Being at an all-girls’ school, where we are all of the same age and have similar experiences, works in two ways. The first is that we all know what is going to happen to us. Our eggs will move down our Fallopian tubes and then we will bleed for a few days every 4 weeks.
At the age of 13, however, girls make a scene out of this. Stories of potential embarrassment put an element of fear into all of us. We heard that some girls were caught during swimming classes with their first flow; that others stood up after class and found their dresses stained…
None of us wanted to be caught unaware or unprepared. And so, we did what girls do: we spoke about it, we educated ourselves, we talked to the people with whom we felt comfortable and we learned from their experiences. My mom had spoken to me about it but it just felt more real and relaxed hearing it from my peers.
I was lucky the day I got my first period. I had just arrived home from school with my two friends, Jacqui and Sarah. Like any other day, I needed the loo as soon as I got home and so I went and was surprised to find that I had a slight stain on my panties.
From all the horror stories that circulated school for some time I had expected to lose pints and pints of blood. I was wrong. The period was gentle and nothing to get my panties in a knot about. I was lucky to have my close friends with me. My mom also didn’t make a fuss – I think she knew that the three of us were dealing with it in our own way.
The first day turned into a kind of celebration of womanhood. I always knew what was happening to my body and, admittedly, looked forward to the experience of it all, of finally being initiated into the group of women.
I sealed my first pad onto my panties and went about my day as usual except now my feelings had changed. Having Sarah and Jacqui with me to share my experiences with has always been special to me. They sat by me, spoke me through it, joked with me and shared their experiences with me.
Our openness about our bodies helped me in so many ways to accept the processes of bodily change and, most of all, to establish a sense of comfort and confidence. I learnt, from that first day, that having my period is never supposed to stop me from doing anything, that all one has to do is to take it in one’s stride.
(Jessica Holnam, Health24, February 2011)