Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Menarche Diaries: Tasha-Rose's First Period

The Menarche Diaries:
Tasha's First Period

I was 11. I have a mother who is the most detached person from reality that I can think of. She never spoke to me about it. I learned about it by reading "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret." and my stealing her old 70's copy of OBOS. When I got it, I hid it from my mother for a few months. When she found out, it was because I had not been careful and I had gotten blood on a towel after my shower for school. I got home, got dragged by my arm to the bathroom and made to explain the blood, then grounded because I hadn't told her.

Not a great story and why I am so vulva and vagina open (pardon...) with my daughters. I don't want them to have fear or shame over their beautiful bodies.

Thanks for letting me share.


Monday, February 20, 2012

An update on our Pads for Sierra Leone

I recieved this card in the mail and it made me smile,
so I wanted to share it with all of you that helped us donate pads.

Thanks again for all of your help! 
 I'll get the photo up as soon as I get it next month.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Menarche Diaries: Susan's First Period

The Menarche Diaries:
Susan's First Period

My mother was - and continues to be - very open when it comes to discussing reproductive health. I knew the proper names for all of my girl parts, and what they were for, by the time I was in fifth grade (in other words, before they ever separated the boys and girls to watch those weird puberty videos). My younger brother, who was also in on these conversations, was so enamored of the ova and my mom's description of them that he tied up a pillow into a more-or-less round shape and called it his "cushy egg." (I don't think he'll peruse your site anytime soon, so I feel confident that he's unlikely to ever be embarrassed by this!) Despite all of this knowledge, which flowed regularly and often from my mom, I really don't clearly recall her ever bringing up much about my impending period. I feel that she must have, or that at the very least I asked her to show me what pads and tampons looked like, since I was so confused about girdles after reading, "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret" (isn't that just like THE go-to book for pre-pubescent girls??). I was glad to learn that pads had kept up with the times, at least, and that no additional paraphernalia was needed!

Nevertheless, I was completely unprepared for my first period when it actually arrived, which was in the summer between 6th and 7th grade (I was 11 years old). I played my first and only season of softball that year with one of my then-best friends, and at the end of the season we had a picnic and pick-up game to celebrate. My friend's mom was an assistant coach, and she has a slightly abrasive personality - she was definitely not the comparative coddler that my mom was, instead insisting that kids pick themselves up and carry on bravely after emotional/social/physical injury. So when I went to my knees in the field with unbelievable stomach cramps, she was not sympathetic. I tried to show her that I could be strong and carry on, but I was, in fact, pretty sure that I was just going to die right there. I finally dragged myself off the field and over to my mom, who immediately saw how miserable I was and took me home.

I didn't actually suspect anything was terribly wrong, though. I thought maybe I'd just eaten something at the picnic that wasn't agreeing with me, and figured after I'd used the bathroom, I would be just fine. My mom didn't seem to suspect otherwise, herself - when we got home, she went out into the backyard to see what my dad was working on in the garden, while I took myself straight indoors. So when I pulled down my underwear and saw the massive amount of blood in them, she wasn't around to hear me screaming at the top of my lungs. I HAD been right back in the field - I WAS dying! The proof was right here. My insides were clearly bleeding out of me. Terrified, I pulled my underwear sorta-back-up (I was skeeved out at the thought of that blood touching me while being fully aware of its presence) and ran/waddled back outside, where I screamed for my mother. I'd already figured out that I was bleeding from the vagina and not anywhere else, and even while I was panicking, I was so embarrassed at the thought of my dad finding out, so it was an even trickier operation making sure I got my mom separated from my dad before I took her back inside with me. How, exactly, does one panic as a child without having BOTH parents get concerned and want to help?

But I managed to do it, and back in the bathroom I showed my mom the proof of my imminent demise. I remember her half-laughing, half-crying as she told me that I'd just started my period and that I was not going to die - at least, not from this. I also remember feeling completely and totally ripped off. THIS was my first period? It was terrible! It hurt, it was messy...and I was supposed to be excited about it, somehow? My mom obviously was - not in a jumping-around, let's-have-a-party sort of way, but in a way that showed both how sad and happy she was that her little girl was growing up. And, could I NOT be dying? It was a total let-down that I was just going to cramp unbearably and bleed out half of my body fluids (or so it seemed) and yet not be rushed to the hospital for life-saving treatment. Didn't my parents CARE about me? I was just supposed to change out my underwear, put on a pad, wash out the bloody pair, pop some ibuprofen, and go on about my business LIKE NOTHING WAS HAPPENING??


