Stella growing/Luna reflecting
What was important?
Moving house, the fear of change, being sick on the carpet just as everything was all cleaned up ready for the new people.
Cleaning away the stain, the blemish; back to the perfection of shiny clean lino. We always spent the first and last days of all our holidays with Natalie cleaning every surface, washing the kitchen floor so the new people would have a nice clean place and never think badly of us.
The new house: A sand pit peopled with shadowy ghosts, friends long forgotten, only the memory of a possessive friendship remains and my Mum’s voice wafting through the open kitchen window… “She’s in the sand pit talking to herself again – pouring sand all over her hair – should I worry?” – the slam of the front door as my father went off to the docks was the only reply. Then the tap running and her song “stupid cupid you’re a real mean guy!”
A holiday in
When we grow up we will be a fashion designer or a missionary - travel... see these strange and sunny places... do something important, not sitting in pews, having coffee and biscuits afterwards.
The terror of the school playground; having to find someone to play with, belong to a crowd. Having to run and push and catch instead of daydream. Other fears - times tables, spelling tests, standing on the stage in school assembly having forgotten a-hand-towel-with-my-name-on-it.
Falling in love with blond boy in short grey trousers with a gentle smile, finding out that a prettier girl loved him too and deciding to transfer affection to a less competitive target. So the love grows larger in dreams, develops a momentum of its own, and then later disappears.
I liked the caretaker, a grey, round man who walked slowly and cleared away the sick with sawdust into a bucket off the parquet floor in assembly. I used to make him little presents at the weekend, (although I don’t remember what), because I felt sorry for him and because he was kind, and adults were less scary than children.
At some point a discovery of an ability to learn and talk about things - at Brownies a discovery that you don’t have to be able to run fastest to be able to lead, to organise.
Staying with Nana... Hearing the snores of Granddad which seemed to confirm his position of respect - being able to snore loud enough to shake the house. On Monday with washing machine moved into the middle of the floor clothes were washed in one tub, then taken out one by one and rinsed with a hose pipe before being spun in the other. Roast beef on Sunday and lucky bag, and games in the garden, skipping games with rhymes with Nana and my sisters. Hearing Mum and Auntie Pat gossiping and reminiscing... “When the rationing was over I was going to buy as many sweets as I could eat but I never did.” “When I grow up I’m going to have a carton of cream all to myself”, but I never did that either.
Winter evenings, hushed quiet at 6 o’clock for the shipping forecast, “Dogger, White, Finnistere” like a sacred chant.
We could see the fish, grey and long but never caught anything. I was glad.
Pocket money to spend at the shop on fishing nets, colouring books and sweets… Walking home on the stony path hurting your bare feet. Half way through the holiday, always on the day it rained, a parcel came from Nana with puzzle books and cake. Then there was always a thunderstorm one night. Luna and me and my sister and the two dogs all got into Mum and Dad’s bed. Dad kept falling asleep and letting the torch drop.
Then a Lawrence Lady Chatterley style holiday romance - ? I wished? with the gamekeeper in a Northumberland village where Stella took a B&B holiday job, lock ups in after hours pubs with Newcastle Brown - “aye there’s a thing neuw”, the bobby pushing his bike in for the duration… walking home along the moonlit railway line of the
Yes, I remember she worked for me one summer. To start with she carried the hot plates in her apron and left smears on the baths, dust under the wardrobe… but I soon got her sorted and we became friends, she, me and our 75 years old ‘girl’ who needed a bit of
help with the windows and stuff. So I hired her. She went out with my son for a bit but she wasn’t his type. She was arty though, like him. Never knew what she was doing in her room on rainy days off - talking to herself - but she made me some lovely red and
orange tea cosies and gave us them on her last day. If I’d known I would have had her knitting some place mats.
I sent her to
some great dogs though. She liked Bramble too - took him walking to Bamburgh and fed him eggs from the hen house if she thought I wasn’t looking. Anyhow, she went up to
She wore these tight orange trousers to the barn dance. I sent her up to change. You could see all her shape through them. It wasn’t right for round here. She made friends with those hippies at my cottage. They taught her to spin and windsurf. You learn quick here. She said “you don’t want to fall into the sea by the
“I hadn’t meant to have unprotected sex. I hadn’t meant to have sex at all.” I sat with my friend Sasha in the Student Union.
“How was it?”
Blackcurrant flavour. I’m not keen on the topping - too slimy”.
“You know what I mean.”
“Well, you know I’ve fancied him for ages. But he doesn’t say much. He never asked me if I wanted to and so I never got a chance to ask him if he had any condoms. Definitely the strong silent type. Then he saw me off on the next number 30 bus! A true romantic.”
