By Brenna Miles
“Congratulations! Your life has now begun!”
“How do you feel now that you’re so grown up?”
These were some of the first words I heard the week after I started my period for the first time. I was in 7th grade and finally, I had made it. After all, everyone had told me what to expect. I had taken science class. I listened as the girls talked through the bathroom stalls about the special products they carried in their Hello Kitty backpacks. I saw the slight nod of approval as a girl walked down the hall towards the bathroom, hoodie wrapped around her waist. And guess what? I had carried cute little pads in my purse since third grade. All in the name of preparation, am I right?
Anticipation built and built until finally, it was my turn. I sat in the school bathroom, completely dumbfounded and a bit weirded out by what I saw. Confusion led to happiness and happiness led to realization, as it hit me: I didn’t have anything with me. I called home, where my dad answered and quickly brought me a grocery bag of essentials.
Conversations happened. Hugs were exchanged. I was almost expecting a band and a huge number of balloons to show up at the door. Alas, I continued on, until I reached the end of cycle numero uno.
But no one warned me about cycle two and three and four and twelve and thirty-two…
What did I expect? I’ll tell you. I expected a one size fits all type of period. You know, like the one you learn about in health class. Once a month, Aunt Flo comes to visit right on time, stays for a short three or four-day stay and leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, just like a few days at the spa. I expected to sleep like a baby, as usual. I expected to do EVERYTHING as usual.
Fast forward to cycle… let’s be real, I’m not keeping count anymore
It’s morning, I use the bathroom, and realize… it’s time. I grab a tampon, everything goes smoothly. I swallow a Tylenol, get dressed, and hum to myself as I make my morning coffee. I sip quietly, listening to the birds chirp in the distance before I hop in the car and head to the office. Ah, such a great day for a bike ride, some yoga, and a quick swim… right?!
Uh, hardly. THIS sounds much more familiar:
I wake up, drool covering my pillow, hair in such a mess that dry shampoo won’t touch it, wondering why I only slept for a whole thirty minutes last night. My stomach is in knots, cramping so hard that I think my uterus is being used as someone’s stress ball. I crawl my way to the bathroom, only to find out that I’ve somehow leaked in the night, even though I purchased an economy pack of overnight pads. I sit on the toilet, contemplating whether or not to risk wearing pants alone today, without leggings underneath. I mean, it’s only 90 degrees today…right?!
Talk about being blindsided. There was no fairy dust. The magic of “becoming a woman” wasn’t magical at all. And girl, I’m so glad I’m not alone. In fact, 10 million women are affected by heavy menstrual bleeding each year. And 20% of women suffer from period cramping severe enough to interfere with life. I’m one of them, too.
At some point in our adult life, we have a realization: menstruation isn’t fun anymore. Instead of welcoming Aunt Flo with open arms, we try our best to slam our door in her face. For me, realization has happened more than I can count.
1. No period for months — only to start the night before my wedding.
2. The joy of thinking I’m pregnant month after month… only to not be... again.
3. Oh, and the fear of going through airport security with enough feminine products that I fear they might ask what factory I stole from.
You see, periods change your life, and not completely in a mushy way. They change your routine and get you out of your comfort zone. I had to learn to always be prepared and carry a spare change of clothes in my car, just in case. I stowed tampons and pads in my glove box. I had to learn how to relax, doing something to keep my mind off of the PMS pain.
Becoming a Period Pro
I had to learn how to sleep in positions that I wasn’t used to sleeping in, including the fetal position (Experts say the fetal position can take the pressure off your ab muscles). I’ve done so many face masks, read so many books, and taken myself out to lunch so many times in the name of self-care. And I’ve listened to so many songs and taken so many walks around the block to boost those pain-killing endorphins.
A hide and seek game with your period isn’t fun. Life-altering cramping and heavy bleeding isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And although I’ve learned to cope and sometimes still struggle with a cycle that is less than perfect, it HAS taught me something: My body is strong and totally something to smile about. After all, menstruation IS a beautiful and necessary process.
What period expectations did you have when you were younger? What favorite line did you hear growing up about what to expect? Share them with us in the comments!
Brenna Miles is a freelance writer who believes everyone has a unique story to tell. She wants nothing more than to use her words to connect with others. When she’s not writing, she’s buying cacti or chasing a cute toddler around.