My First Flower

Leina
Posted May 29, 2016

Kwa kwa(Knock Knock) Prisca please open, let`s shower together, echoed my 11 year old daring voice. Prisca raised her voice in a blatant “no” that left me feeling as if I had angered her.”Why?”,I retorted,“because I am throwing blood” Prisca answered.OMG! Throwing blood! What did she mean by that? My little mind could not understand. How could she be throwing blood? Did she kill a chicken?

One early Saturday morning, I overheard Prisca whispering to another big girl who lived with us ‘’this child would start seeing her flower anytime soon”, stealthily looking in my direction. Who has never seen a flower? I said to myself. I made a quick move and passed in front of them to make them know I heard their gossip. As I passed, their strong stares followed me. I knew they were looking at my buttocks as always. I hated being embarrassed by comments from strangers and family members about my body. They said I had the shape of a mature woman at my tender age. Whatever that meant. I felt terrible that my body had become my identity.

On the eve of the day I was to start secondary school, I was so excited to see my friends and the thought of being a Form 1 girl made me swell with so much pride. I could not wait for the next day. As I was lost in my thoughts, my mom walked in and asked me to follow her to her room. When I did, she asked me to shut the door and sit on her bed. "What is she up to again?'' I asked myself.

‘’Tomorrow you will be going to secondary school. Which means you are now a big girl. You have to take care of yourself. Keep away from from boys. Be very careful with them. You will soon start menstruating and when that happens, you have to be extra careful because from then, if a boy touches you, that`s all, you will get pregnant and you know what shame that will bring to this family. Remember you are our first child". “What is menstruation?” I asked in deep fright. Mami lowered her voice and said “Very soon, once a month, blood will start coming out of your woman skin. Once that happens know you are now a woman. If it happens when you are in school open that packet that looks like cotton in your box and take out one pad and put on your panties and wear. You will have to be careful so it does not stain you dress. Nobody is supposed to see your menstrual blood. You must do everything to make sure it does not stain you in public and keep away from boys”, she said holding her ear.

One day my benchie (Bench mate) stood up to answer a question during our Maths class and her uniform had a red spot that looked like blood! All the girls had their hands in their mouth in shock and someone rushed to her and whispered something to her ear. She immediately sat down, then took off her pullover and tied around her waist. The boys made mockery of her and called her eggs. I felt so sorry for her and prayed for such an embarrassment not to be reach me one day.For the whole school year, I didn’t get any visit from “Mbra”, so on the eve of our closing,I gave my packet of Indian bread to a friend who had been visited by “Mbra”

On a sunny Saturday afternoon during the third term holidays(June 1993), I was hanging around the kitchen hoping to be given a slice of cocoyam from the big boiling pot.Every time my mum`s hand went into the pot my heart raced hoping it will be the moment she will make up her mind to turn to my direction.Chum –chum –chum sounded the mortar and pestle that pounded the cocoyams into a smooth paste called Achu. Achu is eaten with a yellow spicy soup made with Palm oil, limestone and assorted African spices. Finally mami made the long awaited move, she stretched her hand towards my direction with a large slice of “coco” in her palm, I took it and gave her a swift thank you.

As I was about to take a first bite of my long awaited cocoyam, I felt a sudden urge to urinate, I dropped my precious coco in bowl on the kitchen sink and rushed to the bathroom. As I took of my pantie, lo and behold!!!!!! there was a brownish stain that looked like chocolate on my pants!. At the sight of this,I was drowned in a deep sea of sorrow. My mother`s words echoed in my mind “If a boy touches you, that is all, you will get pregnant “Fear and disbelief encompassed my being. I went into the kitchen and told my mom something had happened and I needed to talk to her immediately. She followed me into the bathroom and I showed her my pantie. She lowered her voice and said “Did anybody just touch you? “I said “yes, you touched me in the kitchen when you gave me the cocoyam.’’. Lowering her voice again she said “did a boy touch you?’’ I said ‘’no’’ ‘She gave a sigh of relief and asked me for the sanitary napkins she bought for me before I left for school. I told her I gave it to someone who needed it.She took a huge chunk of toilet tissue and wrapped it in the shape of a sanitary napkin and placed it on a clean under pants and gave me to wear.

It was so uncomfortable to move around with that thing(toilet tissue) in my pants. So for three days I made very little movements. When I saw boys I will shiver to the point of having goose bombs. The thought of any other person knowing I was having my period made me so sad. I never wanted to meet my friends or play with my sibblings.Finally the three days were gone and I was myself again. No more red flow and I could feel free to jump around. However every time I thought that 28 days later I will be visited by “mbra” again, I felt sad. If this happens to every woman every month then why is it such a mystery? Why is it a big taboo to talk about it openly? Why is it a shame if a woman is stained in public? Why is this blood treated differently from the one that oozes out of the wound on my finger? This gave me another reason to think women are cursed species. The only way to break this curse is to break the silence that protects it.

[Y1]

My First Period

Comments 13

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Olaoluwa Abagun
May 30, 2016
May 30, 2016

Wow! Amazing Sister Leina :)

Your story about your first flower is so beautifully told. I especially love how you made reference to the substituted terms. My favorite is "Indian Bread". Lol

Your innocence at that time is really heartwarming...what a shame that society did not allow you get accurate myth-free information at such a pivotal time.

Your beautiful story just encouraged me to take a stroll down time to remember "My first flower"...

Leina
May 31, 2016
May 31, 2016

Thanks for joining your voice dear.So many girls are in dire need of myth-free information and it is by sparking conversations like this that we set the agenda for such information flow.

