Say it again
Last fall I had a conversation about menstruation with my then two-year-old daughter. I didn’t want to; I was forced. Some were amused by its content. Some inspired.
Just the other night, the topic of periods came up again. Because I was having mine, and once again my daughter saw the string between my legs.
“Somefeen in your butt, Mommy.”
“We had this conversation before, honey. Do you remember? There is nothing in my butt. It’s in my vagina, and it’s called a tampon.”
A look of recognition came across her face, and she nodded as if to say she remembered. And then she was quiet for a moment. I thought I was getting off easy this time. But…
While riding on the N train last month, I noticed those damned, lower-back cramps signaling to me that my visitor arrived three weeks too early.
I was not prepared, if you know what I mean.
I arrived to Fordham (a New York University) with a half hour to kill before class. I went to the bathroom with my loose change, ready to purchase a tampon from a dispenser. To my astonishment, I discovered that no such dispenser existed.
I ran through the stairwells searching all floors for tampon dispensers. I realized that our beloved campus was not equipped with the ammo needed to combat the red scare.
I struggle to be on friendly terms with what is commonly referred to as maxi pads. Although it’s been many years since I’ve used one, I remember why I began disliking pads—they felt like diapers for adults, only instead of urine & fecal matter, I was sitting in menstrual fluids.
My issue with pads began while I was in high school. I was in the middle of class, had just changed my pad, yet I felt warm liquid working its way up my crack. I knew if I didn’t catch it, I would leak, so I excused myself to the bathroom for maintenance. Sure enough, my pad wasn’t catching the menstrual fluids. I thought if I’d used 2 super, extra long maxis with wings that my problem would be solved, but that didn’t help either. The menstrual fluid would just travel up, missing the pad altogether. Also, the size of the pads made me feel like I was sitting on a pillow, or wearing a diaper. I’d had it with pads, so I decided to try tampons. I was in love! Leakage was rare, I didn’t feel like I was wearing a diaper, and I wasn’t sitting in my own fluid. Also, I could SWIM—which I loved to do—so I was sold. I have been using tampons for years ever since.
Currently, with awareness spreading about Toxic Shock Syndrome, I am looking for new products to use during my period. I refuse to use pads because I cannot imagine sitting in my own fluids again, and I desperately want to stop using tampons because at times my vagina needs a break from having a foreign object lodged up there, even if it is temporary. I haven’t been brave enough to try something new, but with new articles being written about the chemicals used in tampons, my vaginal health comes before comfort. One thing is certain: I will never use pads again.
I will never forget the shopping trip that I took with my Mom when we were searching for my grade 8 Graduation dress. I had my period and I had the worst cramps I had ever experienced. I had already taken some medication for the pain, but it wasn’t doing anything for me. I should have listened better to my body because I ended up passing out on the change room floor because the pain was so intense! We ended up going to see the doctor after that and I was prescribed some special medication that helped me get through the terrible cramps each month.
My parents divorced when I was 11 and my mother moved out of the house. For a while my mother would buy me my monthly “supplies” and drop them off because it was too embarrassing to ask my father.
After a while, my mother said I was on my own to pick up these necessities. In an effort to be sly and avoid any conversation about my needs, I decided to quietly add them to the weekly grocery list for my dad. I wrote “pads” in the middle of the list. I thought for sure I’d be safe. And then the day of shopping came and there my father stood in front of me, list in hand, questioning what I meant by “pads”. Do you mean “sanitary napkins?” Uggghhhh….who says that? I was horrified!! “Yes” I replied, hoping that would be the end. To my dismay, it continued. “So, what do they look like, what color, what size?” It seemed to never end. Wait till he saw some of them had wings!! But once the horror ended, he did his fatherly duty and helped his daughter out, until I made it to high school and mustered the courage to buy them on my own.
I will never forget his sacrifice. I never knew why it seemed so embarrassing and why it was such a big deal to buy the “supplies.” Even now, it still feels like an odd purchase. But we’re all in this together, so what’s the big deal? Why is there such a stigma? But more so, it taught me how I will handle my own daughter’s experience and discomfort when she comes into her own and will teach my husband to be knowledgeable, prepared and sensitive. Just in case….
Growing up, I was a swimmer. I took swim lessons in back to back sessions and I eventually became a life guard. I had to learn how to use a tampon rather early on in my period experiences. I didn’t realize how time consuming trying to figure out how to use a tampon would be nor did I ever think that I would want my Mom’s assistance or advice. My Mom left to go out with her friends on the day that I had to figure out how to use one. I was having a swim test that was very important and I could not miss. I spent what seemed like hours upon hours locked up in the bathroom with a mirror and some tampons. My father eventually came upstairs to check on me to see if I was ok. I blushed through the closed door. He obviously couldn’t help me and I could tell that he felt awkward and embarrassed about the whole thing. Boy, was I ever glad when I finally came out of the bathroom having figured it all out. That day, I promised myself that if I ever had a daughter that I would not leave her if she needed my support with feminine issues, at least not to go out with my friends.
