period meme

I remember in Year 5, everyone’s parents got a letter in the post. It was something along the lines of:

“Dear Mr and Mrs Girlwiththafro,

As part of the St Jude the Fields personal development lessons, we will be screening a short video on sexual health and reproduction called “The Facts of Life”. Please return the slip attached to the letter below to indicate whether or not you are happy for your child to attend….”.

My Mum being who she is had already given me her own version of “The Facts of Life” at least a year earlier and so I sat smugly through the video, content in my 10 year old mind that I was EXTREMELY mature and aware. The video to my recollection was a fairly benign animation and I don’t remember much, apart from that I was completely unprepared for the ensuing carnage that puberty would bring.

Things they don’t tell you about periods:

1)It’s more blood than you think.

So we know the average woman doesn’t actually lose that much blood, it’s actually really the lining of your uterus shedding. Who cares? It’s red. We’ve all had that awful feeling of standing up after a lecture, date or dinner party and feeling the sudden gush between your legs as your period  has suddenly decided it’s had a nice break, but now it’s time to get back to work. If you’re lucky, you’re prepared and you’ve got a pad, a tampon, or a mooncup to catch the evidence of the slaughter. If you’re unlucky, you’ve just ruined a pair of Boux Avenue polyester knickers. Again.

2) It can smell.

No, it’s not the back of a meat market, just Anna at the other end of the office isn’t changing her pad as frequently as she should. There’s a distinctive and rather gross smell that can associated with period-ing, especially if you use pads (MOONCUPS GUYS, MOONCUPS). The worst bit about the smell is that really, most of us don’t want everyone to know we’re bleeding. Again. Period smell is like a Honda Civic blaring old school garage music through Lewisham High Street at midday. You can’t miss it.

3) The pain is comparable to childbirth.

I’ve never, and may never give birth, but no one can convince me that the period pain I had in 2008 wasn’t as bad a childbirth. I was literally on the verge of taking a kitchen knife, carving my own uterus out, and then just lying there as I bled to death. It would have been a perfectly reasonable response. No one tells you that there are actual women, women all around us who have eventually had to have their wombs removed because their periods were so heavy and the pain is so bad. Nope, they just say “Isn’t it wonderful, you’re becoming a woman!!!”

4) Your hormones can literally ruin life.

I know women who just before their period, practically sink into depression. I’m not joking – lack of motivation, suicidal ideation, unable to perform normal day to day tasks. Some women go on oral contraception just so that their month isn’t at the mercy of their fluctuating hormones. I used to scoff at women who kept claiming that their PMS was the cause of their once monthly erratic behaviour – but now I’m more sympathetic. Recently I found myself sitting on my bed, eating popcorn, crying hysterically, then as it dawned on me that my period was starting in two days, laughing hysterically. Madness I tell you, madness.

5) You’re expected to just get on with it.

If you think everyone will be sympathetic to the fact that your womb is playing squash in your pelvis, and disintegrating through your vagina, think again. Your new boyfriend will be sympathetic for the first 4 months and then after that, he’ll disinterestedly bring you an Ibuprofen and a hot water bottle and go back to watching the football. Your colleagues at work might well be more caring, but it’s really just luck of the draw. Even if your period pain is worse than Mike Tyson repeatedly biting at your ear, no one is going to take kindly to you taking a day off every.single.month.

6) You can have great periods.

So I’ve spent a few hundred words trashing them, but for some lucky women, it’s possible to actually have great periods. I’ve started trying to be more grateful when my period comes. If you have regular, relatively pain free periods, be thankful! Many women don’t get that chance and it’s probably a sign that you’re healthy and your body is working exactly how it should. In fact, for some women changing their eating habits, losing weight and getting better sleep can actually transform their entire menstrual cycle. So if, you’re having bad periods, don’t give up, see your doctor, do your research, and see if there are things you can do to have a happier period. Every month you’re reminded (not so gently?) of the fact that you can bring new life into the world! Isn’t that kind of amazing? No? Ok.

Have I left anything out? What do they not tell you about periods when you’re younger?




I’ve tried. Like, I’ve really, really tried with this whole heels thing. And I think I’ve actually put in a good, long term effort at this. I’m not that kid who started revising for GCSE Physics the night before and then was shocked and disappointed at my D grade. No, I’ve actually invested time and money into this.

The first time I wore high heels, I was 3 years old. There’s a picture in an old photo album with me grinning in a pair of my mums tights pulled up to my neck, and my tiny tiny feet swallowed in a pair of black stilettos.I look extremely proud of myself, grinning at the fact that I’ve managed to copy my fashion idol. So that’s approximately 21 years of practice. Clearly, it’s just a union that’s not meant to be.

Any pictures you’d have taken of me wearing heels in the past few years would look something like this:

nene in pain face

That is a face of pain. No grinning. Just grimacing.

For the life of me, I just do not understand whose stupid idea it was to make women walk around in these things. They are death traps. I can’t run away from a serial killer in heels. I can’t catch the 75 when I spot it outside Lewisham library and I have 13 seconds to make it to the bus stop, in heels. I can’t be a honorary Powerpuff girl in heels. There’s nothing about heels that adds positively to my life apart from to significantly decrease my walking speed in an already over crowded, fast moving capital city. It’s the last thing I need.

