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What Leaking Has Taught Me About Life

By English Taylor

life-lessons-from-period-leaks

“When did I shit my pants?” I asked myself, perplexed on the toilet.

I was 12 years old and spending my summer at Camp Whippoorwill in Fairview, Tennessee. I wracked my brain to determine when the poop incident must have occurred. Was it from zip-lining? I had never liked heights and probably peed myself a little, too. Maybe it wasn’t poop. After all, shitting yourself is pretty memorable, right? Did I sit on someone’s chocolate pudding during lunch?

Over the phone, my mom told me I had probably started my period.

“That’s just not possible,” I informed her. The concept of menstruation seemed like it only belonged in the pages of the infamous “The Care and Keeping of You” sitting on my bookshelf at home. After patiently explaining to me that there was absolutely no way that I had gotten shot in the vagina during archery, my mother recommended that I pay a visit to the camp nurse.

Hell to the no.

Unconvinced and upset, I marched back to my cabin. But after the third day in a row of bleeding (ahem, pooping) through my Umbro shorts, yet still afraid to go to the infirmary, I began neatly arranging thick, white tube socks in my underwear. Needless to say, I went sockless most of that summer.

Ever since that day, I’ve primarily experienced feelings of denial about my period. Don’t worry — I’m now well aware that the dark-colored liquid in my panties is in fact my period and not poop (though sometimes it’s still hard to tell). My period’s arrival is usually marked by an expletive and an emergency trip to CVS for tampons.

Before I quit my job to start writing about vaginas full-time, I worked in the tech world. My first day on the job, I was shown to my desk decorated with startup swag. As I was setting up my laptop, I felt a familiar warm trickle in my underpants. “Today, seriously?” When I carefully stood up to head to the bathroom, I realized I had bled all over my light grey desk chair. It was one of those marks that even my trusty Tide-to-Go pen couldn’t treat. Trying not to let this stain (quite literally) my first day, I went to the bathroom.

I started working 12-hour days and actually using terms like “SaaS” and “minimum viable product” on the reg (with a cardigan permanently draped over the stain, of course). Just a few months on the job, I fell into a deep depression. I stopped exercising, seeing my friends, and sleeping because I was so stressed about my work performance. After some soul-searching coupled with good ole talk therapy, I mustered up the courage to tell my boss I was quitting. You know, to write about vaginal discharge and IUDs.

As I returned to my desk after one of the most difficult conversations of my career, I noticed a familiar dampness between my legs. I looked down and there it was: a bright red stain that put the expired one to shame. Coincidence? I’m not sure — but talk about coming full circle. Instead of dropping the F bomb, I actually felt comforted by my monthly visitor. I even smiled at it.

For the first time, I made a career decision that felt right in my body. I felt powerful. I suddenly realized that my period, which represents creation, life, fertility, and all that good stuff, is pretty darn powerful, too. It may sound “woo woo,” but my period felt like a natural, biological sign of being in tune with my intuition, potential, and power. Given that it made an appearance on my first day on the job, perhaps it was also signalling that things didn’t feel so right, either. Regardless, from that moment on, I decided to start giving my leaks more cred.  

Maybe my period and my body know more than I they do. Or heck, maybe the whole thing was completely random. Whatever the answer may be, I’m sure of this: The leaks, though they may leave you sockless and ruin a few chairs, can sometimes teach you a lot about life.

Have you ever leaked at what you thought was a particularly inopportune time? How did you make the best of it? Share with us in the comments below!

English Taylor is a San Francisco-based women’s health and wellness writer and birth doula. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic, Healthline, Refinery29, NYLON, Modern Fertility, and LOLA. Follow English and her work on Medium or Instagram.