I have two older sisters and when they got their periods my mum was really clear with us that we should only use pads. She said that we could only use pads until after we were married because we were Catholics. My sisters have just done what she said, even when that meant not doing school sports or swimming.
Also we never really talked about periods much, I knew what it was but I didn’t really understand how it works and how my body works. I really admire my mum but I think she is very old fashioned in regards to a lot of things. I didn’t understand why my sisters couldn’t use tampons.
I got my period when I was 14 and started with pads. It was ok but I didn’t like wearing them, to me they were uncomfortable and it felt like people could tell I was on my period. Some of my friends used tampons and said that it was crazy what my mum said about only using pads till I got married. I felt like mum was saying I wouldn’t be a virgin if I used a tampon. So I put up with using pads for about 6 months.
Then once I was at my dad’s house and I got my period and it was the swimming sports and I was a really good swimmer and I didn’t want to miss out. I told my dad I wanted to try tampons and he was really encouraging. We had some in the house but I wanted to use them with the applicator so we went shopping and got the right size for me. He talked about how heaps of women use them and it’s a completely different thing to losing your virginity and I was relieved.
I think mum said that to scare us into using pads. I read the instructions and had no problems putting in the first one. I was able to swim that week and did really well. My sisters even told me off for using a tampon and then ‘told’ on me to my mum. I didn’t care because its my body and I was annoyed at my sisters for telling on me. I’ve been using tampons ever since, they feel easier to use. You just need to get the right type for you.
I felt angry at my mum and sisters. I think that not telling people the truth about how their body works and making you feel guilty about your choice of menstrual product is really unfair. I was grateful for my dad being cool with it and it wasn’t embarrassing or anything going shopping with him because he was fine with it. His partner uses tampons and cups and he was really open-minded.
Now I feel really powerful and strong for making a choice that was right for me. My sisters still use pads but they have asked me if it hurt or what it felt like and I’ve told them it was all fine. Maybe they will try something else one day when they have left home. When I am a mother I will educate my daughters and give them the option to use whatever they like and suits them.
Do what is right for you. Mum doesn’t know what is right for you. You don’t need to feel bad about choosing what is right for you.
Maybe there is a lack of good menstrual education for girls in Catholic schools. It’s talked about in grade 6 but someone could talk more about what you can use for your period and that how using a tampon is FINE. Maybe like a section on myths where some of those things are answered because people often feel embarrassed to ask but want to know. Like I didn’t know if you could get pregnant before you started having your period or not.
This story was a contribution to the Storylines: Her Voice Matters project, a collaboration between Women’s Health Goulburn North East, Women’s Health Loddon Mallee and Murray PHN.