Initially, men wore high heels. Then they stopped wearing them – why didn’t we take they hint? They’re not productive or necessary. Most of fashion isn’t, to be fair, but these are not only unproductive and unnecessary they’re often painful, and definitely completely impractical.

I’ve heard all the various suggestions from various women about finding a pair that’s “comfortable”. I’ve worn the Marks and Spencer Footglove ones with the extra extra cushioning and Great British Grandma seal of approval. I’ve tried Oasis. I’ve tried Topshop. I even had a pair from good old Clarks. They just ain’t working for me.

Apparently though, men love women in  heels. Its not one of those things that women do for and amongst themselves that men are kinda baffled about but tend to ignore. No, according to research (there’s research for everything, I’ve found), men are more likely to assist a women who drops something on the street if she’s wearing heels, fill out a survey from a woman who is wearing them, and just generally go gagga over ladies in stilts. So I’ve put myself at a direct disadvantage in the mating game…so what?

All I know is that I have very poor circulation and cold feet, and I like placing my cold feet on people’s warm legs while I’m sleeping. It’s a known fact that women who wear high heels are prone to bunions, corns and all other variety of UFO’s on their feet. I’m gonna put my cold feet on you, so just be grateful that my flat shoe cushioned feet are bunion free. For now.

Any other girls who’ve given up on heels? Anyone wanna give me a lesson? Really, I have tried.


Namaste homies, namaste. (That’s hello in Nepali).

My cousin, bless her, came up with a great idea a couple of years ago. It’s called i-baby. Basically, she thinks that Apple will eventually invent  some sort of app that means you can custom make your own offspring without going through the pain of childbirth, and given that Apple has proven that they can do anything, I believe her. I don’t feel like we can claim that we’ve fully progressed into the technological age until we’re able to do that. This app will be the app to end all apps – forget Flappy Birds, it will come complete with choice of bottle vs breastfeed, water birth vs traditional, all from the comfort of your sofa. Like a grown up, more useful, less time consuming version of Sims..Sounds extreme, yes, until you’ve seen or experienced childbirth.

Now, I don’t believe God is a sadist, but labour looks about as fun as being forced to sit through a Taylor Swift concert without earplugs. Worse, a 2 Chains (Chainz?) concert. Ok, I actually secretly like Taylor Swift. (Because we are never ever ever ever getting back together.Like, ever).Don’t tell anyone.

This morning was my first day in the Obstetrics unit in Nepal. I had the very bright idea yesterday (when I landed in Kathmandu), that because of the 5 hour time difference I would go to bed around 8 and then wake up at midnight to skype various folk. This was a bad idea. I had six hours sleep overall and woke up feeling exhausted and sorry for myself. I dragged myself to the shower, mumbling and despairing, asking what have I done to deserve an 8.30 start, have I offended the Lord, is this punishment, is this karma!!?? That all ended when I saw my first labour. After that, I was just relieved that I have so far not allowed anyone to impregnate me. And I’m considering not ever allowing anyone to impregnate me.

Needless to say, childbirth here is distinctly unglamorous. The level of care is very good, but don’t expect to have your own room with your husband and pet dog for company, and a sachet of aromatherapy oils on arrival. Instead, expect to give birth in a room with another woman, and a midwife sternly shouting over you “Gurra! gurra! gurra!gurra!” (push!push!push!push!). Also expect to have an episiotomy (where they do a surgical cut through the vaginal wall) without any form of pain relief except for your own traumatic groaning, which is apparently somewhat therapeutic (I’m not convinced).

The second labour I had the privilege of viewing, I made the mistake of offering my hand as some sort of comfort. Cue a vice like grip on my forearm with intermittent squeezing for the next 10 minutes. Yes, because it is VERY painful. I honestly think that when men ask things like “So are we going to split the bill?’ the best answer is “No, because you will never have a 4th degree tear through your vagina and anus.”. It’s probably a good way of weeding out the wasters. Needless to say, my husband will be watching every single minute of my labour, because that needs to be milked for the rest of marriage. “Can you do the washing up?”…”I did it yesterday..” “Do you want to see the scar from my 4th degree tear again?”. This is the reason why gender norms are what they are. Because essentially a man is putting in a bid to rent your womb from you, and in return you will destroy your nether regions, pass out in pain, accumulate stretch marks in areas you didn’t know could be stretched, and realise that you should have been doing your Kegel exercises from the age of 3. (Note to self).

My friend asked the second lady whether she was in pain. She replied in Nepali “I feel like I’ve just jumped from a 5 storey building”. Yeh, I’m sorry, but I’m not Batman, so if someone expects me to anything that  involves that level of torture, then I expect to be thoroughly compensated for my efforts. I don’t want an engagement ring, but I better have a pre and post-birth present, a babymoon (kinda like a honeymoon), and a heck of a lot of respect to go with it. Feel free to add in regular foot rubs and learn how to braid hair.

In fact, maybe the solution to this generation of recalcitrant children is not to label them with oppositional defiance disorder, but to turn PSHE lessons into a continual stream of birthing videos. Dim the lights, turn up the volume, and let the trauma commence, because I’m finally understanding what my Jamaican mother means when she says “I brought you into this world, so I can take you out of it too”….