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.


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