A 2 part series: Including topics on the first talk about periods and first experience of a period and how we, as women, can improve to educate the next generation. I completely realize that puberty encompasses many more things than just periods but for this series, I am only discussing periods!
When I think back to my early adolescence and being shoved into a bright classroom filled with other ten year old girls to learn about periods, it frustrates me. The whole process of learning about my body felt rushed, secretive, formal and shameful.
So there I was, in this classroom, learning about what a tampon was, what a period was and if we as a group agree that there should be tampon/pad dispensers in the girl’s bathroom. First of all, absolutely, why did we even have to vote? (Keep in mind, this is semi rural Texas in 2001).
My mom had briefly talked to me about puberty. We read a book and discussed the formalities of what growing up would look like. I remember I was in her room, sitting on the carpet, and she read the book to me. She asked if I had any questions and of course I said no. Except..I had so many questions I just didn’t even know where to begin.
What I started to understand about menstruation and puberty is that we as girls, have a lot to hide. We have a lot to keep secret. We have a lot to feel disgusting about and a lot of things to change about ourselves so that men feel more comfortable around us. Did you know that in some cultures women aren’t allowed to sleep inside during their periods? Yeah, its a thing.
When I first heard about periods, I was shocked. I mean, blood..comes from..where? I remember my childhood friend taking pads with her every summer in case she started her period at her dad’s house. I remember my friend in the 6th grade getting her period before really anyone else. I remember seeing my mom’s feminine products in the bathroom but being very confused on where it all went and what it was used for.
I started my period for the first time at a family friend’s house. I hid it at first and didn’t tell my mom until we got home. I think I wrapped up toilet paper around my underwear and thought “well..this will do.” I cried..a lot. I am unsure fully why. Maybe it was a mix of emotions of growing up, hormones and shame. I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my parents about things like this..so..crying just released all of that. I told my mom later that night and she gave me some pads. I had NO idea you were supposed to stick the sticky side to your underwear so I wore the pad just in my underwear. (LOL). I found out later how to actually use this.
The first time I used a tampon, I passed out in the bathroom. Clearly, I inserted it wrong or something..It happened the second time too and I didn’t wear tampons until I was a senior in high school after those two times.
One time, in 6th grade, I started my period in class and it got all over the back of my jeans. I grabbed my friend’s hoodie and wrapped it around my waist and went to the bathroom. On a scale of embarrassing, I’d say this is 10/10 in middle school. Eventually I got the hang of it but how much easier would it have been if I had been shown these things?
There is a lot of shame around how are bodies work. There is a lot of embarrassment that comes with periods in general, especially in the early years.
What was your first talk and first experience like? What do you hope is different for your daughter?