Featured Storyteller

KENYA: After the Red Showed Up

AbigayleMutua
Posted June 29, 2017 from Kenya

Abigayle Mutua's first periodwas traumatic.Today, she vows to guide her young daughter to a better experience.

“I value her enough to teach her about menstruation and sexual health.

I remember the day when the red showed up like it was yesterday. I was the youngest of three sisters, and it came as a shock to all of us that it started when I was just 11 years old. To make matters worse, I didn’t yet know about periods, and I wasn’t expecting to wake up one morning and find my panty all red! I was beyond horrified.

When the red came that first time, I was ashamed to tell my mum. I didn’t understand why I was bleeding.

Did I cut myself!? Am I going to die!? What would my mother think? These were the thoughts that went through my mind. I remember thinking, what did I ever do to deserve being born as a girl child? I hated God for creating me a girl! I hated everything about being female, especially the horror of the red.

Since I couldn’t tell anyone, it became my big secret. It was not very easy to keep it quiet because I was spotting badly. The red managed to spoil my panties, my towel, my bed sheet, the sofa. Nothing was spared by this horror.

I struggled an entire Sunday, and then, finally, my big sister caught up with me. Then, everyone knew. The drama began when people could say, “This girl can finally get pregnant!”

To make matters worse I still had to walk to school every day with only a tissue to hold the blood. Pads were very expensive, and my mother could not afford to buy me even a single packet. At the rate the red was spilling, I needed at least eight packets—there was no way we could afford them .

What made the red a true horror for me wasn’t the lack of pads, but the way everyone began to treat me. My mother called me into her bedroom and didn’t explain much to me about what was going on in my body. Instead, all she was concerned about was that it meant I could be someone’s mother. She made it very clear to me that if I ended up pregnant I would be kicked out of the home. I was just 11.

I bled for 12 days and 12 nights, but that wasn’t the horror either. My childhood came to an abrupt stop. Just like that, I couldn’t play with my friends of the opposite sex anymore, because I could get pregnant. Just like that, I wasn’t allowed to play with dolls because I was now seen as a grown woman. This was the saddest day of my life. I felt God was so unfair to me. Yes, I had seen the red, but I was still mentally a child. I loved to play; I loved to run around; I loved being free. But for some reason, the red brought with it my mother’s anxiety, and she feared that every time I was out playing, I was organizing to get pregnant.

The red meant that I was on lockdown and lockout.

I watched as my friends continued to play blissfully, without a care in the world. Myself, I was carrying the world on my shoulders. Suddenly, so much more was expected of me. How I wished I could go back to being the young carefree girl, but that time had passed.

It has been two decades since my first period, and a lot has changed over the years. Time has matured me, and I now understand that being a woman is not such a bad thing after all! I used to feel ashamed to buy a packet of pads for myself, but now, even my husband can walk into a shop and buy them for me. Today, I understand that I should be proud of the red.

I now have my own little girl; she is 7 years old. She is my pride and my joy. When I look at her playing and running around like I did when I was her age, in my heart, I desire that she is able to enjoy her childhood days for as long as they last. I look at her and realize that heaven has given me a chance to correct some errors that were done to me and by me! I count myself blessed that I have an opportunity to make her first red an experience that she will forever remember—in a good way.

I have not yet talked to my daughter about periods and a woman’s body, but I am sure that in a year or two, we will have the talk. I strive to create an environment of friendship and parenting with all my children because when I was growing up, I missed having a mother who could also be a friend.

I am very open with my daughter, and she knows that she can trust me enough to tell me anything. She knows that I won’t judge her, and so far, this has worked out well. One day, she told me that while she and some friends were playing, some began to play sex games. I asked my daughter if she played too, and she said no because she knew it was not right.

I used that opportunity to talk to my daughter about sex. We talked about the right time to have sex (in marriage), and I told her about the dangers of engaging in sexual behavior, such as HIV/AIDS. Amazingly, my daughter used the information she learned to educate and warn the other children about illicit sexual activities. They stopped playing the games they had been playing before!

This experience made me appreciate my daughter’s mind. She is young, but she still has a voice. She is intelligent and has a sense of right and wrong. When she is valued, she responds positively. And I value her enough to teach her about menstruation and sexual health.

When the time comes for my daughter to see the red, I know she will not feel the need to hide it from me. I know this because I have committed to not panicking when she comes into adulthood. I know this because I will teach her that seeing red and being a woman is a blessing.


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Comments 15

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CHIOMA EVANGELINE OKAFOR
Jun 30, 2017
Jun 30, 2017

Thanks for sharing.

AbigayleMutua
Jul 01, 2017
Jul 01, 2017

Am honored Tricia

Tricia-Anne Y. Morris
Jun 30, 2017
Jun 30, 2017

It's sad that some parents won't speak to their children about their bodies. In Jamaica we used to have the same challenge. Now, however I think more mothers are speaking to their children about sexuality and their bodies, from early. The conversation must be had. So thanks so much for sharing because this is truly important.

Jill Langhus
Jul 01, 2017
Jul 01, 2017

Good job! Congrats on being a featured storyteller:-)

AbigayleMutua
Jul 01, 2017
Jul 01, 2017

Thank you

AMumbua
Jul 01, 2017
Jul 01, 2017

Parents and especially mothers should be able to talk to their daughters about everything including menstruation. Go ahead and set that example with your daughter!

iyamail
Jul 01, 2017
Jul 01, 2017

Beautiful story Abigayle. I know exactly what you felt being at a loss for support and empowerment at such a critical time in your growth. Thank God you have chosen to be a light for your daughter so she doesn't have to go through the anguish you did.

Great job!

I have a similar mission, educating and empowering young girls by providing them with sexual education. Here is my article I wrote on a similar trend. I have a book on Amazon for this goal. 

Iya

A needle point shift in direction today is worth a grand arc of change in the future.

Tamarack Verrall
Jul 01, 2017
Jul 01, 2017

Dear Abigael,

Your story gripped me from the beginning. You opened up your experience so completely that I felt I was a friend feeling it all along with you. By your ability to storytell so well, we can witness that horror has been transformed in one generation by the trusting bond that you have created with your daughter. And then to learn that she has shared such important information with her friends, and young lives have been changed by your wise counsel being shared by a confident daughter. Transformation in one single generation. What a triumph. 

In sisterhood,

Tam

sharmainesanilla
Jul 01, 2017
Jul 01, 2017

Good on you for taking the lessons that life has taught you to make the lives of others such as your daughter that much easier and healthier, she'll go on to teach her kids too:)

Evelyn Fonkem
Jul 03, 2017
Jul 03, 2017

Great write up Abigael thanks so much for educating your daughter about this very important issue.You will attest with me that may parents dont talk to their children about their period.I am glad you did.Inspiring story indeed.Thanks for sharing

Immaculate Amoit
Jul 07, 2017
Jul 07, 2017

Dear Abby, 

As I read through your article, I came to understand that parenting skills can either build or destroy a girl child. Thank you for sharing your story and committing to good parenting and thank you for raising an empowered girl already. Free expression and love for our girls boosts the esteem abd confidence in our girls and thats what in essence increases the bargaining power of a girl in any setting.

Much love 

Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
Jul 10, 2017
Jul 10, 2017

Thank you my dear sister for sharing such a lovely and touching story. Its sad that even up today many girls are not educated about menstruation and so they dont know what to do. I have talked to girls in my community and many of them think that they are being cursed or bewitched so they withdraw from society and miss out on education. I also have three daughters and i have liked the way you have approached the matter. It is not easy parenting in this day and age. They way we brought up is so different from today and that is because today children are exposed to a lot because of the internet. We have to make our children our friends so that they can trust us, unlike us who were beaten so that we wouldn't do certain things. Your story has really touched me and am sure it will impact many more lives. 

Stay blessed my dear sister. 

REHEMA CIZA
Jul 11, 2017
Jul 11, 2017

merci beaucoup ma soeur.En Afrique nous avons les memes problèmes car nos meres ne parlent à leurs enfant au sujet de la sexualite et du fonctionnement de leurs corps.

Lily Habesha
Jul 18, 2017
Jul 18, 2017

You did a great job.

Where had you been when I visit Nairobi last April?

I'll be back in three weeks...just for a week or ten days.

Lily

Laura Jackson
Jul 21, 2017
Jul 21, 2017

Wow, what an amazing story.  I haven't thought about it in many decades, but I now can really appreciate my mother for teaching me about womanhood and periods before mine arrived, also at age 11.  Sending much love to you from New York City!