Because I got it wrong the first time I wore one

Marie Abanga
Posted May 20, 2019 from Cameroon

I remember paying attention to a pad the first time when my elder sister was going to Boarding school. She was 11 and some months while I had just turned 10. The bouncy me had strangely never come across a pad nor heard about menstruation neither at home nor in my neighbourhood. Definitely seemed that 'stuff' was a big hush hush, hide hide and cover up. I mean something was probably happening to women before they got pregnant and all of that, but even in school we didn't gossip about what happened to our mothers or aunties back home - at least I didn't belong to any such groups which did. I was therefore fascinated by that packet and tried to eavesdrop on what mum was telling my sister it was all about. It looked like my sister wasn't so pleased because she was fidgeting and pulling her hair which she does when stressed. Curiosity got the best of me and at night I asked my sister about that packet - she gave me a stare which sealed it for once and for all. That was all I knew of a pad at the age of 10, that it was something a girl my sister's age could use, and that the thing that will happen to you could make you mad or stressed up and angry.

Unfortunately for me, when it was my turn to go to boarding school the next year, mum just thrust that packet in my trunk without telling me anything. Who was I to ask about it? Where will you keep the embarrassment of asking even your friend in school? Was I going to risk my sister's gaze to even find out if she had started using her own packet while in school?

Back then in boarding schools, you were assigned a college mother to walk you through stuffs in settling down and navigating your way around boarding school world. Well, mine had like 4 other college children, and she was in her final examination class. She maybe didn't even know we knew nothing about menstrual health, at least I didn't. I could only notice how some girls would hide away one and go with it to the toilet, or tie covers around their beds before wearing or removing theirs. How on earth was I to figure that one out?

I am an extrovert to a large extent, but back then I was still finding my way and still don't like embarrassment or falling out with people. I therefore kept quiet and prayed to be able to figure it out on my own. That first year came and passed and the worse happened. My menses didn't come, but my mother left my father. Ok, even if the menses started who was I to go to? And of course the menses chose just that year which followed to start. What is a 12 year old naive girl to do with a pad? Well put it on, sadly the wrong way. It glued on my pubic hair at once and I was done. I was running late for class and was just hoping it sorts itself out somehow. I wish I shaved my hair off as often as I do now!

When we got back from preps that day, after having spent like 6 'stinky' hours with the same pad on - because I knew no better and that first flow wasn't heavy thank God, I needed help to remove that pad. It was a come and see in the dormitory and I just wanted to melt. Of course guess who was the talk on campus for a few days?

And so, because I got it wrong that first time, because so much was wrong in it all, the taboo, stigma, shame and even silence, I decided I wasn't going to keep quiet about it. Ah, sadly my daughter died the day after she was born; Angel she was called. I would have taught her so so much I hadn't learned as I grew up. Anyways, I joined the campaign train of an advocate back here in my city called be Period Positive. I share my story and encourage the young girls to be period positive indeed because there is nothing wrong, or to be ashamed of about our menses.

I mean, I even send my sons to buy me pad these days, I refuse to wrap it up in a newspaper or black plastic bag, I don't wear one again for 6 'stinky' hours, and I put them where even a guest can find them if they need one - just like the toilet roll. It is very important to normalize the conversations about this very important occurrence in the life of a young girl and woman, which has sadly been so stigmatized to the point a woman on her period was referred to as 'unclean' ha...

This story was submitted in response to Menstruation Matters.

Comments 13

Log in or register to post comments
Tamarack Verrall
May 20
May 20

Hi Marie,
Your writing has the ability to have me laughing and heart sore at the same moment. What a series of steps forward as you made your way through this silence. I love the road to understanding and normalizing that you have created, in memory of what you would have taught your own daughter and for any woman and girl who visits you.

Marie Abanga
May 22
May 22

Dear Tam,

Laughing therapy is one of the best I know of hahahahaha. really series of steps I have taken in my 40 years of existence in this wonder world lol. I am thrilled by my parcours and the different experiences, and you know some of what I thought mundane matters nowadays - like this first experience with a pad which I have never before shared publicly - even took me a while to do so here ha. Thank you so much for your encouragement, together we can

Lisbeth
May 20
May 20

My dear Marie, thanks for sharing your story on menstrual. Definitely, every girl have a story on "period". Let's keep sharing!
Regards

Marie Abanga
May 22
May 22

Hello Sis,

My pleasure sharing - and then you realize we all in this together for real

Sinyuy Geraldine
May 22
May 22

Certainly dear sister.

Sinyuy Geraldine
May 20
May 20

Hello Marie. Beautiful but still a sadening story from the beginning. Yes, you are doing just the right thing to demystify the use of pads. We need to make the society to accept and treat menses as a blessing and mot a curse. Thanks for sharing your story.
Dr Geraldine.

Marie Abanga
May 22
May 22

Hi Doc,

Thanks for the comment, indeed menses should be celebrated. The more we normalize the conversation around it, the better indeed

maeann
May 20
May 20

Hi Marie,

Good day! I like what you said and I quote: “I share my story and encourage girls to be period positive” Thank you for this story that brings positive thought and awareness to girls about period.

Marie Abanga
May 22
May 22

Hello Maenn,

Thank you for your comment. Yes yes to it all

Jill Langhus
May 21
May 21

Hi Marie,

I agree with Tam. You frequently manage to infuse humor into your posts... what a gift:-) So, how can you stand pads?! Eek. I don't know how people can deal with them. I know I can ask you this and you won't be offended...ha:) I've seriously been thinking about the cup since it's eco. What do you think?

Marie Abanga
May 22
May 22

Dear Jill,
Laughing therapy is super soul me thinks. Seriously I just stand them well because I can afford them much more easily than I can afford tampons. Well, because I see menses as a blessing and not something to be ashamed of, the inconvenience of what I use is largely overrided by the pride in my womanhood. Seriously, never heard of a cup o - remember where I am hahahaha

Jill Langhus
May 22
May 22

Yes, you're very right!

Oh, I didn't think of the cost of pads versus tampons:-( I haven't bought a pad in so long I don't even know how much the cost in comparison, to be honest. It's dumb and annoying that they're more expensive. Well, that's one way of looking at it. Good for you!

Okay. But surely you can buy cups there? https://www.wikihow.com/Use-a-Menstrual-Cup

Hello, Marie,

I love your authenticity! I’m sorry you had to go through that embarrassment simply because no one educated you about periods.

I love this most: “It is very important to normalize the conversations about this very important occurrence in the life of a young girl and woman“. I agree. It should be as normal as “I had a haircut”.

I’m sorry to know about your daughter. Hugs.

Thanks for sharing!