As three women sat on a roof, having lunch and sharing their first period stories, they realized something. That each of their stories were unique, yet totally relatable. They wanted to hear more. All 3.7 billion of them.
Firstperiodstories.com is a place where they share their unique stories, whether they be funny, cringe-worthy, or just plain awkward.
It’s a place for those experiencing their first period where they can go and not feel so alone. Because we all know you can be armed with tampons and pads, and still not be ready for your period.
This is a place for us to laugh, because how else are we supposed to deal with the once-a-month war in our uterus?
But mostly, they’ve created a community that supports each other, no matter what bloody mess we’re in. Because we’re all going through this together. We’re so excited to have the girls from First Period Stories on the Podcast today to discuss their amazing blog and Newsletter!
Watch their Story:
Listen to their Story:
Read their Story:
Alice: Great, we are recording. Cool. Yes, so we just got to start off with some more softball type of questions. What is your favorite show that you have binge during COVID, in this pandemic, that has been a year?
Justine: Yes. It has actually been a full year now. I think that all of us have binged so many shows this year way more than usual because there has not been a whole lot else to do. But one of my favorite shows that I recommend to everybody is PEN15. They had their second season release over summer. It is fantastic. If you have not heard or seen it, it is about two women in their early thirties that wrote it and starred in it. It is them acting as themselves in middle school in the late nineties.
Alice: Oh my God.
Justine: It is cringy in the best possible way. They are hilarious. They are acting alongside other actual young teenagers so it is funny. But I think it also sort of applies to what we are talking about because it is these two middle schoolers going through everything that a middle schooler goes through. So, of course, there is the first period episode. But just a lot of other firsts and things that I think we can all relate to from when we were that age.
Alice: That is amazing and I am already cringing just thinking back to middle school.
Alice: The word ‘middle school’ gives me a shudder.
Justine: Exactly. And they really play that up. I think for me, because I am also in my early thirties, everything that they are showing is so well. The set design and the props are spot-on. The rooms that they have are just designed in a way that my friends and my rooms were.
Alice: Wow, I really hope there is lots of Lisa Frank. That was like my nineties experience.
Justine: Lisa Frank binders and Lisa Frank pencils.
Alice: Yes. I think the real currency were the erasers.
Justine: Oh, yes, Absolutely.
Rachel B: To top your pencil. Man, that was the best.
Alice: Do of you have a favorite book that you have read this year? What should we be reading?
Rachel W: Well, I think we all read quite a bit. I read more than I probably read since high school, which is great. It is something I have been meaning to do. So, I will give you two favorite books. One is a non-fiction and one is a fiction. First one is called ‘How to do Nothing” by Jenny Odell. I know that other Rachel, she read that as well. It is great. I think a lot of people who read it kind of think it is going to be about how to unplug, how to get off the internet, or how to get off social media. But it becomes a much bigger kind of manifested than that. It involves all kinds of different stuff and really just talks about the attention economy which I did not even know was a thing until I read this book. So, I highly recommend. And then, the other book is called ‘Ducks, Newburyport’ by Lucy Ellmann. It is an incredible work of fiction. It is a thousand pages long. I did not know that when I bought it, and so, when it came in the mail I am like, “Holy. Okay. I was not expecting this.” But I read it all within a month. That was incredible. It is about consciousness which I know a lot of people do not like, but if you like it, you will love it.
Alice: Is it Newburyport in Massachusetts area?
Rachel W: Yes.
Alice: Okay. Cool.
Rachel W: But I will not wear anything. It is a great book.
Alice: Great. I will have to pick it up. Do you guys have a favorite quarantine hobby?
Rachel B: Yes. I have actually been running quite a bit. Near the beginning of the pandemic, my Dad signed up for a fifty-mile race.
Alice: Like running?
Rachel B: Yes, a 5fiftymile running race in Bryce Canyon. He has done a half marathon which we did together. And then, he did a fifty K, I believe it is? Which is thirty-six miles. Now, he is going for fifty miles. He is sixty-two by the way. But then, my sister-in-law convinced me to sign up for the thirty K in Bryce Canyon so we would be running a fourth of what my Dad is running or whatever. It is more than I have ever ran, so me and her have actually been running every weekend. I am doing the trails out here in Colorado. It is crazy what you can do when you just decide to do it.
Alice: Were you a runner before this or is this brand new to you?
Rachel B: I started running on a whim in 2018. I trained for a half marathon for three months, but I could not even run a mile before that. I ran a half with my Dad a few months later. And then, I got just totally burnt out on that. For the second one, I was training indoors on a treadmill so it was terrible. I took a year break, and now, I am back. I have been running outside all winter so I do not feel that same burnout like before. I have been really enjoying it and
toughening up a bit. I am always like, “It is cold. I need to go inside.” but I feel like this has really helped.
Alice: Wow, that is amazing.
