Content warning: endometriosis, infertility
Day 7: Follicular and the Good
Rose is not late for work. She never is. She eagerly awakes early every morning to leave
ahead of her shift, allowing her enough time to take in the city sights. She couldn’t help
feeling overcome with pride at the realisation she was living in London. This meant that
during her short walk to work she would sometimes stop to admire the city in complete awe.
The large city life ironically allowed her small moments of public aloneness. She cherished
those solitary walks which somehow felt so peaceful despite the loudness of her urban
surroundings. She checks her bag, like she always does, lunch (carrots sticks, homemade
hummus, wholemeal crackers, red apple and one square of dark chocolate) check,
comfortable white shoes, check, and her emergency kit she would not need but would never
dare leave without, check. Rose is in great spirits today. She is aware, although short, this is
her window to shine. Soon she would be at work, and alone she would be no more.
Rose who is private by nature, was brought into the world in complete drama. Her mother,
Marigold, unexpectedly went into labour at her aunt’s Flo’s fourth wedding. The ambulance
just about arrived in time, but not without causing a scene. Aunt Flo, at 80 years old,
impressively chased the ambulance waving a fist of anger in the air. How could Marigold be
so attention-seeking? Wasn’t a wedding a once-in-a-lifetime event, or only four-times-in-
At the hospital safely away from aunt Flo, Marigold was faced with her next threat. She was
informed that her baby would need to be born via C-section. Marigold, who has a deep
irrational fear of all things hospital-related, responded to the news with uncontrollable vomit.
The C-section left Marigold scarred, internally to the depth of her soul and externally across
the bottom of her abdomen. The exterior wound would eventually heal but the emotional
damage she’d carry for life. She never uttered a word about it. Not even to Rose who pleaded
her mother to tell her birth story, or even aunt Flo who violently demanded to know the
details, as it had after all wrecked her wedding. The faint scar on her stomach is a constant
reminder of the single worst moment of her life. But thankfully it was followed by the single
greatest moment her life: the birth of Rose. The intertwined complex emotions that came with
the contradictions of that day left Marigold, if even possible, further frightened by all things
Not even with her jacket off, Rose is greeted with a gentle hug. A small gesture that brings
her much joy. Rose takes in that sweet moment, and reminds herself that love is the currency
she is paid in. Being a nursery teacher is a grossly underpaid and underappreciated career.
But surely one of the most rewarding and meaningful, that she is certain of.
Before her shift starts, Rose likes to stop by each room (pre-school, toddlers, and babies) to
greet each teacher and child and wish them a good day. This allows her to offer an extra pair
of hands to the teachers who already need it. Being charming is not optional, this type of
manner wins her some allowance, which she will promptly retrieve when it is needed later in
the month. While Rose respects and admires her teammates, she is a little envious of her male
colleagues on a higher salary. The gender pay gap in the early years separates the males and
females in many ways.
Rose, the appointed leader of the baby group, is excited for the day ahead. She goes over her
long to-do list, sets goals for herself for the day and prints out the latest research on child
development to read during the children’s nap time. And finally, she puts the final touches on
the planning chart with her red pen and prepares for the rest of the babies who will soon
arrive. She has a long day ahead.
It was great aunt Flo who first brought it to her attention: the realization that not all adults
have children. At age 7, Rose had wrongly assumed that being an adult automatically came
with being a parent. She had imagined that it was just part of growing up, a milestone one
would eventually reach. She had not realized that having children is not always the path an
adult chooses and even if so, it is not always a guarantee. A privilege that many wish for but
do not get.
It was a typical boring afternoon at great aunt Flo’s apartment, who was nursing a broken
heart from her most recent divorce. Marigold was feeling unwell and had dropped off Rose
for a few hours to get the rest she needed. Rose had noticed that this illness seemed to come
and go monthly but Marigold always kept vague about it if one inquired. Obligatory hang
outs with great aunt Flo became a regular occurrence.
Great aunt Flo who was uncomfortable around children, used daytime soap operas to
entertain Rose, which were far too mature for a child her age. The crazy storyline of a
mistress giving birth to twins, whilst unknowingly being delivered by her long-lost father
who had memory loss from a fall he suffered at the hands of his own evil twin, led Rose to
ask great aunt Flo where her children were. A simple question from the mouth of a child but
which rarely came with an easy response from the mouth of an adult. Rose would eventually
realise the heaviness of her question and regret it deeply.
