First Person Periods: CJ
It was a routine visit to my mum’s. She made roast potatoes just the way I like them, we sang along to Songs of Praise in our faux-earnest ironic way, and I left a huge bloodstain on the couch – again. Not cute. That’s when I accepted that so-called super plus pads weren’t for women like me.
You see, I’m not what you’d call a delicate bleeder. My periods aren’t a featherweight, fleeting friend that visits me for three days. My periods are heavy. Angry. Out of control. We’re talking three pads a night.
So when my mum suggested I try incontinence pads, I was a little bit insulted, I’ll be honest. But the more I thought about it, the more it made a lot of sense. Yes – they are as bulky and mattress-like as you’d imagine, but they’re much cheaper than sanitary towels. And, I can wear one the whole night, which means I get a full night’s sleep. But, I have to admit – I do make sure the shopping aisle’s empty before I put them in my basket.
If up to half the population menstruate, I can’t be the only one with heavy periods
But really, why is stealth-buying incontinence pads my only option? If up to half the population menstruate, I can’t be the only one with heavy periods. Why am I having to get inventive with something so basic, so human?
It wasn’t always like this. I vaguely remember a time when I could trust one towel, or one tampon, without worrying about staining my clothes in front of my colleagues (which has happened). But at some point, my late 20s I’m guessing, I began to develop uterine fibroids – apparently very common for Afro-Caribbean women. They’re not harmful per se, but too many of them and they can make your periods very heavy and painful.
For a long time, I would never dream of wearing just a tampon – no matter what the absorbency. A tampon to me was something I’d wear to protect me while I had a shower, maybe for my journey to work If I’m lucky… but after that, time would be up. Back to trusty incontinence pads.
Like a lot of women, I have tatty ‘period’ knickers, and I don’t think it’s unusual to prefer wearing dark clothes, just in case. But doubling up on pads, laying a bath towel on the bed at night… etc. I’m guessing that’s getting into the excessive territory.
Speaking of bath towels on the bed, sex can be tricky to navigate during heavy days, too. It always seems like a good idea to start with, but blood sloshing on your thighs can be a bit of a passion killer – for me anyway.
One thing I always found interesting, though, is how unfazed men are by period blood. We forget that they’ve seen other women’s period blood many times before, whereas most women only ever see their own. Isn’t that crazy? That we, the ones who are having the periods, are more mystified and embarrassed by the realities of it? I guess men haven’t been raised with the unconscious shame that women and girls have. But that has got to change.
It’s really refreshing to be in a time when periods are being discussed more openly
We’re getting there slowly though. It’s really refreshing to be in a time when periods are being discussed more openly. I mean, I’d never even heard the term ‘free-bleeding’ before 2017. But even the routine aspects — like how much sanitary protection costs, why we’re being taxed on it and whether the products available are even doing the job properly, are being debated.
I’m fully supportive of inventors – particularly female ones – working on ways to improve our options. It’s about time some of the bigger brands were given stiff competition. The more inventions out there, the more these companies will have to step their game up. The free market will decide and we, the consumers, will ultimately benefit.
Since I had an open myomectomy (fibroid removal surgery) my periods have been a lot more manageable. We’re not in featherweight territory yet, but I would define them as within the normal-to-heavy range (not that I really know for sure how much other women bleed). Would I go back to wearing a tampon only? No ma’am. Even if it’s just psychological, I still prefer to know that I’m covered if my tampon fills up faster than expected. But needless to say, us heavy bleeders are still an underserved market. I really hope we have better options now and in the future – it’s about bloody time. (sorry)