Because of the stigma and myth of periods being dirty, I wanted to distance myself from imagined uncleanliness. I compromised my comfort, but it did not come without a valuable lesson.
By Rachael Edwards
We all have stories that we tuck away into the crevices of our inner-most beings in hopes to have them never resurface again. One of my stories that I rarely, if ever, share with anyone is the time I fainted while trying to insert a tampon. Granted, it was my first time but there were reasons that led up to me fainting and the embarrassment that followed after. Recently, I have explored why I find this particular story so embarrassing.
Growing up, I was taught to tuck pads deep into my purse so that no one else could see I had my period. It was women’s business and men could not discover what was going on with my body. If they did, myself and other young women were teased. The language around periods remains problematic because this language is laced with associating our menstrual cycles to uncleanliness–people who menstruate have to hide what happens to their bodies because the cishet male gaze perpetuates the lie that periods are dirty and something to be ashamed of.
When I was 17-years-old, I thought it would be a good idea to insert a tampon without any practice. I was told that tampons were cleaner and way cooler than pads. In high school, I was the one in the bathroom with the loud crunchy pad paper. I never had any real issue with pads until someone told me that I was late to the game and needed to start wearing tampons. I wanted to be as clean as possible-if tampons meant that, I had to catch up.
Related: #ASKCAM: HOW TO OWN YOUR SEXUALITY
I went into my mother’s room and told her I intended on trying to wear one. I acted like it was a royal event I was planning for myself. But for me, this was a rite of passage I needed to take as I approached adulthood.
The expression that crossed my mother’s face was not one of horror, but it was not far from it–she knew I had no idea what I was doing–mamas be knowing, but sometimes they let us navigate our lives without interruption.
In in my mother’s bathroom I reached into the cardboard box and retrieved the plastic tube–life was handing me a baton and I had to run into the next stage of my life. After reading the instructions and going over some tips my mother gave me, I unwrapped the tampon. I put one leg on top of the sink and gave it a go.
Beads of sweat formed on my forehead as I tried numerous times to insert the tampon. I called out to my mother and she patiently repeated the instructions again. I began breathing heavily and my mother opened the door to make sure everything was alright. I was hyperventilating. When she walked in I stood up after the fourth or fifth attempt. Something was wrong–I felt light-headed and suddenly everything in sight became hazy.
Moments passed, my mother called me back into consciousness–I had fainted. If she hadn’t been there, my head would have hit the corner of her sink.
In my 17-year-old mind, tampons came with a false sense of sophistication. There was so much anxiety wrapped up around using tampons because I was told that it was cleaner. Because of the stigma and myth of periods being dirty, I wanted to distance myself from imagined uncleanliness. I compromised my comfort, but it did not come without a valuable lesson.
With our reproductive health–whether it is sex, abortions, childbirth, birth control or periods–we must be comfortable with our bodies and not afraid to learn what we are ready for and what we are not. Our bodies, are just that-ours.
The embarrassment I felt about sharing this story disappeared when I deconstructed the shame around periods. At 23, I am still learning to be comfortable and unembarrassed about my body and reproductive health. Do not be in a hurry to try things that you may not be comfortable with. You set the pace. Learning what works for our bodies is part of the journey of self-love.
Author Bio: Rachael is a writer based in Baltimore who loves to disrupt society and engage in conversations that challenge us to be better humans. Rachael’s work centers Black women and our experiences. On her down time she performs, floods your Instagram timelines with selfies and eats fish tacos. You can find her here: Twitter Website Instagram