Justine: Very impressive. Just running a ton and getting into really good shape. All I have been doing all quarantine is baking and eating bread, cookies, and sweets.
Alice: Do you have a favorite recipe?
Justine: I have been on that sourdough starter kick so I have sort of been just switching that up a little bit. I made bagels last week from scratch which was really fun.
Alice: Oh, wow.
Justine: No favorites, but it has been fun just to bake things. But I am very impressed with what Rachel is doing.
Alice: That is amazing.
Justine: I probably should be running.
Alice: That is a hobby that I need in my life. I am definitely on the baking street. I got a book last week and I have made four cakes from it. I devoured them all.
Rachel B: That is awesome.
Justine: Do you have any favorite recipes that you have made? We need to have a little recipe exchange.
Alice: Yes, we should. I will email you after this. So, Rachel, you mentioned that you were living in Denver now. You talked about Bryce Canyon. Rachel and Justine? Where are you guys living?
Rachel W: I am living in Mobile, Alabama, which is a very cute and artsy city that is on the Gulf Coast.
Justine: I am in Los Angeles, California. We are all in different parts of the U.S. and different time zones. I am from LA so, for me, it has been nice this year to just be close to family when we cannot interact with anybody else.
Alice: Yes. Well, that is great. How did you all connect if you guys are from so many different places?
Rachel B: We actually all met in Chicago. In 2016, I met you guys. You knew each other a little bit earlier, but we all worked at the same advertising agency in Chicago. I was a writer there while Rachel and Justine were art directors. We were all kind of partners there. I partnered with both of them and just became really close. I worked there for two years. You guys worked there a little bit longer than me. But then, we all went our separate ways from Chicago. I moved out here because my brother and my two nieces live out here. I had super fomo, but we still stay in touch, obviously. We are so really close.
Alice: Oh, wow. That is awesome and so cool that you can move from Chicago to all over the US and are still working on this project together. And for our listeners, they do not really know what this is about, but what is ‘First Period Stories’? Can you talk a little bit about starting it and what it is?
Justine: Yes, I will top-level what it is, and then, I will hand it off to one of the Rachels to get into the details. But essentially, ‘First Period Stories’ is a website and an Instagram page where we share user-submitted first period stories. It is our way of sort of addressing the stigma around menstruation in a very easy to digest sort of fun way. Our stories are funny, embarrassing, and very relatable. I think it is our way of just letting everyone know that this is something that more than fifty percent of the world goes through and it is very normal. Rachel, do you want to talk about how we started?
Rachel W: Oh, yes. Sure. I was just really soaking that up like, “Yes. Yes.”
Justine: I mean I do not want to not but…
Rachel W: Rachel was saying that we met all in Chicago working at the same advertising agency. At this point, when we came up with the idea for it, we were all really good buddies. One day, we were taking our lunch break and sitting up on the roof of our office building. Somehow, we started talking about our first period stories and we kind of went around a circle and we all shared ours. It was like, “Wow, these stories are funny, cringy, sad, emotional, and so compelling and interesting. So many people have them, like Justine said, “Maybe we should do something with this?” We kind of talked about what that could look like. We felt that a website and an Instagram would be the easiest and most immediate way to reach people and get all kinds of different stories. So, that is how we started.
Rachel B: Yes, and I think that was almost three years ago, you guys, which is crazy. When we first started, we were like, “Man, if it does not work, it does not work.” But we are so fortunate to have gotten almost four hundred stories at this point from all around the world.
Rachel W: That is crazy.
Rachel B: It really did resonate with people and it still does.
Rachel W: That is awesome.
Alice: Yes, definitely. And for everyone listening at home, you definitely have to check out both of their Instagram and newsletter. What is the handle so people can find it?
Justine: So, the website is just firstperiodstories.com. And our handle is first.period.stories.
Rachel W: Really easy.
Justine: Check us out. It is easy to find on the website. Obviously, we link to Instagram on there as well.
Alice: Perfect. And, would you guys mind sharing a first period story? Do you have one you can share? One of yours or one of your audiences?
Rachel W: I think the best one of ours is probably Rachel’s.
Justine: I agree.
Rachel W: If you want to share?
Rachel B: Okay. I will share. There is also a garbage truck right outside so my apologies.
Alice: I cannot hear it at all.
Rachel B: Yes. It is like, “Of course, it is here right now.” My first period story was insane. Looking back, I was in the seventh grade and I went to a Catholic school. One weekend, I was an altar girl serving at church. I have my white robe on and everything. I remember my seventh-grade boyfriend was in the front pew. I was just going about my godly duties I suppose. I felt a little weird while I was sitting in my chair up at the altar. I looked down when I stood up and saw blood on my chair and the blood was on my white robe. And this was, of course, in the middle of church. It was not at the end or anything that I could get away with. I was Catholic at this time, so you have to go down for the Eucharist. You have to go down the aisle with the priest, and then, come back up. So, everyone got a view of my butt.
