We asked readers to share stories about their first periods on our Facebook page. Here are some of the responses, from women who hid their period-stained underwear to those who watched that confusing video in elementary school:

First flow

It was Halloween in the eighth grade, and I had turned 13 a few days before. I was in bed with the flu — actually, I was so sick, I was in my mother’s bed. I was asleep and dreaming that I was drowning in the ocean, lost at sea. I woke up and had, in fact, drowned the whole bed! My mom had to buy a new mattress.

-Emma Love

Little support

Mom never said anything about it. Feminine hygiene products were referred to in code words. It happened when I was 12. I found out in the high school bathroom and stuffed my panties with toilet paper. When I got home, I just went to the bathroom and grabbed what I needed. I never really told her, she just noticed her stash was getting smaller after a few months and said, “Guess I’ll buy more.”

-Odina Valois

I was 11 and also too ashamed to tell my mother. I had to change my underwear many times a day for several days before I finally told her. She accused me of lying, said girls my age didn’t get periods, and wouldn’t help me find sanitation products. When she saw my bloody undies piled in the corner of my closet, she demanded to know why I hadn’t told her sooner, then proceeded to tell grandparents, aunts, uncles, you name it. She had forgotten what a tender frame of mind girls are in when they reach that milestone and humiliated me.

-Rei Allgood

Hope for her daughters

I was 11. Spent the entire day crying. Didn’t want to grow up. I never told my friends. When other girls asked I would refuse to speak about it in any context. If I ever have a daughter, I never want her to feel like that. I want her to feel how some of you guys did; proud and excited for her future as a woman because that’s just awesome.

-Apple Blossom Maleficient Peterson

Dad’s helping hand

I was 13 and was in my room by myself. I wasn’t sure what I needed to do, so I went to my dad. He went to the store and bought me what I needed, gave it to me and gave me a hug. It was pretty self-explanatory on how to use a pad on the packaging. Dad asked me how I was, and that was it! I have an awesome dad who will still help me with anything he can, and I’m 36!

-Morgan Jolly

School life

I was 12, and I could talk with my mum so easily about it. We already had an open conversation a few years before. She told me about when she had her first period and how her grandma was so cute and caring toward her. My mum bought all different products, bought all the chocolate and made tea when the pain was so bad.

In school, however, it was weird. I was the second one in class to get my period. The first girl had to face weird looks from others who knew, but I was fine. It was stupid behavior, like when you find out someone already had sex: The first one was a slut, the last one a loser. It was similar to getting your period. Horrible, when I recalled and reconsidered it later when I was older. How well could this new stage of life had been for so many girls if the others in school had been helping, caring and supporting. Being kind is hard apparently.

-Katha Alexa

In fifth grade, they took all the girls out of class to the library where we watched the most confusing video, of course taped in the late ’80s, about pads and such. They gave us little baggies of deodorant and pads, with a little booklet from Always.

I read that thing over and over and over, in public and at home. It must have been kinda embarrassing to my parents to have their 10-year-old reading a booklet on periods in the middle of Kmart, but whatever. I didn’t understand the shame yet.

A few years later I saw blood in my panties and proudly showed it off to my mom! I was a grown up! She reprimanded me, threw them away, and told me to put a pad on.

She of course, told my dad, who, on the way to my grandmother’s house (she babysat us) told me all of the most embarrassing things about his sister’s period mishaps, and effectively taught me to be ashamed of my new bodily function.

-Hannah Tolliver

Proud to bleed

When I was seven we were on holiday with my mom’s best friend and her teenage daughter. I saw her pads and wanted to know what they were, so several books were bought and I was well prepared.

Fast forward two years and while on holiday with a friend and her family I stumble into the bathroom, half-asleep, at 6 a.m. Cue toilet paper, dark color, exhausted confusion — and then jubilation! I was a woman! I ran through the house hooting, got the mom to call my parents and was proudly unable to swim that day.

