While we’re nearing the tail-end of Women’s Health Month, today happens to be Menstrual Hygiene Day! To celebrate this shared journey through womanhood, #TeamZafigo has pulled together our own bloody tales. Some of them are filled with the hilarity of childhood innocence, while others will hopefully help you learn something about this cycle we go through every month. Bottom line: periods shouldn’t be taboo – we wouldn’t be here without them!
To sweeten things even more, we’ve partnered with Bobble to help you take care of your menstrual health. You’ll get 10% off every purchase when you use the code ZWH10 at checkout (valid until 30 June 2021). Bobble is a safer, all-natural alternative to mass-produced sanitary napkins and tampons, as theirs are made free from dyes, chlorine, dioxins, fragrances, plastics, and other nasties. Bobble’s period products are instead made from 100% certified organic cotton.
Anyway, back to our stories…
A little kindness
I’d always hated our light blue secondary school pinafores. Not because I thought the colour was hideous, but because of the fear of staining it while I was on my period and some boy noticing and announcing it to the rest of the class that I’d bocor (leaked). I’d seen it happen to friends several times before, so the anxiety wasn’t misplaced. Whenever Aunt Flo visited, I’d find myself seated on my side throughout the school day, shifting my weight every now and then to not put pressure on my pad and cause it to overspill.
When I went to study in Brunei, I looked forward to the change of uniform only to be placed in a school where my skirt was the exact same shade of blue. My fear came true one day. I felt something wasn’t right when we stood up to greet the teacher. I peeked at my back, and true enough, my red badge of courage – so they say – was on display for everyone to see.
As I turned to face the front, I noticed the boy seated behind me staring directly at my skirt too and I felt I was living one of my worst nightmares. I nervously awaited snickers to follow, but instead, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to find that boy handing me a pack of tissue with a piteous half-smile. It took me a second to figure out what he meant for it to be for (did he expect me to break out in tears?), and when I did, still in my embarrassment, all I could muster up was a whispered “thank you”.
Halfway through the class, after I (hopefully) inconspicuously turned my skirt around so no one would see the stain as I walked, I excused myself to the toilet to clean up. As I did so, I thought about the little bit of kindness this boy had shown me, hoping that there are more young men like him out there.
Maggie de Souza, Head of Events
A first to remember
Coming from a conservative family, going through puberty was a confusing time. My parents never had a chat with me about menstrual cycles, let alone sex. So imagine my absolute horror when one day, on a road trip through Canada, I got my first period. I was only 11 years old at the time, and I remember it like it was just yesterday.
We’d been on the road for hours, and I was busting to pee when we finally made a stop at a small mall. My little sister accompanied me as I rushed to the loo. As soon as I let out a sigh of relief and what could have been the gush of Niagara Falls, I noticed residues of blood. It took me about five seconds before I screamed at my sister to get my parents because my worst fears had come true – my bladder had burst from holding in my pee and I was about to die!
My sister was in a panic and dutifully went to get my parents, who started laughing and cheering when they came into the toilet (thankfully, no one else was there). Crying in a cubicle alone, I had no idea why they were being joyous instead of comforting me. “Your daughter is about to bleed to death!” I thought to myself. “Shouldn’t you try to help her?” But instead, they gave me a coin to get a pad from a vending machine and we never spoke about it.
I was confused and scared and thought it was a big bandage for a wound and wore it without question. Back then, Google didn’t exist and I couldn’t just ask without fear of judgement, so I spent the rest of my teenage years being cautiously curious. It wasn’t till many years after, at boarding school in Australia, that it was explained to me during sex education classes. It did puzzle me when a plastic banana was involved, but everything started to make sense.
I laugh about it now, but looking back, it was a rather traumatic experience, and I wish my parents were more open about these conversations with me. Nonetheless, it was definitely a first period story to remember!
Tercia Goh, Head of Content Marketing
People can be cruel
I remember it so vividly – It was a bright afternoon with great, sunny weather and my Standard 4 class had an outing to a hotel in Shah Alam for a high-tea buffet. We were eating happily when I felt something wet on my underpants. Curious as to what it was, I went to the ladies to take a look.
When I pulled down my underpants, my face turned pale. It was red! Oh no, I wasn’t prepared for this. I knew about periods, because my classmate had hers when we were in Standard 3, and the teacher explained to us what it was and that it’s entirely normal. But still, I was standing there in shock, not knowing what to do. I rolled out some toilet tissues and stuffed them onto my underpants before I trotted out to inform my teacher. My teacher promptly told the other teachers and asked if any of them brought an extra sanitary pad. She passed me one and asked me to put it on.
