Do you remember as a kid how you looked forward to becoming a Teenager? After all, it was the first step towards becoming an adult and as children all we wanted was to become an adult. Grow up. Feel independent. Be allowed to put make up. Go to college. Date. Get married. And so on and so forth. I just couldn’t wait for my 13th birthday. For me, it would be like ‘entering a whole new dimension’. After watching an endless number of Hollywood teenage flicks and ‘High School Musical’, I couldn’t wait to be a teenager and experience the good times.
But, as they say, everything has a downside.
So this happened to me a few months before my 13th birthday. For me it was like any other school day. I got up and went straight to the bathroom. I was feeling a little wet down there and I was thinking maybe I peed little in my sleep. Embarrassing…Yes! But happens to the best of us also. As I was removing my shorts and getting ready for the ‘Big Job’; I noticed a thin pool of blood flowing down my left leg. My first thought was maybe I had cut myself so I started looking for any bruises but there were none. I panicked. You know what I was thinking..that I had got some disease, same as my Mom’s uncle. He had the case of ‘Hematuria‘ and I had heard my family members discussing how he used pass blood in his urine and stool. I was angry and devastated. I was not going to inherit this embarrassing disease from my family.
I gathered myself and shouted for my Mom. But it was my Dad who knocked on the door. I screamed and I told him that I wanted mom and not him. Honestly, I was a little surprised to find myself not comfortable discussing my ‘bloody’ situation with him, considering that I told him everything. Finally my Mom knocked the door and I pulled her inside. She saw what had happened. I started crying on seeing her. ”Something happened to me,,see see see..I am going to die”. My Mom looked at me and gave me a look which went like ”I knew this would happen but that it would happen now on a school day when I have to get two kids ready and send my husband off to work”. She was so not prepared for this. Her first words, ”I thought you had more time. You are not even 13”.
She told me that it’s nothing and happens to all women. She asked me to wash up and later gave me a pad and demonstrated how to use it. I had seen packets of sanitary napkins in my Mom’s closet and I had pestered her many times regarding their use but she always refused to answer. Now I knew what they were and where they went. I questioned her as to what is this that I was having and why but she gave me some ambiguous answer that I was grown up and it was a part of the process. The whole time she couldn’t bring herself to use the word Periods. As I was leaving for school, she put another pad in my bag. It was neatly wrapped in a newspaper with a handkerchief on top. She asked me to change into a fresh pad after lunch break. She gave me a few warnings. ‘Don’t tell anybody about this. No one. Walk and sit properly. Carry your pad carefully to the washroom so that nobody sees it’.
It was not a nice feeling. I thought growing up would be fun. But my mother had turned it into a secret and imposed so many restrictions on me. I remember that day she didn’t let me go out to play. I wanted to share this with my friends but I strictly warned by my Mom not to. I was feeling a little uncomfortable with the pad between my legs but it was not so bad after all. As long as i changed my pad and was clean; it was fine. When I got up next morning, I experienced major cramps. My Mom told me to skip school and honestly, I had never been more in love with her. Parents telling their children to bunk school is a huge deal. So after 5 days of a marathon run, my periods were over and my mother released me back into civilization.
But the first year of my period wasn’t easy for my mother. I ended up staining my bed sheet a few times and my Dad found out. After that, there was this strange change in my Dad’s behaviour towards me. I was no more his little girl. My Mom missed one of her cousin’s wedding because it fell during the time of my periods and she didn’t want me to travel and for people to know that I was having ‘it’. I was a little sad as my Mom loved attending family functions and that she was not able to go because of me had me very disappointed.
I remember there were other instances as well. My aunt had come home for lunch and she asked me to get her some pickle. I was on my periods so my Mom wouldn’t let me touch the pickle. She had already warned me against touching the pickles and going near the house temple during my periods as it was an ‘unclean’ phase. The pickles would be spoiled and Gods would be angry. I couldn’t quite understand the logic behind it but I did as she said. So my aunt kept asking me for the pickle and I just sat there, staring at my mother. My aunt sensed it. My Mom’s worst fear came true as my aunt for the BBC radio that she is, went and told almost all the women around us. My Mom had to go through another nightmare with the arrival of Navratri. I was no more a child and therefore I couldn’t be a part of the ‘Kanya Puja’. It was an immense loss for me as a child because it was the best part of Navratri for me. Every house that I would visit treated me with so much respect, gave me nice ‘Kheer’ and money, of course.
I was heartbroken at not being able to attend it….not this year, not next, never for that matter. But it was my Mom who became all the more anxious as now everyone would know that her daughter was having periods.
I never fully understood then as to why she would feel so ashamed and embarrassed about my periods. Pretty soon, all my friends also got their periods. We started talking about it and shared our Period stories. Class 8th Biology taught me all about the reproductive system and puberty and I now knew the reason and purpose behind Menstrual Cycles. Something so natural and universal, I wondered why my Mom would be so worried about coming to terms with me having attained puberty like it was a sin. I felt absolutely normal and chilled out about it.
It was only after a few years when I was around 16 and one of my cousin who was 10 got her periods, that my Mom had a real conversation with me around the subject. She told me that she never expected me to mature at such a young age and that she always thought I would get my periods by the time I was 14 or 15. I was lean and slim and never had much junk food. For her it was hard to accept as I was just a child and she wasn’t prepared to see me mature so early. But her biggest crisis was that people may judge her and the way she brought me up as one of the reasons why I hit puberty at only 12. Like she went wrong somewhere and that maybe she didn’t take care of me and my health and that people would blame her for me getting my periods early. But when she saw that most girls were having their periods by the time they were 10 or 11, it was then that she realised that climate, stress, biology, lifestyle were determining factors behind when someone attained puberty.
Apart from the superstitious beliefs around periods, what bothered me most was the fact that my Mother had to go through this phase of doubting herself and whether she failed as a Mother of a Daughter. I strongly believe and propose that all Mothers should feel comfortable to talk to their Daughters about periods and puberty. It’s not a slanderous or offensive term. It’s something very natural and all Mothers should educate their Daughters about periods. They should prepare their girls to deal with the changes in their body. It’s a confusing time for most girls were they fail to understand what’s happening to them and it’s the responsibility of every mother to discuss these changes with their daughters openly without any shame or taboo.