My dad may have been to awkward to talk to me for a few days after my return, and maybe teachers didn’t believe me when I needed a pad as I was too young but f — it. It brings a lot of pain but I’ve always been slightly fond of it.

-Fodhla Brian

Traveling and periods

Unlike my grandmother who didn’t know what period was until she got it and thought she was dying, I learned about it pretty early. I saw my mom’s pads and tampons and I knew when she was on her period. I remember when I was about eight, I was telling my school friends about that as they had no idea!I got my period when I was almost 13. My mom and I were traveling. In fact, we were at one of the hotels in Iceland ready to go to bed when I noticed that my sheets were wet. I saw a huge stain and was a bit nervous. My mom immediately said, “Yep, it is IT,” hugged me and went to clean the sheets.

I’d been using only pads because my grandmother believed tampons are not suitable for virgins until I desperately wanted to go to the pool during one of my travels. Traveling and periods sort of became the theme.

I guess I was doing something wrong with a tampon because it hurt a lot, and I couldn’t insert it. I used only pads until I was 20. But I still wasn’t a big fan of tampons. It took me a while to learn about other period products such as a menstrual cup, which at first sounded like a science fiction to me but then became the best friend of my period.

-Varvara Bondarenko

I was 13. My parents, grandparents and little sister were going to San Francisco for the day. I went to the bathroom before we left and noticed I was bleeding. I was excited beyond measure. I felt like a woman now. I yelled at my mother from the bathroom, and she comes to the door.

I tell her I started bleeding. She walks away for 10 or 20 seconds then the door cracks open. Without looking, she throws a large pad and a little elastic belt into the bathroom. Didn’t say a word. Thank goodness I was smart enough to know how to hook the pad to the belt. I made my dad stop half a dozen times in San Francisco to check on my pad. My mother never taught me anything about periods. Fast-forward 40-plus years: I had three sons (so no period talks, but condom talks with all three.)

-Cindy Merical-Cano

‘Normal bodily functions’

I got it on the morning of my 12th birthday. Blood everywhere; in bed, on my PJs, up the walls (I kid about that last part).

I told my Mom straight away and we laughed about it. Got everything cleaned and changed. Got on with our day.

Why is it that girls should be made to feel ashamed about perfectly normal bodily functions?

-Jody Lundy

The red stain

I was 11 and was getting ready for bed, sitting on the end of my bed undressing in front of a full-length mirror. I saw a huge red stain on my underwear and called to my mom, who was on the phone. She said, “Just a minute,” but I kept yelling, so she stuck her head in my door and I pointed at the stain. She gasped, ushered me to the bathroom to clean up, and found me a pad. She was pretty forthcoming [with information], but she did hold the belief that virgins can’t use tampons, so I think I spent the first 12 years just using pads until some friends set me straight.

-Angela Glaros

In response to Angela: My mother declared the same thing. I was on the swim team in high school, and she [forbid me from swimming] while on my period. Initially she said I couldn’t because I couldn’t wear tampons, then no because we weren’t supposed to emerge ourselves in water during that time. To this day I cannot comfortably wear tampons or take a bath.

-Sheila Lucero

Religion

Mine wasn’t epic. It started at 11. It started slowly. A spot here, a spot there. But I was raised Seventh-day Adventist, so I learned from an early age to hate and fear my body. Mom didn’t say a word to me. I learned about sex and menstruation from science books and romance/historical novels.

She bought a bunch of huge pads and stuck them under the bathroom cabinet. When I was bleeding enough that I needed something bigger than a pantyliner, I started using them. She noticed them, in the trash no doubt, and confronted me one day.

“Are you [menstruating]?” she asked, piercing me with her eyes.

Let’s not forget how when I tried to use tampons for the first time. She stayed in the room with me but turned her back, meanwhile I was crying and fumbling around because I didn’t know my own body and I was a little girl. Then when I finally gave up, she told me I wasn’t “pure” anymore.-Tab Worth

These posts have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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