Periods are notably gross, painful, funny, and warrant acknowledgement as a shared experience for many people. Over time, mortification becomes a badge of honour, a tale to be told with pride. These happy bleeders made it through their first time and are alive to tell us their stories.
I was 11 the first time I got my period, and 11 was, according to most people I knew, “too early” to be thinking about menstruation, and I was still slightly uncertain about the particulars of it myself. That was until one fateful day in which I was intended to spend six hours driving up the coast with my brother and parents, and we all attempted to play the game of “Who can maintain their sanity for the longest?” Then, in a seemingly innocuous bathroom visit moments before departing, I took off my underwear only to reveal a pool of red blood. I yelled for my mother and like the patron saint of menstruation, she emerged with an arm full of pads and comforting words. I wouldn’t say that receiving the red badge was particularly momentous, but it did make for a less painful car ride knowing my mum was slightly more forgiving of my antics than usual.
My experience was quite unusual. As a girl who was not educated about the female body before her first period I freaked out majorly when I saw the blood. I thought I was dying so I ran to my dad with my undies in my hands and cried: “Dad I’m bleeding, I think I need to go to the hospital. See, look at this!” He then ran to my mum: “DEAR GOD YOU HAVE TO TALK TO HER SHE JUST GOT HER … YOU KNOW … HER THING!” Now I don’t blame my dad, I did run to him with my bloody underwear and shoved them in front of his face. But at that moment I felt as if my period was a disease or a sickness. Could I take it back? Will I ever be normal again? I was lucky to have my mum there to explain it all to me but it was still one of the scariest moments in my life.
My first period was on my final day of year eight, the end of middle school and my young adolescence. I was at Papa Johns’ Pizza with a bunch of friends celebrating when I went to the bathroom and found a circle of blood in my undies. Having patiently sat through health classes since year five, I knew what was happening, but of course, I wasn’t prepared. I made up some excuse and hightailed it home. As it was the end of school, we were flying back to Australia that night (I lived in Beijing at the time). But my mum had a conference and had left that morning. Mortifyingly as we were flying that night, I had to tell my dad what had happened and ask how I could contact mum to get advice. I managed to get onto her and she tried to talk me through putting a tampon in, to make flying more comfortable. Needless to say it didn’t really work, and I spent the next 12 hours on a plane with my dad, constantly asking if I was all right.
My first period was when I was 16, on a 14-hour international flight. I was only travelling with my Dad and had to subtly sneak pads out of my bag to get up to the bathroom every couple of hours. The next few days in LA were not too fun!
– Pads on a Plane
The first time I got my period I was on holiday in Phuket (Thailand) with my family. I thought I had food poisoning and went to the restaurant toilets expecting a diarrhoea storm, and getting very worried when I found blood in my undies. Eventually, my mother came in to see if I was okay, and I confessed what had happened. She was very supportive and helped me wash my shorts in the sink. She even gave me her shirt to wear as a dress and wore my tee shirt the rest of the night. It was a very scary ordeal, because my mum only had liners or tampons with her on the trip, and I pretty much had to deal with learning how to use them on my first period. I had to change liners every fifteen mins or so. On top of that, I was afraid of swimming in case I attracted sharks at the beach!
– Phuket Period Panic
I didn’t get my period early, though I didn’t get it late either. An average bloomer, you could say. So by the time I was blessed by lady red, the FOMO panic had already started to set in. I felt left out of the secret MSN chats my period-having friends would run off and have, as if I was a pitiable unbloodied child in their eyes. I had several false starts, dashing to the nearest bathroom at the slightest twinge and eagerly checking my underwear. Alas, it was not to be. Despite the many auspicious starts I had fantasised about, my period came on a day like any other. After school, midway through an afternoon snack – which I set down especially for dramatic effect – I let my mother know the news. She was much more prepared than I had expected, I have to admit, and set me up with all the hallowed supplies. I wouldn’t say starting my period made me a “woman”, but I did finally get to obsess about something else.
My first period came on my family’s usual ANZAC day 4WD camping trip. Up in the mountains around Lake Dartmouth in Victoria, it was freezing (it snowed later) and I’d slept the night before cramped into a tent only just big enough for my mum, dad, and two younger sisters, meaning discomfort levels were already fairly high. I had woken up early due to unusual pains in my stomach and trekked out to the standard hole-in-the-ground-within-a-small-wooden-shack “toilet” that you find in national park camping grounds. I was shocked when I pulled down my pants. The darkness made it look like my underwear were filled with sticky black tar. I was mortified. Too afraid to tell my mum, because she never was, and still isn’t, one to talk about these things, I got into the car without saying anything. There was no way I was sitting down in my dad’s prized 4WD, which he had once spent six hours cleaning after he first bought it . I spent the remainder of the day hovering awkwardly above my seat while we drove up and down rough, steep tracks in the mountains. Legs aching from holding myself up and stomach aching from cramps, I still didn’t tell my mum for another three days.
Two days after I turned 14 I went to the bathroom and discovered I was dying. I knew all about menstruation in theory, but for some reason I was just not expecting that much blood. I screamed blue murder for my mum, who came rushing in. My parents took me out to dinner to celebrate, which I thought was the most fucking mortifying thing in the world.
My older sister had bet me that I would cry when I first got my period. When it happened, I was determined to prove her wrong. But hormones were not on my side. Needless to say, I ended up in embarrassing tears in the middle of a supermarket telling my whole family, with my sister laughing. The next day, she asked me how I was going “wearing nappies”. I cried some more.
I was 13 years old when I got my period for the first time, in the bathroom at school withtwo close friend, running late for art class. I hoisted my school dress up, pulled my undies down and sat on the toilet, listening to my friends laughing in front of the mirrors while they waited for me. I glanced down and froze. My plain white undies were covered in a deep red-brown muck.
“Guys … I … uh … think I just got my period?” I interrupted their conversation.
They didn’t believe me, and I wasn’t even sure myself, so I did the only thing I could think of. I pulled my bloody undies off and inched the cubicle door open, holding them out for my friends to inspect. Shocked and disgusted, we all agreed it was definitely my period. We were a lot closer friends after that experience.
“This one time, at band camp …”
My first period took me by surprise while I was away at year five band camp. At the tender age of 11, I was woefully unprepared and had no idea what was happening to me. What the hell was this brown stuff on my underwear, and where the hell was it coming from? I remember lying on the floor of our cabin bathroom with my friends, trying desperately to get comfortable and find some relief from the pain that had taken my abdomen hostage. This was the first time I discovered the sweet, sweet relief of child’s yoga pose. Luckily for me, my mum was also at camp as a supervisor, so it was her I approached that night in confusion. She sat me down and explained “that I was a woman now”, and that introduced me to the surfboard-sized pads I struggled with for the rest of camp. While my career as a clarinet player ended a short time later, my period and I have been acquainted for just over 10 years, and thankfully, we now have a much better understanding of each other.