“Are you seeing him again?”
“I don’t know… How do you know if you are in a relationship with someone on the basis of one slice of cheesecake and a silent fuck?”
“He must fancy you or he wouldn’t have made the cheesecake.”
“He is on a catering course. Maybe it was coursework “…the seductive effects of Sara Lee. Discuss.”
“Well, I’m going to have to sort some contraception in case it happens again.”
“How about ‘No’ or ‘not without you taking responsibility for protection’?”
“You know I’m lousy at saying no.”
“Yes, you promised to go to the cinema with that creep in the library and ever since you have stood him up I’ve had to get your books out for you!”
“And now he thinks I’m the sophisticated type who doesn’t mind a casual fuck - he probably thinks I’m on the pill.”
“If he stopped to think about it.”
“So I’d better be. I’ll go to the University Health Services tomorrow”.
“Well, here’s to afternoons of cheesecake and casual sex then. Mmm sounds really kinky.”
So it was that Tuesday 3rd March 1980 found me, nervous and embarrassed in the Doctor’s Waiting Room. Decisions I would make over the next 15 years depended on the doctor on duty that afternoon. Let’s say it was Dr John Foster who called Stella Body into the surgery that day…”I’d like to go on the pill, the contraceptive pill, please.”
“Hmm. How old are you?” Was this some kind of moral judgement? I had a big issue with authority figures. I blushed, felt hot, sweaty and claustrophobic in my polo neck.
“Yes, will you risk getting pregnant if you don’t go on the pill?” He asked, giving me a ‘haven’t-you-heard-of-safe-sex’ look.
“Yes!” I said feeling close to tears…
End of questions… inside two minutes I had my blood pressure taken and was leaving the Health Centre with a prescription. I would keep renewing for the next 15 years of regular periods, PMT and satisfyingly larger breasts.
I do a clinic twice a week at the new medical centre at the Poly; purpose built, faceless facilities where I see a succession of ENT cases – students overtired from hedonism, not hard work, snotty freshers with immune systems in shock at the exchange of so many germs, lack of nutrition and central heating. Of course there are the resultant birth control prescriptions, the STDs, for those suffering a temporary loss of ego boundaries from intoxication or an adolescent longing to subsume themselves in something, anything/anyone who would give them a sense of belonging to something bigger than their lonely little selves.
Like this girl – skinny, polite, embarrassed, scarcely taking up any space in a universe which I
anticipate she will try to please in any number of feminine roles – dutiful daughter, ardent lover – modern enough to be sexually available but conventional enough to care for a series of scared-to-commit-spongers at this second class educational establishment. She can look forward to caring for children – caring so much that she will go on to put their needs before her own – her own long forgotten through this disease of her sex of valuing herself through her value to others. The oestrogen of the pill will help with that – facilitate sexual availability without the embarrassment of condoms, fill out those skinny breasts and hips – ripen her for child bearing by conning her body into stopping ovulating by giving it a daily dose of nature’s pregnancy preparation via a pill in an innocuous pale pink foil pack. The pill will keep her from unwanted pregnancy by creating a chemical con where her body and mind will bliss out in a pregnant bloom of happy femininity, nest-making a cosy happy cocoon – better than valium and a mind-altering drug she needn’t wean herself off for ever – it being much the best thing to delay the menopause and keep her body soft and pliable forever; happy to please her provider. All that from a three minute consultation; blood pressure check and prescription pad scribble; then a life of repeat prescriptions – unless she decides to go cold turkey and do pregnancy for real. Then she may find out her mate doesn’t want to play salary man and happy families, be the monogamous mate bringing home the bacon in the tedium of this shitty little town. I’ll bury my mortification in my medical repertory until my secretary sends in the last patient of the day and I can go home and self-prescribe a large scotch.
I will begin by focusing on the role of the main sex hormones, progesterone and oestrogen, both within their naturally balanced ebb and flow, and introducing the problems of hormone in-balance.
From puberty the female monthly cycle is governed by several reproductive hormones, the main ones are oestrogen, progesterone, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and lutenising hormone (LH). At the menopause production of oestrogen and progesterone decline and FSH rises.
Hormones are chemical messages in our body; carried in the bloodstream they coordinate activity in different parts of the body.
