One Size Does Not Fit All
One size does NOT fit all when it comes to periods. Whether it’s the age you got your first period, where you got your first period, or how long your period lasted, every first period story is different for everyone — even feelings and emotions can vary during first period experiences. Curiosity, excitement, and even embarrassment may come up. That’s why we believe in sharing first period stories to normalize period conversations, empower people who menstruate and shed light on how periods can differ from person to person. This week we interviewed Sandia Huang, a 22-year old student at Tyndale University. When asked about her first period experience, Sandia shares:
“My first period was when I was in grade 7 on the morning of Christmas Eve. My first period came on the morning of Christmas Eve in 2010 and it was also the day of my baptism. Therefore, I initially was quite excited (mostly due to my baptism) and nothing really bothered me on the first day. When I first got my period in the morning, I had to call my oldest sister in because I didn’t know what to do and she was the one that taught me how to use the pad and such. Even though on the first day I didn’t really feel anything, I did experience some cramps on the second day, and I remember constantly having the fear of leaking. After a while, I also became very conscious of the smell and was scared if anyone else could smell it.”
Fear and self-consciousness are feelings that may arise during periods. Although almost half the world’s population menstruates, these feelings can oftentimes come up during periods, especially during first periods when we’re still just learning about menstruation. And the fear that someone could smell your period blood is REAL.
“I remember learning about menstruation at school a few months before my period. My mom also talked to me about it after I got my period. I feel like it wasn’t something she thought was necessary to teach me before I actually got it. Afterward, I learned more about my period and menstruation from the Internet (which provided more information than my school or mom)”
For many menstruating people, including myself, the Internet is the main source for period education. This highlights the taboo of periods at home and in schools, to the extent that menstruating people would rather seek information from the Internet than ask trusted parents or teachers. Incomplete period educations in schools mean that many menstruators must learn about periods on their own and turn to the Internet.
“I never really felt embarrassed about my period, but I do remember after having “the talk” at school, the boys from our class would start acting weird around girls and laughed. I didn’t think it was something that was funny, but I did remember a lot of girls getting offended and embarrassed by their actions. This was also the year that girls started sitting out for gym classes when they had their period however,
I think a part of me didn’t want to show people that I had my period because I would seem “weak”.
So, when my period came, I would force myself to finish all the gym activities and at the end, I had massive cramps but being stubborn, I pretended like it was nothing.”
The stigma surrounding periods is all too real. It can take years or even decades for menstruators to become comfortable with their period. Opening up period conversations and de-stigmatizing menstruation can help frame periods in a positive light. “The people around me didn’t make period a weird thing, so it definitely helped me a lot”
When asked about her biggest challenge associated with her period, Sandia shares:
“The biggest challenge I am currently going through right now with my period is the irregularity. I have been dealing with this for a really long time and I have gone to a lot of doctors and did a lot of scans however, results would always come back saying that everything is normal. If I am the only one dealing with this issue, I would not be stressed about it at all. Yet, my mom is very involved and her worrying about my period (and my ability to have kids in the future) is what stresses me out more. Accepting that I am getting my period because that is how I am designed is fine for me, but when others think there is something wrong with me because of the irregularity of my period brings me unnecessary fear and stress. When I start to experience extreme irregularities, I start to believe that there is something wrong with me even if the test said I was OK. For a while, I would be worried about my health because of my period and I would think I am not normal. I also didn’t feel like sharing my struggles with my period was good and I thought it was something people would have a negative reaction to. However, after a few years, I have become more accepting of myself and my period and I am now comfortable to talk about my problems and experiences openly.”
Stigmas silence our voices. When it comes to menstruation, this idea that having or getting your period is something to be embarrassed by stops us from sharing our stories and can make us wonder, “Am I normal?”. When we speak up and share our stories we see that somewhere out there someone can relate to our period stories and experiences. I got my first period the summer after 7th grade when I was 13-years old. Some of my friends had already got their periods before me, and I remember I kept silently wondering to myself “Why didn’t I get my period yet? Is this normal? Am I normal?”. I wish I knew at that time that periods differ from person to person.
To anyone struggling with menstruation stigma, Sandia shares:
“I think something that really helped me was definitely accepting myself and how my body is created. It’s definitely a part of self-love and acknowledging that it’s a part of you that is inseparable. […] I think education is also a key component to de-stigmatize menstruation. I believe when people are educated and understand menstruation, including teaching them about the stigma and the lack of respect around menstruation, will produce proper knowledge about it. Furthermore, even the emphasis on the seriousness of this topic will definitely set a message for young pre-teens that this is normal and shouldn’t be something that is laughed at.”
We hope that Sandia’s story resonates and relates to you! We want to continue normalizing period conversations and building a supportive network for people who menstruate. If you would like to see your period story featured on our blog contact us at email@example.com, subscribe to our newsletter, or connect with us on social media! If you love sustainable menstrual pads you can sign up HERE to pre-order your very own Ruth pads! Thank you for reading! Don’t forget to wear your masks, wash your hands, and stay safe!