Last week Matilda came home clutching a bag of sanitary towels, the very ones photographed!
She was a bit coy about it, ‘worrying' them behind her back. Her LSA (learning support assistant) and I speak every day, so I’d had the heads up that the school nurse had gone into her year 7 class and spoken about periods and Matilda would be coming home full of chat about menstruation and all the joy that monthly visitor brings.
Stigma breaking (in my own little way) is one of my most favourite pass times, much like boring you all to death with autism, the whole rainbow laces campaign. Today, periods. Let’s just take a moment here. If you are born with a vagina, you will bleed out of it every month, fact. It allows the most fortunate amongst us, to have our little parasites of joy. Up until then, it serves very little purpose other than to strike us with a tsunami of emotions, spots, stomach cramps akin to sporadically being given a ‘Chinese burn’ in the lower abdomen and blood, often mighty raging, white water rapid, rivers of blood. It can flow at any given moment and there’s naff all we can do about it. I went to boarding school where entire corridors of us achieved menstrual synchronisation, aren’t hormones remarkable? Right on cue, swathes of us would drag our highly emotionally butts into Boots to stock pile on pads and tampons, where at the till, they would whisk the aforementioned sanitary product into a paper bag, 'Dynamo' style! Imagine if anyone actually saw them?!
Matilda's lucky, we are period ready at chez Greenwood . I have enough sanitary pads to absorb a sea of menstrual waste! But as I was pondering how marvellous it was that her school provided the girls with this information. There must be countless others who do not. Also, I am trying really hard to raise my children open minded and stigma free. So I chatted opening and loudly about periods, why we have them and continued throughout the evening in question to drop the words, vagina, blood, menstrual, period, sanitary towels in at any given moment. Which eventually took its toll when my 8 year old son piped up;
“Can we stop talking about bleeding vaginas now!”
I do tend to labour a point!
So I googled the following.
‘Providing schools with sanitary towels and tampons’ and ‘how to prepare your child for periods’
It appears I have been covering the latter in the kind of the right way apparently. Quite by chance though. I don’t whether or not its the autism or whether or not it’s just Matilda being Matilda, but she is the most curious cat I know.
If you’re now a parent, you will already know that sitting solo on the loo is a thing of our luxurious past. So my questioning little queen has asked for many years now
‘Mama, do you need a hospital for that blood?’
Whilst craning her neck from my feet eyes gazing at the very place she first appeared.
So I have inadvertently been chatting about periods for years, which as aside, is apparently the right thing to do.
Gone are the days where you sit and have a ‘lip sweating’ chat about periods, sex and general puberty based accoutrements.
By regularly commenting on our own bodily functions to both our daughters and our sons, we are normalising what is normal FFS! Oh yes, the boys need to hear it too (but perhaps not quite as concentrated as my above attempt!)
So chat away periods, both parents (Greens visibly winced when reading this!), give your kids the ability to talk about a subject that is long overdue for modern make over.
If you’ve got your period, talk about it, like we talk about our day. We see is so negatively, but maybe we should put a upside to it… Ok, that’s a challenge!
But stating that you have your period as a fact not only makes it a regular thing, but then these little humans we are raising see that it isn’t preventing us from achieving, its just part of our life. It doesn’t define us or hold us back. It’s just another super power.
I have my tampons and sanitary towels in a basket in the bathroom on show upstairs, I don’t hide them away, another good thing to do apparently. The only reason I don’t do this in the downstairs one is because I am aesthetically shallow (interiors wise!) and don’t think they look pretty, I know, its terrible...
Secondly to the sanitary product in schools. I read an article by Nicole Morley for The Metro, it reports that school aged girls could be missing up to a week of school every month due to the fact that they cannot afford sanitary product and in many cases are too embarrassed to ask, due to the stigma still attached to talking about periods. A week every month, I can’t even begin to imagine the ‘catch up’ I worry when mine miss a day. But a week a month, is a sure fire way to subject failure, the struggle is unfathomable to me.
Research done by Freedom4Girls said that pupils and young women are resorting to using newspapers and socks in place of pads and tampons. I mean we’ve all done the old, stuff loo roll into your pants when caught on the go, but socks and newspaper as standard? No, just no, not ok for this to be happening in 2017.
'Always', appear to be leading the way in the form of education and are supporting some fantastic projects world wide with the hashtag LikeAGirl The Always puberty education program offers primary and secondary schools and families a vat of information about what some find a very awkward and uncomfortable subject, when it really shouldn't be. This is the very source that enabled Matilda to arrive home clutching her sanitary pads, currently her most prized possession!
The Trussell Trust, are a charity set up for food donation, but who have very cleverly caught on to this issue. Enabling you to click on the link and find your local food bank. Which lets face it at this time of year, is in more dire need than ever. It makes it really simple and easy for us to donate sanitary towels and tampons to those who can’t fund a bodily function that they have no control over.
The good eggs at Body Form have promised to donate 200’000 packs of sanitary product via the distributor In Kind Direct by 2020. Figures from 2015 put the average cost of sanitary product to a woman in the UK £18’450 during their lifetime. Nearly 20k. I am unsure as to whether that is before or after tax, because of course as we all know, we are taxed for this ‘luxury’. But that’s a whole other story.
Another charity, The Homeless Period, the injustice of having to choose whether or not to eat or buy sanitary towels…no other words required here.
So, if you do nothing else today, click on the link here and add sanitary towels and tampons to your food parcel. What is so simple for us to do, is life changing for someone else.
If you can’t do that, there is something we can all do. Communicate. Talk and talk then talk some more about periods, take away the stigma attached so that the kid too anxious to go into school today, because she is too embarrassed or can't afford a sanitary towel, is given the voice to ask for help. Now there’s a gift.