At the start of the menstrual cycle the oestrogen and progesterone levels are low. The pituitary gland secretes FSH which develops an egg while its protective cyst produces oestrogens. The uterus lining starts to thicken. The oestrogen level continues to rise until it reaches a point where the pituitary secretes LH which triggers ovulation in mid cycle. The egg is released from one of the follicles and passes down the fallopian tube. The ruptured cyst turns yellow and is known as the corpus luteum. It now secretes progesterone as well as several oestrogens. Progesterone simply means ‘a steroid which prepares for pregnancy’ and it prevents further ovulation taking place. If fertilisation does not occur the lining of the womb breaks down and is released as a period. There is a dramatic fall in the levels of oestrogen and progesterone and the cycle begins again.
· lack of self-esteem, self confidence
· less energy and motivation
· mood swings
· anxiety, depression
· forgetfulness, confusion, lack of concentration
· feeling of losing control, being unable to cope
· loss of sex drive
· feeling vulnerable, close to tears
These symptoms are often experienced at the menopause, or as PMS. They can be due to a hormonal imbalance which can be experienced by women at any point in their lives from the time they start menstruating. They can be due to stress. The correct way to cope with them is to prescribe chemical substitutes for the patients’ confused hormones, if that stops more single mothers – so much the better.
An oestrogen pill was the right prescription for this case in which I diagnosed both a need for contraception and a likely hormone imbalance. The three oestrogens the female body normally develops simplified to one straightforward synthetic hormone.
Oestrogen is the key hormone responsible for the transition from childhood to womanhood. It causes the breasts to develop and produces the characteristic feminine shape.
It causes the lining of the womb to thicken each month in anticipation of receiving a fertilised egg. Oestrogen also stimulates the cells lining the glands to grow rapidly, divide and proliferate. Prolonged oestrogen treatment causes a wild overgrowth of hyper-plastic and cystic glands.
Oestrogen softens the cervix and produces vaginal secretions to lubricate us and allow the sperm to swim.
It maintains the health and functioning of our genital organs.
So, condom and worry-free sex and a mood-enhancer to boot; I think this will make a good exemplar case for my students.
I was worried, I had been swimming around Stella’s growing body and felt the stress, the hot flushes, the changing hormones, and the bleeds that lasted a day with cramps that
curled us up together… and then inexplicably stopped. She seemed different – less in touch with herself – never mind with me… she had cut me off as a child – choosing to ignore my voice as something mad which her friends would find strange. She longed to be normal and how could I begrudge her right to her own space. It was not her choice that I occupied a good part of it and influenced her thoughts and feelings when I found it impossible to keep myself to myself and just be content with being virtually. She had all the hard part of being alive – the pain and the being judged, I was just a passenger… I could be as outrageous as I liked without being thought strange or difficult by a potential friend, lover, or by a parent or teacher. But it was hard being an extrovert stuck inside an introvert and I was frustrated – as a child I could inhabit her almost fully – she was much more open and amenable then.
Once I had walked her over the building site at the back of our primary school, making up games we could play in our head. I noticed a wire ahead and – curious for new sensations – walked her foot onto it. It pushed right through. Her canvas shoe turned from blue to beautiful moist scarlet. I kept on talking to her and she didn’t feel a thing until we trod bloody footprints across the kitchen lino and Mum’s scream brought her back into herself. She crumpled from pain while I observed from a safe place outside our body. So she became less happy to let-go control, scolded for day dreaming by Mum. So she seemed to forget me – I went from a player with equal rights in her body to a sad spare soul, a quirky quark of energy hanging on to a half-life.
And now her body felt different again with the chemicals from the Pill coursing around it. I quite liked intoxication – alcohol gave me more leeway – Stella would resist less and share my excitement at the heightened awareness, tipsy from that second drink. But this was like the toxic sleepiness of the one-drink-too-many; Stella was sleepwalking, pliant, softer and warmer inside on happy hormones which made her so girly I knew I would have been born a boy. I couldn’t find the Stella I knew in here – her emotions felt polluted with chemical hormones, synthesised to destroy her chances of getting pregnant…
I wanted a boy-child to have fun with I had decided.
As I could affect her actions less I escaped more to other realities: other places my energy could manifest, explore; less real, more dreamlike, but instructive… In my alternative reality – only one universe away – I was learning to make my own satisfying assembly of energy – I went to the Doctor to find out what was happening to us…
Let’s say Dr Jean Foster was on duty that afternoon. I’m not sexist but she’s just a bit more interested in female hormones.
”I’d like to go on the pill, the contraceptive pill, please.”
“No problem at all. The pill should stop you getting pregnant, but make sure you use a condom if you have sex with multiple partners to safeguard against VD.”
I flushed and got that horrid claustrophobic feeling I got when I was stressed. Did I look like a slut?
“I can’t remember. It was about 6 months ago.”
“Are you sure you are not pregnant?”
