Let's Talk About Periods
Aunt Flo. That Time of the Month. Period. No matter how you phrase it, menstruation is often a monthly occurrence for many women. It’s quite a taboo subject in mainstream media, which is pretty odd, considering about 26% of the world’s population is currently of menstruating age. Period equality is a right that has been fought for in recent years and the fight is still ongoing. But something many don’t talk about is their first time getting their period - which is something that needs to be normalized. So, let’s talk about the first time I got my period.
On an average Saturday in March, I woke up one morning and went to use the bathroom. I had slept over at my friend’s house that night, since we were both in seventh grade and sleepovers were all the rage on a Friday after school. I shuffled my way to her bathroom and did my business, realizing a few seconds after I had sat on the toilet that there was a little bit of blood in my underwear. Lucky for me, I had gone to a period education class when I was in the 4th grade at my local hospital. This allowed me to not have a full blown “Carrie” moment in my friend’s bathroom. I poked my head out of the bathroom and told her that I got my period. She already had hers thankfully, so she gave me my first pad. It was pretty thick and honestly felt like a diaper but I wore it like a badge of honor. I was finally a woman!
The rest of the day I had barely any bleeding. I went to the mall with my friend and we walked around and shopped with ease. I honestly didn’t feel any different, though I kept asking her to check my butt to make sure I hadn’t accidentally leaked through - something girls have secretly been asking each other since the dawn of time, I presume.
Once our mall trip was nearing its end, I started to get pangs of pain in my lower stomach. They would come in waves, sometimes pretty intense, other times they were manageable. These pains were what I would soon become all too familiar with: period cramps. I asked my friend if she had ever experienced them and she said they would go away with time.
My mom had dropped us off at the mall, so I texted her shortly after the cramps started and asked if she could pick us up. She came swiftly and dropped my friend off at her house on our route to the pharmacy. I will honestly never forget how excited my mom was to bring me to the Rite Aid by my house to pick up my first box of pads and tampons. She also bought me Pamprin to sooth my period cramps and a Snickers bar (for my chocolate cravings, of course). I returned home and laid on the couch for a few hours with a heating pad on my uterus, relishing in the excuse that I didn’t have to do anything for the rest of the day because I had my period.
Fast forward to today, I’ve had my period for 9 years. I can say with every inch of my heart and soul, that periods suck. I get mind-numbing cramps pretty much every month, though they usually only last the first day. However, those first few hours of cramps are truly the worst. Sometimes, I throw up because the pain is so strong. My fresh heating pad that I used as a thirteen year-old is now pretty beaten up from all of the use it's gotten throughout the years. I have a pretty small chest, yet my breasts feel like boulders leading up to my period and for the first few days after. My periods used to last for only about 3 days, now they are about 5-6 days long on average, but sometimes they last for 7-8 days (which is totally okay, as our bodies fluctuate with hormones, stress, etc.). Sometimes they’re so heavy I have to wear a tampon and a liner, especially because I’m tired of losing my favorite underwear to period blood. Don’t even get me started on the back pain, headaches, fatigue, bloating, and all of the other symptoms that come with it. Arguably the most annoying part is that I can’t lay on the couch all day and eat a Snickers bar like the first time I got my period. Life must go on, even if your cramps are so intense that you feel like your uterus is going to explode or your back hurts so badly you can barely sit up. Believe me, if I could “call out” of life every time I got my period, like we do for work, I would.
With all this negativity said, I am truly blessed that I have my period. Yes, they suck. I don’t think many are infatuated with the idea of bleeding out of their vagina every month. But, I am lucky to be able to have a period, one that does not lead to any negative health conditions and one that is regular (almost too regular, to the point where I swear I have a spidey sense leading up to Aunt Flo’s arrival). As much as I’m tired of dealing with my period, I can’t say that I wish I didn’t have it. Getting my period means that my body is doing what it needs to do.
While my body is able to menstruate regularly, without the help of medication or other resources, there are some women who suffer from period related chronic illnesses. PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome causes infrequent or abnormally long menstruation, which is a very common chronic illness that occurs in women of child-bearing age when cysts form in the woman’s uterus. Endometriosis personally runs in my family, which causes extremely painful and sometimes irregular periods, mainly due to abnormal tissue that grows outside of the uterus. Some women might miss their period due to excessive exercise or stress that is not chronic but still uncomfortable. Let’s not forget about womxn who are not able to have periods due to hormones who wish they could have them. Periods truly are a blessing in disguise, especially when they are able to come regularly and naturally. Though, having an irregular or missed period is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone has a different body that works in its own ways - what matters is destigmatizing the meaning of menstruation at its core.
Always.com writes that a period means “every month or so, the uterus lining gets thicker to prepare for a fertilized egg if the woman becomes pregnant. If the egg doesn't get fertilized, that lining is released from the body as blood through the vagina. This monthly process is called menstruation or a period.” I was lucky enough to know what a period meant from a young age. My mom never hid it from me and always taught me that getting your period is just a part of being a woman. It might not be the most exciting part, but it's natural and it should be normalized.
I’ve had plenty of embarrassing period stories in my day, like bleeding through my pants in high school or having a pad flying out of my purse in public. But, I look at all of these “embarrassing” moments as a fact of life. It’s not embarrassing to have your period. Just like it's not embarrassing to have body hair or to sweat as a woman. Society has normalized the negative feelings about menstruation and has completely hidden the importance and positive repercussions of having a period as a woman.
Because I have a period, I can have children one day. I know that I am in good vaginal and uterine health when my period is regular. I can joke to my girlfriends about us being “period-synced”. I can even choose to have a self-care day when it’s feasible, just because sometimes you need to slow down and relax during your period. My first period has led to my hundredth period and however many periods I’ve had since then. With every experience that I’ve had relating to menstruation, I know that I’m lucky to have this experience because not every womxn can. I encourage you all to share your period story. The more we talk about our first period or any experience we’ve had with menstruation, the faster we’ll be able to destigmatize a natural occurrence of life.
Need further information? Check out these menstruation resources: