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...