I only thought about how this moment impacted me for the first time 3 years ago.
I hadn't thought about my first period or processed how it had affected me until about 3 years ago at a training with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli. We were learning how yoga could support women's health and, more specifically, menstrual health. One of the exercises we were invited to do was to share with the group what the day of our first period was like.
I took myself back in my mind and experiences like the reel of an old film. When I found the memory, I tried to remember it more clearly and bring it into focus because all I could see was a fog. This fog acted like a cloud covering that day, that moment, that memory from so long ago. When digging for this memory, I had the odd sensation of feeling cold.
I learned many things that training day; one of them being how if you experience this memory as either hot or cold, defines whether you had a negative or positive experience. For me, when I reflect on my first period, I feel cold.
My first period was a negative experience.
My body was changing rapidly and the conversations around it were not particularly safe and supportive. I was about 13 years old and during that time my mother had taken me to the doctor. She felt that my breasts were quite big for my height and age, and was worried that I would not continue to grow taller. As you can imagine, being part of these conversations where my body was being talked about in this way was not a fun experience.
My first period story
All of this was happening around when my first period arrived. I went to the bathroom at my parents’ country house. I sat down and there it was, red, bright, and very present. It was official, my first period had arrived.
I was left alone processing these changes and wondering… What about the more personal questions?
I called for my mother who came and explained to me what this body change meant; I would now be having my period. She gave me a few practical pieces of information, gave me a menstrual pad, and that was it. I was left alone processing these changes and wondering… What about the more personal questions?
Looking back at this 13-year-old girl, I see that she felt quite alone in this experience and uncomfortable in her own skin. I see in her the wish of a proper explanation regarding what this change actually is, how it impacts or doesn’t impact her as a person and which are the positive aspects of having a menstrual cycle.
I had never heard anything good about what it meant to have a period. I think deep inside of me I didn’t want to have it, I didn’t want to be part of that club.
If I were to go back to that time, I would love to tell that little girl the wisdom of the menstruating body. How throughout her life when she is lost her cycle will help her get back to who she really is. Like for example, every time I've been lost in life or something in my relationship didn't work in my pre-menstrual phase I've been able to see clearly - thanks to my cycle.
I cannot tell my 13 year self this, but I would like to say it to you, reader: your period is a gift. Even though society and media can lead you to feel otherwise, your period is a gift of your body. Its 4 cycles are a representation of your body, helping you to live in a sustainable way that is in touch with who you really are.
I didn’t have a good first period experience and this affected my relationship with my period for a long time. However, after years of work in the menstrual space, I’m happy to be part of the club who gets a period. I hope that this story helps you to want to be part of that club too.
About our writer
Marina Ollero is the founder of ‘In A Woman’s Body’ a platform that wants to completely transform the experience women have when seeking information about menstrual, sexual, and reproductive health, and how it is delivered. Check it out here and support her crowdfunding campaign to make this platform possible.
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