The Story of Blessing (22yo, Los Angeles (USA)): “I am grateful for the resources I have… I have relatives in Nigeria whom are less fortunate”

About a month after my 14th birthday, I was at home practicing one of my dance routines from school. I began feeling a slight aching in my stomach. I went to the restroom. As soon as I pulled down my panties, I saw red dots of liquid drop down from my body and stain the cloth. I immediately believed I was going to die. I reached for tissue paper and vigorously wiped my self over and over in the hopes of stopping the bleeding. After a few moments, I wondered if this is the “period” that my friends talked about in school. I did not expect the experience to happen so suddenly and painfully. I called out to my mother who was down the hall. She saw my condition and smiled, telling me it was ok and normal. Then, she handed me a couple of pads and told me to be downstairs in 5 minutes for dinner.

Since I got my period much later than girls around me, my menstruation was expected yet the experience was surprising. The thought that I will now bleed from my bottom area once a month for a great portion of my life seemed like one of the worst punishments that could be handed to me. Most months I experience cramping, vomiting, and fatigue. However, I am grateful for or the resources i have to make my periods more comfortable for me. I have relatives in Nigeria whom are less fortunate. Feeling awful about menstruating effects how I view womanhood and my role within it. I learned to deal with my menstrual episodes the best I can.

Menstrual Narratives: The Story of Joyce (37 yo, Nairobi): “It used to soak through my pad even if I wore two. I had to sleep with a towel on my bed”

My story is interesting, when I was 12 my mother thought I had started my period. One day as I was riding my bike, I crushed into a wall and hit my vejay jay area really hard. Of course I went to my mum and told her that I was bleeding but neglected to tell her of the bike accident. Immediately my mum thought I had began my period. She asked me to take a bath and then showed me how to line my panty with a pad. She used some pads that she had in the house. Of course since I had not really started my period. I was not bleeding the next day. Then when I was 15 my period started while at boarding school. I did not have any pads but I told the other girls in my dorm and they were so helpful. They let me use their packet of pads. Since my mum had already explained to me about my period about 3 year prior and since most of the girls in the dorm were already having their period. I just felt that it was time for me as well. Thankfully there was no shame surrounding it. However when my period did finally come, it was extraordinarily heavy. It used to soak through my pad even if I wore two. I had to sleep with a towel on my bed. There was a lot of shame in this as I did not know what to do and I felt like there was something wrong with me. I suffered through it till my adulthood without really addressing it. As a result I am highly anemic. I wish I would have felt comfortable enough to talk even to my mother about it. In hindsight I know she would have helped but it is something I carried with me and dealt with on my own.

Menstrual Narratives: The Story of Aba E. (30yo, Tema (Ghana): “Mama I have an infection, the bottom of my panty is stained brown”

Dirt in my Panty…
It had been about a week and a half since I recovered from an unknown illness. The doctors did not know what it was but I knew how it felt like. Blinding pain in my abdomen coupled with continuous throwing up, landed me in the hospital, followed by bed rest at home. It was exciting to be back at school and quite pleasant being the centre of attention while I shared the horrors of needles. My day was going quite well till a trip to the bathroom. I noticed a light brown stain in my panty and started running the day through my head, wondering where I sat down during break time. I thought to myself it must have been dirt from that tree root I sat on at break-time and advised myself to start sitting on the school benches. During the day I started getting queasy and my mum’s warning that I needed to rest as much as possible came to mind. I did not want to go back to the hospital and mentally scheduled myself for an early night.
My last trip to the bathroom after school revealed the dirt in my panty had increased and gotten darker. Now I started becoming alarmed. With my mum’s consistent and graphic description of female hygiene and consequences, I was sure I had an infection and I was a little scared. I charged through the house looking for my mum when I got home and told her the bad news:
“Mama I have an infection, the bottom of my panty is stained brown”
“Does it smell? Can I see?”
“Ya”, Pulling my panty down.
“Thank You Jesus!!!! My baby is a woman!” excited pause and relieved laughter followed this.
At this point I was wondering if my mum was alright. What could possibly be joyous about the potential decaying of my vagina?
“AAHHHH that’s why you were ill. You may have been ovulating!”
“I have my period?” I glared at her accusingly. You told me it was blood. Blood is red”
“Yes but the first time is brownish. I didn’t tell you that?”
“Now go take a bath and use a pad as I showed you; if you are in pain, let me know”.
I was mad. Having my period was going to be inconvenient. My mother had given me a detailed description of menstruation and what went into taking care of it. I had never looked forward to the work involved. It was all her fault I had mine so early; always talking about this menstruation thing. She had jinxed me.
While I was sulking in my room and wrapping my wad of cotton with gauze to use (in the 90’s sanitary towels were scarce and expensive in Ghana), I heard my grandma bulldozing through the front door. She came to inspect my DIY pad was firmly in its place and dragged me to the dining table where my parents were sitting looking very happy. She was so excited I started getting a little less angry. She banned me from coming into the kitchen while announcing to anyone in hearing distance that her grand-daughter was a woman. I watched her walk to the dining table after 30 minutes, proudly carrying an earthenware bowl with mashed yam and egg. And that wonderful woman sat me on her lap and fed me; telling me how amazing it was to be a woman. I did not fully understand the excitement but as I looked at my parents’ glowing faces across the table and wrapped my arms around my grandmother’s neck, I thought ” this getting your period thing may not be too bad after all”.

