Like the back of my hand, I remember the day I saw my menstrual cycle, the day I became “a woman” (in the words of my mom). Prior to that day, my kid brother and I would always play our rough game and I remember him punching me on my abdomen. Of course, Dad gave him the spanking of his life. But afterwards, I started having this strange feeling of pains in my lower abdomen.
It probably happened on a Saturday because I remember there was no school. I went to pee but noticed blood on my panties. I changed them, but kept seeing blood on my panties shortly after I changed them , no matter how many panties I changed into. At the fifth change, it became obvious I could no longer keep it private. I went to my Mum’s room to tell her what had been happening. She said I needed a sanitary towel, not a change of panties; then, she proceeded to give me a pad from her stash.
After I got cleaned up and changed, she gave me ‘The Talk.’ “ Now you’re a woman, don’t talk to boys or get close to them; if you do, you’ll get pregnant. You’re still a child yourself, so imagine raising a baby,” she said.
She instilled so much fear in me about men, that going forward, I built really strong boundaries between myself and men. Her words were things like: “A lot of people may be getting away with the bad things they do when they think no one is watching, but if you do them, your nemesis will catch up with you.”
Every time I got my menstrual cycle, I was always in so much pain, abdominal cramps, virginal pains, headache and overall discomfort. I never longed for my period cycle, because during my flow, I felt sick and lived on painkillers, although they killed no pain.
Not to mention the extra work that comes with maintaining a top-notch personal hygiene during the menstrual flow. Standing up to have a shower in pain, change your pad/Tampon and wash your panties. I was a boarder during my secondary school, and being on your period in a boarding school was the absolute ‘ghetto,’ – from insufficient water, to terrible restroom facilities.
The many misinformation, around period and the female reproductive system, is an aspect that needs serious re-orientation. I remember some girls telling me it was because I was a virgin that my pain was so severe. I was told that the moment I start having sex, all the pains would be forgotten in history. Thankfully, I had my mum’s voice in my head as a constant reminder not to engage in premarital sex. I categorically say, having sex does not take away your menstrual pains. It was after I weaned my first child that my menstrual flow became seamless.
Advice to younger girls:
1. Embrace the menstrual cycle as a process, it’s part of life.
2. Keep yourself from undue distraction from the opposite sex. 3. Change your sanitary pad regularly.
4. Keeping yourself clean is key to good menstrual hygiene.
5. Shower/wash yourself properly and regularly to keep fresh
6. Wear clean and suitable undergarments to avoid undue embarrassment – there is a sanitary towel for heavy flow and light flow.
7. Dispose of sanitary pads properly: wrap in a plastic bag and trash.
8. Consume a balanced diet.
Seyi Adeyera is the Founder, Gerbera Care Foundation, which is focused on the health and well-being of the girl-child. She lives in Lagos.