Passionate About Iowa City
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Period Talk: Stories from Our Community

When it comes to your period, have you ever felt, “Am I the only one who ____?” Or do you have a story about your period that is hilarious or horrific that you only ever told your closest friends (or kept to yourself for fear of what others would think)? There has been more talk lately of raising awareness and lifting the stigma surrounding menstruation. I mean, this happens every. single. month. during the adult lifetimes of half of the human population. Why is this such a difficult topic to address? Why can’t it be as simple as shopping for shoes?

As I raise my children, I want them to know that this is a normal part of life, to not feel embarrassed or ashamed. To further connect our community, I asked for anonymous contributions from my online acquaintances who wanted to share their own stories regarding their period. The following are their responses.

Hilarious Period Stories

Job Interview

I don’t know if this is hilarious or horrific. When I was 21 and a college senior, I flew out to California for a day-long job interview when I was in the midst of a heavy period. How heavy I did not know until I was being driven to the airport by one of the teachers. (It was a teaching job, at a swanky private school.) I swear, I had just changed my tampon in a restaurant bathroom an hour or so beforehand. But as I sat in the teacher’s convertible, I could feel something splurging from me, and I tightened every muscle in my body to slow it down. I waved good-bye at the airport as I went up the escalator, wearing my cream-colored suit, trying to avoid showing my backside, and then ran to the bathroom as fast as I could. There was a horrifying red splotch on the back of my skirt. Fortunately, I had a carry-on with clothes to change into. Unfortunately, I was not offered the job. Or maybe NOT so unfortunately, because I have no idea how much the venerable department head tasked with driving me to the airport had seen.

Why am I crying?

I once cried while flipping through a newspaper because houses were so expensive, but I was not in the market to even buy a house. #PMS. Or once I cried because a squirrel was so fat and cute.

Fashion Fads

I remember when I started my period for the first time (7th grade), the big thing was giant JNCO jeans and baggy sweatshirts. I was so paranoid that people would see me bleeding through my pants in school, but there’s no way anyone could have seen that through all of that denim and those long shorts! A few years later, the fad was low rise jeans and crop tops. By then I was in high school, and I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh–I’m so glad that this wasn’t the fashion when I first got my period!”

Always and Forever

When I got my first period, I was at the movies with a few of my friends. The one I sat next to and spoke with happened to be a boy that I knew pretty well. There was a rumor going around at school that if you thought about the boy you liked when you got your period, you’d be with them forever. So, naturally I panicked! I didn’t want to be with the boy I was sitting next to forever! I still think about it and laugh to this day. Oh, also I had to wear a pad that my best friend’s mom gave me after I came out of the bathroom, and it was the hugest pad I had ever seen. It felt like I was wearing a diaper!

Crime Scene

A full menstrual cup once slipped out of my hands. Instinctually, I tried to reach out and grab it. Instead I smacked it and it bounced off the wall, and splashed blood all over my tiny bathroom. It covered 3 walls, the floor, my hand, and my socks. I was so glad I was at home when that happened!

My First Tampon Experience

This is only funny AFTER the fact. MUCH, MUCH, MUCH AFTER! I had only experienced about 3 or 4 periods before summer hit. Swimming, boating, camping. All activities that present distinct and particular obstacles, when trying to wear a “sanitary napkin” that felt like a diaper between my 13 YO athletic legs! My mom is in the bedroom of the camper with me, trying to direct me in how to squat low, and how to angle the tampon in the hand, that stupid, intimidating, cardboard, HARD applicator… It took me a half hour and some giggles (and some tears shed 😭), to *eventually* figure it out. Now, thank goodness, they finally have easier- to- use applicators. Or else, I’m sending my daughter to Gram’s house when she gets her first period!


Horrific Period Stories

Rental Car Postpartum

I got my first postpartum period in a rental car, trapped in bumper to bumper traffic. It was about 13 months postpartum since I had been nursing and it was like the floodgates had opened. I was completely unprepared and unable to get off the highway quickly to get supplies and take care of things. I think that poor rental car was probably never the same again!

