Do you remember your first period?
I’m guessing you do. It’s a sign of becoming a women. Of entering those group of girls who ‘had got their period’ – the special group, who would talk pads and pain and cycles and precautions leaving those who had not got their periods – out in the cold. The have’s and the have not’s. Woman vs. Child. Silly really in retrospect. There is no competition. We all get there in the end.
As white, middle class and a GP’s daughter, getting your period held no spiritual, religious or cultural value. There was no ceremony or song, or feast or big deal. But.. it was memorable. Searing pain. Hot coals tearing into your lower tummy. A couple of days off school. Hot water bottles and four hourly Panadol. The unfamiliar feeling and smell of pads between your legs. Older brothers making embarrassing, stirring remarks.
I remember crouching next to toilet – behind the closed-door – trying vainly to insert a tampon into an unwilling and at that time – unfamiliar vagina. There was NO WAY that sucker was going anywhere.
“How do I know if it’s the right hole?” I yell to my mother who is hovering on the other side of the door. “It won’t fit’ I yell out.
‘Want me to help you?’ Asks mum in an attempt of helpfulness ‘ooooh no!!’ I yell back like a slap across the face. Yuck!! ” I am a nurse you know” she responds. “Nooooo!!” I yell back – leaning against the door – my efforts of insertion leaving me exhausted, confused and embarrassed.
And so it began. A lifetime of periods. Surreptitiously moving pad from school locker to under your jumper and making your way to the toilet at recess. Nothing going on here!
My period. Like clockwork from age 13 to 52. My periods. A faithful monthly companions. A bloody symbol of women-hood and potential fertility. And then. Without fanfare or warning it stopped. Well sort of.