Great aunt Flo defensively jumped to her most familiar emotion: anger. With the vengeance
of someone who had a lifetime of built-up resentment, she unfairly made it her mission to
educate Rose in a manner that was not only inaccessible to a child but also inappropriate.
Great aunt Flo had a reputation for her bad temper and Rose was particularly reminded of it
in this moment.
Rose had paid for her sin and for the many before her. She received the message clearly,
which had wrongly been aimed at her instead of society. She understood it was not to be
brought up, especially not from a child. Rose had been put in her place along with all
children, which was low on the hierarchy. Once grown up, this realisation left Rose puzzled.
Why were childless adults judged so harshly when children seemingly had such little value to
Rose has 20 minutes for her lunch break. A little oasis of time she looks forward to each day.
She loses the first five minutes trying to find her lunch in the overcrowded fridge, which is
currently filled with an impressive amount of the children’s allergy friendly milks (oat, soy,
sunflower seed). Rose is amused by the originality of where one can extract milk from and
wonders what the next milk trend will be. But her real admiration goes straight to the shelf of
baby bottles lovingly filled with the mothers’ own extracted milk. Rose feels for the mothers
who worked so hard at doing this, maybe due to societal pressures around ‘breast is best’. A
complete labour of love, the dedication does not get lost on Rose but perhaps leaves her a
When she finally finds a quiet spot to sit, her feet immediately thank her for the rest. She
quickly nibbles at her food, hoping she’ll have just enough time to finish. She reaches for a
tissue in her pocket but instead finds a little red toy car, some child had probably slipped it in
without her noticing. She tries to guess which child it might have been as she spins one of the
Her favourite part is always the last five minutes when she eats her single piece of dark
chocolate, an indulgence she can only tolerate at this time of the month, and reads a few
pages of a book. But today Rose is called over by her manager. A toddler is having a tantrum
and is requesting her presence. Although disappointed, she is glad she can help. She tosses
her book back into her bag and shoves the entire chocolate in one mouthful. It was nice while
Rose knew it would come eventually. The nurse had visited her class to discuss female
health, but not before shooing the boys outside for a game of baseball. Already setting the
girls up for a future of shame surrounding their bodies. Even though it was repeatedly
explained that this was completely normal, the message was not so well received. By saving
the boys discomfort, the nurse had unknowingly taken away the opportunity to equip them
with knowledge about conception and female health. Even worse, a line had been drawn to
separate the girls and boys. The girls being on the side of stigma. A gender divide that Rose
would be so conscious of, thereafter.
What Rose had not anticipated was that it would arrive so quickly. At 11 years old, she did
not feel ready for such a change, her menstruation was most unwelcomed. The warning signs
from her body had been promptly ignored by Rose who was enjoying the blissfulness of her
youth. She was horrified when she noticed a few blood spots on the toilet paper. She knew
this was, in the biological sense, the end of her youth, one she was already grieving for. But
nonetheless she was thankful this had happened in the privacy of her own home. Afterall,
some of her classmates had suffered far worse first period stories. The public shame that
came with those rumours, in the wrong hands, would be unfairly used against them for the
rest of their youth. Even when young, women paid for having a body that aged. What they
had not realised was that the price of aging would continue to increase as they grew older.
The hiding of the periods was just the beginning. Impossible societal standards would later
pressure them to cover their grey hairs and inject their faces to smooth their wrinkles. It
seemed women were not allowed to age, which in turn caused an unconquerable war against
their own biological clocks.
When Rose told her mother the news, her red cheeks gave her embarrassment away.
Marigold who seemed troubled, took one pause too long to respond. Rose had not realised
that the silence spoke the words Marigold was unable to speak. Eventually she gave her an
insincere speech about growing up and the excitement around her first period. Marigold spent
the rest of day with watery eyes, blaming it on seasonal allergies. With this Rose knew it was
final, it seemed she had received her one-way ticket into adulthood.
Rose was unaware that entering adulthood, in the biological sense, was the least of her
worries. From the moment her uterus shed its first blood drop, there would be a clear-cut line
in her life, before and after her first period. Her life would now be designed around her
monthly cycle. The monster had arrived.
