The Red Dot That Ruined My Life: Part I

TRIGGER WARNING: this blog series uses course language, discusses hormonal abnormalities, miscarriage, infertility, death and dying. Please read with caution. 

If you’re reading this… thanks already.

And if you prefer to LISTEN to this blog in audio, let me read it to you by clicking *HERE*

And if you’re grooving with this blog and are interested in the topic- stay tuned for Parts II and III coming soon. 

As a 28 year old woman, I can confidently say, that I’ve spent the majority of my life worried, stressed and focussed on- a red dot. 

A red dot so common, right? A red dot that greets every woman in the world, every month, in every country, since the beginning of man-kind. A dot that doesn’t discriminate, a dot that is systematic, expected, routine, rhythmic… right? A dot that comes to you as a child, upgrades you to a woman and frequently visits you every month for the majority of your adult life, right? 

A dot that symbolizes femininity, sexuality, fertility, motherhood, health. 

So you better believe this dot means more than just “a dot” when this dot doesn’t come for you. 

This red dot, or the absence of this red dot, has been the focus of my thoughts and stress for well over a decade. A decade, I’ve spent, worried, about a dot. 

As a young child, knowledge of this dot frightened me. When would it come? Would I be caught off guard? Would it make itself known at school? At soccer practice? At swimming lessons? What exactly did this dot mean? 

As a pre teen, this dot continued to haunt me: I would wait, and wait, until it was my turn to get the dot while simultaneously all the girls in Sex ED raised their hands on the topic. As a lean, long, lanky, athletic teen: the dot didn’t come for me. Aunt Flow never showed up at my doorstep, but she sure seemed to frequent everyone else. 

My friends and teammates were morphing and changing in Junior High school- they were shaving their legs, wearing bras and thong panties… and tampons. The excitement of this dot united my friends, it was a topic of conversation, it was a life-milestone that allowed the girls of my grade to form a common bond. A topic of discussion I never could engage in. My mosquito bite boobs stayed tucked behind tank tops while friends showcased their matching bra sets as we changed for gym class. The dot made me an outsider. 

It wasn’t until I was 16 years old and a new high school student, that the dot finally made its mark on me. 

My dot decided to make its way into my life JUST in time for me to wish it away. As a high school student, it took me years longer than my friends to become sexually active: how could you feel sexy and mature when your body looks like that of a 12 year old boy? I didn’t have curves, or boobs, or periods. 

I hate to say it, but it was likely my insecurity over my child-like body and lack of femininity and not necessarily my moral compass that led my legs to remain locked for the length of my high school years. I remained the virgin girl with no tits long enough that this “virgin card” became my identity.

It wasn’t until I was 17 that I began to develop a rhythm with my body and some form of sexual confidence. Trying to recall my cycle and dot performance at 17 is next to impossible for me now, over a decade later, despite doctors continuing to reference this “normal” part of my cycles lifespan as if it would provide all the answers to my current hormonal issues: 

And how long were your cycles spaced apart then? 

How many days did they last? 

Did you have PMS symptoms while in high school? 

Try to recall YOUR period from 10, 11, 12 years ago. Not an easy feat. 

Despite being unknown to the specifics, I do remember the sigh of relief each month when the dot would return. This reinforced that my newfound sexually active lifestyle was a non-issue and that taking hormonal birth control pills was a good move. Any sexually active teenager, or adult woman, likely knows this feeling of relief: we wait all month to get a sign that we’re NOT pregnant, only to celebrate this lack-of-childbearing with more unprotected sex. The dot symbolized good sex with no consequences, what more could we ask for? 

To re-cap: 

I feared the dot as a child 

I prayed for the dot as a pre teen 

I celebrated the dot as a young adult. 

And then, 

Aunt Flow walked out of my life and she took the dot with her. She abandoned me. 

In hindsight though, I may have abandoned her. 

You see, I fell in love with body building: a sport that brought me clarity, work ethic, inspiration and bountiful amounts of personal development, confidence and growth. Body building built my body, sure, but the sport also built my character.  Likely and not-coincidentally though, bodybuilding also fucked up my period.

I overexercised, I undernourished, I conditioned my body to single-digit body fat percentages and I developed severe amenorrhea and Female Athlete Triad while stepping on stage 16 times in an 8 year time span. I fucking loved every minute of it… but my body didn’t. 

