The Talk, Part 6 of 10,000–In Which I Bring the Pain

Dear Lily June,

“‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said, ‘to talk of many things.'” I don’t know who Lewis Carroll’s walrus is, my darling dear, but the elephant in the room when it comes to periods is pain. As a woman on a mission to raise you to have both an optimistic and a realistic attitude, I have to strike the balance–when you come to me to tell me you’ve started your period (and oh, dear Lily, please come to me, I beg you!)–between buying you red balloons (though not 99 of them) and having them attached to a card that reads, “My condolences.”

Because periods–while they are an incredibly important, moving part of the human experience that mean you are capable of creating life–also suck. They just suck, Lily. And I’m so very sorry.


What Are Cramps, Anyway?

In addition to periods making you feel roughly like the featured image in this letter (you know, like tearing every strand of hair from your scalp might distract you from the mental anguish), they also trigger a chain reaction of horrible physical responses, like a Rube Goldberg machine from Hell. All the “science” described below is from Wikipedia, but I’m fairly certain it’s accurate:

During a woman’s menstrual cycle, the endometrium [or mucuous membrane inside the uterus] thickens in preparation for potential pregnancy. After ovulation, if the ovum [egg] is not fertilized and there is no pregnancy, the built-up uterine tissue is not needed and thus shed.

Molecular compounds called prostaglandins are released during menstruation, due to the destruction of the endometrial cells, and the resultant release of their contents. Release of prostaglandins and other inflammatory mediators in the uterus cause the uterus to contract. […] When the uterine muscles contract, they constrict the blood supply to the tissue of the endometrium, which, in turn, breaks down and dies. These uterine contractions continue as they squeeze the old, dead endometrial tissue through the cervix and out of the body through the vagina. These contractions, and the resulting temporary oxygen deprivation to nearby tissues, are responsible for the pain or “cramps” experienced during menstruation.

But all that medical mumbo jumbo, while accurate, doesn’t describe to you a feeling so heinous and mind-numblingly achesome that you’d be willing to grant yourself a hysterectomy with plastic cutlery just to make it stop.

Here’s hoping it doesn’t start singing, “Be our guest! Be our guest! Put our service to the test!”


So What Do You Do?

I took the liberty of doing some pretty hefty research (i.e.  Googled like my fingers were on fire), and I’ve found the following 20 remedies. I’ll give you my take on each, but really, Lily, whatever offers you relief without wanting to stab your fellow man (who doesn’t get period pain) through the, well, manhood, is fine by me. Anything to make you feel less like you have fish hooks in your belly.

We do NOT swallow fish hooks in this house, Lily.

I only went through a single page of hits, so when appropriate, I’ll tell you how many sources seconded the remedies. Do be wary, though, of internet “remedies” to any ache or illness. The only functional use of herbal tea I’ve found is scalding the hippie “WebMDs” who keep trying to force it down my throat. Like a kettle itself, all “herbal tea” suggestions do for me is make me want to steep and boil over with rage. They have never helped me.

1) Apply Heat–An Idea So Great, It Was Backed by Eight

You’ll already feel like you’re in Hell. So why not fight fire with fire? Nothing has ever helped your mother like her beloved heating pad. If anyone tried to take it from me, I’d have to strangle them to death with the electrical cord. That includes you, Lily. Get your own, my beloved daughter.

When I find the woman who invented this, I will hug her forever.

2) Exercise More–Suggested by Seven Sources

This is more a preventative measure, as women who are more active report having less cramps come Aunt Flo’s monthly visit. Of course, they likely report more pulled muscles and twisted ankles from all that activity earlier in the month, so your big momma’s a no-go with this one. But do as I say, not as I do, okay? Fitness really is good for you, so sayeth Michelle Obama (and some other sources, too, I’m sure).

I’m into fitness. Fitness whole pizza in my mouth.

3) Drink Hot Herbal Tea–Backed by Five Sources

Recommended as a cure for all eterniTea.

As I mentioned above, I’m skeptical. Some sources said chamomile was an anti-inflammatory; others said it actually stimulates uterine contractions. The same with red raspberry leaf tea. If nothing else, I find heating up a cup and setting it on my aching abdomen is a nice way to apply heat, at least on a cold winter’s period.

4) Swallow NSAIDs–Backed by Five out of Five Doctors

NSAID pain relievers, like Advil, Ibuprofen, or Aleve, all work to reduce inflammation. You can use that nice hot cup of tea to wash these tried and true methods down with.

When in doubt, choose drugs. As long as they’re OTC. And appropriate. Just check with me, okay Lily?

5) Try Acupuncture–Recommended by Five Crazies

Um, no. Not for me. Not my culture. I just wasn’t raised to stick sharp objects into my face or other parts of the body intentionally. If you want to try it, be my guest. Take pictures, because this I gotta see.

My cultural ignorance causes me to picture this whenever I read “acupuncture.”

6) Cut Back on Caffeine–Verified Four or More Times

My slogan for the morning may as well be
My slogan for the morning may as well be “Instant Human: Just Add Coffee.”

See that delectable ambrosia above, Lily? What your Mom treats like the crack-cocaine equivalent of the nectar of the Gods? Yeah, my cramps might improve, but my mood is sure to take a nosedive down to PMS “I’mma cut-ya” town if I don’t get my cuppa Joe. So, no, I don’t recommend this unless, unlike your mother, you’re not a jones-ing caffeine fiend. At least, as seen below, you can still have creamer?

