, and pill-popped to the extreme, with no relief or explanation. I was having periods that lasted two, three, or four weeks with mere days between bleeding episodes. I was an emotional wreck from the hormone war inside me (I was on estrogen, progesterone, levornogestrel…). My whole life revolved around what was going on in my nether regions. Everything I did—from what I wore each day (the darker the better) to how long it took me to towel off after a shower to the sheets I chose to put on the bed (never the white ones)—depended on the state of affairs downstairs. My uterus had made my life miserable for a year and a half, and in November 2006 it launched its final assault.
Warning: everything from this point forward may be Too Much Information for some to handle. Proceed at your own risk.
From Liza ’91, a story about going on birth control at age 13:
I suffered such severe menorrhagia that I began blacking out every time I stood up, or had to walk up stairs. No exaggeration. I would stand up, and my vision would go fuzzy and dark from the outside in; and, I usually had to clutch the handrail on the stairs, so that I wouldn’t collapse and fall down.
After 3 weeks, I was no longer able to hide what was going on from my mom, who took me to my first gynecological appointment. They gave me a massive dose of some kind of hormone to stop things, and told us that if I could not keep them down for 24 hours, I would have to be hospitalized.
14 hours later, at around 4 am, I threw up with the kind of drama that I can only describe as exorcisian. Mom rushed me to the hospital, where I got a blood transfusion, a lot of drugs, and finally the ability to stand without fainting.
And when I left the hospital, the doctor gave me a prescription for birth control pills. (And iron supplements.) The birth control pills were to make my body both menstruate, and STOP menstruating. On a regular, appropriate schedule.
I was no slut.
Noelle ’05 writes about her miscarriage:
Today is the spring equinox. It is also the anniversary of my miscarriage.For a year, I have found myself talking about miscarriage over and over again. For one thing, like birth and other body dramas, the experience of pregnancy loss seems to benefit from the act of storytelling. For another thing, when you have a four-year-old child, one of the only topics of conversation with other adults seems to be, “Are you guys thinking of having another?”And instead of just saying, “Yes, we’re thinking about it,” like a normal person might, I always launched into the whole saga of how I miscarried in March, and how awful that was, and how long it’s taken to get my health back on track.People were, for the most part, very supportive—if a little taken aback. But the secret that I uncovered in opening up about my experience was that miscarriage is one of those things that no one talks about, but everyone really wants to talk about once someone else brings it up! Almost everyone I spoke to received my story by sharing one of their own—and it wasn’t just friends and relatives who opened up about their losses. One of the first things I learned about a new acquaintance was that she had a miscarriage between her two children. A friend’s mother nodded sadly and said, “I had one. It’s hard.” The nurse who cared for me in the ER had two.
You know how I know so much about what goes on in women’s heads who are choosing abortion? Because I spent an entire summer assisting at a myriad of obstetric and gynecological procedures, about three-quarters of which were D&C’s (Dilation and Curettage). […] Early on Monday mornings, I would show up to the OR and change, shivering, into my scrubs. I would tie my hair back while I looked in the mirror, and I would tell myself that if those women out there could be brave enough to face what they were facing, I could damn well walk out there and help them as best as I could. I held the hands of women as they were prepped for the procedure. I sat with them in the OR waiting bay before they went in, and listened to some of the hardest stories I’ve ever heard. I watched procedure after procedure, until I could predict which instrument the doctor would pick up next.Each procedure took about thirty minutes, start to finish. Thirty minutes, and the groggy woman would be rolled out the door, the doctor and nurses would leave, and it would just be me and the janitor, cleaning up. I was part of the clean-up crew. Of the fetus. After each procedure, the doctor would wordlessly hand me the basin into which he’d just deposited the contents of a woman’s uterus. The first time he did this, he only looked at me seriously and said softly, “Make sure it’s all there.” After each D&C, it was my job, and mine alone, to very carefully examine the contents of the bright orange BIOHAZARD container and look for recognizable parts of the human being that would grow no more. A hand, a miniscule foot, shreds of placenta – all were good indicators that the procedure had been performed correctly. I would check, swallowing hard each time, then seal the container and leave the room.