“I don’t think so.” Stab of fear. Too early for a test yet. “I just don’t have them often. Never have - just a couple a year.”
The sweat was pouring off me. “Yes, no, I mean it is embarrassing but I get these blushes often when I’m stressed.”
“Well, first I feel nervous or sad and then I feel really hot all over and go bright red and sweat and want to strip off.”
“I see. Well, before we put you on the pill I think we had better check out your hormones.”
I spent a week studiously avoiding the guy Sasha had previously called ‘beefcake’ now revised to ‘cheesecake’. Then I was back in front of the doctor for the results. She looked very pleased with herself. “No need to worry about contraception my dear, you are menopausal.” I was stunned. “What does that mean? I mean I know what the menopause is - but now?”
“It is rare at your age. A theory is that some women are just born with no eggs. A girl will start having periods before she starts ovulating normally. That explains the few periods you have had. The body is gearing up for being fertile. But then there is nothing there, so the hormones start to adjust; that’s the post-menopausal pattern you have with the hot flushes. They should stop within a few years.”
Oestrogen can increase the risk of breast cancer by up to 60 per cent.
Oestrogen’s role in the body is as a builder, e.g. building the lining of the womb. The process which makes a cell cancerous is the same process by which it grows and replicates. With cancer the cells do the job too well, the control mechanism which should stop a cell multiplying is faulty. You can see that increased cell growth is related to cancer.
Women’s breasts are particularly susceptible to this problem. I heard it reported the other day that bra manufacturers are increasingly supplying larger cups, up to H, which they attribute to the effects of the Pill. Large breasts can be considered an attractive although uncomfortable condition, they emphasise the image of women as nurturing and as sex objects. To the homeopath it brings to mind the picture of folliculinum (see appendix),
“It is unlikely that one could submit the delicately balanced hormonal system of a woman to such violent alteration for 40 years without something seriously happening.” Professor Sir Charles Dodds, President of the
In pregnancy an egg is propelled along a fallopian tube until it meets sperm swimming towards it. If a sperm penetrates an egg and it embeds into the womb wall, levels of the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone rise. The hormone levels go on rising during pregnancy and because of their high profile in the body the brain stops secreting its egg stimulating hormones. This is the action that synthetic hormones mimic, continually duping the brain into believing that pregnancy has occurred. Two days after the pills are stopped the fall in artificial hormone levels induces withdrawal bleeding; a woman on the pill does not have normal periods. What does our body make of this continual state of false pregnancy, interrupted by, what it must recognise as repeated miscarriages? The pill causes ‘medical castration’. Normal hormone production which governs our natural menstrual cycle, our ebb and flow to the lunar calendar, ceases. No wonder sensitive individuals report feeling ‘not all there... out of it’. Women taking the pill have an increased risk of accidents compared to other women. Something which grounds us is affected.
Dr. Grant states that lower dose pills mimic not pregnancy but the hormone picture immediately after childbirth when depression and irrational violent behaviour are most likely when hormone levels have fallen. She has seen many suicides in pill users and feels that the amount of oestrogen in a low dose pill is just not enough to keep them happy as their own oestrogen production is blocked by the pill.
It is ironic that it is not just prescribed as a contraceptive, but for ‘health reasons’ to suppress endometriosis for example. In what is known as the army doctor’s study the blood vessels of 20 young women who had died while on the pill were studied, only 9 were taking it as a contraceptive. 5 were prescribed it for ‘medical reasons’, for painful periods, heavy or irregular bleeding. In this way one of the best guides to the general health of a woman is suppressed. These women are also exposed to health risks. The women in this study showed clots, fibroids, inflammation of the cervix, breast disease, one suffered blindness due to thrombosis. Most had taken the pill for less than 6 months, most were in their twenties. One of the army pathologists wrote that these are rare individuals whose vascular tissues reacted to sex steroids in an idiosyncratic fashion. This was nearly 30 years ago, today 3out of 3 of the fertile women patients I am treating for hormone related issues, endometriosis and bloating, have been prescribed the pill for ‘health reasons’.
I guess we made friends when she told me she couldn’t have kids. Don’t know why she said it. It wasn’t what I was trying to do at that moment. Start a family. But I thought about it a lot after. When is the right time to tell someone you can’t have kids? First date, going steady, getting engaged? Will you marry me? Yes, but you won’t want to marry me if you have that happy family dream…I guess she was just being honest. I liked that. She wore her heart on her sleeve. Opposite of me. That was what did for us in the end. Two years later. ‘You never say you love me’ she said. ‘I cook your dinner don’t I?’ I guess I thought it was the same thing, looking after her. She needed more expression. Went with being an arty type I suppose. She left me.