I was ten. It was the Parents-Teacher Meeting Day in my school and I was quite excited since I had topped a class test. I was sure I was my English teacher’s favorite in the class (much to the chagrin of others and yes I feel a tad ashamed to admit – I was that kind of a student).I knew therefore, that my parents had ample reason to be proud of me that day.
It was a regular school day, and the meeting was supposed to take place after 2 pm. I was unusually jumpy in the morning but by lunch time, I realized I had an acute pain in my stomach. My legs were strangely wobbly and I felt very weak. It was as if someone was punching my insides. I had never felt drowsy in school before, and this in itself was quite strange since I was always known to be an athletic, energetic student who never stopped talking in class. My lower body felt numb and I found it difficult to concentrate in class. My teacher noticed me squirming in my chair and asked me what the matter was, but I couldn’t speak up as I really didn’t know what was happening to my body. After the last class for the day which was the Art class, I found the teacher staring at me. I had never really liked her before as she was very domineering and hated my clay work but she was acting very weird even by her standards. I was glad when the class was over and ran out. I had to meet my parents.
By the time my parents came to my classroom for the meeting, I was extremely tired. I had been so excited for the teacher’s comments, but somehow I couldn’t concentrate while she was praising me. My head was feeling dizzy and my stomach ache grew worse by the hour!
After the meeting, I found my parents whispering to each other. My mother approached me carefully and said, “Beta, do one thing. Go to the restroom and check your panty. If you find it’s soiled by blood, do not panic. Just come out and we shall take you home.” This freaked me out.
Was I unwell? Why was I bleeding? And from there? That’s where I pee from! No wonder the horrible art teacher was staring! Silly, wretched creature!
When I went to the restroom, I found that my white skirt had been completely stained .I felt like crying. It was my favorite school skirt! I hated the grey skirt we wore on the weekdays. I always felt that the white uniform was much better. Imagine my horror when I saw it completely ruined by the red blot. During the ride home, my mother and father kept reassuring me about how it was normal and how it happened to every girl. Of course what they didn’t tell me then was that it only happens to girls with a uterus (What if a girl/woman has her uterus removed?). Maybe they felt that the time was not right. I was already frightened by then and had started crying.
When I came home, my mother quietly took me to my parents’ room and took out from the closet, what I later found out, were some sanitary napkins. She gently explained how I should use them. She smiled at me, kissed my forehead and in calming tones said, “You are a woman now. Do not be scared. It’s a part of life. If you have any queries, I am there for you. I love you.”
I will always remember these words and somehow, they have been etched in my memory forever. At night, my mother gave me warm milk with haldi and sang me a lullaby, which I quite frankly loved although I felt that it was embarrassing since I wasn’t a small child anymore. The stomach ache, she explained did not really originate from the stomach but from the uterus. She drew me a diagram and explained how the menstrual cycle worked. I wailed and said, “So, that means that I’ll be leaking blood every month till I am in my late 40s?”
My mother smiled and kissed my hand
“It’s a gift, sweetheart. Be proud of your body. This means if you wish to be a mother someday, you can be one. Isn’t it simply fascinating?”
Yes. It is. Even now, after 14 years since my menarche, I still feel fascinated by how it works out so perfectly. I know that as a feminist I am not supposed to be so attached to my body and essentialize my womanhood by my genitals, uterus, menstruation and the like, but I feel very empowered when I menstruate. Although there is unrelenting physical discomfort, I make sure that I eat what I call comfort food, rest a lot and drink plenty of green tea. More importantly, I don’t crib about it. I love my body and having said that, I am sure I would continue to love it post my menopause as well. That’s why, in a way, I can never understand the shame teenage girls feel when they menstruate. That’s mostly because my Ma made things easier for me and was there for me to share my anxiety and problems with.
We, as a society, have a culture of silence where menstruation is seen as something that is dirty and something that should be kept a secret. My mother made sure that this did not affect me. Personally too, I disagree with this attitude and I feel that the more you talk about menstrual issues, the more powerful you feel as it helps remove fears and shame, particularly from the minds of girls who just begin menstruating. Additionally, it aids in increasing awareness about the different menstrual products available in the market which in a way, demystifies the whole phenomenon.
So to all you ladies out there, happy menstruating!
This post originally appeared on the Menstrupedia blog.
About the author of this post:
Aindrila is an I.T. engineer and has worked with an MNC . After realizing that Corporate world was not for her, she quite her job and worked as a volunteer for a few organizations. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Women Studies from T.I.S.S. Mumbai. Aindrila has a passion for poetry and she plans to publish her creations someday. Shewishes to make a positive difference in people’s lives and believes that a person needs to do what makes him/her truly happy. Following her bliss is her life’s ultimate goal.