Updated: Aug 12
The first time I got my period, my best friend Aditi and I were going up the stairs at school. She said to me, "I think you sat on something, you have a little stain on your uniform". I moved my palm across it to shake whatever was stuck to my skirt and saw that my fingers had blood on them. We looked at each other and knew what this was, we ran to our teacher and told her what happened. I went to an all girls school in India so in our sewing class the teacher had showed us how to use a cloth and put it in your panty if you start seeing blood. She was one of the kindest ladies and actually made it seem like being able to get your period was the coolest thing in the world as this meant now you are mature, wise and can have children when you are ready. I went home that day and told my mom. My mom helped me and told me where we kept our "Special clothes" and what panties to use on these days and how to care so nothing stained. We did not use pads back then in India. This was it, there was nothing special about this day.
For the first year my mom taught me to keep a calender and mark the days so I can be prepared. Ours was not a very religious family so I was allowed to carry on with life as is. My periods were very painful and heavy, one of my most embarrasing moment as a teenager coming to America is tied to this. We came back in a bus from our Mock Trial run and a boy I had liked called me from behind and said I had a stain on my pants. Of course took my sweater off and tied it around my waist but this feeling of shame has stayed with me.
Many young girls and women do not have the freedom we did around their periods. My sister's best friend's family who are Brahmins, had a special room in their house where during the cycle the women were to stay in and their food was brought to them and they couldn't go any where. I know that sounds outrageous but many people believed women were unpure and dirty during this time. I personally believe that the tradition of isolating women was not because they were dirty but for that this was a delicate time in thier lives and resting and relaxing was necessary. Many in the desi community still believe that women should stay away from pure and holy places during their cycles.
For many of you who are parents of young girls, I know you wonder like I did how would you teacher your daughter about her moon cycle. My kids went to the Waldorf schools when they were younger and many of my friends had older girls. They had a tradition of celebrating the FIRST MOON with their daughters. So of course I asked questions and here is what I learned.
"The monthly ripening of an egg and subsequent pregnancy or release of menstrual blood mirror the process of creation as it occurs not only in nature, unconsciously, but in human endeavor. In many cultures, the menstrual cycle has been viewed as sacred."- Christine Northrup.
Here are some things that we did and what worked for us:
Explaining to our daughter how special and beautiful thing it is to be a woman
Bleeding is a natural process it doesn't mean something is wrong with you
Make her favorite food during that time and especially the first time
Ask other females in your family to send messages, cards, letters and videos telling the young girl how special this is.
Bottom line is make this young girl embarking on a journey of womanhood special and whole.