#MenstrualNarratives: The Story of Vaish (17 years old, Chennai (India)) “I knew very vaguely about menstruation…. I remember crying and telling my dad that I was bleeding. I also remember hugging him while he tried to explain that it was normal”

Featured

I got my first period in 2011 in February. It was around 9pm when I was watching TV at home when I first start menstruating. My mom wasn’t in town when I got my first period.

I remember seeing blood stains in my underwear and panicking. At first, I thought that I would just tell my mom when she came back two days later. Soon, I realised the blood flow would only increase. I knew very vaguely about menstruation but didn’t know details like why or how it happened. I remember crying and telling my dad that I was bleeding. I also remember hugging him while he tried to explain that it was normal.

While my mom and my aunt (who lived close by) were being informed, I remember my brother and dad discussing menstruation in front of me. I was so… shocked? Mostly because I didn’t know that men knew about it and that it was okay to speak about it openly. When my aunt came home that night and showed me how to wear a pad and fasten it to my underwear, I remember thinking how strange it all was. And how my life was about to completely change.

Over the next few days, when my mom returned, I was made to follow all the family traditions. For example, I had to sit away from everyone in a separate space and wasn’t allowed to touch anyone.

On the fifth day, I took part in a pooja (religious ritual) and my first period was over. I got to know more about menstruation in the following days and later at school. But one thing for sure, I was glad it was not a taboo topic at home and that everyone in my family were kind, understanding and cool about it!

#MenstrualNarratives: The Story of Neelam (38yo, Los Angeles (USA) ): “She told me that the first three days I was considered impure and couldn’t go to the temple or touch the altar in our home. This information didn’t really jive with my new found superpowers, but I didn’t say anything.”

My mom is an obgyn so I grew up with her magazines laying about and her speaking to patients over dinner about vaginal discharge. Still, I felt unprepared. She told me what was coming but it seemed unreal, especially the bleeding part. I remember by breasts forming, the acne, and my labia growing. At the time, I thought my enlarged labia meant I had super powers! I never told anyone but I held on to the belief… And who knows, I was probably right!

The day my period came I was home with my dad. Mom was working and so I had to tell him. He became flustered and immediately called my mom to come home. I had flashbacks to the incredibly outdated video we watched in school about tying napkins to menstrual belts. Why were we watching a video about menstrual belts?? I guess being informed and feeling prepared wasn’t the goal of that particular educational movie.

My mom came home twenty minutes later. I waited for her in the bathroom. She seemed excited as she helped me put on my first pad (a very large monstrosity). Then her face turned grave and she said I could get pregnant now. I’m not sure I fully understood but I nodded. Then she told me that the first three days I was considered impure and couldn’t go to the temple or touch the altar in our home. This information didn’t really jive with my new found superpowers, but I didn’t say anything. Getting to stay home from trips to the temple seemed like a good thing at the time. More time to attend to the very serious business of recording my own MTV show and practicing to be Janet Jackson’s back up dancer.
We left the bathroom and the day proceeded at usual. But it wasn’t just any other day. The world had changed for me and I couldn’t wait to tell my friends!