My first ever “transformation photo”: Competition Prep 2010

Like a baby daddy who walks out and then only shows up for supervised visits and “just-so-I-don’t-feel-bad” hugs- my period would also just randomly drop in, wave hello, then dip out. Sometimes she’d be in once a month, sometimes once a year: this is my memory of my female cycle in the early half of my twenties. I don’t think I bought tampons for over 5 years, I never wore a pad, I slept nude even while “menstrating” and I continued on hormonal contraceptives for over 10 YEARS. 

My skin was flawless 

My period was non existent

My six pack was rock solid 

But throughout my mid-twenties, I started to raise an eyebrow to this lack-of-normality.

As I grew more knowledgeable as a science student, my fears of infertility and osteoporosis would tap me on the shoulder often. They never left me. The more I learned in school, the more I learned in life, the more my concern for my health grew. 

The constant whisper of “you should probably get that looked at” played on repeat in my limbic system. 

I was continually told by doctors that “this is normal in young athletes” and that, “as soon as you stop exercising it will come back” and, “just stay on the pill and when you desire to conceive one day, we will discuss this”. 

This tertiary, reactive, do-it-later and procrastinary approach smoothed my anxiety and fears for the moment- but deep down, I always knew my body was betraying me (again, in hindsight: perhaps I was betraying my body). 

I knew that my female cycle was a critical and vital indicator of my health. I knew this wasn’t something to celebrate. 

When you’re 17 and finally get your period, you’re stoked. 

When you’re 20 and sexually active and no longer get your period, you’re still stoked. 

When you’re 27 and in love and married and wanting life’s greatest gift of becoming a parent, you’re petrified

What can scare a woman more than thinking she cannot have a child? I am unsure: as this is single handedly my biggest fear in the entire world. 

Bungee jumping? Sure.

Sky diving? You bet. 

Swimming with sharks? Sign me up. 

Infertility? … FUCK NO. 

And then, as if for a brief moment of euphoria: the fear lifted. 

I attended a walk-in clinic for what I believed to be a UTI after arriving home from a tropical vacation. My husband, joined me nonchalantly last minute as he sat in the corner chair- bundled up in his January-In-Alberta winter jacket. 

The doctor asked me some routine questions, including “when was your last mensural period?”: as per the last DECADE: I really wasn’t sure. 

She followed this by, “is there anyway you could be pregnant?” in which I immediately replied “no, I’m on birth control”. 

She gave me a urine sample to diagnose the discomfort I was feeling in my lower abdomen and walked back into the room with a smile. 

To my surprise, I was told, “so you don’t have a UTI… “

“BUT”, she continued: 

“congratulations, you are pregnant”. 

Shock, awe, tears and fear- they all set in. 

I was oblivious to how pregnant I was, because without a cycle: there was no way to know. 

I was also oblivious to how pregnancy could have even resulted without ovulation or mensuration AND while still taking oral contraceptives (YAH, YOU READ THAT RIGHT). 

Turns out, the prescription I was taking whilst travelling deemed the pills ineffective. 

This pregnancy rocked my world and it took a few weeks before the reality truly set in.

I had been completely oblivious to the fact I was pregnant, but I will always remember the day I knew I wasn’t. 

Because my first “period” in a decade was my first miscarriage. 

Stay tuned for THE RED DOT THAT RUINED MY LIFE: PART II : feel free to subscribe to the blog to be notified when it releases.

7 thoughts on “The Red Dot That Ruined My Life: Part I

  1. Wow Ashlyn. You are an amazing writer. I love reading your stories. I am absolutely amazed by how much you’ve grown both personally & professionally over the last 6 years since I first met you. You inspire so many people including me. This world is definitely a better place with you in it. You Go Girl.Congratulations. You are rocking it.
    🤗😘

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  2. This is so brave of you to share Ashlyn. I am in the same “situation” with my RED dot. Since having my son 11 years ago I have had a period a handful of times. In the last 4 years after being told I should count it as a “blessing” from my doctor and I am healthy so shouldn’t be worried I have always felt something to not be right. Wanting more children I have done every test in the book and still no answers. I have now been told I will need to get an estrogen patch to protect myself from osteoporosis…it has me feeling defeated. You are so incredibly strong and inspiring…your resilience and mindset has always stuck out as something i want to embody thank you for sharing. I know this will give so many strugging with loss, or fear that there is hope and always another chapter! Sending you and your beautiful growing fam all the health and abundance of love you can handle! Xo

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this with me. The dot is not always something that comes easy to everyone, I have certainly learnt this the hard way. I have so many follow up questions in re: to your amenorrhea but this is probably not the right place to ask. Where else can we connect? If there is any open room for advice or help I’d love to share with you the things that have helped me.

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