What I Wish I Knew About Getting my First Period

 
 “Menstruate with Pride”by artist Sarah Maple |  sarahmaple.com

“Menstruate with Pride”by artist Sarah Maple | sarahmaple.com

 
 

When I was in 4th grade, I was handed this little pamphlet called “Your Body and You” – or was it “Your Changing Body and You?” Either way, I remember being fascinated with the changes I was going to experience (even though at the time I had no true concept of what it meant). I examined diagrams of my reproductive organs and read (to the point of memorization) the explanation of what a menstrual cycle was.

I desperately wanted to talk about it with my mom but didn’t know exactly how to bring it up. One night, I devised a plan and headed into the kitchen where I knew she was (pretending to read the pamphlet in hopes my mom would notice) to try to bait her into the conversation. Her reaction was not at all what I expected.  She asked what I was reading, but after catching a glimpse of the title, she pulled the pamphlet out of my hands in surprise and proceeded to flip through it in shock while my dad looked over her shoulder.

I remember feeling so embarrassed. I retreated to my room regretting ever wanting to bring it up. I don’t recall what happened the rest of that evening, but I do remember what happened the next day when I got home from school:

My mom was waiting for me in the living room with a big anatomy book. I don’t remember what was said between the two of us, but I do remember sitting on her lap in our big tan recliner while she educated me on sex, menstruation and all the fun stuff that comes with puberty. It was nice. I felt respected. It was one of those rare moments where you transcend childhood and feel like an adult, even if it is a fleeting moment. I ate up everything she said and couldn’t wait to tell my friends at school what I had learned.

I truly believe it was at this moment my passion for sexual and reproductive health began. I talked about it to any of my friends who would listen and read everything I could get my hands on. But no matter how much you read about what a period is you are never quite prepared for it when it actually happens. But, I looked forward to getting my period. To me, it represented a rite of passage into *womanhood, and I so wanted to be a woman.

I didn’t get my period until the beginning of 6th grade. By then my parents had divorced, and of course, it happened for the first time on my dad’s weekend. It was a Saturday morning. The sun was out, and I had just finished breakfast. I went into the bathroom, and when I wiped, there it was: a small, pinkish, reddish, clearish streak on the toilet paper. 

I was stunned. I remember freezing and not knowing what to do. All of my book learning about periods and I had no thought on how to proceed from this situation. At that moment I burst into tears. I felt something I didn’t expect to feel: I was afraid. Suddenly, everything changed. It finally happened. The holy grail of puberty. I was filled with so many emotions I couldn’t sift through them fast enough. I don’t know how long I was in the bathroom, but I eventually was able to compose myself. I wadded up some toilet paper, stuck it in my underwear and emerged into the hallway for the first time as a "woman."

I remember feeling embarrassed to tell my dad, so I snuck to the phone in the kitchen to call my mom. There was little privacy, and I could tell my dad was lurking so I tried to remain calm but the minute my mom picked up the other end I began to cry again. I managed to stutter through my sobs that I had just gotten my period. I don’t remember what she said about it, but she asked to speak with my dad. I sat there completely mortified. I knew what she was telling him and I couldn’t bear to look him in the face. 

Next thing I remember was my dad leaving to go to the store and coming home with a travel-sized green package of “Always with wings.” Oh, the horror. Eventually, my mom came to pick me up, and I’m pretty sure I spent the rest of the weekend crying. Crying because I was in uncharted territory, crying because I didn’t know if I would have to stop playing with my toys, crying because, well, I was experiencing hormones.

Like many women who have come before me, I survived that harrowing day and lived to tell about it. The transition from BP (Before Period) to AP (After Period) was confusing, exciting and a little frightening all at the same time. My friends who had already gotten their periods were an amazing source of comfort and my friends who hadn’t were in awe of me. I am thankful my mom did what she could to prepare me because it empowered me to treat my body kindly.

What I wish I knew about getting my period is that nothing had to change. I didn't have to suddenly take on adulthood. I still felt like a child and I wanted to linger there a little longer. I also wish I knew that no matter how much you prepare for things, until you experience it, you will never fully grasp or understand it. And that's OK. Being aware that you don't fully understand how something will affect you is just part of being human. Keep this in mind when you find yourself about to enter a new phase. And remember, you will survive. So, just tune into your body, ask for help when you need it, and go with the flow. 

*The idea of menstruation equating to womanhood is a reflection of how I felt in that moment of my life. I do not believe, nor do we at Harlot ascribe to the idea that menstruation, pregnancy, or any other reproductive-related event in any way defines womanhood or what it means to be a woman. 

*Article originally published on Cycledork.com

 

amy sutherland - founder

Hey all! My name is Amy Sutherland (she/her), and I have been passionate about sexual health since before I hit puberty. I've spent most of my adult life working as a writer focusing on health and wellness. More particularly, women’s reproductive health. 

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