Hugs,

Leina

Sally maforchi Mboumien
May 30, 2016
May 30, 2016

hi Leina

i enjoy your story. The reaction of boys in class as in your story just reminded me on the reason why many girls stay away from school during their periods. That is the fear of the unknown syndrome.

Leina
May 31, 2016
May 31, 2016

Hello Masalien's You are right I think boys have to be involved in the conversations to break the taboos and normalize menstruation in our communities. Hugs, Leina

Stelz
May 30, 2016
May 30, 2016

Woah Leina what a vivid description of how it all happened. This brings back memories of the first day for many girls and mothers. Thanks for sharing.

Indian bread? Not far from what we called it, in our house whole it was 'dry bread’

I especially relates to your mum advice “keep away from boys". Although this has always meant to be a precautionary advice from mums to their daughters my worry is that it was never explained further and most girls during this time became nervous when they were amongst boys or did not even go near or talk to a boy living the boys wondering what is going on.  Isn’t also amazing how toilet tissue seem to always be the first makeshift option to think of, imagine families who could not afford toilet tissue.

The good thing is today we can speak out about it without any fear of taboos and tell our children freely than our parents did for us.

Cheers

Leina
May 31, 2016
May 31, 2016

Hello Big sis, I am so excited to see your comment!Yes ,we have the responsibility to break these taboos to our children and community.Yes we can! Hugs, Leina

Sandy KOUO ISEDU
Jun 03, 2016
Jun 03, 2016

Vraie Sandy.Une bonne éducation est la seule façon dont nous pouvons libérer nos filles contre les dangers de la société.Disons non à tous les tabous contre les menstruations.

Celine
Jun 10, 2016
Jun 10, 2016

Sister Leina,

I really enjoyed reading the story of your first flower. The uncomfortable feeling you mentioned about using toilet tissue kept me laughing.

Thank you for sharing this powerful story with us.

Cheers,

Celine

Caillou
Jun 25, 2016
Jun 25, 2016

Hi Yvonne,

I am so touched by your 'Flower' experience. It brings back memories of my first period. Mine started during my last years at primary school and i was so scared what the hell was happening to me. I was waiting at the car park in school after we closed from school, then i felt something warm coming out from me. I shoved the feeling and thought at the back of my mind and when i returned home i checked my pants after peeing. Behold!!! i saw a pool of 'chocolate' colored blood, i called the attention of my closest cousin who was older, more experienced but 'biologically' younger me ( she had not started seeing her 'flower' but was more knowledgeable because she had learnt about this from her early secondary biology classes.) She told me that i was a 'big' girl now and i burst into tears. Later she informed an older relative lady who was taking care of us.

The relative cautioned me severely, telling me that i would get pregnant if i messed around with boys. She made my first pad from toilet tissue and showed me how to make a toilet-tissue pad. I felt left alone because though i was the youngest in our household, i was the most mature. My older cousins who just started secondary school had not started seeing their period.

Naively i shared my experience with my female class mates at school and no one had experienced this novelty. They laughed at me and made me feel very old. Thank God!! after the first month of flow my 'flower' stopped abruptly and reappeared when i entered college. There i felt more at ease because they were also other starters like me.

In college we had funny names like 'congo' and it was considered a taboo if you had a 'blood stained' uniform. Even in our neighborhood it was considered odd and suspicious if a lady tied a sweater, scarf or any clothing around her waist. Older females will always yell at you to remove the clothing.

Society has so many unwritten laws on women, the female body is wrapped with chains and stripped of all freedoms. Unless women arise and empower themselves they shall always be relegated..

ozabas
Aug 21, 2016
Aug 21, 2016

Interesting!! I can't stop smiling as I went through the story.

The myth surrounding the mestruatrion for the first timer girl teenager could be very worrisome.

Information is key. Mothers and the society especially the local community need to get awarenes. Our role can't be overemphasized.

As Mothers, we are the closest to our daughters, and giving the right information at the right time is very important.

Therefore, Only the right information can educate and mentor our girls rightly, and inturn prevent them from being vulnerable.

Together, we make our voices count.

Lily Habesha
Sep 18, 2016
Sep 18, 2016

Dear Leina,

When I read your story, I remember a day. I was coming home from school with my friends. That was the last high school year. My friend had a yellow skirt. Two boys were following us. And one of the boys was saying to my friend: “You’re in yellow dress today. That means you’re not having your periods. Don’t we know you? You’re a girl with a dirty under wears. Ugly under wears, spoiled with blood. Now, you pretend to be a beautiful girl who dressed neatly.

Imagine, we don’t know the boys. They’re not from our school either. We got embarrassed for no reasons. We keep checking our uniforms every now and then. Was it not enough for young school girls?

Why that boy was insulted my friend? my friend felt ashamed and bow her neck. I still remember how I felt sad that day.

Thank you Leina for writing this story.

Mulatwa

Cheers

Awah Francisca Mbuli
Aug 24, 2017
Aug 24, 2017

Dearest Leina,

Breast Ironing is not only a bad act, but it comes also with humiliations on the young adolescent since many in her community sees her as some one who might have engaging in early sexual activities.

Francisca Awah,

Founder, Survivors' Network, Cameroon.

www.survivorsnetwork.co 

Clodine Mbuli Shei
Sep 18, 2017
Sep 18, 2017

Dearest Leina,

You are such an inspiration. The Breast ironing and you 'Flower' are so inspiring plus your writing stle. Thank you