Taboo Stress #PeriodPride

My family consists of my husband and my 2 sons in the ages of 11 and 17.  I have made sure my elder son is aware of periods and will make my younger one aware too as he grows up.  I have to as they have seen me a zillion times buying sanitary pads and carrying one to the bathroom.   One day, curiosity got the better of the elder son and I explained as possible.

But when I was growing up,  my mother used to hide it.  Those Carefree and Stayfree ads would make us squirm.  Sanitary napkins were not to be shown in the presence of my father or brother.  With three females in the family,  someone was using them all the time.  But,  it was a secret between us.  It was brought from the medical store in complete secrecy.  One couldn’t check the packet at the medical store.  It would be wrapped in newspaper and then handed over.  We were not allowed to touch plants and the Puja stand was out of bounds.  It was worse when I used to visit a friend’s house.  They would not let me touch their furniture, utensils or enter the kitchen.  When I used to go to Kerala,  we could not enter the kitchen, puja room, drawing room or touch the well, plants, flowers,   These practices are still being followed even when education has changed their outlook in other spheres.  

I have a more recent story to tell.  I was suffering from severe stomach cramps and very heavy periods for the past 6-7 years.  I would be menstruating for months and medical intervention was proving to be useless.  It was not every month but it was sporadic and there was no logic or reasoning for these severe cramps.  When travelling even to my office,  I used to carry large packets of 10-12 sanitary napkins.  Due to taboos surrounding menstruation,  I could not talk about it freely with my extended family or even my male supervisor who was flummoxed with my sudden illnesses and subsequent sick leaves.  My brother came to know when we had gone for a movie.  I had to visit the washroom every 20-25 minutes.  Still,  he asked his wife to check with me on what is the problem.  They never knew my turmoil till I had to undergo surgery for the same.

In my male-dominated family,  it was the men who helped me during my hospital stay and post surgery – my husband, brother, son.  If there was not so much taboo,  I would have taken a decision earlier and it would have saved me so much physical and mental trauma.

For the medical condition I had,  I looked up the scientific term on websites.   I was looking up the effects of surgery and recovery periods.  There are many websites which give these details but none related to Indian women.  They have suggestions on preparing for surgery, caring during the surgery and post-recovery tips.   The websites advised about diets, exercises,  activities which are restricted for a certain period.  But, for India,  there is none.

My doctor, a male, had given me the go ahead for walks and light exercise and asked me to keep moving,  but the women in my family were against it.  Their reasoning was,  the doctor is male and he doesn’t know a woman’s body.  Thankfully,  I decided to trust my doctor and followed his instructions and I could recover fast.  I still see some of my family members still suffering even months post surgery.

I feel there is a terrible lack of awareness about menstruation among the new generation.  I can tell as I see these girls coming to live alone in the city,  in my organisation struggling with it.  Being female,  they are glad they can open up to me.   But, if I was a man,  they would not come to me with their issues.

Really women,  it is just a natural phenomenon like acne and grey hair.  It will come and go.  There is nothing to hide or be ashamed of.

Read this post for more details. 

13 thoughts on “Taboo Stress #PeriodPride

  1. Anything related to a female’s gynecology is considered taboo in our country. Such a shame! I’m glad you’re raising your sons with enough knowledge to understand empathetize with their female counterparts.

  2. Some mindsets are so set that it is difficult to change them. You are fortunate you have an enlightened husband and I was very happy to read your son knows about periods too. In families with more boys then women there is a high chance of them growing up in complete ignorance of menstruation and what women go through every month.

  3. Thanks for sharing your story, Lata. I also grew up among a lot of restrictions when on periods. We need to become more accepting of such a natural occurrence in the body. Times are changing and I did change a few rules in the house as I grew up. I also intend to speak about these to my son as he grows older.

  4. You are right. A little openness goes a long way in making things easier. I was also brought up hiding napkins from Papa and my brother. However, I feel things are changing. We need to go a long way but I am sure speaking up is doing a lot of good.
    A good personal story, Lata and thank you for sharing!

  5. Rightly expressed, Lata. Women have to go through so much.
    Even now praying, cooking etc are barred during those days. This natural process has stigma, secrecy & embarrassment attached in some parts of the world.

  6. Glad you shared your experiences, Lata. I totally agree how people are so blind about following traditions and customs related to menstruation but lack the general openness to talk about it, thus making it a taboo. I was very fortunate my mother had prepared me for it well in advance and both my parents were very open about this and we never saw any reason to hide anything from the male members (dad, brother included) although I saw many of my friends spoke in hushed tones. Time to speak up loud and clear and break those myths, I think.

  7. A thought-provoking post. Education and awareness will go a long way in changing our attitudes and such ignorance on period. Honestly, I am quite ignorant on it and need to read, something I haven’t done. There is nothing dirty about period or else, men ejaculation would be the same. Time to accept our bodies and be the humans we have always wanted to be and are.

  8. Thanks for sharing your story. More women need to know that male doctors are ok and that problems during menstruation should not be brushed under the carpet. Luckily for me I had no problems with either my period or my menopause and thankfully faced no taboos either. But I know that this is a universal phenomenon where women are made to feel unclean and ‘guilty’ for bleeding not not dying because of it…..

    1. Exactly Sunita. Like we were not aware about menstruation, the awareness on menopause is also terribly low. I was not even aware what I was going through. I thank my doctor for being clear and direct.

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