21 Women Remember Their First Periods...For Better Or For Worse
Life is funnier when it's in the past.
The shock and awe of your first period is not something you quickly forget. That's why we asked BuzzFeed staffers to spill the beans on theirs.
"I was 12. I knew what was going to happen to my body because my mom has been super open about everything. She sat me down and explained the blood, the pads, the menstrual pain. Everything. Still, when I went to the bathroom in school and saw a brownish stain on my underwear I secretly thought I was dying and there was something really wrong with me. Instead of telling my mom (honestly DON'T KNOW WHY I didn't) I hid my stained underwear and hoped it went away. The next day, obviously, my undies were even more stained and my mom had found the pair from the day before, so we talked and she took me to the pharmacy and she explained how pads worked again and how to stick them. I asked my mom to not tell everyone and she promised not to.
The next day when I thought I was over it all and I could live with this thing called period I got into my room only to find flowers and a letter from both MOM AND DAD saying how proud they were that I was now a woman. I still have the image of the card in my brain; it was a bunny driving an ambulance and said, "This is an emergency" and inside it read, 'We are so proud of you.'"
"I got my first period when I was 9. I was at a sleepover, of course, and I didn't understand how to use maxi pads. I thought that you ripped off the protective outer shield to get to the cotton underneath. As you might imagine, it was QUITE A PROCESS to do that, and also left a little bit of a mess. It wasn't until the next time I got my period that I realized I was doing it wrong. Like, really wrong.
Also, I didn't tell anyone I got my period that early. I lied and said I got it at 14 like a *normal* girl."
"I was 12. Seventh grade. Had no clue what was happening. There was BLOOD IN MY PANTIES.
My stomach hurt, and I felt like crying. So that's what I did. I cried, as my grandmother and mother congratulated me on becoming a *woman.*
My grandma got Alzheimer's not long after.
I wish I would've appreciated this more then."
"The first time I had my period was on Nov. 1, 2001. I was 13 and I had been waiting for that day for a good year. I remember the exact date because I had celebrated Halloween with my best friend the night before. I had drank some "potion" (probably sangria) and some beer for the first time. The next morning I woke up, went to the bathroom, and I saw some blood. I knew very well what it was but I still wondered whether the alcohol had somehow triggered it.
Anyway, my best friend's mom gave me a pad and I went back home. I told my mother, who told my grandmother, who told my entire family. When my uncle came to visit later that day the first thing he said was, 'I heard the English are here' (something French people say when you have your period, because whenever the English came to France it was painful and bloody). My grandmother made some sort of beignets to celebrate, because you're supposed to fry something when a girl becomes a woman, she said."
"You mean when I FAKED MY PERIOD EVERY MONTH FOR THREE YEARS and was very performative about 'asking for a dime' to go buy a tampon from the bathroom machine?"
—Anne Helen Peterson
"I was 11, and it was a school day. I don't recall feeling particularly weird or different in any way during the day, so it was a complete shock to me upon my arrival home to find a big bloody mess in my underwear. And — not sure if this was just me — it looked less like blood and more like poop to me (it was brownish, not red, so I was doubly confused and literally thought I'd crapped my pants, which made me sad and embarrassed as a sixth-grader), so I had to call my mom, who was at work, and ask her what the hell was going on with me. In Seventeen mag 'Why Me?!' style, she made sure to tell all of my relatives over the course of the next month that I'd gotten my period and I was completely mortified anytime we went to visit another family member."
"I got mine when I was 13. I distinctly remember getting it while I was crouched under my kitchen table with two other girls filming a paper bag puppet show about the prohibition era for my history class. I had to play the bootlegging father of the paper bag family and was upset that my monster cramps kept me from giving the best performance possible."
