The secret reason you may be having trouble with tampons: Part two
When I hit puberty at 11 years old, I didn’t really know what to do. I mean, first of all, these things just grew on my chest seemingly overnight, making me jump right from a training bra to a C-cup. And if that wasn’t enough to get people’s attention, when I turned 12, I started bleeding out of my lady parts like I was mortally wounded or something.
Ok, so maybe people couldn’t really tell that the second part was happening, but it sure felt like it. I was constantly worried that I would bleed through and stain my uniform skirt and have to wear the horrid spare pair of shorts the nurse kept in her office for such an event. Plus, the spandex we all wore under our skirts and while changing for gym class showed a complete outline of my undies and pad. No thanks.
Being the only non-athlete/non-dancer in my friend group, I took my sweet time trying to transition to tampons. I was a little scared (read: completely terrified) after the horror story my best friend’s older sister had told us when we were seven, that a girl had actually gotten a tampon stuck up there and had to go to the ER to pull it out.
Avoiding tampons at all costs? That was a definite yes from me. That is, until I really thought about just how much I was missing out on because of my period, just how self-conscious the pads made me.
I tried tampons for the first time at the age of fourteen.
Keyword being tried.
Turns out that me avoiding tampons at all costs would’ve happened naturally being that I couldn’t even get one in. And I don’t mean just a one-and-done try. I’m talking endless streams of tears because time after time something was blocking it from working.
Ten boxes of tampons, two avoided beach vacations, a little bit of asking around if my friends had trouble with tampons (almost every response was “Wait, you actually don’t use tampons?!” Um, no, I don’t? That’s why I’m asking?) and about a year or so later, I finally told my mum. Her solution? Going in and giving it a try herself. Let me just say it was a bonding experience I will never forget. Once she realized that there was actually a problem, she booked me for the gynecologist.
I was 16 by the time I went to the doc. A stranger looking up my hoo-ha? Not my happiest moment. In fact, I was so stressed and tense about it, the doctor couldn’t even examine properly until I calmed down because my muscles were clenching too tight. Talk about embarrassing.
Turns out I wasn’t some freak of nature, half-mutant or even all that different than most girls. I just had a slightly smaller hole, a micro perforated hymen. She gave me three options: stretch it in the office, try gradually stretching at home, or surgery.
I automatically put surgery as last option, because I had had several unrelated surgeries recently and was not in the mood to go back under the knife. The idea of a stranger—a professional, a doctor, but still a stranger—stretching my hole right then, right there was terrifying. I picked the middle option, gradually stretching and giving it a try myself, with the help of the tiniest bit of Vaseline, per my doctor’s suggestion.
It took a month, but I got there. I put a little bit of Vaseline on the end of the smallest tampon on the market (did not want to use my fingers, no way) and wedged it in there little by little, trying to push a little harder and a little further in than the day before.
There was blood, sweat and tears, as well as embarrassing moments. Like the one time I thought I got it in and got really excited, threw a bathing suit on and jumped in the pool, not realizing my tampon was out and floating around until my younger brother’s friend went “what’s that?” I passed it off as a small, dead mouse and then convinced them that it actually wouldn’t be cool to try and touch it. Note: When dealing with pre-pubescent boys, they think dead animals are cool and not icky.
The first time I had my moment, the first time I actually got a tampon all the way in, after years of waiting and trying, it was actually so uncomfortable that I only used it for a total of ten minutes. The next time (and every time after) everything was totally normal. Or, well, as normal as it can be if involving a situation where you stick a wad of cotton into some foreign part of your body.
I can’t really tell you this experience was that worthwhile or that I learned all that much, to be honest.
Was it uncomfortable? Yes. Did it hurt? Yes. But the point is, I survived. I'm nineteen years old now and I am a survivor of a micro perforated hymen. I use tampons! I go swimming while on my period, I do yoga while on my period and if I was less clumsy... I could probably do cartwheels on my period. Once, I even wore white shorts, so basically I’m ready to be on Survivor. Watch out, world, there’s no telling what I’ll do next.
Trouble with tampons? Here are some tips:
- Don’t psych yourself out reading stuff online
The Internet is filled with lots of great and useful information but sometimes it’s just not accurate. It’s easy to get scared and misdiagnose yourself with something you actually don’t have.
- Talk to your mom or a trusted female friend.
As awkward as it is to talk to mom, she has gone through all the same or similar experiences you are going through. If you can’t talk to your mom, try a close female relative, or even friend that you trust.
- Pay your doc a visit.
The best opinion is always a professional medical one. Yes, going to the gyno was totally awkward. But it was worth it. Remember, doctors are professionals and have seen thousands of vaginas over the years. It’s their job to tell you what’s up down there!