Now that it's been almost 14 years, I've had a LOT of months to get used to having my period, and now, like I think most women probably do, I get anxious for it to come every month because it indicates normalcy. I don't know that there's any way to make menarche seem NORMAL for a girl who's never had any experience like it before, but it seems like a disservice to leave girls to have to wade through all of these feelings about it when it does happen. I think that talking about it more, and sharing stories (in a positive way - just like pregnant women don't want to hear your own birth horror stories, pre-pubescent girls aren't going to want to hear ONLY about how terrible and horrifying it is to have a period) is definitely a good way to combat some of the stigma and silence we have right now about it. I'll probably share my own first period story with my daughter(s) before she/they have hers/theirs, because now that it's had 14 years to percolate, it actually makes me laugh when I think about it, even though I can still clearly recall how terrified and then ripped-off I felt at the time. But how to keep bringing it up so that my girl(s) don't have that same awful, panicked feeling like I did when it does happen...? That's still a work in progress.

Thanks for opening the dialogue.


Monday, February 13, 2012

The Menarche Diaries: Jennifers's First Period

The Menarche Diaries:
Jennifer's First Period

I’ll never forget the day I started my period. I thought I was starting it in 4th grade, but the school nurse assured me that it was just a beginning spotting of my menses and she gave me this pamphlet to read on it. I read about tampons, pads, the cycle etc. I already knew much about it since I have an older sister and of course my mum. I also had begun shaving my legs at this time quite recklessly for a while; no shaving cream really or water, just razor to skin…. which equaled lots of razor burn and bumps. I was a competitive young swimmer since the first grade, so the idea of having my period scared me. I thought once it came that I could never swim, or at least during that time of the month. I found out that was partially true for a time in my case, but that’s a little further down from the first day of my actual period.
I could smell the turkey roasting as I watched my Grammy mixing the mashed potatoes, and taking smoke breaks every so often. My extended family bustled around the house in neat and tidy holiday outfits which usually consisted of khakis, skirts or dresses, and sweaters. I was most likely wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. I had started my period earlier in the day, but did not really begin to bleed until just before we had Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents’ home. Most of my cousins were too young to understand what I was going through; I didn’t really understand it myself other than the concept of wearing something in my underwear to prevent the blood from leaking through to my outer clothes. You know, the basics. I pulled my mum aside and told her the situation. She found a pad for me and we went on with the day.

My mum purchased pads every month just for me, as she and my sister were already using tampons. The pads were fairly long, the glue sticky and annoying on them. It was constantly tugging at my hair and skin and would slide around down there all day. My mum felt at age 10, I should wait for tampons until I was ready. I usually bought Always, the name still cracks me up to this day. Always, Depends… etc. One wouldn’t see Never, Sometimes, or Once in a while. ALWAYS. I breezed through this period fairly well as I didn’t have school due to the holiday break. My best friend had started her period before me so we had talked a lot about her experience. I was able to sneak around Christmas, or so I thought. Around February, I had started my period. I was not too concerned; ya know once a month and all? The five days came and went then to seven days. I was at two weeks, going on week three. I was in a state of panic as I had been missing swim practices and a few swim meets. The swim meet coming up for the championship qualifiers was almost here.
The week of, I kept hoping my period would end. It wasn’t even a light period; it was a heavy, blood-soaking pad every day period. Gym sucked as my pad would squish around in my underwear constantly. I had to change my pad several times a day. I went to the doctor who said it was fine and these things happen sometimes. I was becoming angry at this whole body change becoming-a-woman stuff. I wanted to go back to the way it was, it seemed much easier before… life that is. The days leading up to that Saturday, I checked my pad hourly to see if my period had stopped. The morning of, my period had appeared to stop. We drove to the meet, my mum and I, she kept trying to comfort my worries.
I rushed into the locker room where the meet was being held. I pushed past other swimmers and went into the bathroom to check. I pulled down my pants and looked. I started to cry a little. I stopped myself from a full on cry fest and finished in the stall. I washed my hands and found my mum waiting for me. I told her I had started again. I began to cry as she hugged me. She said we should let my coach know. He, my coach, was a well-over middle-aged man… he says to my mum, “Can’t she just do something about it?” WOW! I was devastated as I had never used tampons and I wasn’t ready to start right here, right now. My mum stood up for me and explained that I was too young right now to use anything else. This conversation took place in the middle of a hallway outside of the pool, where people were passing by. I was mortified, so crushed that I ended my swim career right then and there. I never went back.
It took me decades to regain this sense of love and pride in my menses and my cycle and the power both possess for me as a woman. I did eventually go back to the water, but not to compete, just to enjoy. My mum bought the box of Always on the way home and I listened to Maria Carey’s song “Hero” which I used to sing to myself in the water and cried all the way home. I wish for every young girl to have a happy and joyful transition into womanhood. It should be a celebrated time, not just a “do something about it” quick and get over it time. I’ve learned to love my vulva and to be one with my body. So much beauty, strength, and love lie within us. We just have to let it flow.