Not too long ago, I mentioned to my husband that it is time to have the puberty talk with our eldest daughter. I kind of joked with him and asked if he would like to have the honour of performing this duty. He just raised an eyebrow and said “rather you than me”.
The thing is I didn’t expect him to jump for joy when I made this gesture. Although there are many fathers who feel completely comfortable in having this conversation with their daughters; and I’m pretty sure that my husband would’ve done an excellent job at it by giving our daughter the basic information. But the thing is he has never in his life experienced ovulation, period pains, PMS or went through child birth. Outnumbered by females; I can’t help but feel sorry for the guy as the odds are against him. Soon he will have to deal with a house full of hormonal females. I can however say with certainty that as a father he will give our daughters all the support they need including purchasing sanitary pads or tampons.
Therefore as a mother; and the only person in our home of the same gender to that of our daughters; this should be my duty. As the older female who has gone through this experience; I want to be the person who teach my daughters about womanhood. I want to be the first point of resource on this topic and the powerful, positive influence. Not the school teacher, not the internet and definitely not misinformed peers.
Puberty is a time of lots of physical, sexual, social and psychological changes for a child. Going from a child to an adolescent girl or boy. A time of confusion, raging hormones and emotional outbursts. Not all children go through puberty at the same time and everyone’s experience is different. With that in mind; perhaps I should’ve had this conversation earlier; granted that some girls get their period at the tender age of 8. However, thus far the only signs of puberty my daughter has experienced is developing breasts and growing taller.
My approach wasn’t to have a Life Science lecture with illustrations and medical terminology. But I wasn’t going to sweep things under the carpet either. Just a casual conversation whereby I share important information with her that my mother never shared with me.
From my own experience as a teenager in the late 80’s, early 90’s, the puberty talk went kind of like this “you need to start using sanitary pads, stay away from boys and don’t let them touch you”. That’s pretty much all I got. I was never fully explained why my body was going through all these changes. Shy, confused and clueless, I somehow successfully navigated my way through the puberty journey.
So there we were last Saturday, just my eldest daughter and I having the all-important talk. At first I could see she felt a bit awkward. To be honest; I was terrified too. I explained to her that everyone goes through puberty and it shouldn’t be something to feel embarrassed or ashamed about. That’s when I noticed she started to relax which made me relax and the flow of conversation was easier.
This was our female bonding session. Questions were asked, with the odd giggle here and there. For my daughter’s sake; I had to keep a level of maturity. Although there were times I wanted to laugh. I knew I had to create a comfortable atmosphere and a safe space so that she can trust me. This was important to continue having this open flow of communication between us for years to come.
I spoke about how puberty starts – a small gland in the brain releasing two hormones named the follicle stimulating and the luteinising hormones. How her body has changed (breast development and growth spurt) and will continue to change during this phase. Other changes include hair growth on the legs, under the arm pits, genital area and a change in body shape. The importance of practicing good personal hygiene and the regular use of antiperspirant deodorant as sweat glands develop under the armpits which can cause body odour. To continue to follow a healthy balanced diet and to exercise regularly. Facial cleansing as her skin might become oily which can cause acne.
I then moved onto the menstrual cycle which is normally 28 days. Part of this cycle is ovulation. Making her understand that girls are born with two ovaries which contain thousands of eggs. I spoke about how the aforementioned hormones travel through the bloodstream to the ovaries. Sending a message to the ovaries to start producing two other hormones namely estrogen and progesteron. The process of ovulation then starts; releasing a mature egg that travels though one of the fallopian tubes. Not all girls and women can feel when they ovulate. But symptoms that she might experience will be bloating, a white discharge, cramps on her side and back ache.
Out of everything that I explained to my daughter before; what followed was the most important part of the entire conversation. I explained to her that the lining of the uterus, which is made up of blood and tissue, thickens as the egg sits in the fallopian tube waiting to be fertilized. Educating her that during unprotected sexual intercourse between a female and male; the male’s sperm travels towards the matured egg. If the sperm cells penetrate the egg; that is when fertilization takes place. Once conception occurs; the cells turn into an embryo which moves towards the uterus for implantation. This is the start of pregnancy. Teenage girls who are sexually active with boys can fall pregnant as soon as they start ovulating. However sexual intercourse should always be consensual and happen between adults who love each other.
So with the most difficult part of the conversation out of the way – I proceeded and spoke about PMS (post menstrual syndrome) and the menstruation period. Explaining that PMS symptoms happen a week before the menstruation period. This include food cravings, moodiness, fatigue, tender breasts, stomach cramps and lower back pain. When the matured egg is not fertilized, the body sheds of the thick lining. The shedding is the lining comes in the form of blood which flows out through the vagina. This process can last up to 7 days every month. We spoke about sanitary products and touched on hygiene again.
I don’t want my daughter to have a negative viewpoint about puberty and her menstrual cycle. This is definitely not a curse and an illness. I want her to love and embrace her body. It is the most amazing part of becoming a woman. As women our bodies are powerful and an instrument that is capable of many wonderful things including carrying and birthing a child.
Now that I had this very important talk with my eldest daughter; I am ready to have the same talk with my youngest. You would’ve noticed that I did not talk to her about boys and her first crush. This topic of discussion I’m leaving in the capable hands of my husband. On our parenting journey, we share responsibilities and he plays an active role in raising and educating our daughters. I have no doubt that it will be a very interesting talk.
So, have you had the puberty talk with your child? How did it go? Please share your experience in the comment box.