Periods… we have around 450 of them in our life time, and each one is unique.
But everyone, including everyone, remembers their first time and each story is unique too; feelings of ‘fear’, ‘worry’, ’embarrassment’, ‘pride’ and ‘celebration’ come flooding back depending on how much they were prepared for this momentous occasion.
But why is each story so varied? Why shouldn’t every first period be a time to celebrate? A time to admire how we’ve grown, a time to embrace adulthood.
Its us adults that make the difference between fear and pride, how much we decide to share, when the right time is to “have the talk”.
Imagine playing with your friends, care free, enjoying being a child and then out of the blue your bleeding, bleeding from a place that no one talks about, a place that adults tell you to cover up as quickly as possible. Blood, the sign of pain, the sign that you’re hurt… but you didn’t fall over, you didn’t even bump it, its just there and your confused and scared and embarrassed.
No young person should feel this way, so why do we hold on to this vital information? Why don’t we make it a time to celebrate?
Our own fear, our own embarrassment, worry that our babies are growing up.
So when is the right time? What is the right age to have “the talk”? 7, 8, 9, 10? The average young person starts their period at around 11 years old but this varies incredibly too; “I was 12”, “I was 9”, “I was 14”.
THE MEDICAL BIT
At around 8 years old the human brain starts to make GnRH (Gonadotropin-releasing hormone), which then triggers the production of oestrogen and progesterone, THIS is the start of puberty, THIS is the sign that things are starting to change. Breasts start to bud, hormones begin to cause chaos, a growth spurt occurs.
The young person changes: maybe more tears, shouting, strops but often this gets missed as simply a behavioral change: we shout back, we get upset ourselves, we tell people that our sweet little Sally has been replaced over night for a belligerent, ill-mannered little gremlin.
Is this the right time to have the talk? Or is it when our little Johnny walks in to our dinner party with a sanitary pad stuck to their forehead and a tampon forced up each nostril? NOOOOO i hear you scream, that would never happen! We hide them: in our ‘special’ cupboard, under the groceries in the shopping trolley, in the little pouch right at the bottom of our bags!
STOP! Have the conversation, “These are things that Mommy uses each month when she has a period, a period is when Mommy’s body gets rid of a red fluid because she hasn’t become pregnant” And of course this might stir further questions and now might not be the right time, “We can talk about it more later if you have any more questions?”, then choose a time and come back to it, explain it in a way that isn’t scary or embarrassing (even if it feels it!), make that time and it will make all the difference.
I was once told by a friend who’s Mom came from a tiny island in the south pacific that periods were a time to celebrate in her culture. My friend started her period, told her Mom and Mom proceeded to cook, get balloons and invite the neighbours around to have a celebratory party! This is by far the best “I started my period” story that I’ve heard, but we’re very “British” about all things that concern the genitals over here, and it’s not just the British, some cultures will not talk about periods, its a time to keep quiet, avoid praying and refrain from activity…NOT ON OUR WATCH!
“My mom told me told me I couldn’t bathe on my period because I would bleed to death”
“She then said I need to be careful now and not let anyone touch me”
From the fear of Christ to the more endearing:
“She made a massive fuss about her little girl growing up, it was embarrassing. Then we made some fudge”
“I told my Nan and she reassured me and got me some pads”
“She [sic] bought me ice cream and I watched a film with another friend going through the same. I felt good because my mom took the time to make our house a safe space to talk about it like it was normal which in turn made my friend want to be there too”
You don’t have to buy balloons, invite the neighbours around or even bake a cake, a quiet sit down conversation led by little Johnny or Sally will do the trick, make it less daunting and make your child realise that periods are normal, something worth talking about and it enables your child to speak freely about personal issues, something that later on you’ll give yourself a pat on the back for.
THE SAD REALITY
Periods are expensive, inconvenient and often a time of worry for many people across the globe, yes even here in Wolverhampton, in a City, in the U.K, in the 21st century…
“I was also on benefits at the time and I’m very very lucky my mom lived down the road brought me pads”
“Some times if I ran out and I had no money I have folded up loads of tissue and walked about with what feels like a phone directory in between my legs”
“I used torn up old sheets and then would have to hide them in the bin, he [Dad] was too busy spending our money down the pub, I missed school more than once, how could i go?”
“Even using a pad and a tampon i would still flood, i was so heavy, I would cry at night but couldn’t talk to anyone about it, i was too embarrassed”
NOT ANY MORE!!!
Project GIVE aim ensure every young person has easy access to free sanitary wear, as much as they need, month after month. We will supply pads, tampons, spare underwear and hygiene wipes (for those “i wasn’t expecting it” moments) to schools across our city to protect our young people from missing vital education. We will educate students in the facts of periods, not just brushing over the highlights but thorough information to make periods less embarrassing, we will reduce the stigma and encourage young people to be more body aware so that they feel more confident in talking about the things that affect them. Boys as well as girls and every gender variation in-between, because we truly believe that everyone should be included, periods are not just a “girl problem”.
#projectgivewv #periodpositive #positiveperiod #periodpoverty