It was a Friday and I was so excited because I did not have to go to school the following day and we
were travelling to the village for the funeral of a distant relative. I rushed home from school because my mother told me to come early so that we could get to the village before that karma. Lunch was ready when I got home so I quickly ate my food went in to bath and I realized that all the dirty clothes in the laundry box had been washed. I quickly went to search for one of my pair of trousers which I had hidden behind the laundry box, it was still there and I sighed a big sigh of relief. Then I picked out a few of my best attires, I was trying them on to pick one which I would wear for the journey. My mother always insisted that we make ourselves ‘presentable’ when we traveling anyway. I didn’t have to worry about packing my clothes for the trip because my mother had promised to do that while I was away at school.
While I was in the room contemplating which of my best attires to wear, I heard my mother shouting my name from her bedroom, I responded ‘yessssss mama’ and quickly wore a dress then went to her room. I knocked on the door and waited impatiently for her responses, when it finally came, I literally ran into the room. I had greeted her earlier after school so I just went up to her and told her ‘I am here’. She said I didn’t have to go with them to the village anymore because one of my aunties had come to spend the weekend and it wouldn’t be a good idea for all of us to go and leave her in the house. I was disappointed but I dared not question her decision. I really wanted to go with them, at least I would see my grandmother and she is always sure to pamper me, my uncles would kill a fowl for me to take home, grandmother would give me some groundnuts, bambara beans and other foodstuffs from her farm.
My mother asked me if everything was ok with me and with a puzzled look on my face I answered yes. Then she pressed further and asked if I was sure and I told her yes everything was ok with me I had a headache earlier in the day but now everything was fine I told her. I actually felt so good that my mother was asking me this question and for once I felt like one of the dbees in the African movies I have watched before. I expected her to ask me to come closer so that she would feel my temperature, but she didn’t, instead, she asked if blood has not started flowing from my vagina. I froze! Then my African movie dreams suddenly disappeared and reality hit me! I was so shocked I could not deny it. The answer was written all over my face, she was looking at my face so I looked away and told her it was true that blood has been flowing from my vagina. My mind went racing, trying to find out however she got to know about it but I couldn’t place my finger on any clue.
The pair of trousers which I hid behind the laundry box was the way she would have known, but I made sure to hide it away from everyone. I had stained it the day before, I didn’t have the time to wash it so I hid it safe from everyone. The pair of trousers was still there so that wasn’t the clue. I was itching to find out from her how she got to know. I even dared to think that she didn’t have any evidence but maybe she was just guessing. But I was wrong, while I was busy thinking through how she found out, her next question came as another blow. She wanted to know how long ago it started and how I have been handling it. I shyly told her I had my menarche about four months ago and how I have been using the rugs she kept in our room. I started digging my mind trying to find an answer if she asked me why I didn’t tell her about it from the beginning. Luckily for me, she didn’t ask that, she just gave me some money to go and buy some sanitary towels and asked if I knew how to use it, I responded yes, though I didn’t know. She also added that I should always ask her for money to buy sanitary towels anytime my menses start. She told me she had seen my pair of stained trousers where I put it and that I should wash it immediately I returned from buying the sanitary towel. I thanked her and left the bedroom, glad that the conversation about my menses had ended. We did not spend up to five minutes having that conversation but it felt like a century for me.
I quickly ran off to the nearest provision shop which was about a kilometer and half away from our house. I was excited about the fact that I was going to wear sanitary pad for the first time so I walked as fast as my feet could carry me to the shop but as I got closer, I became nervous. How was I going to tell them I wanted to buy sanitary pad? Everyone would immediately know that I had started
menstruating! Eeew! So I started thinking about a plan, I had seen a TV commercial on Always Ultra sanitary pad and I had seen a pack in my mother’s dressing room before so I got an idea what to do at the shop. I entered the shop and instead of going to the counter like I always do, I waited at the corner, I wanted everyone to finish buying before I made my purchase but the more I waited, the more people came in. Then the shop owner who calls me ‘daughter of my mother-in-law’ asked why I was at the corner and told me to come and buy what I wanted. I walked up to him, gave him the money and said ‘my mother has asked me to come and buy Always for her. He asked me which type, I pointed to one I had seen in my mother’s room before, he gave it to me, packed the sanitary pad in a poly bag and gave me my change. I bought another poly bag with the change he gave me because I felt just one bag was not enough to hide the content.
My mother had already left for the village when I got back home, I went and hid the sanitary pad in my bag and waited impatiently for the time when I would be alone to open it. Later in the evening when everyone had gone to bed, I took it out, read all that was written on it and tried using it. I didn’t do it well and by morning, I had soiled my panties. I tried again in the morning, it was uncomfortable, I must confess I had gotten used to the rugs and wasn’t sure I could ever get comfortable in sanitary towels. For the first few months, I was always soiling myself but with time, I was able to manage it. There was a time I used one sanitary pad (Faytex, it didn’t have wings) and while playing with my siblings, it fell from my panty and I wasn’t even aware! It was a light flow day so it wasn’t soiled much, one of them saw it and called us to come and see something. I quickly picked it up went to the bathroom and put it on my panty again.
Looking back, I practiced a lot of unhygienic menstrual behaviours which could have exposed me to a lot of diseases, however it was sheer ignorance that made me do some of the things I did, and maybe poverty. Because I did not want to ‘waste’ another pad, I just picked a soiled pad from the floor and used it again? I should have known better. It has been so many years (for me), a lot of things have changed but I know there may still be some ladies out there like me who may even practice worse menstrual hygiene, so whenever you get the opportunity, educate a girl/woman about some of these things, you may never know. CHEERS!!!