“You see, the thing about first time periods is this- As a female, your own experience will always be unique to you.”
This article stemmed from a conversation I had on twitter with another female, regarding our very first periods and the awkwardness in talking about this subject. I began to realise that there really isn’t enough information in terms of ‘first time periods’ discussions and I believe it is crucial for future generations of young females, who are going to be experiencing their own very first period to have information that is easily accessible for them to read and gain an understanding from.
For some bizzare reason periods still seem to have some form of secrecy and shame attached to them. What should be deemed as a natural period of time (no pun intended), seems to be overshadowed with taboo. So much so, that I have decided to open up and share the story about my very own first period.
You see, as a mother to a ten year old daughter, I felt discussions about periods is much needed, for her and also for those young females who may not have that person in their life to talk to.
I hope that they will be able to click on this article and see that they are not alone in these difficulties.
For the adult females - who might be reading this, I just wanted to say, we too as women, are not alone - we go through monthly changes in our bodies and it is ok. We should not feel ashamed about this process that our remarkable bodies go through, as it is an extremely important part of our Womanhood. It is what makes us unique and special. Each and every one of us!
I was twelve years old when I first started my period. It was by far one of the most scariest and shocking moments of my life. I was in my first year in boarding school, which was situated in Surrey and many miles away from home. I was a full time boarder and therefore only went home every other weekend. I spent many weeks away from my mother and sister, which was very hard at times and I often spent quite a number of days homesick.
So you may understand the shock I felt when out of nowhere my first period suddenly appeared - unexpectedly and without the support from my mother, who was unfortunately not by my side.
It was also a shock as my sister who was two and a half years older than me had not started her period yet. So, not only did I not have my mother for support, I also did not have my sister either to help me through the process.
Now you may think that being in a boarding school, with a house full of girls, would have helped - but...that certainly, was not the case. As even us girls have problems talking to one another from time to time. We can, every now and again, struggle to talk about personal things with each other - especially on the subject of our own bodies!
My period decided to show up whilst I was on my lunch break during school hours - I was spending time with my two best friends (day pupils) in the locker room which was near the toilets in my boarding house. We were mucking around as we used to do, when suddenly I felt an achy feeling in my stomach, so I decided to go to the toilet thinking it was...well you know...an upset stomach! When suddenly and without warning, I saw dark thick red blood before me and gosh was it heavy!
In that moment, I remember being in absolute distress - not knowing what to do, as I didn't have anything on me as in pads or tampons to help ease the blood flow. I mean, why would I? After all - and to my knowledge, I wasn't expecting such an event to happen so soon. Being twelve, I hadn't even contemplated this situation happening until I was at least a teenager. Even though, as research shows, periods have been known to start as early as seven years old! Which is shockingly young! But I did not know this at the time, so my twelve year old start was viewed as very young in my eyes at least.
The first thing I did when I saw the blood was to call one of my best friends, who quickly rushed into the toilets, as I sat there, unable to move, for obvious reasons. She had no idea why I called her so loudly and then - I told her what had just happened.
Thankfully and to my sheer utter surprise, my best friend came to the rescue and told me that she had started her period a year before and was currently in her mid-cycle. Phew, I thought, I wasn’t alone. She kindly offered me one of her spare pads to use and my god the relief I felt when I knew that I wouldn't be trapped inside the toilets, while help would be called in the form of the head mistress of the house.
After I came out of the toilet, I called my mother. At this point, I was experiencing the left over panic and was shaking badly. My mother was also shocked that I had started my period, but she still managed to calm me down and reassured me that all was going to be ok. Despite my mother's words, I didn’t feel reassured, all I wanted was for her to be there with me. To cuddle me during this process - the beginning of my periods.
This first experience never left me, looking back now I’m 30 years old, I wonder what could have been done differently to help with the shock I felt. How could I have been best supported prior to this unexpected moment? And most importantly, how can other young females be best supported through this process of ‘First time periods?’ If I could say something to my younger self, the nearly teenager I was back then, I would say this:-
“Don't be scared of this process, all will be OK”
So for those young girls out there who are still yet to have their first period, although it is very rarely spoken about, the experience is a perfectly normal process that all females go through. And however unpleasant it appears to be, you will be ok! So don't worry, just like me, you will get through it, one cycle at a time, I promise. And if there is one thing that I want you to take from this article, it would be that - Your first time period will always be unique to you, and it is not something that you should ever be ashamed of. As it is part of being the strong female that you are!
Jessica Phillips is a single mother and emerging writer/performance artist. Jessica gained a BA HONS in theatre and Drama Studies at Birkbeck, University of London. She has taken part in two readathons events to raise money for the 'Rose Reveal project', in 2014 and played 'Prince Escalus' in William Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' adapted by the Rose Theatre. Jessica is currently working on her second play and also in the process of writing her first novel.