Rose does the last handover of the day. As always, she smiles and gives the tardy father the
obligatory 15-minute feedback on his child’s day. Arrogant and unaware that Rose is off the
clock and unpaid, he uses this opportunity to vent about his day. When Rose gently tries to
shift the conversation back to his child, he interrupts and reminds her how lucky she is to
have such an easy-going job where she gets to play all day. Ironically, Rose is often reminded
of her unimportance whilst actively caring for the most important person in that person’s life.
She doesn’t mind the rudeness, although louder, they are a minority, as most of the parents
are appreciative and respectful. Rose is proud of the work she does and will continue to
support parents and their children despite some snarky comments.
When finally, alone, Rose cleans up the room for the last time today. She changes the water
in the vase of the red carnations, looks over tomorrow’s planning and turns off the lights.
She is tired and a little bruised from the comment of ‘playing all day’ but it does not matter.
This is her best time of the month, and she will savour it for as long as she can.
Rose is late when she gets home. She is usually late. Today she had walked home slowly,
taking in the city sights, and reflecting on her day. Big Ben had looked particularly imposing,
each tick reminding her of her own aging internal clock.
Day 14: Ovulation and Blind Optimism
Rose can feel the weight of the week wearing off, she is finally decompressing. Friday
evening feeling is setting in with the optimism of a fun weekend ahead. She’s always found
such comfort in these quiet evenings at home with her husband. The quietness is an enjoyable
contrast to the loud children from her 10-hour workday.
Rose’s husband checks the calendar. He turns the kettle on. Sometimes on Friday evenings,
time of the month permitting, she allows herself to step outside her strict rules. Her husband
is just as aware of her monthly limitations as she is. Rose has always been grateful for his
partnership in navigating the difficulties of her cycle. Today caffeine won’t hurt her. She will
kick off the weekend with a little cup of green tea, a small indulgence she will savour till the
At 15 years old, Rose had already learned many tricks to tame the monster inside, which at
this stage was nameless. It would be years before she would receive an official diagnosis. She
curated her entire life around her menstruation. A healthy diet, strict sleep routine and daily
exercise gave her an upper hand in this monthly battle. But when things got bad, which was
most months, her saving grace was a rotation of hot water bottles, a weeks’ worth of
painkillers, iron tablets to compensate for her anaemia from the heavy bleeding, and always
staying near a bathroom. If she had to leave her home whilst bleeding, which she avoided as
much as she could, she never left without her emergency kit.
Roses’ life was lived outside of her period week. But it often felt like the rest of the month
was also dominated by her menstruation. She lost so much whilst she was menstruating that
she always had to play catch up. She often wondered how other women did it. She thought of
her great aunt Flo and her mother and wondered if they suffered from the same curse as her.
But whenever she brought it up, it was always received with firm silence.
Rose looked at her female friendships for guidance. It seemed like others lived relatively well
and lacked the anxiety she had around her cycle. In comparison to her beast, it seemed her
friends had chihuahuas, loud and threatening but overall harmless. This became particularly
obvious when the girls from her high school petitioned for bins in the bathrooms. The school
seemed to think it was appropriate for the girls to carry their own used feminine hygiene
products to dispose elsewhere. Rose agreed with her classmates but wondered how they could
prioritize bins over the distress that periods brought. She had anticipated that the petition
would naturally lead to discussions, maybe even advice around managing periods. The girls’
efforts weren’t fully wasted. The school budgeted for a total of one bin for one bathroom
stall, for the entire school. A pointless victory for the girls. Thereafter the school prided
themselves in being the most progressive high school in the area. The lucky chosen bathroom
stall would be referred to as the periodic toilet. Once the battles of the bins was settled, there
was no more talk around menstruation. Rose was left alone to fight her own battle.
With empty teacups in their hands, Rose and her husband cautiously discuss fertility. Over
the years they’ve learned to effortlessly dance around each other’s fears and emotions. They
do this so smoothly that no one would guess the size of the hole in their hearts. Both ticking
time bombs, they do their best at keeping their own sanity in check whilst simultaneously
supporting the other. But today they are repeating a mistake they are often guilty of, they are
carelessly feeling optimistic about this ovulation cycle. Completely disregarding all the times
they have been let down.
But surely this time it would work?
