We were all a little mad when we were younger.
How else do you explain girls between the ages of 9-13, actively anticipating a river of blood coursing out of their bodies for days on end? I remember feeling downright robbed, but having to fake excitement when everyone else got their first period.
When mine finally came, I only half-heard what my mother said about being responsible now that my ‘menses’ had started. I was already happily three-tap texting the news to my friends on my little Nokia 6230i.
These days, the only thing I feel when my period arrives is dread
When I get that first tell-tale pimple or crink in my back, I take 5 minutes to seriously consider getting pregnant – just so I don’t have to bother with my period for 9 months.
But then I remember my very Nigerian, very Yoruba mother and I’m forced to await my punishment for being a responsible, celibate adult – pretty much. Most times, it feels like my period is looking for the most innovative way to off me, trying out a different pain metric every month until it finds the one. Seeing as women have on average 500 periods in a lifetime, I need to survive about 360 murder attempts till I’m off the hook.
Periods have always been tough for me.
I remember a dreary day when I had to get my Bencher’s Form signed (a requirement to write the Nigerian Bar Exam). It felt like someone had shackled an anchor to my hip-bone, just so they could intermittently practise puppetry with my insides. All pain meds refused to stay down and I remained affixed to the floor. That floor was a toilet’s – fervent diarrhoea and vomiting are just some of the goodies in my menstrual package.
Hours later, with the pain unrelenting, I was forced to drag myself — back pain, cold sweats, diarrhoea and nausea in tow, to get my form signed.
While my dramatic pain is symptomatic of dysmenorrhea – a condition affecting almost 72.5% of female students in Southern-Nigeria alone – another condition that is nothing but horror to live through while being on your period is endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue lining the uterus grows outside of it, resulting in terrible pain during periods, intercourse and in certain instances – infertility.
To get an idea of what the pain of endometriosis feels like, one woman described it saying: “it feels as if someone took a pickaxe to my uterus and is trying to break out”
With many women, pain during periods is the rule and not the exception.
It’s maddening how little talk there is about it. Not in the media — where the most period representation you’d get is a bunch of school-girls just frolicking in glee at the thought of their periods, merrily check-checking each other for stains.
And most certainly, not in the workplace.
I’d always wondered how to handle the monstrous duo of work and having periods thrown in the mix.
With secondary school, I’d always been able to contain the worst of my period pains by befriending the school nurse (she still sends me the best parental Whatsapp BCs) and turning the sick-bay into a second home of sorts. Uni, I could dip at the first sign of period troubles.
With work, there was no telling what would happen – there’s a whole other energy.
The whole purpose of your presence is productivity. Work in Nigeria involves people dodging queries and doing their best semblance of productivity while sneak-watching the fifth season of SGIT. It’s the last place you’d want to display weakness or vulnerability, even if it is beyond your control.
In the third month of my service year, I was attacked by the period Chimera.
I was having the worst cramps in recent memory, I had no painkillers and 0 pads on me. In my defence, my period was uncharacteristically late, so I thought the universe had done me a solid and skipped my period that month. I was wrong.
After twenty minutes of being doubled over and performing my usual period theatrics in the office toilet, my God-sent colleague brought back sufficient pads and painkillers to stave off an army.
While attempting to commiserate and drown out my groans, she told me of past period experiences around the office. There was the lady who slept in her car during lunch-break just so she’d have the opportunity to lay down. There were ones who had to make up family emergencies to leave work. And those who grudgingly told the truth in order to be excused from work. And though we laughed – or at least she laughed while I waited for the meds to kick in – I couldn’t help but consider the very bad hand women had been dealt.
Despite making a significant part of the nation’s workforce, no concessions are granted to women for their monthly dispositions. I’d be almost impossible to find an office that stocks up on pads and painkillers for women, yet every toilet has tissue paper and hand wash.
We’re guessing HR is yet to receive the 3000-year memo that women are susceptible to involuntary bleeding every month.
While I was all too eager to enjoy the trappings of being a Corps member, with more leniency allowed for missing work, my current full-employment prospects have me weighing my options
Do I ask for days off when my period strikes and risk being pegged dramatic (not that I’m too bothered by that)? Or do I go the way of my forebears, grinning and bearing the pain like many colleagues before me?
Times like these, I wish I were born in a country like Japan or even Zambia – where period leaves are called Mother’s Day.
While this is no sure fix-it for the woes women bear with menstruation and the workplace, at least they understand the import of a pain that has made me Google, at my worst; ‘how to perform a uterus autonomy’.
Back to pregnancy as a solution.
My friend – who read an early draft of this story – said to tell you that you can, in fact, get pregnant and still see your period.
So, there goes my plan –haemorrhaging away, like my next period.
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