I have tried to be friends with my Period, but the bloody thing makes it so difficult to have a conversation that’s not laden with heartfelt abuses, that I give up after a few attempts. But I bet if my Period could talk, it would hurl abuses right back at me.
Why, you ask?
Because like most other women, I treat it with disgust and disrespect. Every month I wait for it with bated breath. I panic if it’s late by even a day! But the minute I see it, I want it to go away. Not a nice gesture on my part, is it?
I got my first period 18 years ago. My mother handed me a pad and that was that. I remember the first time I had to wash a stain off my underpants. I was overcome with grief, disdain and a sense of hopelessness. Because I knew this was just the beginning of a very long journey. And then one day, something terrible happened.
I bled through my school uniform and stained my perfect white skirt.
That’s when I started to truly hate my period. The rashes, the stains, the humiliation was all too much to bear. And I wasn’t alone in my struggles. My friends shared my grief as well. In some families, menstruating girls were forced to sleep in separate rooms, eat bland foods, take a bath immediately no matter what time of the day or night they got their period, not attend festivities and poojas and, not talk to boys. Even their own brothers!
I am guilty of sometimes finding comfort in their stories, because my family wasn’t so orthodox on period rules. But no matter how much I tried to console myself, the horror of Menstruation would continue to haunt me for many years to come.
You see, as we grow older, we forget how traumatic an experience Menstruation was for us when it first started. We get accustomed to the unwritten rules. To the painful rashes and mind-bending PMS symptoms. We grow numb to the humiliation even when we feel it creep in with a stain on our favourite dress. But young teenage girls are still experiencing it. They are still horrified with the changes in their bodies. And like us, they too just have their peers to talk to. And the internet, of course. Need I remind you what a scary place it can be?
So before big words and strange diagrams leave a lasting impression on them, talk to your kids. Or your cousins, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, or even children from the neighbourhood who look up to you. Have an open dialogue about Periods and let them know that you are available for a discussion.
But when you talk to a young girl, don’t tell her that Menstruation is a weakness. That Periods are the price one pays for being a woman. Tell her instead, that Periods empower her. That they give her the strength to create new life. Assure her that she is not impure, that God has nothing against her when she menstruates, food will not get spoilt by the minor increase in her body temperature, and she does not have to bear with harsh rashes from plastic pads all her life. Because Periods are not a punishment, and there are natural, comfortable and rash-resistant period-care options available that will keep her delicate skin safe and soft.
Teach her about good menstrual hygiene practices. Here’s a quick recap to refresh your memory:
- Wear clean, cotton underwear with tight elastic band that does not slip, during your periods.
- Wash your underwear every day and dry it under the sun to avoid infections.
- Change your sanitary pad every 4-5 hours.
- Wash the genitals with water every time you use the washroom and wipe clean with a tissue.
- Make sure there are no bloodstains on or around the toilet seat after you are done with your business, especially when using a public washroom.
- When disposing the used napkin, make sure it is properly packed to ensure a hygienic disposal. (Or just seal it up in Carmesi’s re-sealable disposal bags)
- With Carmesi All Natural Sanitary Pads, you will not experience any skin irritation or rashes. But if you are using any other conventional pad and facing rashes, wash with warm water and apply over-the-counter ointment for relief.
- Wash your hands with antiseptic soap every time you use the washroom.
So, these were some tips for the girls. But it is equally important to have the Period conversation with boys as well. Don’t tell them it’s a ‘girls’ problem’ and that they shouldn’t be bothered by it. Because it stops being a just girls’ problem when plastic sanitary pads contribute to tonnes of non-biodegradable waste that rots the Earth for hundreds of years. Teach them compassion instead. Tell them about PMS and the unbearable pain. Teach them so they empathise, instead of feeling superior to have escaped the brutality of being the other sex.
Over the years, my Period and I have started getting along a lot better. I understand how important it is, I take better care of my body and I manage my PMS symptoms fairly well. But if I had had someone to talk to when I was younger, this journey of a symbiotic friendship would have been a shorter one. So, talk about Periods. But make sure you know what you are talking about. Don’t dismiss curiosity and don’t base your knowledge on your own experience. Read, explore and find out the answers to the questions your younger darlings might be carrying on their backs. Because conversations about Periods are important. But it is more important to have the right ones.