I feel like I should explain a few things about the ridiculous way your body is acting right now. As you may remember from our past conversations, thanks to Eve, we women are designed from the get-go for childbirth. Even if you never have a baby, there are parts of you—pretty much everything neck to crotch—that have been designed for baby making, carrying, delivering, and feeding.
Though you were born with all the eggs you’ll ever have, at twelve years old you’ve just entered into a cycle that could possibly continue into your grandma years. Remember that time when you got on the merry-go-round at the park and the big kids started pushing it really fast and you wanted to get off but you couldn’t? Well, get ready for the menstruation version of that.
Before today’s monumental discovery, I had described the purpose for the wings on maxi pads and for the string on tampons. You know where we keep the heating pad and the appropriate dosing of ibuprofen. We had put together a discreet cosmetic bag with emergency supplies to keep in your backpack. I thought we were ready. As it turns out, nothing can fully prepare you for the icky, crampy, and just plain weird experience of your first period. But this too shall pass.
In the meantime, I will do what moms do best—help you look on the bright side. For instance, I’ll offer some of the following observations:
“Be glad you aren’t alive during ancient times! In some cultures, menstruating women had to sit on a filthy rag in a stinking tent. Gross! When they were unable to depend on handy boxes of pads and tampons under the bathroom sink, some women had to use absorbent materials such as animal pelts, mosses, and seaweed. I’ve even heard of ‘menstrual aprons’ and ‘belted napkins’. This could definitely be worse!”
“Enjoy having the excuse to curl up on your bed with the heating pad and take a nap every four weeks.”
“Think of the camaraderie you’ll experience with your ‘blood sisters’! Nothing grows a friendship like shared pain.”
It may seem cruel to post this letter in such a public forum, but there is method to my madness, Dear Daughter. I want you to know that your body is amazing. It is precious and worthy of your care and keeping. And it’s too special to be mistreated or neglected or discarded. Things are happening inside of you that though unseen they are wondrous and must still be known. While this cycle of egg and blood and water retention and acne flare-ups and irritability is private, it’s still information you can choose to share. You can always talk to me or your dad (He’ll do his best—remember the man has no fallopian tubes or ovaries but his sympathy is real!) or your three loving aunts or the many moms of your best friends. You have middle school teachers who deal with girls needing a hall pass and they will understand. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Discussions involving moms and daughters and this new phase have been happening for thousands of years. Your grandmothers may have watched a helpful video like this:
The important thing is for us to be open and honest. I will do my best to help you through this without embarrassing you. And please know it’s nearly impossible for you to ask a question that will embarrass me.
To demonstrate how difficult it is for me to be embarrassed, let me offer this anecdote: I didn’t start using tampons until I was in college. After a friend talked me through the steps and I was successful, she invited me to her apartment to eat supper with some friends. I thought it was just an impromptu get-together until she came out of the kitchen with the dessert. She had made a large pan of banana pudding. Sticking out of the middle of the pan was a tampon. She lit the string and my friends applauded. It was a moment I’ll always remember.
This is just another step toward making you who you will be as an adult. It’s a big deal but I PROMISE not to do this to you:
I’m here to help. You know where to find me.