No warning…

My period has always started hard, no spotting, just wham. It’s so intense that after the first day not much happens. This was horrific as a 12 year old who never knew when her period was coming. Sixth grade bleed through, I’m thinking of you…

First Frat Party

Hmmm… one comes to mind, but it is SO embarrassing to share “in public”. Even anonymously. I will try… **deep breath and heavy sigh** College. Freshman year. First frat party. Friend from another dorm, barely knew her, all her high school male friends invited her and told her to “bring chicks”…. Big football/tailgating day. First introduction to the drinking game called, “Century Club”. 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes. Can’t leave table; not even to pee or get more beer. There is a beer bitch involved. And empty Gatorade bottles held under the table by fiercely competitive frat brothers. I chose to forfeit before I pissed my pants. Lots of beer all day, all night. Meet cute boy. Talk talk talk. Sun starts to come up. Facing each other on couch on second-level balcony/porch. Crotch area of my jeans visible to this wonderfully cute and sweet boy, whom I am winning over just as much as he is charming me. Problem. Later, I found out why he never tried anything more than a simple kiss. When I removed my jeans to use the restroom, in the “girls bathroom” at his frat… and it was a horror movie on my underwear and jeans. I immediately walked the 4 blocks home to my dorm at 7 a.m., alone, and awkwardly trying to hide the period-stained butt and crotch. Never again. I ALWAYS carry back-up protection. ALWAYS. (Zero pun-intended. But, clever marketing… I see what they did there. )

Sexual Assault

When I was sexually assaulted in high school (he penetrated but I was able to get away), what still stands out to me is that I had a super plus tampon in. I still remember how painful that was, and how aware I was of that tampon. He would later tell people we had a wild night, and I just kept thinking ‘no girl would consent to sex with a super plus tampon.’

Unprepared and Uninformed

My mom underestimated how early puberty would hit. I also missed the 5th grade girls’ “talk”, so I didn’t know exactly what was happening when my period came. I had heard something about “being on the rag” from older friends in a way that made me think it was a dirty joke, so I was embarrassed to tell anyone and made my own napkins at first. I also wore baggy blouses and layers so no one would know I had breasts. My first bra was a size 36B! My 9th grade biology teacher increased the embarrassment by telling the whole class that he knew when girls were having their periods because he could smell it. He was clearly disgusted by women in general and favored the boys. 

Train Trip

I got my period right when I was at the station for a two-day train trip and I forgot to pack more pads…

Logistical Nightmare

When I was in middle school and had my period, I couldn’t figure out how to go to my locker to get hygiene products and get to the bathroom without being seen or questioned, so I would try to go all day without changing my pad. I often had leaks, and I would tie a shirt around my waist to hide it. I started staying home from school on my heaviest day because I just couldn’t figure out the logistics of taking care of it within the school day schedule. It was so stressful and embarrassing.

White Shorts

White shorts in high school. I didn’t notice till I got home.

The Period That Never Ends

In eighth grade I had a period for 23 days straight. It was horrible!


Am I the Only One Who…

…is afraid to ever wear white pants? Just in case?

…still breaks out every time they get their period? I’m 33 years old, but EVERY month my face breaks out like CRAZY when I’m on my period. So bad!!

…bloats as much as I do before my period??? When I bloat out, I often get asked pregnancy questions. It’s very obvious.

…feels more sexual desire while having my period than when I am not?

…is more scared of menopause than false (or real) pregnancy incident? At age 37. With two adolescent kids. And I don’t even really think we should have another kid by this point. Yet, I get occasional hormone swings that seem more a perimenopause symptom than PMS flux… and I freak. Anybody with me on this?

…never got their period back after having a baby?

…can go through a super plus tampon and heavy duty pad in an hour?!

…felt complete and utter freedom not having a period for almost eleven months postpartum?! I am devastated it’s back!

…prefers to use pads?

…spends the day before in tears, mad at everyone, or feeling completely hopeless?

