November 25, 2015
by Stacey Forrester

It arrives when you are fourteen years and ten months old. Your mother prepared you for the blood six months ago, when she showed you how to press the pad, sticky side down, onto your panties.

You do this now, humming in celebration in the bathroom, shorts tangling up your ankles. You return to watching TV with your brother and tuck your boney knees up inside your extra-large tie-dyed T-shirt and smile to yourself.

Your mother skips out on anything beyond that one lesson and this is why you take notes when the nurse comes to visit your class. She teaches you that the blood is science and nature. It means growing up. You announce your womanhood to the clerk at the grocery store. Your mother’s hiss teaches you silence and shame. You feel grown in spite of this. You declare yourself vegetarian, biking home from school the next day, because you are grown and can make important decisions about your life now. You pedal harder and feel free in your silent celebration.

Two distinct mornings—one when you are freshly nineteen and the other when you are twenty-seven and two months—your underwear are tangling up your ankles and you see nothing where there should be something. In its place is panic, hot and consuming as you mentally arrange and rearrange days on the calendar. Fuck. You promise to be better. Smarter. You bargain with gods and goddess, nature and science. You carry on but you also feel like you can’t breathe. Both times, it comes, the blood. You look down. Red stain. Black and white tile floor. You exhale a sigh of celebration.

And then one time it doesn’t.

[Insert obligatory rationale for making a choice about your own body]

You make an appointment.

A nurse enters the waiting room and calls your name, and introduces herself as Frances. Frances is the first person to whom you have said “abortion.” Frances is the only person to whom you have said anything about any of this.

You are lead to a washroom and inside is a hand-written instruction sheet taped to a mirror and re-written in four different languages. It tells you to take a skirt from the basket and put a pad and your clean underwear in the pocket sewn onto the skirt. You select a yellow print and conclude the skirts were definitely handmade from pillowcases almost certainly purchased at a hospital auxiliary thrift store. You follow the instructions, and you think of your mother.

Frances is really good at eye contact and the doctor is younger than you expect. If you had to describe the appointment so far you may compare it to seeing a dentist. Or does that sound cavalier? You decide not to describe it like that anyway because you have never gone to a dentist and felt like that appointment was going to save your life. You try to say this to Frances and the doctor but your mouth starts to feel like the inside of a fig. Something is pushed through your IV and it stings a little but doesn’t hurt and the last thing you hear before falling asleep is Frances humming song that you can’t quite place. You dream about honeycomb and tie-dye.

The haze lifts and you return to your yellow floral reality. You can see other hems of mismatched pillowcase skirts around the room, peeking out from under curtained cubicles. Your small piece in this room—your story, your choice, knits with the stories of women you know nothing of. Patchwork robes. In recliners, queens on thrones. Sovereign bodies.

You burrow deep into this moment and hold the heating pad close. You make a promise to yourself that if you are ever sitting on a cold bathroom floor with a friend or their daughter or your daughter or a total stranger and they tell you about the blood that hasn’t come you will wrap them in the tapestry you wore today. You will talk about it like the dentist. You will keep eye contact like Frances and maybe you will even celebrate.  Another nurse brings you juice and you hum as you look for your shoes.

At home, after a nap, you brush the tangles from your hair, notice you were wearing mismatched socks all day, and check the pad that a woman you barely know placed on your underwear. Crimson. You hop on your bike with the intention of getting snacks but also of going nowhere in particular. Fast. You pedal until the air hurts coming in and going out. You hit 36th and Knight and stop because it’s your favorite angle to catch the city from but you can only be still for a minute. You pedal harder, smiling to yourself and you feel free.



Written in celebration of Frances & abortion providers & receivers everywhere. In solidarity with women who have lost their health, freedom, or life due to the politics of blood.




Stacey Forrester is a nurse who lives and works in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. She has a penchant for community, DIY, social justice, misfits, harm reduction, and music. She explores these things and more in her zine, “You’re a Masterpiece.”

Art from “cycles (perception),” via milkwiitch on Tumblr.


  1. This:

    “You make a promise to yourself that if you are ever sitting on a cold bathroom floor with a friend or their daughter or your daughter or a total stranger and they tell you about the blood that hasn’t come you will wrap them in the tapestry you wore today.”

    subtle, poignant, and comforting. Beautiful.

  2. Thank you Stacey for your beautiful writing and for putting into words the emotions that so many people can identify with in relation to our bodies.

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