The first time I got my period, I was a month away from turning 12; it was my sixth grade Field Day, and I was sent to school in white cotton shorts.
I'd had enough education (in school and at home) to know what was happening; all of us sixth grade girls were given "emergency kits" in health class, which we stashed under our beds with a mix of wonder, anticipation, and faint horror. I don't remember being overjoyed; I do remember I did NOT want my father to find out, and of course my mother told him as soon as he came home from work.
The part that makes me laugh, in retrospect, was that "to celebrate," my mother took me to the diner, and all I felt like eating was potato salad.
My knowledge of periods, before mine started, was limited to the word "period" and one very vague, uncomfortable afternoon in the 4th grade where the girls were separated, watched a video, and then tore apart the sample tampons and pads we were given. So when mine began around the age of 11, I was still under the impression that it was called a period because it left a bloodstain the size of a large punctuation mark of the same name in your undies. Imagine my surprise, after affixing a pantyliner found in the bottom drawer in the bathroom (my sister had already started a few years earlier), that a light days liner was wholly insufficient for the job!
I spent about 10 years being weirdly embarrassed about my period. I had really long, heavy flow, never talked to anyone about it -- save the occasional whispered "do you have a pad?" to a dear friend at a school -- and was generally exceptionally uncomfortable for about one week out of the month. Total bummer. Eventually, I learned about reusables and -- like they do for many of us! -- they changed my life.
Over the years of reusables, my perspective toward my body has totally changed. As one of my Facebook friends commented recently, "yes, it can come with cramps and other symptoms, but my body is a freaking wonderland of femininity and beauty and magic." Hear, hear.
I don't have a daughter, but I have a young niece, and as she grows up I hope to be one of many nurturing female voices in her life that reinforces positive feelings about her body. I don't intend to hide anything from her about what being a "grown up" means, and obviously my career will be an easy conversation-starter as far as periods go! And she'll grow up with a mother who uses cloth pads, too. My goal with anyone, no matter their age, is to speak honestly and frankly and create safe spaces for questions and conversations!
My mom didn't tell me anything about my period. She didn't even have pads in the house even though she had two puberty-aged daughters (she'd had a hysterectomy). I got my first period on the first day of 8th grade at a party. The only thing we had in the house was pantyliners and toilet paper, so that's what I used until she figured out I'd gotten it. One night, she got me out of bed, took me in the bathroom, shut the door, and asked me in a whisper if I'd gotten my period. I was mortified. She made everything seem like the most embarrassing thing that could ever happen to you. I once got grounded for asking her in front of my dad and brother if she could pick me up some pads at the store.
I want to do things totally different with my daughter. I'm going to have a multitude of products available for her well before she needs them, so she will be familiar with them. I'm also going to explain to her exactly what to expect and make sure she understands that it's nothing to be embarrassed of. It's something that happens to half the population once a month for most of their lives - why should we be embarrassed? I'm also going to have a menarche party for her, to celebrate her entrance into womanhood.
Loving wife of my gamer boy Michael. Blog link in my profile!
This contest is now closed! Thank you to everyone that entered - we loved hearing your stories! Whether your own mothers did or didn't talk about your period, it seems like there's one thing in common: we'll all be open with our daughters when it comes time for them to cross over to womanhood!
We'll be announcing the winner in a few days!