The First Period

I remember my first period as if it were yesterday. I was twelve when most of my friends at school had started getting their periods. A woman at my mum’s work had recommended a book for her to buy me filled with all the taboo topics of becoming a woman. After reading it, I was not only mortified but nervous of what my body was going to go through. After some pelvic pain, strange new feelings in my body, and swelling in my breasts and abdomen, I knew my period was coming. I spent days convincing my mum before she finally agreed to drive me to the supermarket to buy my first period essentials.

Was anyone else completely overwhelmed the first time they bought their menstrual products? There were so many brands, sizes, absorbencies, and contraptions involved with a period. How was I supposed to know what to get? Where was the damn manual of periods explaining what I should buy? I felt like the sanitary aisle needed a personal assistant waiting to help you. I’d probably have gone a shade of beetroot with embarrassment if they had asked, but the thought was there in the moment. After some awkward chats with my mum, I went with a regular flow and a brand that looked pretty. It always seems the safest bet at the time, right?

The book said to trial soaking a tampon in water to see how much they absorb. I’m pretty sure my parents thought I was completely insane when they saw me hanging over the pool dangling a tampon in. Even the family cat was giving me a concerned look. Note to young teens- no matter how much you bleed - a tampon will never grow that big inside you! It is terrible advice to test the soaking abilities of a tampon. Blood is much thicker than water and a tampon soaks up a LOT of water. Very unrealistic and bad advice.

My parents had organised for me to stay with my siblings for a month in Sydney over Christmas. I was packing my suitcase and had put the pads, tampons and liners in. My Mum walked past my bedroom door and asked me why I was packing them. I reminded her of my intuitive feeling that my period was coming. She laughed and said not to bother packing them as my suitcase was already overflowing. Mum, I know it rarely happened but this was one of the few times you were 100% wrong. I unpacked them knowing I would regret it later.

It was a few days before Christmas and I was watching movies with my siblings. Everything became too loud, too bright and too much to deal with. My stomach hurt, and I felt like my uterus had been through a shredder. My emotions got so overwhelming that I went into the bathroom to take a breather and use the toilet. I had some watery blood on my underpants and was scared that something was very wrong. I wiped myself over and over again but the blood kept coming. The book that was supposed to prepare me for what to expect in my first period did absolutely no good in that moment. I thought I was dying and started panicking big time. (I know this sounds dramatic but put yourself in a twelve year old's mind).

At no point did my first period cross my mind. The book had told me to expect small spots of blood that got heavier. It said brown or fresh blood could be expected. Nowhere did it say that someone was going to turn the tap on and red water was going to come out by the litre (or so it felt)! I sat in there contemplating what I should do and how I could get off the toilet without blood going everywhere. Finally my sister knocked on the door and asked if I was okay. She told me to wrap toilet paper around my underpants a few times to make a pad since the shops weren’t open. I went to bed terrified and scared of what I was going to find in the morning.

After a restless night of changing the ‘toilet paper pad’ several times, and excruciating pain, we went to get some sanitary items. We returned home with a box of tampons and I went straight to the bathroom. I laid out the instructions that came in the tampon box. My nervous system was soaring. I had no idea about the world inside my vagina. What if it got lost up there? How would I get it out? What the hell is a cervix and why am I aiming the tampon near it? Half an hour later I had managed to insert my first tampon. Nowhere in the book did it tell me it would be that painful to insert a tampon.

The next day we were on a bus to the city, I was uncomfortable and still experiencing a lot of pain. I panicked as I felt a gush of blood exit my body. What the hell? The tampon said I would last up to eight hours and I’d only put it in two hours ago. I told my sister and she asked if I had a liner on. I hadn’t. The book said it was only needed for spotting days, why did I need a liner and a tampon? The panic rose higher as I felt more and more blood come out. We got to the city and I made a dash to the bathroom to find it had destroyed both my underwear and jeans. I changed the tampon to find it soaked in blood. Why was I bleeding so much? I tied my cardigan around my waist and told my sister we had to go back home immediately.

My first period was an absolute disaster. The book was no help to me and my period was nothing like what it said it would be. I learnt a valuable lesson from reading that book. There is no one size fits all with periods. No period is alike. Whilst research through the internet and books can be helpful in preparing you for your first period, it can also be dangerous. Using the information as a guideline rather than a manual is the advice I would give. If you are worried about your period, talk to a health professional and seek help. Don’t trust everything that one book, person, or website tells you. Everyone is different. If you think something isn’t right, find a good doctor who will listen. You know your own body better than anyone.