Favorite Product to Get You Through “That Time of the Month”

  • Diva cup
  • Thinx period underwear. They’re great back up on very heavy days used with a pad of tampon or perfect for using on their own on light days
  • Hands down, DIVA CUP. Not only handy and environmentally conscious, but if you have a heavy flow or other flow problems, it gives solid empirical evidence about what’s coming out of you to pass along to your gynecologist.
  • Cup. It has changed my life.
  • Pamprin
  • Weed. Seriously.
  • Diva cup!!!
  • I love my menstrual cup! I started with the Lunette, and it’s very easy to use.
  • Maxi pads! I’m REALLY paranoid.
  • The cup! The Super Jennie is what I use for very heavy days because it has extra capacity.
  • Cramp relief by Wishgarden (herbal tincture)
  • MIDOL. And the heating pad.
  • I used to like Tampax sport

Things We Want Other Women to Know

As you enter perimenopause, your periods will likely become wonky. There’s a very good chance they’ll come more frequently and be bloodier than usual. Do not panic. This is normal, though unwelcome. It may be a very good time to consider using hormonal birth control to regulate, if you feel comfortable with that option, and if you and your doctor think it’s warranted. If you bear with it, you will eventually be blessed with menopause, which at least for me has vastly simplified and enriched my life.

I never got my period back after my I had my son.

I think it’s important that we all own our stories and make the best choices for our lives. After each pregnancy, my periods got worse and worse and I actually ended up in the ER multiple times with ovarian cysts bursting. The only thing that helped was birth control. However, after my fourth and final baby, I had to choose between the physical discomfort and the mental/emotional distress that the side effects brought on. I decided to go off the medicine, and it’s been so good. Still dealing with some pretty intense cramping/pain 2-3 days a month, but the other 28 days are so much better than they have been in a long time. You do YOU, friends!

My period hasn’t come back since my baby was born nine months ago (aside from the afterbirth hell that lasted four weeks). I’m dreading its return!

Oxi-Clean powder in your washer works amazingly. Just saying. And a whole box will last you a while! Also, just pack spare clothes, including underwear, in your car/office/etc.. Even if you don’t use them for period-related emergencies, they always come in handy!

Advice I plan to give my daughter when she is ready to hear it:  It’s ok if yours doesn’t seem “normal” compared to other stories told or articles you see. Get to know your body, and what’s normal for YOU. Talk openly with your medical support and see your vagina doctor of choice, once a year or as often as directed by said Doc. These regular appts should begin with your first period to pre-losing virginity, to birth control, thru eventual pregnancy & motherhood (if that’s what’s in the cards for you or as long as that’s what you decide is your path)… to unforeseen changes in body and eventual loss of that part of femininity, reproduction process &, life cycles.

All female humans experience all of this. They survived. You will too. My hope for you is that the eventual benefits do certainly outweigh any drawbacks to being a woman. In every meaning of that phrase ❤.

Having a period and having ADHD is tough. Prior to the lifesaving revelation that is the cup, I routinely left the house in full flow with no extra pads or tampons, having to rely on friends or strangers in bathrooms or stop at gas stations to buy more. I usually forget to change my tampon until I’ve leaked through my pants. It didn’t happen to me once, or a couple times per period, it happens every day of my cycle. It’s embarrassing, frustrating, and gross to be in my 16th year of menstruation and still not have the capacity to prepare and take care of myself properly… to be a smart, strong, and capable woman who KNOWS what I need to do, my brain just forgets until it’s too late. The cup has been a game changer for me as I only have to change it when I wake up, get home in the afternoon, and before bed. This I can mostly handle!

For me, cycle tracking helps me deal with PMS symptoms and knowing my body. I wish I would have known to do this in my younger years as a coping strategy and exercise in self awareness.

Girls should learn early about their beautifully made bodies and never be ashamed or humiliated about normal processes.


Resources

Monday, April 23 is Menstruation Station at the Pentacrest. You can learn about sustainable products. 

For menstrual cups, reusable pads and other eco-friendly options, look to the following places:
Put a Cup In It –  Did you know there were so many different ones? There is even a quiz you can take to find the best one for you!
Baby Time IA 
Ollie Maxwear 
Little Bee Creations
Pink Lemonade
Jordan’s Eco Alternatives
THINX

Have a period story of your own to share? Leave it in the comments!

 

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