The Period Party

Welcome to The Period Party, a series created to celebrate all things period, open to all menstruators. Party invites are also extended to people who don’t experience periods, because the more the merrier! It is important to share stories about our periods in order to normalise and de-stigmatise conversation surrounding them.

To kick-start the party, we discuss the first time we had our periods, how we felt at the time, how our thoughts surrounding our periods have changed over time as well as how our cycles have altered as we have gotten older. We love how people are celebrating their first period with their friends and family, so we dream up what our own celebrations would have been like if we had a party when we first started our periods (over 10 years ago!)

Text: Do you remember getting your first period?

Katie: I got my first period when I was 12. I came back from horse riding (yes, I know, I literally couldn’t be more southern) and went to the toilet to find a little bit of blood in my knickers. I was so fucking excited. I finally felt like a real woman, which meant I could finally moan about adult things and drown my sorrows in ice cream like they do in the movies. I ran downstairs to show my mum, who looked at me like I was a freak, because let’s face it – that is a bit weird. She handed me a pad and that was it, I was a W-O-M-A-N at least in my 12 year-old brain. Unfortunately this would turn out to be a false start, much to my disappointment. The next day would come and there was no period and then the next month and there were still no signs of my womanhood reappearing. It would later come to my realisation that what had actually happened was that my hymen broke… not nearly as exciting. Supposedly activities like horse riding and gymnastics can cause the hymen membrane to tear or even bleed a little, in addition to its natural thinning over time. I don’t actually remember when my period started after that. Maybe I was fearful of another false start so ended up not making such a hoo-ha about it this time round.

Nikitah: I got my period three days after my 11th birthday. I was at home and my parents were having a Christmas party. They had invited many of our friends and family over, and after I saw the blood on the toilet paper when I went to the loo, I shut myself in my bedroom and refused to leave until the party was over like a total diva. I remember thinking no no no over and over, because none of my friends had started their periods and I thought there was something wrong with me. My mum gave me my first pad, she explained what was happening to my body and I felt empowered in the knowledge that actually, my period arriving was nothing to be ashamed of. The first thing I did was run to tell my younger brother what had happened (he was 7) and I remember being told off! Since then, getting my period meant a free pass to be excused from the dreaded school swimming lessons when none of my classmates were. It was a bit like being in an exclusive private members’ club (so exclusive that I was the only member and had to sit on the side of the pool, alone.)

Text: How have your periods changed with time?

Katie: My periods change ALL THE TIME. It’s a nightmare keeping up. One day I get cramps, then I don’t. One month I get cravings, then the next I don’t. Sometimes they are heavy for 5 days, sometimes they are literally non-existent. I skipped a whole period by accident last year just from stress. Keeping up with my uterus is like trying to explain the evolving drama of Tiger King to your mum when she hasn’t watched it; it just won’t make sense. Since I started using the Clue app I think I’ve got slightly better at understanding what’s happening. I was late to using the app as I have a bit of a sixth sense with my period and seem to have always been able to guess when my periods were going to start and catch them, but when I was experiencing these fluctuations in symptoms and mood I started to make a note. The app has been invaluable to me as I’ve realised my cycle doesn’t just involve bleeding, but also changes in my mood, skin, ability to concentrate and weight amongst other things. Seeing these patterns allows me to plan around when I’m feeling up or down and recognise when my hormones might be slightly to blame for certain emotional reactions…. sorry to all previous exes.

Illustration of a hand holding a phone with the menstruation app Clue on the screen. The text on the right hand side reads "Since I started using the Clue app I think I've got better at understanding what's happening. I've realised my cycle doesn't just involve bleeding, but also changes in my mood, skin, ability to concentrate and weight amongst other things."

Nikitah: I asked my mum about her periods because I wanted to compare experiences. She once visited the doctor as she had terrible pain, and when asked if her blood flow was ‘normal’ she said yes; she had no experience other than her own to compare to, and as a young girl she believed that it was common to experience a heavy flow and extreme pain. When I was younger I remember changing my pads several times a day, soaking them through. Now, I change them less frequently, and they last for fewer days. I also use the Clue app to track my period, and have learned I have an average menstrual cycle length of 28 days (but occasionally have very early or very late periods.) At school I noted my periods down in my yearly planners, which have long since been thrown away. It would have been interesting to compare the data between now and then, but I know my periods have definitely got lighter and more regular as I’ve grown older.

Text: Have you ever felt embarrassed because of your period?

