I have always wanted to write about this but I was skeptical till I read the article about the Indian student-Rupi Kaur who put up pictures of her blood stained clothes and beddings. Although this article is not as graphic as hers, I am pretty sure it reflects the feelings of most ladies out there.
When my mom first told me about periods, it was awkward. In JSS1, my Integrated Science teacher treated the topic and it was less awkward…just like every day learning. In JSS3, the marketers of Always sanitary towels came to my school and educated girls on menstrual hygiene. Then we were given two sanitary towels each. I kept them till I saw my first period.
I remember it vividly because I was really looking forward to it. I was having my bath and I felt something rough around my thighs. I happily sat down to inspect it hoping that it would be a wound that I could peel (Yes! I loved peeling my wounds and that of others too) On close inspection, I discovered that it was coagulated blood! From where now? When did I cut myself? It was not until the next morning that it actually dawned on me: “this could actually be my long awaited period oh!”
I excitedly shared the news with my friend when I got to school the next day and she was happy for me. It really proved to be my period because later that evening, I noticed little streaks of blood on my underwear. I marked the day on the blue Union Bank calendar in my room. It was in May.
Fast forward to a year or two later when the cycle has fully set in, it now flowed heavily, 5 days a month, sometimes 6 or 7, And the pain? It was out of this world. I would take pain killers, use hot water bottle, roll on the bed for hours before I finally get relief. I asked my mum if there was a way to stop periods and she proceeded to educate me on the importance of menstrual cycle. She said: “You can’t have a baby if you don’t see your period”. So I resolved to bear the pain because I really want to see little me.
Back in school, many girls my age had begun seeing their periods and it gave rise to a lot of conversation.
“My aunty says the pain would reduce maximally if you have sex, drink cold Fanta and it’ll stop the pain”
“Do not do any form of physical activity, house chores inclusive, just lie down for as long as possible” (I loved that one).
“Ladies who live together get their periods around the same time” (Google says it’s true, has to do with pheromones)
We also formulated words and expressions for period: “oga”, “dropping an egg”, ”Seeing red”, “my visitor is around”.
Not everyone experiences painful periods, but most of us have gone through the embarrassment of getting stained. I once alighted from a bike in front of my gate and noticed that the white leather seat of the bike had a dark red stain. I surreptitiously lifted the hem of my gown and immediately wiped off the stain, so the bike guy didn’t even notice.
Very often, someone, usually a fellow lady usually calls to my attention to the fact that I am stained and I would have a scarf or sweater handy to come to my rescue till I can do something permanent about the stain.
My friend had a mensperience (menstrual experience) whilst on a tricycle. She needed to pick something up from home while the tricycle waited to take her to her next destination. On getting home, she quickly got down and dashed inside to get what she needed, she came out to see the tricycle driver looking very uneasy, he said: “Aunty, please I need water and towel, I want to clean the seat.” When she looked at the seat, the dark red blood glared at her; she was as uneasy as the driver. She went in and got water and towel. The guy even offered to clean it but she declined and cleaned it herself. The driver kept saying, sorry aunty, sorry aunty. It was an awkward ride down to her destination.
I don’t know if the fact that they were both embarrassed helped in any way. She just couldn’t wait for the journey to be over.
The birth of my menstrual cycle was something I eagerly anticipated. In retrospect, I don’t really know what the excitement was all about. Maybe it was the saying that once you start seeing your period you become a woman.
Over the years, I have come to realize many new things about periods like: it doesn’t necessarily have to hurt; if it does hurt ,there are several remedies to relive the pain (both local and orthodox). I have learnt that, “Always” is just a brand of sanitary towel, that there are other things apart from towels that I could use when seeing my period like tampons and menstrual cups and they all have different brands.
It is also important to give young girls practical information about periods – what periods are, when it will happen, if it’ll hurt, what she should do, what she shouldn’t do and things like that because the start of menstruation is a major event in a girl’s life.
Kindly share stories on how you knew about periods: when you first got your period; the worst menstrual cramps you have experienced, and your most embarrassing moments being stained. Advice on good sanitary towels, tampons, cups or the likes that could avoid the embarrassment of being stained is also welcome.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Andrey Popov