Filed under: Features | 1 Comment
Tags: '05, '10, '91, '97, abortion, hysterectomy, miscarriage, the pill
Anonymous ’99 writes at My, you have really put on weight! about maternal hair dynamics:
Mom hasn’t told me yet this morning that I’ve put on weight, but she has told me that my hair looks better down. Mom rarely misses an opportunity to tell me that my hair doesn’t look better in a different way, although she did tell me at dinner last night that it looked good. Unlike the weight thing, or maybe just like the weight thing, the hair thing is hilarious because it’s nonsensical. This morning, my hair was pulled back because I was exercising. Yesterday afternoon, when mom told me my hair looked bad, I had been walking for over an hour in the wind.
Lori ’94 writes at My American Meltingpot writes about race and hair and kids and… lice, asking the question: “Do Head Lice Respect the One-Drop Rule?”
The one common elementary school infestation that I dread the most is head lice. Eww! Just writing the words makes me itch. But here’s the thing, my paranoia and fear about finding white creepy crawlies in my kids’ hair is tempered with my fervent hope that their hair is “Black” enough to repel the heinous little buggers.
I mean everybody knows that Black people can’t get lice, right? No really, I wrote a book about Black hair and I did the research. Let me explain. It’s not that Black people CAN’T get lice, it’s just that the North American head louse has adapted to Caucasian hair and can’t really navigate the shape of African-American hair follicles. Can you say I’m happy to be nappy? If you go to Africa, or even Brazil however, those badboys are all over Black hair.
Filed under: Features |
Tags: '94, '99, hair
Two beautiful images of spring (both watercolors, I believe):
From Gellatinous Laser by Charrow ’04:
From Zina Dreams by Rebecca ’02:
Filed under: Features | 1 Comment
Tags: '02, '04, art, spring, watercolor
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts, here are some Smithie bloggers writing about their involvement in this now century-old organization:
Phred ’04 writes about a childhood memory of a creative, girl-scout-inspired project gone awry:
I decided that I should try the project my girl scout day camp counselors discussed: making earrings out of acorns. My sister and Lizzy, our friend,and I gathered in the kitchen. And I got out the grown up scissors. Of course, I slipped and cut my finger badly. Allison had to go down to the basement to get my dad twice before he came up. He didn’t understand my sister when she told him I was “dripping”.
Noelle ’05 remembers how a fellow girl scout confirmed her insecurity about her breasts:
My breasts were stretch-marked and saggy in the fourth grade. I remember changing at Girl Scout camp, a peer’s nasty voice: “Are you wearing a bra?” She said it with such disgust, such disdain. I already felt that my body was wrong, and now I had proof.For two years after that summer, I wore a leotard under my clothes every day. It flattened the plane of my expanding chest and middle, making me look smoother, more acceptable (or so I thought).
E’s Mom and I have a special relationship. […] We started our girl scout troop as co-leaders and have been having fun “winging it” ever since. […]Seven years ago I wondered if we’d be at [E’s daughter’s] Bat Mitzvah. Today I wondered if we’d be at her wedding. They have suitable taste in friends, so I don’t worry, although I’m curious: Who will our girls fall in love with? It takes a special friendship to last a lifetime. I hope my daughter’s friendships will continue to grow, and once again we will watch them dance the day (or night) away, so involved in their own happiness that they don’t notice the boys, or us moms, dancing in small groups on the periphery.
Filed under: Features | 1 Comment
Tags: '04, '05, '92, girl scouts, smithies
Emma ’03 writes at Emmasota:
My soul needs a salad.
I’ve been feeling a little unsettled these days. Two months ago, I shared my intention for the winter season: to let things percolate. I’m usually so eager to dive into the next thing, to set the next goal, but this time, the goal was not to have a goal. Honestly, I’m starting to lose my mind.
Oh, I’ve been doing my homework—drinking lots of herbal tea and such—trying to be patient as I eye the pieces of life’s puzzle from an unsatisfying distance. But the truth is that I’m not much of a percolator, and I’m afraid that all of this sipping and seeping is driving me to a miserable existence marked by an increased consumption of simple carbohydrates.
