FIRST TIMES: Vili Was Neither Empowered nor Disempowered

Vili Petrova, founder of LENA, talks about that very first time that left her wanting more explanation and celebration.

As the founder of a menstrual cup company I wish I could share an empowering, or inspiring, first period story. But I do not have one. The start of my period wasn't empowering – but it wasn't disempowering either.

My family has always had a very matter-of-fact approach to menstruation – we have periods, they come every month, we need to deal with them, let’s get on with it. With three females in the house though, that meant that someone was always on or right before their period. So moodiness, cramps and period talk were all around … just in that "periods happen" kind of way, never being explained or celebrated.

I got my first period around the age of 11. It felt early at the time, it feels early now. The idea that I “became a woman” overnight and at such an young age just didn't sit well with me, yet the experience also came with some sense of maturity. I was first in my class to get a period but it wasn't something I discussed openly until more of my classmates started to bleed.

As my first blood flowed, I was handed a cotton pad and went to school. Life just went on.

It wasn't until I met my partner’s family that I started to appreciate my period. His Mom and sisters displayed an appreciation and openness about periods that I found refreshing and alluring. Each of the girls could clearly remember their first time. It was acknowledged and celebrated as a major milestone in one's life.

These four females played a key role in me building confidence in and the appreciation of my period, eventually leading to the creation of LENA. LENA emerged out of a newly-found passion to respect my body and to acknowledge my period’s significance. We do not have to be victimized by this most natural process and even if there is no room or desire for its celebration, it needs to be acknowledged, explained and spoken of.

Never have I been as grateful for my healthy periods as I am now – less than four weeks away from welcoming my first child.

Photography by Rebecca Frances Burns (@being_awake)

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Nadya Okamoto, a young activist and student working to bring menstrual products to homeless women, tells us about the day she thought would be her last.

FIRST TIMES: Kate Faked It For Years

FIRST TIMES: Kate Faked It For Years

Kate Messinger, a writer living in Brooklyn, remembers the many years she spent wishing for a period, thinking that at 16 and still not a woman, she must be a freak of nature.

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