Since 2014, more women get up this day proud of being a woman and proud of the fact that they can own up to having periods unashamed. ‘My Period, My Pride’ is a popular phrase many like to use. This 28th May 2020 is no different. The internet is buzzing with menstruation talks and quotes and rightly so. Everywhere online and out there for those who dare to brave the ongoing global pandemic, the Novel Coronavirus 19 (COVID 19), there are activities to celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day under the banner of Periods in Pandemic which was chosen as this year’s theme to highlight the challenges women and girls are facing during this global pandemic when undergoing this unique time of womanhood.
Today is World Menstrual Hygiene Day. First celebrated in 2014, it was initiated by a German-based NGO WASH United. Its aim is to benefit women worldwide; while the date, 28 and month May which is the fifth month of the year, were selected to acknowledge that 28 days are the average length of the menstrual cycle and each menstrual period lasts at most 5 days.
Despite the worries of how this global pandemic is affecting women during their menstrual period, there are a group of people who are less concerned about this and are more worried about their daughters. This group of people are moms and sometimes dads …parents of girls living with sickle cell.
Normally, it is expected that a young girl should be able to see their first menarche (menses) at the age of 12-13. Some are even known to start earlier. So, it is understandable that many of these parents would be worried if their warrior daughters show no sign of menarche at that age. So, they ask a ton of questions which is also very understandable. Every parent want to ensure their children are growing healthy and strong, with no underlying issues. When parents express their concerns about their child, what should we tell them? Should we dismiss them as overly fretting over unnecessary things? No. We try to listen to their concerns and reassure them.
I remember as a young girl, I didn’t tell Mama when I started seeing my menstrual flow. I don’t remember anyone explaining things to me either. All I know was that I loved reading just about any kind of book I considered good and through this love of reading and quietly observing those around me, I could put two and two together to know what to expect and do. Well, Mama was not very happy I didn’t tell her. To be sincere, I didn’t think it was necessary to tell. I felt it was my privacy. Yes, when you live in a community where such topics are huge taboo topics, you do what you think you can and life goes on. So from Mama, I understood that parents do get worried and when warrior parents ask questions, I do not dismiss their concerns.
So, should parents of sickle cell warriors be concerned about their daughters? Yes. Should they be overly concerned that their daughters are not menstruating at a specific age like their peers? The answer is NO. Due to the fact that our bodies are … let me say… constantly at one battle or another, delayed puberty is a very normal occurrence for people living with sickle cell. Not everyone will see their first period at the expected age of 12-13. Some will see it late. 15, 16, 17 and in some cases even up to 20. When we understand this, it is easy to let our warrior daughters be and just try to educate them about this aspect of womanhood and what should be expected. I always try to listen to parents’ voice their concerns and then I tell them simply: Let her be. Yes, let her be. And then I tell them the following:
* Please do not compare them with their peers or other siblings. Their body is doing over time and constantly fighting a battle for survival their peers know nothing about and would never experience.
- Teach them all you can about menstruation and prepare them for when that time eventually comes.
- Make sure they eat well and healthy. Nutrition is essential for everyone to grow well, especially for us dealing with a weak immune system. Essential nutrients help our bodies function well. We can’t afford to have blood flow out when we are unable to have enough stay in.
- And finally, just to keep their minds at peace and to rest assured all is well with their daughter (s), take her to her doctor, express your concerns and ask all the necessary questions.
I tell them to see their child’s doctor because, while I can from personal experience help them understand that delayed menstrual cycle is normal for us and is usually no cause for alarm, only a doctor can really examine the child to ensure all is well with the child and everything is functioning just great in their battled weary system and put their minds at rest.
So dear parents, relax. Chances are, your daughters are doing just great despite the delay in their journey into womanhood. And while you wait that moment, keep reading and educating yourself on the things you can do to help your child cope with periods and the challenges it sometimes pose for people living with sickle cell. You can start by reading this article here.
Let’s continue to celebrate the pride of womanhood as we contemplate the challenges of dealing with periods in pandemics.
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