Katie: I’d like to say I’m not at all embarrassed about my period as I near the age of 24 but it would be a lie. I have no issue talking about my period; I tell pretty much everyone I meet when I’m “on.” What I would say though is that I’m not at all comfortable with the blood. I’ll only wear black, I’ll only use my bedroom bin for my used pads, I don’t keep period-related items in shared bathrooms and if I use the toilet I will always check/clean it 3 to 4 times in case theres any inklings of blood. I always thought that I was just being considerate but after the amount of times I’ve seen people leave full shits in the toilet I think a little bit of blood is probably passable.

One time I did feel embarrassed was during school. A lot of girls were talking about how they thought pads were “so gross” and that tampons were much better. I felt like they were graduating into using tampons as we got older, and that I would have to make the change too, even though tampons really didn’t work with my body and I would often be in pain when wearing them. Let me just state here THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH USING EITHER A TAMPON OR A PAD OR ANY OTHER OPTION. This is a completely personal choice and you should use whatever works for you. Definitely try the other options but it’s your body and your vagina so do what feels comfortable and best for you. There is no “more mature” way of dealing with your period and once you leave school no one really gives a fuck anyways.

Nikitah: One summer my mum picked my brother and I up from school and took us to the bike shop on the local high street. We had never had grown-up bicycles of our own before and had been looking forward to this day for weeks. I was wearing my summer uniform: a red cardigan and white/red striped dress, and was on my period but had an Always pad in my knickers. I tried on different bikes for what felt like hours before choosing the one I liked the most, white with a purple stripe (my favourite colour.) Sitting on the bikes must have moved my pad around, because I noticed something strange on one I’d tried, looked down at my dress and saw a light bloodstain on the back! It probably wasn’t that noticeable as it was a similar colour to the dress, but I was mortified. I experience anxiety about period leaks even as an adult, 13 years later, and I only wear larger night pads or even maxi pads to minimise the risk of leaking. I definitely have a love-hate relationship with my period. Some months, it comes and goes with little pain, and is so light I’m not worried if I’ve accidentally left the house without a spare pad in my bag. Other months, both my anxiety and hormones are heightened, and I sometimes decline attending social events because of it.

Text: What would your Period Party look like?

Katie: I can’t remember the exact date of when I first got my period so remembering my tastes during that time is tricky. I know at 12ish my main goal was to fit in so to I would probably have wanted to celebrate it in the most sheep-like way possible; listening to What’s it gonna be by H “Two” 0 or Heartbroken by T2 whilst wearing a Jane Norman top with Uggs and an Abercrombie and Fitch paper bag the size of my full torso (even though I only bought a scrunchie.) So, with hindsight being 20/20, I think if I could plan my “Period Party” now I would definitely take notes from this video.

Bert Kreischer’s daughter knows what’s up.

Nikitah: I got my period in December 2006, at the height of the noughties and in the middle of my obsession with S Club 7, which would be the soundtrack to both the Year 6 disco as well as my Period Party. I had amassed a sticker collection that would be the envy of any fellow sticker enthusiast (before playground trading was banned and we moved onto raising Tamagotchis.) As I’ve grown up I’ve learned that being the envy of your friends is not a #lifegoal, so at my party we would share both stickers and pads because everyone should have access to menstrual products, and we shouldn’t be ashamed to say their names out loud.

The more conversations I have about periods, the less afraid of them I feel, whether that’s the confidence not to hide my period product in my bag when I go to the toilet at work, or if it’s not being embarrassed to engage in period sex. But from having conversations, I’ve also learned that discussion surrounding perceived notions of womanhood can be painful. I have a cousin who was born without a uterus, which she only discovered after undertaking tests to determine why her period never arrived. It’s important to acknowledge that periods aren’t experienced by every woman, and that some people who have periods aren’t women. Growing up, as Katie mentions, getting your period was synonymous with ‘becoming a woman’. I’ve learned there to be many ways to be a woman – and whether or not you get periods doesn’t need to be a defining characteristic.

Katie: I’d like to add when I talk about “womanhood” my concept of what that meant has changed an awful lot since I was a kid. When I was young I knew little about how the definition of what I saw to be a woman could unintentionally define someone else. My definition of a woman and what womanhood is has changed and continues to change as I actively learn more about other people and how they deserve and should be seen.

An illustration of a blue hand holding a pink tampon, next to an orange hand holding a yellow menstrual pad with pink flowers on.

Katie: Side note – during writing this the amount of times of times I’ve said “I got my period” is astounding. Why isn’t there a verb like “perioded” or “to period.” I don’t want to say bled because that isn’t specific enough so there should be a verb… right? I’m probably being stupid, there probably is a verb. -Nikitah you can delete that if you like I am a tad tipsy.

Nikitah: The word for ‘I got my period’ is menstruated.

Katie: Fuck sake… I’m just dumb

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