The Story of Seun (27yo, Lagos): I Felt Something Coming out From My Vagina-It was Blood

My first menstrual experience happened in my third year in junior secondary school. On that fateful day, I felt something coming out from my vagina, dint know what it was until I went to the restroom to check, then I found out it was blood. It dawned on me that the time has come, LOL. So I went to the girls hostel to ask for sanitary pad but unfortunately no one had, so I had to use toilet paper. After school that day, I went home, told my mom what had happened and she gave me sanitary pad after our girl talk…lol

The Story of Morenike Badmus (32yo: Lagos): I Thought I was Going to Grow to be a Boy…my Menses Were Such a Disappointment.

 

How do people do that? All I can remember is that I was terrified and disappointed. My mother sent my brother to buy pads and he played with them as if they were a soccer ball..oh my, I didn’t know how to use them so I removed everything and was left with cotton….and of course blood was everywhere. I thought i was going to grow to be a boy later…so, my menses were such a disappointment and I saw it as a complete disaster, future plans ruined. I wouldn’t miss it anyway…too much stress

The Story of Kemi (28yo San Francisco): 
I Thought my Liver had Busted- I kept Seeing Black Spots and not Red Spots on my Panties.

It was definitely a moment of confusion for me. 
I thought my liver had busted because I kept seeing black spots and not red spots on my panties at the age of 10 or 11. 
I saw the spots for like 3 days and was scared to tell anyone. I started thinking maybe I had a disease. 
I was in a boarding school and
I knew when people had their period it was red, 
but I was seeing brownish stuff
and was terrified. I used tissue through out that month. 
The following month, 
I saw red instead of the brownish stuff and I was more comfortable telling my friends and my family. I decided to send a letter home to my mom through my guardian counselor at my boarding school
to inform her about my period. 
She came to school a few days later with my older aunt and they asked me if I was sure. 
I said yes, they asked if anyone touched me, 
I said no. 
I was very small with
no breast, 
So they were shocked that I started my period early…. yeah
damn! 
I had to manage my pad, and had no chance to shower often because I was a Junior in boarding school. The Seniors could take showers twice or thrice a day when they were on their periods because they got Juniors to fetch water for them for free. I had to wear one pad for a long time-
I don’t remember taking showers except in the morning. I also never knew when my next period was coming, 
nobody taught me
so I went through that whole getting stained experience. 
 I had my sweater in my locker
Just in case it happens- that saved many of us 
LOL. It was very disturbing at first but I got used to it after months. 
It is crazy, 
I know students who couldn’t afford pads. 
They brought pieces of Ankara (rags) to school..
and washed it. The advise I received about menstruation was just don’t let any boy touch you. 
I thought I was pregnant
when I saw the blood the first time. 
All kinds of thoughts
I don’t even know
But I got used to it…