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Period Blues, 1957 Style

In 1957 I was twelve years old.

My mother was in hospital having my little sister.

We had been in Australia under 3 years and although my English was competent my parents were struggling and my mother spoke very little English.

While my mother was in hospital I had to stay home from school to look after the little ones aged 3 and 4 years.

My parents were working on a dairy farm .Our neighbours were an elderly couple for whom my parents milked cows and on the farm next to us a bachelor.

Across the road from our cottage on another dairy farm lived a couple with a teenage son and late teens daughter and an elderly male parent they kept locked up in a shed because he was mad they said. (Now I know he had Alzheimer’s)

During the week of 16th July I noticed blood coming from between my legs .I thought I must be dying. Blood is always a bad sign! Waiting for my father to finish milking and come home from the dairy I decided to stuff a face washer into my knickers. I could not have the little ones see me dying .I somehow knew that would not be good for them.

When Dad came home he was in a state when I told him. I was in a state too!

Has your mother talked to you about this? About what Dad? I said

After a time Dad suggested that I go to see the neighbours across the road and tell the lady and ask her what to do. Tell the lady your mother is in hospital and that you have a baby sister.

The lady told me this incredible story about how this was going to be happening once a month from now on until I was maybe 50.Surely not I said .I could not stand it. I would rather be dead right now. The lady said all girls and ladies had this thing called menstruation. It only lasts about 5 days she said. My mother had it, she had it, her daughter had it (daughter nodding furiously). No one died from it and they got used to it. It was a part of being a woman she explained. You are a woman now she said . I don’t want to be a woman I said. When you go home ask your Dad what your mother uses when she has her menstruation.

I trudged home avoiding the bull in the paddock giving me the evil eye. I was petrified for more than one reason.

Dad showed me these things like long face washers, triple thickness towelling. With a tab and buttonholes on each end. The belt to attach it to fell down!!!Miles to big for my skinny frame, (my mother was a solid lady in those days.) I was walking around, actually waddling around. I was glad I did not have to go to school. After 3 days the bleeding stopped. When mum came home from hospital she confirmed what the neighbour and her daughter had told me and promised to make for me my own menstrual bandages. Mum said she was proud of me for being so brave. I had lost my childhood.

- Dinah

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