That was one of the most eventful afternoons of my preteen life. I still remember how my aunt told her friends and they laughed about it in front of me. I’m not sure what’s with adults and laughing about girls having their periods. I was very embarrassed. This is definitely a lesson to me never to do the same to other little girls if it happens to them.
Xin Xin Lee, Head of Design
The menstrual end of the line
My 53rd birthday came with a surprise. My period arrived. Again. By then, I was deathly sick of having to deal with all the paraphernalia to keep myself ‘sanitary’. Stained panties had become tiresome.
In my late 40s, I had noticed some unwelcome changes in my mood. It would swing wildly from high cheeriness to the low grumps, and try as I might, I could not keep it steady. A friend recommended I see a ‘natural’ doctor who put me on bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. It involved wiping oestrogen creams on my arms every day and taking some pills.
My moods stabilised; I became a nicer person, to my family’s relief. But there were two downsides: my periods would continue as long as I kept taking those creams and pills. And I was gaining one kilogramme a month.
After a year and 10 kilos, I decided to stop. Despite Suzanne Somers recommending bioidentical HRT as the way to prolong ‘the sexy years’, sexy was not what I felt. The weight gain and the continuing periods only made me feel dumpy and miserable.
It took a while for my body to regain its balance. My periods continued until all those hormones completely exited. I finally had my last one just before my 54th birthday.
The funny thing is, my mood hasn’t swung as much since either.
Marina Mahathir, Founder
When it comes to periods, all of mine were as uneventful as they come. My parents were open to talking about it, a lot of other girls in my school had theirs, and teachers had already talked us through the whole thing. So, when I finally got my period when I was 11, I felt ready and there were no surprises.
Luckily for me, I never had many issues either – bearable dysmenorrhea, binge-eating pre-period, hypersensitivity for a day or two before my period, and a flow like clockwork – but my periods were always long. Like, seven to nine days long.
I also knew that after giving birth to my daughter, my periods would change. I just had no idea how. As other mums on a forum I’m on (we’re matched by our due dates so we go through similar things) were getting their periods back, I heard so many things – flows are heavier, cramps are worse, they’re irregular. So, what was going to happen to me? It felt like my uterus had just entered a lucky draw.
Finally, the day came. I started menstruating again about seven months postpartum (which meant almost a year and a half of being period-free – yay!), and I’m not sure if things are worse now, but there’s been some give and take.
These days, my periods only last a measly four to five days and are much lighter than before I’d gotten pregnant. Which is great, I guess. But I no longer get the slight cramping I once did. Now, my visits from Aunt Ruby are coupled with horrible migraines that – thanks to an MRI and trips to a neurologist – I’ve learned to manage. So, I still have migraines, but they’re not as debilitating. Suffice to say, my periods aren’t better or worse – they’re just different now.
Tengku Zai, Content Manager & Sub-editor
Hear ye, hear ye
My first period happened on 13 December 1997 at 3:40pm. It’s odd that I remember the details down to the time, but that’s just how my brain works *shrugs*. I was lying on the couch watching TV when I felt a wetness in the crotch of my shorts. I went to the bathroom to check if I had wet myself – highly embarrassing for an 11-year-old – and saw my first blood.
I wasn’t freaked out or anything, because my mother had had ‘the talk’ with me when I was eight. I laughed to myself, stuck my head out of the bathroom and hollered for my mum. She came and asked what I was yelling about. I told her my period started. She didn’t believe me and asked to see, and so I showed her. She broke out in a huge smile and left me to get me a sanitary pad, or so I thought.
A few minutes went by, and my mum still hadn’t returned with a Kotex. I stuck my head out again and listened for her and I heard chatter in the distance. “What is this lady doing?” I thought to myself. I cleaned up and walked out of the bathroom to find my mother on the phone with half the world, proudly announcing my first period to my dad, grandma, aunts, and anyone else who cared.
“Ma!” I interrupted her. She looked confused for a second but remembered quickly when she saw me gesturing to my uterus. She sheepishly apologised and went to get me a pad. It’s been 24 years since then, but my mum isn’t as excited about my periods anymore, probably because it reminds her that it’s another month that she’s yet to become a grandmother.
Eliza Thomas, Editor