It's JUST Part of Being a Woman; Periods are Supposed to HURT (Part 1)

Last updated: March 2022

My mom had the "period talk" with me at a rather young age (age 9) because she started her period so early and predicted, quite correctly, that I might as well. Starting your period is kind of like parenting: people tell you what to expect, but they cannot prepare you for what lies ahead.

My first period

About 3 weeks after I turned 11 and on my FIRST day at a new school, I started my period. I remember taking a bath that morning before getting ready for school. Suddenly, clots of blood started leaking out of me, mixing with the water. The pain was intense and unlike anything I'd ever felt before. I started crying and screaming for my mom. She told me the same thing she'd been told as a young girl, "It's just part of being a woman; periods are supposed to hurt."

My mom didn't know about endo either

Now I don't blame my mom. Turns out, she had endometriosis and had a partial hysterectomy at age 32 after having my younger brother due to massive fibroids and endometriosis on her uterus. About a year later, they removed her ovaries as well. Watching her go through early menopause was not a pleasant experience, but she doesn't regret the decision. After all, she had 4 children (3 living, one angel baby), and she was sick of being in pain during her periods. My mom wasn't educated on endometriosis; her doctors weren't either. So, unfortunately, I was told to "suck it up."

May I use the bathroom please?

I went to school that day in so much pain, having to ask to go to the bathroom several times. I was so scared of bleeding through my pants because I was only wearing a pad (I was NOT ready to jump on the tampon bandwagon at that age). My teacher even pulled me aside to ask if I was okay. I was not okay, but I pretended like I was. I didn't realize it then, but I would spend the next 22 years of my life pretending.

When my mom knew it wasn't normal

I bled for 3 months straight. At first, my mom assumed I just had a heavy flow because I was tall and kind of thick for my age. My period FINALY ceased-and then it came back a month later with a vengeance. This time, it was accompanied by nausea, diarrhea, puking, low grade fever, fatigue and debilitating pain. My mom realized it was time for a visit to my pediatrician.

Judgment for taking care of myself

The pediatrician immediately referred me to a gynecologist. I don't know about y'all, but I didn't expect to step into a gynecologist's office as a patient until I was at least 16. I remember receiving glares filled with judgement as the nurse called my name and escorted us to a room. After answering a plethora of highly uncomfortable questions, the nurse asked me to undress from the waist down; she told me the doctor would be in momentarily. As I looked over at my mom, she reassured me that everything would be fine.

My first experience at the gyno was...

The doctor was not what I expected. I suppose I had not had too much experience with doctors, other than my pediatrician, up to that point. And my pediatrician was nurturing and sweet. This doctor seemed cold; now that I'm much older, I realize she just had a terrible bedside manner. Not everyone is meant to be a doctor, you know?

On birth control at 11

After an awkward and painful vaginal exam, the doctor confirmed that I did indeed just have a "bad, heavy period." She told me I'd need to use larger tampons as well as panty liners on my heavy days. She also prescribed the birth control patch to regulate my cycle so that I wouldn't bleed for months at a time. I was 11 years old, y'all. Back in the late 90s/early 2000s, most girls didn't even know what a period was yet. And here I was on birth control, which I thought at the time was only to prevent pregnancy.

Now I know

It wasn't until my twenties that I finally received answers...way more answers than anticipated. But that's a story for part 2 of my journey with endometriosis.

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