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Prepping Parents for Periods

Honestly, I am terrified to have the period talk. I have experienced menstruation for over half of my life, but I do not know how to put it into words that will not traumatize my daughter.

Blood. Cramps. Mood swings. Bloating. Cravings. Never-ending fatigue.

And this is just my experience, which is pretty mild compared to what some girls and women experience.

I feel comfortable talking with her about all things that make up periods, except the most important component: the blood. The copious amounts of blood that ooze from your vagina monthly until age 50 or so.

You all just do not understand, my daughter is very dramatic. Like Disney tween sitcoms, dramatic. This will be an entire situation where she will conclude that death is coming.

Why don’t they make apps for this stuff?

I do not remember having a sit-down conversation with my mom about my period; however, I do remember Rudy’s first period on The Cosby Show and thinking nothing of it. Then, I remember when friends began to start their periods and the playbacks of their experiences. And finally, the day I started my period, my mom armed me with pads and midol and a list of what not to wear: no bright colors or prints and absolutely NO WHITE!

Not that I find anything wrong with my own first period experience, but I do want my daughter's experience to be more thoughtful and knowledgeable. I want her to feel celebrated and comfortable and not be on a countdown to doomsday. I absolutely want no shame surrounding what is a natural occurrence for girls and women.

No blue dye to demonstrate blood.

No downplaying PMS symptoms.

No code words for period, menstrual, menstruation, etc.

Aside from knowing that I did not want shame to be the foundation of her relationship with her period, I talked with friends about their first experience and read many articles and blogs that made sense to me based on my own experience and my parenting style. So, although I am writing this post to share my opinion and experience, she has not started her period yet so I can come back to this post to help ease me through her first period.

woman with PMS from her period

The Period Basics

Girls typically begin their periods between ages 10-15, but of course it can be earlier or later. Before the onset of the actual period, look for the first signs of puberty within girls: boobs and discharge. A period usually follows within a year after discharge.

As we all know, periods can be regular or irregular, lasting 4-7 days, with the average being between 3-5 days. Menstrual flow comes in light, medium (regular), and heavy. Most articles that I read measured flow in tablespoons but we don’t take measurements in the bathroom.

Light flow - soaking 1 menstrual product over 3 hours.
Medium flow- soaking 1-2 full menstrual product(s) in 3 hours.
Heavy flow - soaking 1-2 full menstrual product(s) in 1-2 hours.

Spotting is when it’s just a few drops of blood. Flooding is more than a heavy flow when blood passes through menstrual products, clothes, bedding, etc.

PMS is normal. Premenstrual syndrome is the usual sign that a period is coming. Symptoms can include headaches, bloating, tender breasts, moodiness, back and abdomen aches and cramping, low sensory tolerance, fatigue, cravings or no appetite, constipation, etc.

How to Begin

Through my “research”, I learned that I should start with conversations about puberty. A good time to start introducing talk about puberty is the purchase of the first training bra. The period talk, which I am dreading, is only one of the many layers when talking about puberty. Asking my daughter what she knows about puberty will help the both of us get more comfortable and this opens the conversation for me to correct any misinformation. Also, this talk should not be a one-time thing, I should continue to talk more and more about puberty and what’s to come and encourage my daughter to flood me with any and all questions.

One of her favorite school subjects is science, so giving her the facts will help her digest it better. She likes to know how things work, so explaining the mechanics of menstruation may just make this easier than I thought. I will not lie, explaining the 28-day menstrual cycle is a bit intimidating especially because we only experience a period because we did not get pregnant for that given month.

Again, why isn’t there an app for this?

Being a millennial, I honestly thought there would be an app for this or at least a nice amount of shows and movies to binge that discussed this topic. But unfortunately no. There’s a handful of shows and movies that discuss periods, but the number is even smaller for the shows that discuss first periods, and the number is even smaller with the relevant representation in race and age. There are two TV show episodes that I can watch with her, one being The Cosby Show like I mentioned earlier and two being Black-ish. Menstruation is natural but yet there is no content. Now if I did a quick search for another “first” experience, the search results would be endless. 

Not to go off on a tangent, let’s continue with what comes next in this period experience.

Showing my daughter how to properly use menstrual products and seeing which options she will be most comfortable trying. Growing up, I had the options of a pad or tampon but not really a tampon because using a tampon meant you were sexually active. So, I had the option of a pad. Today, menstrual product options are more abundant, like period panties and menstrual cups. I am eager to see her choice.

My daughter's period arsenal will be more than sanitary products and ibuprofen. We don’t do pain meds in my home; we treat ailments and illness with more holistic remedies. I’ve learned that herbal teas, increased water intake, decreased meat and dairy consumption, and more work wonders for PMS and menstruation. I’m excited to share this knowledge, especially embracing bath soaks while on your period and the importance of chemical free vaginal products.

reusable pad

Celebrating Menstruation

Across many cultures, a girl’s first period is a big deal and it usually yields many celebrations. I’m excited to begin this tradition with hopes of her continuing the tradition with her own children, if she chooses to become a mother. Our tradition will include:

  • A girl’s breakfast with her grandmothers and aunts.
  • Period Positive Gift Box
  • A walk down the feminine hygiene aisle
  • A mani/pedi
  • All you can eat pizza for dinner

As I wrap up this post, I feel more confident about P-Day. My primary goal is for her to feel celebrated and empowered in her transition into womanhood. Society has placed stigmas and silence surrounding women and periods and I want my daughter to be as loud and confident as she can be.

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