#BeyondMyPeriod: From First to Final Periods…A Tale of 2 Sisters.
5 minute read
From first periods to final periods…how do the menstrual cycles of 2 sisters compare?
We’re back with another #BeyondMyPeriod story but this time, it’s a story of two sisters.
Jan (she/her, aged 78) and Steph (she/her, aged 76) talk about their overall menstrual experience with us: from their first periods, to witnessing changing times, and ultimately, to menopause.
First, a Little Background.
Jan describes her Canadian mother as a “woman before her time”. She was an activist and a community leader. Even so, their mother was shy talking periods – no surprise, considering the era she was parenting in.
It was actually their father (who emigrated to Canada from Slovakia in 1927) who provided the period products for the household.
Jan: “My dad did all the shopping, which was progressive for our time. I would never go to the store to get pads. Since I was too shy to tell him we needed products, my mother would say, “Johnny the girls need pads”, and he would just have to go out and get them.”
Steph: “Mine was very late. By the time I had it, you’d already had it for a long time.”
Jan: “…You were about 15 weren’t you? Grade 10?”
Steph: “Yep. Mum said if I didn’t get it by the end of summer we’d have to go to the doctor’s.”
Jan: “Mine was in Grade 6 in gym class. We were running and laughing and I thought I had peed my pants. It was the end of the day so I only checked once I got home and was horrified at the blood soaking through. My mother then sat me down and told me about periods.By the time Steph got her period years later, my mom was more open I think.”
The Middle Years.
Jan: “When my sister wanted to irritate me she would sing ‘Jan’s got her thing that comes at the end of a sentence...and it’s not a question marrkkkk…’”
Steph: “Mine was always very light.”
Jan: “Same. Very regular. Only 3 days.”
Steph: “When I got pregnant with Alice [Steph’s daughter] I knew I was pregnant right away because I was one day late but had had an incredibly regular period from age 15.”
Jan: “Never in my life have I ever used tampons – I’d never been exposed to them. I wore the Kotex sanitary napkins or, as we called them: menstrual pads. ‘The bigger the better’...an inch and a half thick… And the dreaded belt. When you wore tight jeans or a tight skirt, the belt would create a V shape and everyone would know you had your period.”
Steph: “As a teenager in the early sixties I used pads. Then used tampons and tried the cup eventually. I think I bought Alice [her daughter] different products to try but she liked the cup in the end.”
Jan: “When our mother was younger she would wash and javex rags because they couldn’t afford period products.”
“The Change of Life”: Menopause Culture Growing Up.
Jan: “I remember 2 women on our street…it would have been 1953 or 1954…they went to the Ontario hospital for a year. I asked my mother and she said: they’re going through ‘the change of life’. They treated ‘the change of life’ like they did mental health in those days – they’d just send you away to ‘deal with it’.”
Menopause – Their Experience.
Steph: “I had a very easy menopause.”
Jan: “Me too! I was 53.”
Steph: “I reached menopause at age 49. I knew it was starting because my periods were not regular, but always had been.”
Jan: “I was a very light bleeder and very regular. You could always tell because your breasts would get sore and you’d get a stupid pimple. So I knew when I didn’t get another period the next month at age 53 that that was my last one.”
Steph: “During a committee meeting at Cambridge University, where I worked, I got up and opened some windows explaining I was menopausal and having a hot flush.”
Did you feel like you had support as you were entering menopause?
Steph: “I talked to friends and health professionals and feminist groups about my menopause. I also had a book called Our Bodies Ourselves by Boston Women's Health Book Collective published in 1970. A wealth of information.”
Jan: “By that time, I didn’t have a mother [she had died] to talk to so I just didn’t get a period and thought, “hey whats up??” because it had always been so regular.”
How do you feel about people becoming more open to talk about menopause and menstruation in general?
Jan: “I think it’s good. You can’t get away from periods, so it’s good that you’re open about it, even in front of your brothers and boyfriend and everyone. It’s nature, we should talk about it.”
Steph: “It is great that August and other brands are educating about menstruating and menopause. It is very important for everyone to have knowledge about their bodies.”
Jan: “Men have similar issues with their prostate – they talk about it all the time, why shouldn’t we?”
Jan: “I hope I did a better job with my daughter than my experience with my mother. I certainly know she did a better job with hers.” (aw!!)
Steph: “Advice for young menstruators: be proud of your bodily functions. When my daughter started to menstruate I gave her a present and we went out for a special meal to celebrate!”
Thank you to both Steph & Jan for sharing their period experience – from first to final period.
Stay tuned for more #BeyondMyPeriod stories all month long in celebration of World Menopause Month!
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To learn more about August, head over to their site.
Go ahead, you deserve to