The transition from childhood to womanhood is what nobody prepares you for. What’s worse is the stigma around discussing a lot of female-related issues. Period/menstruation is one of such issues. Nigerian women need to be able to talk about their period freely that’s why we’ve brought this to you.
From playing with friends to unexpected period stains, 12 Nigerian Women share their first period stories. They talk about how they dealt with the discovery and how they adjusted to the change. We’ve compiled these stories to celebrate “Menstrual hygiene day” which is today, May 28, 2020. The theme for this year is “It is time for action”.
Marvelene: “My mum asked if I had been raped when she saw blood in my underwear.”
I was 9 years old – I was in the toilet and there was blood in my white pant. Two years before, when I was 7, I had already started developing breasts – I was sexually assaulted a few times. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even realise my mum had been shouting my name for more than 10 minutes. She banged the toilet door open and started beating me. Apparently, she thought I was trying to avoid helping her pound crayfish. I stammered and pointed down at my pant. She suddenly became nice and started to ask: “What happened? Were you raped? Talk to me you this secretive child, did you get injured? I’ve been warning you about being secretive.”
She rushed out to get me pad but there were no shops open. We had to settle for using a brand new handkerchief. She put cotton wool inside and advised that I never use tissue so the pieces don’t get inside of me when blood soaks. The next day, she got pads and a sanitary pant and showed me how to fix it. It was only after that that she talked to me about periods. Five months into my first period, my period ceased for about two months. We met with a gynecologist and he explained that for girls with early periods, there are chances of irregularities as their body needs time to adjust. He advised me to take supplements.
Aisha: “I thought I had injured myself.”
I remember that I was scared when I first got my period. This was when I was 10 years old, in JSS1 in a boarding school. I saw it the first time at night and I honestly thought I had injured myself down there or something, so I went to my hostel mistress to tell her. She was super cool and guided me through it all. I also remember having numerous pregnancy scares the first years because it was so irregular.
Maryvic: “I cried when I saw my first period.”
My age at menarche was 10. I knew what menstruation meant early enough. That day, I cried because seeing my first period meant that I could get pregnant if I had sex. I was terrified of the consequences. I’m glad I know better as an adult but that 10 year old girl was paranoid.
Teddy: My aunt said,”once you start seeing your menses, if a boy holds your hand, you’ll get pregnant.”
My first period was on a Saturday morning in Jss1. I was happy and maybe a little scared because of what my aunt had told me about boys and period. The routine on Saturday morning was to take a bath after exercising then go to the dining hall. After seeing blood in my underwear, I rushed to the bathroom with all I needed. My aunty’s words played in my head all through: “once you start seeing your menses, if a boy holds your hand, you’ll get pregnant”.
Iman: “After I got my first period, my mum told me I had become a woman.”
It’s funny how the date, 25th February, 2010, is still imprinted in my mind. I was twelve, in JSS2. Usually my dad took me to school but that morning, my mum dropped me off. When I got to the school gate, I tried to get out of the car. Immediately I stood up, my mum asked me to sit back down. I learnt later during the drive back home that I was stained and I had just gotten my first period. She told me I was now a woman and was now accountable for my actions. I don’t know if it was shame, but I never told any of my friends that I got my period. I only ever revealed it when I got to JSS3 when I noticed that more people were comfortable with talking about periods.
Bolu: “I got my first period at a wedding.”
I had my first period when I was 12. I attended a wedding party with my parents at that time. There was this slippery feeling in between my legs. I was also pressed to ease myself but I couldn’t because I don’t use public bathrooms. When I got home, I went to the toilet, only to see blood on my pant. I cried, thinking I had injured myself until my mum came to the rescue. She told my sister to get me pads after which she taught me how to use it. She also advised me to be careful around boys so I wouldn’t get pregnant
Ayo: “I felt bad that I didn’t get my period when other people got theirs.”
My first period was pretty uneventful but before I got it, I was worried. I was 13, but compared to my friends, it felt late. Most of my friends got theirs when they were in Jss1, 2 or 3 but mine came after junior secondary school. I used to feel bad about my ‘condition’ whenever my friends talked about their periods. So I prayed to God about it. I later realised it was normal and finally had peace of mind about the whole situation. When it finally came, It was anticlimactic. It was black and looked nasty. I told my family members about it and had the ‘now you can get pregnant’ talk.
Suzan: “My dad brought me fried chicken in celebration of my first period.”
I was actually prepared for my first period. More prepared than a 11 year old should be thanks to my mum and my obsessive reading habits. I had read science textbook a year before and learned everything I needed to know about it. My boarding school was also really helpful. They set up classes for girls to talk to us about menstruation, how to handle the first period, how to avoid getting stained, how to clean up after using a pad.
So one day, I noticed how slippery I was feeling after classes. I took off my underwear in my room and screamed when I saw a spotting of blood. Then I told my roommates/friends and that was it. I cleaned up like I was already taught to and told my guardian to tell my parents about it. The next visiting day, my dad brought fried chicken as celebration for me and my mum told me about the possibility of getting pregnant if I have sex. It wasn’t awkward but very funny.
Tiyan: “I stopped sharing a room with my brothers after I got my first period. I was now a ‘big girl’.”
I got the sex talk from my mum when I just finished Primary 5. She was going abroad for her PhD; she wanted to prepare me in case it happened when she was away. I can’t remember the specifics of the talk. I remember feeling special that she wanted to talk to me without my brothers listening.
A few months later, during one of the holidays in primary 6, I got my period. I had to call my Dad at the office to tell him what happened. He came home during his lunch break with a pack of sanitary pads. My aunty, to show me how to use them. We then called my mum, who called all her sisters to announce that I was now a woman. I got a lot of ‘congratulations me on becoming a woman’ after that.
I found the whole experience to be funny because they made it seem like such a big deal. The best part was that I stopped sharing a room with my brothers, I was now a big girl.
Omotola: ‘I bled for two weeks nonstop when I got my first period.”
I read about sex and menstruation even before my mum who is a nurse taught me anything. When I got my period (in secondary school), I bled for two weeks nonstop. I was told I had hormonal imbalance. I got stained countless times even though I used at least five pads in a day. It was exhausting.
Lateefah: “When it came, I didn’t know what it was so I prayed to God and it went away.”
I was barely 12 years old. I woke up and saw blood stain on my night wear. Because I had no knowledge of menstruation, I just washed it and had my bath. I knelt down and prayed to God asking him to forgive me all my sins. After my short prayer, the bleeding stopped so I thought my prayers were answered. Immediately I got to school, I told my best friend about the stains. She was horrified and told me that her mum said that a girl could bleed if you got raped. I was scared. The pain got worse during the day. I had to visit the loo frequently. Later on, a female senior student told me my uniform was stained. She gave me pad to use and painkillers. I was relieved to know I was normal after all.
Deborah: “I didn’t tell my mum about it until she discovered two months later.”
I woke up one morning and felt pain in my stomach. I didn’t give it much thought until I noticed that my blue skirt was stained. This was when I was12 years, about to resume SS1. In basic science when I was in JSS2, we had been taught about menstruation, I knew what to do. I went to the toilet to clean up, then went to my parents room to steal two packs of sanitary pad. I didn’t tell my mom until she discovered two months later.
Are you a Nigerian woman who wants to share her first period experience? Leave a comment below and share!