Concerning her difficult periods, Rose had visited a total of three doctors during her teenage
years, all with mixed results. Rose would bring her ‘period journal’ she kept up with daily,
tracking of her symptoms, diet, sleep and exercise. She updated her journal with such
accuracy and preciously protected it, as if it would have the ability to prove that she did not
make up her troubles. This journal was proof the monster in her was no fictional character
from a folklore story. Rose, who was shy by nature, would oddly get graphic with her doctors
and go down to the gritty details of every giant blood clot her body had ever shed. She’d tear
up while explaining the fainting, vomiting, fevers. How the pain would break her into foetal
position on cold bathroom floors to the point of passing out. Outside of the doctor’s office,
strict societal boundaries prevented Rose from discussing her menstruation freely. The
doctor’s office provided a safe space for her to pour her soul out.
Her story would at best be received with some sympathy, at worst told that having a period
was a sign of health and her symptoms were probably exaggerated. When you do something
for so long you become good at it. Rose was her own expert at managing her period. Her
doctors were all equally impressed with her lifestyle. Praise was offered instead of the
medical advice she desperately needed. She would be sent off and told to keep going as she
had done, with the exception of one doctor who offered her a prescription of strong pain
killers. Rose knew that a monster could not be killed by a single pill or a single doctor, she
needed an army.
Rose is excited for a period-free weekend. She will be able to consume caffeine and be a little
more lenient with her diet. She will have energy as her iron levels are normal at this time, she
will be able to enjoy herself without being consumed with worry around unpredictable deep
bursts of pain, which she refers to as episodes.
But she’ll have to be cautious when she catches up with friends. Lately she is bombarded by
questions about when she will have children, an outdated inquiry that somehow follows her.
But worst of all is the choir of ‘just’: “just adopt”, “just do IVF”. A four-letter word that
simplifies a deeply complicated situation. Rose is skilled at dodging these questions and she
is determined to not let it spoil her pain-free weekend.
Day 27: Luteal and the Upcoming
Rose miraculously finishes work on time today. Her day went especially smoothly with well-
behaved children who were fully immersed in today’s learning activities. But Rose is not in a
good mood. This is common for her at this time of the month. It’s not that she’s not herself
but more that her heart feels a little heavier than usual and the greys seems to stand out more
than the bright colours. Rose is cautious as she knows how easily the darkness can take over,
she calmly reminds herself that those feelings are very much temporary.
During her lunch break Rose had received a text message from her friend with an invitation
to dinner at a nearby restaurant. Whilst the message seemed pleasant at first glance, Rose
then noticed the urgency in the subtext. She hoped it was still early enough in the month for
her to get away with eating outside her limiting diet without any damage. But as it was
cutting it fine, just to be sure, she would be careful, though wouldn’t make a big deal of it so
as not to draw attention to herself. But first she would quickly stop by the pharmacy, just like
she always does at this time of the month. She’ll need to catch the red double-decker bus to
get there in time.
With empty plates and full-bellies, they spoke over candlelight. Deep in conversation, her
friend confided about her recent miscarriage. This led them both to confess their worries
about a potential childless life. Rose was reminded of her great aunt Flo, and that dreaded
afternoon watching soap operas with her. They both came to the realisation that almost all
families have at least one childfree relative. In their case, a bitter old aunt. Rose had
incorrectly assumed that angry people did not want to have children, not that being childfree
had been the cause of their bitterness. A reversed storyline she had not understood as a child.
Once they ran out of tissues and no more tears could be shed, they both felt a weight lifted off
their shoulders. The secrecy around miscarriages and infertility had been a burden, one that is
unfairly asked of women to carry discreetly. But they knew that it was no longer the way of
their generation. They offered sympathy to the women before them but would no longer
follow their ways. Supressing feelings was a thing of the past. Women were no longer held
back with their shame. Now that they had reclaimed their voices, future and past generations
would hear the echoes of their pain. They would do so until it reached the most isolated
women. No bitter old aunts here.
It was not until Rose reached childbearing age that her doctor grew concerned about her
problematic menstruation. She was urgently referred to a specialist. As a woman she had not
been worth the effort, but as a potential child bearer she suddenly had newfound value.
It was rapidly decided Rose would need a laparoscopic surgery to deal with her
endometriosis. Just like that her doctor had named her monster. It was briefly explained that
endometriosis is a complicated condition where tissue grows outside the uterus. When Rose
showed hesitation in getting such a surgery, she was promptly reminded that if she wanted a
chance at starting a family and a pain-free menstruation, this was her only option. Rose was
surprised there had been an option to have a pain-free cycle all along.