"I was 11, and no one I knew had their period yet. One of my best friends sat in chocolate that day and all of my classmates started spreading rumors that SHE had gotten her period which of course only caused me to panic more about what would happen if I was found out. I don't know why I was so embarrassed to be starting puberty, but it might have had something to do with my mom and grandma crying and gushing all morning and congratulating me on being a woman. My grandma put the cherry on top of my tween humiliation by detailing for me a time when my then-3-year-old father pulled every single string out of a box of her tampons. Visuals like that last forever."
"Between fourth and fifth grade of Hebrew school you have to take a test to see how much you've learned in the first year. It determines what class you will join in the next year. It's really not a big deal at all but I was convinced that it basically would tell me if I was a good Jew or not so I was totally panicked. I went to the bathroom before the exam and found blood. I hadn't talked to my parents about a period yet (because I was so young) and was convinced that I was dying. I immediately started crying and ran to the nurse's office. They called my mom and she came and picked me up. Even after my mom told me what was going on I was convinced something was wrong with me. This may be the day that I became a hypochondriac."
"Before I ever got my period, I was given antibiotics for a sinus infection, and I developed a UTI infection — as a seventh-grader. But I didn't know what a UTI infection was; I just knew that it hurt to pee, and there was a little spot of blood on my underwear, and it was about the time when I should be getting my period, so I deduced THIS IS MY PERIOD; THIS IS JUST THE REST OF MY LIFE. I just lived with that UTI for a week before I finally was like, Um, why does my period hurt this way?
BUT THEN IT GETS BETTER, because I was on a different set of antibiotics a few months later (I got a lot of sinus infections) and those ones caused a yeast infection. Again, I was in seventh grade; I had no idea what it was, in part because all those Monistat commercials on TV don't actually tell you what a yeast infection is, they just show you a bunch of billowing white sheets. It itched SO BAD, and I again thought it was my period, and my seventh grade mind decided "You know what might make it itch less? If I shave off all that hair down there."
So I did that. And still thought it was my period. And it itched so much I thought I might die. And I ended up in the stirrups to see what was going on. At age 12.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Don't just talk to your daughters about periods, also talk to them about UTIs and yeast infections."
"I was 11 and was on family vacation in San Francisco after just finishing sixth grade. I had a moment of panic at what was going on, and called my sister, who then called my mom, who I guess then told my dad, because at dinner that night when I said I liked the mushroom dish at a fancy restaurant he said, 'It seems you're growing up a lot this trip, Janice*.' Awkward for little me." (*not her name)
"I was about to start seventh grade and it was just another normal day at the bathroom until I looked down. I had been educated and everything on having a period, but, I kid you not, once I saw what had happened I started screaming and ran downstairs to my mom with my pants still down around my ankles. I frantically asked her if I was dying, and she just shook her head and started laughing."
"One day, I was a normal fifth-grader, at recess playing Jurassic Park on the playground, and the next I started hyperventilating and the school called my mom. I remember her taking me to the doctor and shortly thereafter, my period started. My older cousins had talked about getting their periods when they were in high school, so I thought I'd have years before I had to worry about it. But here I was, 10 years old, in elementary school. I was so upset.
When we got home, we went to the bathroom and I sat on the toilet as my mom tried to explain pads and tampons. Her last words were, 'You know I have to tell your father, right?' I freaked the fuck out. I begged her not to, and she insisted 'she had to.' And... yeah, I was right, some dads have no idea what to do when puberty hits and I still hate having a period. And mom is a traitor."
"I was 13 and on a summer vacation trip to Havasupi Falls in the Grand Canyon with my family — mom, dad, and two younger brothers.
We had stayed the night in a hotel and woke up super early to drive the rest of the way there, and at a random restaurant right by the Grand Canyon, I went to the bathroom and discovered I had started my period. AND I WAS WEARING WHITE SHORTS.
We had to unpack so I could change, so my dad and brothers immediately found out what was going on. My mom is an avid tampon user, but we could only find pads, so I was stuck with pads the whole trip — riding a donkey down the Grand Canyon, swimming in waterfalls, you get the idea.
I also wrote a postcard to my best friend Vanessa to tell her I had started it."
