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Six Kernels of #BeyondMyPeriod Wisdom
Team August
|
7.15.2021

The #BeyondMyPeriod series was create to celebrate period experiences for those thriving beyond their period. Whether that be advice they would give their younger selves, insight on how period stigma has shifted throughout their lifetimes, or funny period stories-- these menstruators have graciously shared their period wisdom with us!

Submit your own story to neddy@itsaugust.co!

Viet Hong (she/her)

This story comes from our Team August Community Engagement Lead @clau.ove’s mom!

(Translated from Vietnamese)

My name is Viet Hong, I’m 49 years old.

It has been 35 years since I had my 1 st period. I don’t remember it very well other than some memories I have of strong pains in my lower stomach, down to my thighs. This would happen the day before my period began.

At that time, we didn’t have any other choices than using washable pads to be hand-washed in a little sink. It was very unpleasant. I didn’t enjoy it as a nature of life but a torture and suffering that I have to bear every month. I told my mom about my problem. She gave me both traditional, plant-based medicines and Western medicines, but nothing worked.

At the time, my Doctor said there was nothing they could do to reduce my pain. If I wanted to, I could have medication but they advised against it since I would have to depend on the medication all my life. The only hope I had was that after giving birth, perhaps my uterus would change and sort itself to somehow have less period pain.

I usually stayed in bed, crying during most of the 1 st day of my period. Sometimes, I used a hot water bag or sock with rice to put under my lower back as the warmth helped relieve my back pain a little.

Since having my daughter, the period pain has reduced. Her presence in my life, not only makes me super happy but also helps to cure my monthly physical pain. However, I fear she will have the same problem as me with growing period pain.

So, learning from my own experiences, I tried to share everything I knew related to our bodies and how to take care of it from an early age. I took care of my daughter during her first period; I guided her in how to use products like pads as well as practicing great sympathy for her pain and uncomfortableness during her period. I did this in the hopes that I could show her that she wasn’t alone in this. I wanted to make sure that she knew that periods are normal and we should always feel comfortable talking about how we experience them!

Karen Wallis (she/her)

My name is Karen Wallis. I’m 75 years old and many things have changed during my lifetime.

I was a child during the 1950’s, and a teenager in the 60’s, when we were becoming far more liberated. We lived close to London so new behaviours were quickly adopted and facilities easily accessed.

I learned about periods from the girls at my boarding school, and a brief explanation from my mother. We all hated sanitary towels. Tampons were just beginning to come in but were discouraged by our house mistress, so we would buy them outside school.

I went to art school, where there were several ‘shot gun’ marriages and abortions during my first couple of years. But by the time I became sexually active, things were changing. There was a clinic in London where unmarried girls could get the newly arrived pill - no questions asked. I was an early member on their register. Thanks to contraception I had a lot of fun and managed to avoid any unwanted pregnancies - so I am part of a generation who had children late. By then there was much anxiety about the side effects of the pill so I got a coil instead, until opting for sterilisation in my mid 40’s.

When I started menopause, HRT was very popular, but messing with my hormones seemed unnatural so I refused to take it. Germaine Greer’s book ‘The Change’, pointed out how much fuss is made about women’s so-called ‘instability’ during the change of life. She recommended embracing the situation, drinking lots of water and doing gardening, which is both healthy and contemplative. I managed to resist the pressures of taking HRT and at 51 emerged period free and happy.

Pauline McNeill (she/her)

My name is Pauline McNeill. I am 62 years old.

Whenever my mum needed pads she wouldn’t say the word, she’d spell it out: ‘I need to pick up P-A-D-S’. As a kid I thought I was spelling pads too but ended up calling them a random combination of letters: 'E-B-S-Ts'...Ask your mum or Grandma, they'll know exactly what those letters mean. Everyone had a nickname for it because you didn’t talk about it, honest to god. Nobody talked about anything, definitely not sex or ‘being on the rag’.

I tried tampons a couple times when I swam in pools. It just didn’t feel normal to my body, it always felt too big or like it was falling out. But here’s the thing - I had no one to ask. My age group was brought up thinking nobody needs to know about it - you didn’t dare say anything, out of fear of ridicule.

It takes a group of people to help educate you over and above what you have known. You did what your mother taught you and beyond that you kept quiet. I’m amazed at your generation and how lucky you all are to have a group of friends to teach you how to do these things. We have to take back the ammunition and get together collectively to explain how to do things, that’s how we figure it out and move forward as women.

Jan Loucks (she/her)

My name is Jan Loucks. I am 76 years old.

My mother had never told me about having a period when I got mine in grade 6 during gym class. We were running and laughing and I thought I had peed my pants. It was the end of the day so I only checked once I got home and was horrified at the blood soaking through. My mother then sat me down and told me about periods.

Thinking back on my mother’s hesitation to talk to me prior to me getting my period, it’s interesting because she was a woman before her time - an activist and a community leader - but she still had difficulty in discussing this subject with her own daughter. When my sister wanted to irritate me she would sing ‘Jan’s got her thing that comes at the end of a sentence...and it’s not a question marrkkkk…’

Never in my life have I ever used tampons - I’d never been exposed to them. I definitely didn’t allow my daughter to wear tampons, only pads. I wore the Kotex sanitary napkins, we called them pads. ‘The bigger the better’...an inch and a half thick...And the dreaded belt. When you wore tight jeans or a tight skirt, the belt would create a V shape and everyone would know you had your period.

I hope I did a better job with my daughter. I certainly know she did a better job with hers."

Charlotte Diane Eddy (she/her)

My name is Charlotte Diane Eddy and I am 78 years old.

Growing up as the only daughter of five siblings, I had to pretty much fend for myself when it came to periods.

My periods were so awful that they would cause me excruciating pain and to burn through 2-3 of the largest pads I could find each hour. I kept going into see my doctor and fighting and fighting that something wasn’t right or normal.

When I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis I marched into the Dr’s office and demanded a hysterectomy. And get this—my husband Earl had to come in to approve the procedure! How ridiculous that my husband had to give me approval over something that was causing me so much suffering! Of course, he was supportive, actually he was more annoyed that he had to come in on his day off.”

Hayde (she/her)

This story comes from @andoeni, one of our lovely #InnerCycle members!

“Fue muy simpática, frustrante, y me asuste”

My name is Hayde and I am 54 years old.

The first time I got my period at age 13, I didn’t have anything to protect myself. I was told I had a stain so I felt scared and went home. My mom didn’t know how to use pads so the first time I tried, I used them bottom side up.

I felt shameful when I had to buy pads since the cashier was a man. My mother never felt a period cramp in her life so she used to think that I was exaggerating when it felt painful. I felt like no one understood what I was going through and I couldn’t stay in bed because I had to work to help my family pay the bills.

Because of work, I needed to learn how to track my period. Back then, we didn’t have access to information the way we do now with phones and technology. Access to information about our menstruation was expensive and looked down upon.

I am so glad I am able to help and be there for my daughter today. She’s going through the same symptoms I did so I have so much empathy for her. Since she works, I am thankful that she’s not in a position where period symptoms cannot be taken care of. I am happy to see that we are opening up this conversation to younger women so they don’t have to go through these experiences alone. We are not alone, you are not alone.

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