The Eclectic Pen - The first period


By: Connie C. (connieccrn) - ,  
Date Submitted: 8/15/2008
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs » Family & Childhood
Words: 1,127
Rating:


  For a woman, the transition from girl to woman begins with her first menstrual cycle.

In the Jewish religion, there is a celebration...the Bah Mitzvah for girls, and the Bar Mitzvah for boys, held when they turn 13. We usually only hear about the boys...typical...LOL

Usually, about the time a girl turns 13, is when she can expect her first menstrual cycle to happen. It is always a good idea to start preparing them around age 10...just in case they start earlier. I never had girls, so never had the chance to prepare them. I will say that Jenny, my most favorite daughter in law, is doing a fine job of preparing my 4 granddaughters for this event.

I wish I could say the same about the preparation I had.

I could fault my mom...for the next 20 years of Sundays...for what she did and did not do for me as a young woman growing up. I could hate her...and I have...for what she did and did not do. But now she is 87, and I am 52...and what would be the point?

My mom did not talk to me about the menstrual cycle...not about what it meant, or about what would happen. She gave me a book to read. I was about 11. Granted, I liked to read...always have, and always will...but that is not the way to tell a young woman about the process...not a way at all. And granted...she did ask me if I had any questions...but since our relationship had not ever been about talking...what was I to say? I did not even know who she was. I guess that goes along with I didn't even know who I was.

So...I am about 11...reading about something that is to happen to me, whether I like it or not. The book talked about the vagina...and about the uterus...and about things I had no idea about. Hell...I had been playing with Barbie dolls up the road with the other girls! I did not know what a vagina was. A uterus?? Could have been another planet. How can I ask my mom about these things? We have never talked...I have only been a child, and she the mom. And my mom was always distant...so very distant.

The book tells me that I am going to bleed. Oh, yuck. I am going to bleed from my vagina. Great...where is that?? I look at the pictures...decided it is somewhere in the area that I pee from. Okay, so it is not from my nose...or from my belly button...but from an area that is exposed when I sit on the toilet.

I'm going to bleed?? Because my body thinks it is ready for a child?? I am still a child. I am still playing with Barbie dolls!! I don't want this...and it is not going to happen! So says the child that has no guidance...no direction...no trust in men, and no one to talk to about this. It seems like it is an embarrassing thing. If it were not shameful, then wouldn't my mom talk to me about it? She can't...because of the shame...so she gives me a book to read. In that way, we are all spared the talk...of this shameful thing.

I am 11...it is fall, 1966...I am in a parochial school...in a class with only girls. The classes were mixed... boys and girls, until 6th grade. I guess someone knew what they were doing when they decided that was the time to separate us.

I get my first period. Of course it has to start while I am in school! I am bleeding...and I am embarrassed. We wear uniforms. Pale green and white striped skirts, white blouses. Lots of girls notice. The teacher notices...how can you not miss blood all over the back of a skirt?? She sends me to the school nurse. I get a new skirt. And that is all. The nun/nurse asks me if I am okay...of course I am...what I am I going to say?? I am scared to death. I don't know what is going on. I don't understand this. I read the book...I should know!! But I don't. I have failed this...this test. I don't fail. I am a straight A student. I help other students. But with this...I am lost...I have failed.

This is tragedy. This is humiliation beyond anything a woman child should bear. But it doesn't end at school.

I am sick, with a fever. I get the mumps besides having my first period. Can anything worse happen? Oh yes...and it does. My mom thinks it is neighborhood news that I have started menstruating. So, while I lay on the sofa, miserable with a swollen face and a bloody vagina, she shares the news with the ladies that come to visit. I am now a conversation piece.

Prior to this, my mom did take me into the bathroom and clinically show me how to use a pad and the harness. Did you know my mom was a RN? Oh, yeah, that was great...a mom that was a nurse...and do you know what we women suffered with prior to stick on pads??

I won't even go there...it was nasty...it shifted...and felt uncomfortable...always in the wrong place...how do you rearrange a shifted pad while you are in church?? How can you do that without drawing attention to your self?? Even perceived attention.

Damn school nurse...here is a fresh skirt. Is that jelly on the back of that one?? Why did the women of that day have to act like this so natural of events was evil??

Yes...it marked me. For a very long time it marked me.

The blood. The lack of knowledge. The humiliation. The lack of understanding. The lack of a woman telling me it is okay. Damn them all.

I became a woman with that event. That book said so. And so...no more barbie dolls...now onto boys.

Shame to all those women who did not talk to me!! Yes, I blame them. I should not have had to learn so much on my own. My life would have taken a much different path had I known....much more than I did.

My mom is 87...I am 52...what point is there now of regret and hate?



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Comments 1 to 4 of 4
Marta J. (booksnob) - 8/15/2008 2:54 PM ET
I'm also 52, and my mother also gave me a book to read. I suppose that women of that era were too embarrassed to discuss bodily functions, not menstruation and certainly not sex (also a book...)I remember my biggest problem was not knowing how to dispose of those diaper-sized Kotex we had to harness ourselves into! And by the way, a woman's rite-of-passage ceremony in Judaism is "bat mitzvah", just so you know.
Joanne S. (Jorusha) - 8/16/2008 12:29 PM ET
I was 12 and visiting my grandparents when my first period started. I noticed bleeding when I was using the bathroom and was terrified that something was wrong with me. I had no book or previous warning. I had never heard of menstruation. I think I remember crying. This was a long time ago; I am considerably older than 52. My grandmother gently explained that I was OK and this was normal. My mom talked about it to me later, and after that I more or less accepted it as an embarassing and often painful situation that was not under my control. Thank God for tampons! I switched to them as soon as they became readily available, probably during late high school or college.
Joyce M. (j3m) - 8/19/2008 5:59 PM ET
Perhaps your mother just did not expect you to start that young. My own mother did not prepare me and years later, she said that she thought that when the time came, that I would just naturally come to her. Which of course did not happen. Between the uncomfortableness that most adults felt with the topic during that era and misunderstandings about when such an event could start, maybe mom did the best that she was capable of at the time?
Kathleen F. (katrinakitty52) - 8/27/2008 9:52 PM ET
Wow...I completely and totally relate to this. My mother didn't prepare me at all nor did any adult in my life. I thought I was bleeding to death and the pain from the cramps was unexpected. My mother is now 90, and I am 56. We were never close because the walls went up early and now we are both to old to climb over.
Comments 1 to 4 of 4