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.
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.
Expecting to start my period the day we were scheduled to leave for our camping trip I was “prepared” and decided to bring my DivaCup with me. I’ve never enjoyed the inconvenience my period has caused during a camping trip, the extra concern of being somewhere I could change my tampon or the early morning wake up calls from aunt flo. There’s nothing like waking up with that startling feeling of needing to rush to the bathroom, to be challenged with crawling out of the sleeping bag, bundling up in warm clothes, climbing out of the tent, to only have to walk who knows how far to the nearest bathroom in fear of a LEAK!
I am 54 years old but I have two twenty something daughters who get their periods and an 11 year old granddaughter who is definitely hitting puberty. Oh the attitude on that child!
Nowadays everyone is trying to be as green friendly as they can by using recyclable and sustainable products. I started to fool around with the idea of creating cloth menstrual pads and panty liners and used my daughters as guinea pigs! Let me tell you, they hated the idea and thought it was absolutely gross and disgusting. Some of their initial comments were “I’ll never wear that” and “How do I wash these things?”
Well, one day my younger daughter was out of disposable pads and it was too late to run out to the store. She was is dire need and she asked me if I had anything available. Of course I did!
She reluctantly used the pad and fell asleep. When she work up I asked her how the pad held up and she said and I quote ” That was the best night’s sleep I had while on my period. The pad was super soft and nothing leaked through!”