This is a story that goes back all the way to high school. I was experiencing a heavy flow and I remember I was wearing a regular pad. I did a lot of walking around and sitting during the day and you know what that does to your period right?
It makes your period flow more towards the front than the back so a simple solution for this is to just strategically place your pad closer to the front. This means your pad will cover less area at the back but as long as you know you’re not doing any activity that involves laying down such as sit ups or napping, then you shouldn’t experience any leaks.
Anyways, when I realized that I had leaked, it was already too late. My period had leaked and seeped through my pants and ON TO my jeans!!! And yes you could see it… it was right on my crotch!
Every woman has a story or two about a menstrual accident. Leaking through white shorts – mortifying. Asking a male teacher for an emergency pass to the restroom – humiliating. A little white string hanging out the crotch of your swimsuit – really, really embarrassing. But hearing about these stories is helpful because you can prepare and hopefully avoid having your own accident story. Cramps are another thing. Knowing that someone else had cramps so bad she sweated through her shirt in chemistry class (that was me) or had to lie down while her date, her friend’s date and her friend sat in the living room (me again) can’t help you prepare. Either you’re going to be someone who gets unbearably painful cramps or you’re not.
Here’s the something good about cramps: they are practice for childbirth – the best experience a woman can have. When I had cramps as a teen I learned to focus and breathe and relax, much like what is taught in natural childbirth classes. Eventually my doctor prescribed a painkiller that kicked in pretty fast, but I still had several cramps to bear through and that practice had a wonderful benefit. Several years later I had both my daughters naturally with absolutely no drugs and, I swear, no pain. There was not a single contraction that was stronger than my worst menstrual cramp.
One last thing – my oldest daughter and her friends had a way to warn each other if that little white string was visible when they swam in our pool. Somebody would just say “Algae in the water” and the girl would be warned and the boys would never know what the giggling was all about.
By Megan Durham
My mother insisted that tampons were practically a gift from the gods. Pads were like diapers, she said, itchy and immature. I got the distinct impression that real women wore tampons, that this was just another trial that I had to undergo in my quest towards adulthood. Blood wasn’t enough in itself.
So I proudly took the box that she had given me and trotted off to the bathroom where I barricaded myself in. It was such a pretty box, full of directions illustrated with peaceful figures that calmly smiled, frozen in mid-ceremony. It all seemed so simple: unwrap, crouch, insert. Their smiles insisted that this was the easiest thing in the world. The tubes themselves were non-threatening, wrapped in paper decorated with curling script. Shiny and slick unwrapped, I tested one just to see what it was like and marveled at how little pressure was necessary to make the applicator open. I took a deep breath and smiled in the mirror, trying to mimic the look on the models’ faces.
As with many girls, I’m sure, the first few years of having your menstrual cycle can be very tortuous. You’re getting used to the pains, the pads, and the predicting. I like to consider myself a fast learner, so I had the changing pads and pain relief down to a science. My main issue was trying to track my cycle and knowing exactly when I was going to start my period. I was in the 6th grade, and my teacher was known all around school for throwing the biggest classroom parties for every holiday you could think of. At the time I had a crush on a guy and prayed the whole week that he’d ask me to dance with him. I planned my outfit including my favorite top and light-washed jeans. I wasn’t feeling any pain and had my period earlier in the month, so I thought everything was fine and dandy. Little did I know, my period wanted to make its own little appearance at the party. I was at the snack table with my best friend setting up all of the yummy treats when my crush came over and shyly asked me for a dance. Of course, I was screaming and doing cartwheels on the inside while trying to keep my cool and act like I was the hottest thing walking on two feet on the outside. It was a slow song, so we danced as close as 6th graders could get without blushing the whole time. As soon as I got really into the dance, my best friend ran over to me, acting like the school was on fire and whispered, “I’m going to get behind you. Walk to the bathroom and do NOT look back” so I obliged. She broke the news to me that I had my period & it was ALL over the back of my jeans. I was afraid that everyone saw and refused to go back in there. Luckily, she was able to head to the teacher, tell her what happened, and got a pass to the nurse’s office allowing me to go home for the rest of the day. I still wonder to this day if anyone saw.
By Nandi F.
Girls Only Club