My first day as a woman tells the story of an African 11-year-old teen who suffers from menstrual illiteracy. Her ignorance comes as a result of non-education on the subject and when it comes as a surprise, it gives her hard times.
When and where did all these start?
There were times I saw my big sis wear something soft and white in her pants before leaving for work. Though it happened in the morning, never did I see how it looked like when she took them off in the evening.
It happened at the end of every month and extended to the next month usually lasting for 3 to 4 days. When that time came, she would remove and wear one of those soft white things from that “packet of biscuits” and keep the rest.
Then I was 11 years old, schooling in Government Secondary School Kosala Kumba-the ‘Sand-sand water ecole”. I was in form one, just left the village and it was my first time coming to a big city like Kumba. Never seen that particular packet of biscuits before, talk less of someone schooling me on the content and use.
However, I didn’t bother asking because I knew I will wear it too one day when I got to her age. Besides, I was meant to know that anything concerning a man and woman down there was said to be “Bad Fashion”.
That fateful day came. It was 5 o’clock in the morning and I felt a sharp abdominal pain. I thought it was nature’s call so I skipped quickly from the bed and went to the toilet. After downloading weeeeelll, I came back to the room and slept back, this time quite close to big sis. Big bro the hustler was up and gone already while the other passed the night at his friend’s place.
Yes, you got it correctly, we lived four of us in that small room near that Lingala bar in Hausa Quarters, Kumba.
I couldn’t close my eyes again despite several attempts. The pain tippled. It was no longer the sharp pain but was continuous with no intentions of stopping any time soon. I played cool during the first 5 minutes because I thought I could handle it. After all, I am used to pain. Little did I know it was going to last for two continuous days.
I resorted to finding comfort on the floor when it became too severe. So I rolled from one end of the room to the other shouting and crying “my belle ooo, my belle ooo”. It then dawned on big sis that the stomach ache was serious because she thought it was the normal aches when I first mentioned it that morning.
The pain grew by the minutes. That was the first time I felt such pain since I was born. From rolling on the floor to screaming “I want go hospital ooo, I want go hospital”. Of course, going to the hospital was never an option. It had never been normalcy in my household. We believed traditional medicine could always do the magic or some home prescribed worm medicines.
My siblings’ reaction to my discomfort
“Eduke, what is happening to you? ‘you want die for my hand?” Big sis asked while trying to lift me from the floor.
“my belle di bite me seriously. Ei dey like say some person di waka ontop my belle di match match am.” That was my first day as a woman.
I replied while crying. By then my nightie was already soaked with tears and catarrh. Going to school that day was never an option.
Big sis had to call big bro because the situation was more than her alone to handle. He rushed to the house immediately with his friend with whom he spent the night. They watched me roll on the floor in pains. They asked the obvious question and big sis explained I have been crying of stomach ache since 5;30 AM. By then is was 6;30Am.
He suggested I was suffering from the usual stomach worms but his friend didn’t think so. He called him to the side and told him I must have been suffering from the effects of abortion as that was the case with many Kumba girls.
“You know this pikin them for now ooo, you fit di make so wey ei don go move na belle”, he added.
Big bro refused firmly because he knew I wasn’t that type. Besides, I was still too young to know how a matured pintle looks like.
They finally settled on buying some bananas and worm medicine for me as prescribed by neighbours. I was surprised at how the pain subsided when I took them. I felt better at least. Though the pain was still there, but at a reduced rate.
How I found out it was my first day as a woman
It was time to bathe. big sis pulled some water from the well and put in the bath for me to bathe and left for work. Big bro too hard to go since he was running late for work. Both were apprentices at tailoring and Mechanic workshops respectively.
On pulling my pants down in the bath, I noticed some drops of blood on it. “Jeeeeeesus!” I screamed like one who had seen a ghost. I had never seen this before. Where was that blood coming from? Could this be the reason why I have been suffering from stomach ache since morning? I took my bath for more than an hour.
After I dressed up, I ran to the toilet after every 30 mins to see if I was bleeding and it was obvious. I would pull out the pants and wash and wear another. I got tired of doing so. Then this idea of using a piece of cloth came. I took a dress which I had no use for again and cut into usable pieces. That was how I dealt with the situation.
Effects of social beliefs on me
When big sis returned, I couldn’t help but say I was ok though I still felt some pain. I feared if I told her what I saw she will also say I have committed an abortion like my brother’s friend earlier said. Remember, I knew everything happening down there was “Bad Fashion”.
Please do not blame me for the cowardice.
No one, not even my mom had ever told me anything about MENSTRUATION.
I couldn’t sleep at night. The thought of the event crowded my mind. I woke up from time to time to see if I had stained the bed. My sis noticed I was behaving funny but could not place her hand on it.
After thinking about it for some time, I remembered Larissa, my neighbour, sister and school mate in class six had mentioned something like this to me.
It happened the day my then guardian sent me for a second bucket of water when she was bathing. When I looked inside, the liquid in it was red as if she had washed some fresh beef in it. It got me surprised and scared.
I ran confided in Larissa who was washing plates at the tap. “why is the water in this bucket red, what could have happened to my aunt in the bath?” I asked her. “Eh eh eh, maybe she is on her period nah. So you don’t know that there comes a time in a woman’s life when she starts witnessing blood flow from her private part every month?”, Larissa responded. I couldn’t wait for mine to start.
“Na my own that don cam now and I no know tin for do. Na woman them dey for suffer? hhhhmmm “
The flow went on for three days and I had to deal with the discomfort it brought. It made me would my dress and seat to see if I had left stains each time I stood to go anywhere. I bathed constantly, washed stained clothes every day, slept with one eye open while praying for “this bad luck” to end.
I was fortunate because I didn’t see this again until I reached form 2.
Lessons learnt from my first day as a woman
- Dear African teachers, parents and guardians, please make it a responsibility to teach us your female children, pupils, students about sex education and the female reproductive system as a whole. We find it very difficult going through this on our own.
- My girls, do not be shy to tell mom and sis whatever you are going through. A problem shared is half solved. Menstruation, ovulation, spotting and even pregnancy are normal with us.
- Dear friends, can we not just jump into conclusions before diagnosing a problem? Big bro’s friend scared me from telling them what was actually wrong with me though I found out later. It was menstruation not abortion for Christ sake. You gave me worm medicine instead of pain killers.
If you are reading this, I challenge you to grab the hand of that child you see every day and tell her there will come a time when she will see her blood oozing out from her private part. I hope you enjoyed reading my story, my first day as a woman. Read more about my menstrual experiences here
Hey girl, tell us about the first time you saw your period. What was the experience?