In that moment, Rose realised that endometriosis had always been present, but her doctors
had failed to view it with the right lens, one that allowed them to see it for what it was, a
complex condition that varies greatly for each patient.
After an emotional evening out, Rose is craving the comfort of her home. She is glad her
husband waited up for her, as he usually does, so they can go to bed at the same time. Rose
has always felt that regardless of where she lives, she always feels most at home next to him.
Rose feels guilty that she is hiding it. She’s taken the habit, during the two-week wait, to go
buy an expensive pee stick. The pregnancy test, which have proven to be useless for years, is
sitting at the bottom of her bag. Her husband had asked her to stop wasting time and money
on them. Her lack of period would be a good enough indication of pregnancy. But Rose
enjoys this secret. The purchasing of the test gives her a sense of control, one she is desperate
for. With each one, she buys herself a piece of hope. Whilst there is hope, there is still a
chance of starting a family, she’s not ready to let go of that hope.
But then she feels it. Sharp pain in her abdomen. Rose goes three shades paler within
seconds. The monster is lurking, her period is not far away. Looks like she won’t need the
test after all.
Day 1: Bleeding
Rose is not late for work. She never is. Rose is not late for her period. She never is. Pale
faced, cautiously walking, adhesive heating sticker on her stomach, she is not admiring her
surroundings. When she bleeds, she can only manage the bare minimum. She is worried
about how today will go but she reminds herself that she has done this since she was 11 years
old and always comes out the other end.
Today Rose will work as she bleeds. She will be outdone by higher-paid males who do not
bleed. She is being unfairly taxed for being a woman. She checks her bag like she always
does, lunch (bone broth with spinach and a handful of almonds- the limiting foods she can
handle at this stage of the month) check, white shoes, check, and her emergency kit (filled
with an abundance of pads, tampons and strong pain killers) check. Rose is prepared.
She often wondered if her colleagues picked up on her slack due to a high drop of energy,
that one disastrous week out of the month. Had they kindly lightened her workload and
allowed her the illusion she was handling it all on her own? It takes a village after all.
Rose will of course give it her all. She knows the children need the same level of high-quality
care and love that they normally do. She will push through but as she does, she will look at
the baby girls and envy their period-free lives and worry for their futures. How many would
suffer the same fate she has? Would they be as lucky as her classmates or had her classmates
been just as talented at hiding their villains?
When Rose woke up, still fuzzy from the anaesthetics, she was quickly informed of her new
diagnosis: stage four endometriosis. She was confused by her surgeon’s surprise. Hadn’t she
been clear about her struggles? She had years’ worth of journals tracking her symptoms to
prove it. It seemed that to be believable, they had to meet the monster face-to-face.
Before her surgeon left, he wished her luck at starting a family, which was now a possibility
due to the removal the endometriosis. She could now also expect a pain-free menstrual cycle,
words Rose thought she would never hear. She protectively curled up in a little ball on her
hospital bed and despite her beaten body, allowed herself to feel excited for this new life that
would come post recovery.
Rose, who had inherited Marigold’s fear of all things hospital-related, struggled to process
the surgery. Just like her mother’s C-section, she did not speak of it.
Rose struggles with her commute, she can feel the four faint scars at the extremities of her
abdominal. Reminders of the constant war she is at with her body. The scars were made to
heal the internal ones from years of menstruating. They remind her of the empty promise she
Her endometriosis grew and came back with a vengeance. No laparoscopy would stop it.
Rose took a long time to recover mentally and physically from her surgery. The biggest
hurdle was the uncertainty that came with infertility.
Rose will soon be at work and will have to get by, as endometriosis gives her its usual
monthly assault. She is already deep in pain and feeling helpless. She resolves that she has
little control over this. Her cycle comes just as naturally moon rises every night. A natural
order of things. It is her life sentence, but it is her life and one she intends to live as fully as
possible. She feels alone but she reminds herself she is not, she is one in ten. Women who
bleed and bleed painfully are all around her. Rose is no longer screaming in a void. She has
her people; she will find her sisterhood. She will continue to pay for the sin of Eve but she is
ready to fight back. Her monster has something else coming.
Marie-Eve is a Québecoise living in New Zealand and works as a nursery teacher. She has previously published in Montréal Writes, Quail Bell and LitBreak Magazine.