The last thing I wanted tonight was a salad, and yet I had to have one. One more day without leafy greens, and I might have turned into a bowl of cereal. It was imperative that I build a bed of lettuce and spinach, slice a tomato, and fork my way through the vitamin-laden plate between baby-chasing intervals. “I feel like a goalie,” I said to Josh between bites. “Except there are about fourteen goals.” This is life with a crawler.
Leslee ’80 at 3rd House Journal:
Harriet ’89 at spynotes:
On the plus side, spring seems to have arrived, at least temporarily, so we were able to do some of our wandering outside. The sand hill cranes are flying over by the hundreds, wheeling low enough for us to make out the red markings on their heads. The robins are back at last. And crocuses are up and blooming a full month earlier than last year. […]
Today I am hoping things will be a little quieter on the home front. I am hoping to get caught up with bills and taxes and to spend some time outside where it will be, if the forecast is to be believed, a stunning 70 degrees. And while I’m not overjoyed at losing an hour today, I am looking forward to being able to take a walk after dinner without being hemmed in by darkness.
Terry ’70 reflects on her 1000th blog post and a spring day many, many years ago:
My grand-daughter is two weeks old today, and today I write my 1000th post on this silly blog, begun in the waning days of 2007 with George Bush still in the White House, the country still believing that bubble would never pop and gas still going for under $3 a gallon. […]
I look at this young mother and remember every moment of our own honeymoon-time together in the early months of the waning 1970’s as Winter turned to Spring and she slowly mastered Cobra Pose, pushed at the rug with small starfish hands and raised herself up at last on her little forearms.
I study the picture above and can scarce realize that the capable handles cradling young Callie here are those same hands, seen below, that once grasped my single finger as if life itself depended on it.
Filed under: Features | 2 Comments
Tags: '03, '70, '80, '89, spring
The official letter from President Christ to alums about her retirement (yes, we realize now that resign was probably the wrong word to use) has arrived. In it, Christ reflects on her time at Smith and what has changed in the last ten years.
She started in summer 2002 (read her inaugural address here). She will leave Smith effective June 30, 2013, and the search is already on for her successor.
I love this paragraph after she lists Smith’s accomplishments during her tenure (emphasis added):
All this has been possible because of the extraordinary creativity and vision of our community. I am buoyed every day by the spirit and ambition of our students, the imagination and dedication of our faculty and staff, and the accomplishments of our alumnae. An alumna recently said to me, “Smith is not only a college but a movement.” As Smith’s president, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the history of women in the twentieth and now into the twenty-first century through a unique lens—the aspirations, the achievements, and the lives of our students and alumnae.
Filed under: News |
Many congrats to Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy ’02 for winning an Oscar! Sharmeen won for her documentary “Saving Face” about women in Pakistan whose faces are deliberately burned by acid.
It’s interesting to note that Smith played a role in helping Sharmeen on her path—she was a fellow at the Kahn Institute, which provided funding for her first film, Terror’s Children, a report on Afghani refugee children in Pakistan, in 2002.”
Smithie Ellie ’05 interviewed Sharmeen at the Huffington Post and asked her about her experience at Smith:
As a student in Karachi, Pakistan, what attracted you to Smith College in Northampton, Mass.? (I have to ask because we were on campus at the same time.) And how did your experience as an international student change post-Sept. 11, 2001?
I had always wanted to attend a small, liberal arts, women’s college and I was inspired by the strong-headed and successful alumnae of Smith College. It seemed that the Pioneer Valley was a very progressive and stimulating environment to be in, and hearing about the various traditions at Smith comforted me. Being the first girl in my family to attend college in the U.S., my family and I wanted my school to be the perfect mix between homey and cultivating. Although my experiences as an individual did not change post-Sept. 11, the attention that the Muslim world was getting from the Western media pushed me to become an adequate representative. I felt it was my responsibility to speak out about issues in the East in a way that the West would understand.
Watch the trailer for “Saving Face” below:
And here’s her Oscar award and acceptance speech:
Filed under: Features |
Tags: '04, academy awards, sharmeen obaid-chinoy, smith college