"I remember being the last one in my friend group to get my period. When I finally did, I got a strawberry shake from McDonald's that night for dessert BECAUSE THOSE WERE MY EFFING FAVORITE THINGS EVER.
I was a young girl who didn't even like saying the word 'bra' out loud, so 'strawberry shake' became my family's code word for this very special event."
"I was 10 and had a fun sleepover weekend planned with my BFFs. I woke up on Saturday morning at my friend's house to discover I had 'become a woman' and I was super pissed about it. I snuck out before the other girls woke up and ran the three blocks back to my house where I barged through the door and scream-cried at my mom that I needed some 'things' because I got my PERIOD. I may have also told her it was all her fault (kinda true) and I hated her — sorry mom, love you!! My life was already ruined because I couldn't go in my friend's pool BUT THEN later that day we went to an amusement park/mini-golf course and I started to feel like I was being stabbed with knives in my, now active, WOMB. I said my stomach hurt and curled up on a bench to watch as my friends enjoyed their childhood. My friend's older sister came and sat next to me and asked if I had my period, which of course I quickly denied. She then knowingly reached in her purse and handed me some Advil which she said I should take. God bless her. Twenty minutes later I was riding roller coasters and basking in a newfound understanding of female solidarity."
"I got my period when I was 11.5/12, I think. I had sprained my ankle riding a dirt bike (LOL) and got my period when I was at the doctor's office. I kind of forgot about it, went home, and saw that I probably DID get my period. Instead of telling my mom, I prayed that I was not getting my period but, rather, that I was just bleeding internally. You know, a totally normal, rational prayer. My mom found out (she probably saw the underwear I tried to hide) and asked me about it, to which I made her SWEAR not to tell anyone else in my family. I then proceeded to hide all my tampons/pads in her bathroom for the next few years."
"I got my first period when I was 12. I assumed that this was a thing that would make me super attractive to boys — after all, I was now a WOMAN. After missing school for period-related reasons, a boy I was sort of flirting with wanted to know why I'd been absent. I took the opportunity to create some womanly mystery, and had him 'guess' why I had missed school. I gave him clues like, 'It's a thing that happens to every woman,' and 'It's something that happens every month, to women.' I assumed that he would guess that I was talking about my period, and would be consumed with desire about how much I had suddenly become a woooommaaaaannnn.
He had no idea what I was talking about. I finally got frustrated and just told him I got my period. He was so grossed out that we never spoke again."
"My favorite underwear when I was 12 was this Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs jam that I considered 'fancy' because it came on a little plastic hanger from Kmart instead of in a five-pack. It also made me feel so grown-up because it was from the adult section of the store (questionable how that worked exactly, but it was the era of Tasmanian Devil T-shirts and Looney Tunes denim, so).
There is something kind of perfect about how my prized specimen of cool adulthood was ruined by a real specimen of actual adulthood. I called my mom into the bathroom, who called my dad into the bathroom where they hugged me and told me how proud they were. I was mostly pissed that I wouldn't have the waistband that said the names of the seven dwarves poking out of my jeans. And I was totally mortified that my parents were lavishing so much attention on something I literally had no control over (though I had been wishing and hoping for months that it would happen, so maybe I did will it)."
"I was 9 years old, and I knew what periods were and they sounded like HELL. So when I woke up one day with brownish spots on my underwear, I legitimately hoped I had crapped myself, because I did NOT want my period. I called to my mum and showed her, and promptly burst into tears because I couldn't stay in denial any longer. I had my period. I was the first of my friends to get it, and I was horrified. I got the day off school but I think I spent most of it crying. The thought of pads and tampons terrified me, but I tried a pad and then literally threw a tantrum like a 3-year-old, banging my fists on the ground, because it felt like a nappy to me. Good times."
"I was 11, at home during the summer. I woke up in the morning and peed, and as I was flushing the toilet I thought I saw blood. It was, indeed, my period. I started crying because I knew that now I could get pregnant. Just to be clear, the first time I had sex was seven years later."