7) Enjoy Massage–Four Sources Were Sure

Um, nice work if you can get it. And if you get it…won’t you tell me how?

Just looking at this picture relaxes me. And that’s good, because just looking is all that’s in my price range.

8) Imbibe Calcium–Three is a Magic Number (of Sources)

I know milk does a body good. But it’s weird to me that this was recommended as I’d always heard that lactose can actually worsen inflammation. Viva the milk, though, Lily, since it’s all you drink right now, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard you complaining of PMS. Yet.

Got menstrual relief?
Got menstrual relief?

9) Eat-a Papaya–Backed by At Least Two Sources

Weird. This is kind of what I pictured the inside of a uterus looking like.
Weird. This is kind of what I pictured the inside of a uterus looking like. Y I No Know Biology?

I have absolutely no response to this, as I’ve never tried it. If you want your period to make you feel like you’re alone on a tropic island, more power to you. I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten a papaya, period, so I don’t know what it’s like to eat a period papaya. Let me know if you give it a man-go. (So many puns to make. So little time, Lily.)

10) Practice Yoga–Two Sources Confirmed This

Again, I’m not much for the bending and the twisting and the coordination and the breathing and the relaxation. When I want to relax, I take a nap. But I get the overall impression–from the entire world–that yoga’s a pretty good thing. You do it. And teach me how, okay?

Namaste in bed today.

11) Cut Back on Alcohol and Tobacco–Verified At Least Twice

Though no source specifically mentioned guns, I’m going to say that any item that could get you in trouble with the ATF for using it underage is likely a no go.

Substitute whining for wine. It’s calorie free and, if you’re doing it right, doesn’t stain your teeth or your carpets.

12) Use More Ginger (also Cinnamon & Molasses)–Two Sources Said So

Not sure why these would help. But in all fairness, I’ve never tried them.

Not this one. Any one but this one.

Or you could just get a few cats to keep you company through this rough time. Because Cinnamon, Molasses and Ginger all sound like kick@$$ kitten names to me.

13) Give Aromatherapy a Chance–The Remedy So Nice, I Saw It Twice

I recommend just lighting candles. But if you want a two-fer with exercise (#2), you could always go frolicking through a field of lavender.

When Tampax shows women running through this field in bikinis in their next ad, I want a kickback.

14) Ingest Basil and/or Parsley and/or Flaxseed–One Hit Wonders

I’ll take any excuse to eat more pasta. But red sauce during a period seems uncouth.

Like Jack’s “magic” beanstalk beans, lots of herbs are touted as miracle cures because of the palliative prowess of [insert random but science-y-sounding ingredient here]. I’ll believe when I experience it, since you almost can’t throw a stone without hitting a curative plant. And if that many commonly used herbs and spices healed people, just eating a lot of foods would save a lot of people a lot of pain a LOT of the time. I’ve eaten food my whole life and I still get pain. Go figure.

15) Drink More Water–Seen in a Single Source

Nothing like a cool, refreshing glass of what makes up 55-75% of your body already.

Despite its only being mentioned once, this is just a good idea anyway. Retaining water is a bad deal (I know this from my pregnancy with you, when my feet rose more than two heavily yeasted loaves of bread at the end of my legs), and, irony of ironies, drinking water prevents you from retaining it. Also, being dehydrated never helped nobody with nothin’.

16) Take Vitamin D–Only Spotted Once

Again, I heard over and over during and after my pregnancy about how most Americans have a Vitamin D deficiency. And as much as the idea of going out into the sun–especially in some kind of bikini–makes me feel like the picture below, you can always pick up Vitamin D in supplement form. If nothing else, it’s supposed to regulate mood, so maybe it’ll keep you from wanting to burn down humanity one “frolicking on the beach” period commercial advertiser at a time.

This isn’t a whale. It’s your mother with wicked bloating from PMS.

17) Orgasm–Only One Source Said So. And What Does That Guy Know?

Yeah, I doubt it very much. But you can see if faking an orgasm does it for you. You can find a How-To guide in When Harry Met Sally.

18) Down Chocolate–Now Backed by No Science

Lily, I couldn’t find a single source, other than Dr. Wonka, backing the importance of chocolate at a time like this. Listen to me. I don’t care about the truth. I only know that this is my sweetness, and I’m sticking to it.

It’s a delectable crime to leave chocolate off the list.

19) Devour Red Meat–Recommended Only By Me

My logic is, you lose iron during menses, so what comes out must go back in. That could just be my excuse to grill up steaks, though.

Stakes kill vampires who drink blood. So steaks should cure women who lose blood.

20) Accept the Hugs of Your Mother

Periods really do suck. And I really do love you. Come to momma, baby. I don’t care how old you are. Let’s bitch about being women together, and eat ice cream. Daddy can go out and get it while we’re hugging.


Someday, dear, you’ll come to me looking like the picture below. And on that day, darling, I’ll be proud to commiserate.

As they say, misery loves company.


Picture Credits:

8 thoughts on “The Talk, Part 6 of 10,000–In Which I Bring the Pain

  1. Barbara CT says:

    Ha! The only real relief I ever got during my cycles was from a heating pad and Midol. Anyone who gets relief from the other things just don’t have very bad cramps.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. originaltitle says:

    Yoga, exercise and massages from the hubby have always helped me. Of course, my conception of exercise has changed from running solo to lifting and carrying my daughter all day and chasing her around the apartment! Who has time for tea or yoga anymore? Haha. Great post. I’ll have to try some of the top ten I haven’t yet.

    Liked by 1 person

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