Alice: Oh, no.
Rachel B: Including my seventh-grade boyfriend. I did not know what to do. I did not want to run out, so, there I was. After church, I took off the robe and just stashed it with the rest acting like it was not bloody or anything. And then, I ran to the church bathrooms and stuffed some toilet paper in my underwear as usual. And then, my Mom took me straight to CVS to get some pads. It is not over yet, guys. That night, I was doing an all-night event called ‘Relay for Life’ which raises money for cancer research. Well, my whole class was there and it was an all-night event where you walk around the track. In what other day are you up all night with everyone you know? Just this day. So, I was stuck learning how to use a pad in these porter potties.
Alice: Oh, no.
Rachel B: I know and I have no idea what to do, so I would change it literally every twenty minutes. I had no idea. It was like that for the rest of the night. It was bad.
Alice: That is so bad. Oh my gosh, I cannot even imagine just walking down the aisle at mass. I am so sorry. And our seventh-grade idea of ourselves of just like, “Oh, I am just going to put it back.”
Rachel B: I know, right? Like, “This is not my problem.”
Alice: Wow, that is amazing.
Justine: Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, we have gotten a lot of user-submitted stories of first periods happening in church.
Rachel W: Very similar. It is crazy.
Alice: Oh, that is so interesting. See, I do not remember ‘that’ first embarrassing period story but I feel like every time I have my period there is something horrible that happens.
Rachel W: It is right on time.
Alice: Yes. I am like, “Oh, what is going to happen this month?”
Rachel B: I know. I am like, “How long have I had my period? I am still not prepared each time.” I am like, “What is happening to me?
Alice: Yes. It is so interesting and it is such a taboo subject still which is amazing on you guys for trying to break that shame. That is so cool. Have you had any feedback from your audiences about that? What have they been saying about your newsletter and about these stories?
Justine: Who wants to take it? Oh, none of us.
Alice: Sorry, I just love this idea.
Rachel B: Well, as I told you a little bit ago, we have over four hundred stories. Obviously, this is resonating with people. We get a lot of DMs from young menstruators who have not gotten their period and they are curious like, “Is it ever going to happen to me? What is going on? Is this normal?” Also, people who have just got it and do not know what to do. We have a lot of young people in our DMs wondering what is going on. And also, people that are older and ask us questions through our DMs. I think our Instagram has become a safe space for people to ask these questions. Although we are no experts, we all do have our periods so we have some advice to offer.
Rachel W: And even people who are not menstruating are asking us questions. Justine had a very long back and forth conversation with a teenage boy about the birds and the bees. She was very patient. So, it is just interesting how many people feel that it is a safe space even if they are not menstruating or even if they are males. It is fine for them to ask questions and we are happy to have them.
Alice: That is amazing.
Justine: I think part of the point of why we started this is, one, a lot of young girls when they are getting ready to start their periods or just started it do not have all the information they need and, maybe, feel very alone in that. So, this is a place where they do not need to feel alone. But also, starting this off is ending that stigma around menstruation. Why are we not talking about it? Everyone should feel comfortable talking about it.
Alice: Yes. That is really wonderful. That is amazing. Is that a dog?
Justine: Yes, he came up to join me on the couch here. I am hogging all the sun in the corner over here and the dog wants in on that.
Alice: That is incredible. Something that we always ask on this podcast is what is your definition of womanhood?
Justine: That is such a tricky question because I think there is not a very clear answer on what is womanhood. It is such a personal identity and I think especially the way that we talk about gender right now is so fluid. Even with first period stories were very cognizant of not saying women. We say menstruators. Maybe you picked up on that just already with the way we have been talking because there are menstruators who do not identify as women. And so, it is a little bit more of an inclusive term. I think the same goes for womanhood. There is not a clear-cut definition. It is just a personal identity. And if you feel that you are a woman, then you are. We are very open ended with that.
Rachel W: There are as many definitions of womanhood as there are women. I think everyone has their own special definition of what that means for themselves.
Alice: And I think that is why I love to ask it too, because I think it is something that changes minute by minute as you go through your day. Which I think is exciting about us identifying as woman, or whoever does, or whoever feels that way. And if you guys had some advice to give to someone you met on the street or someone who needs advice on their period, what would you say to them?
Rachel B: I would just let everyone know that periods are normal, guys. It is crazy. The amount of people in our stories, in our DMs, and everything who are so confused when they get their period. They are not sure what it is. They are scared. They might be dying. That is a theme. A lot of people confuse brown blood with they thought they poop their pants. It is a big theme because we just expect when they see blue liquid on commercials and they are like, “Okay. Well, that is what it is.” And then, there is brown in their panties. They are confused and they are scared. That moment of confusion, shame, and it just not clicking carries throughout our lives. In every period, you kind of experience that same thing over and over again. So just getting rid of that shame around it and letting people know that it is normal is so important. The more we talk about it, the more girls are going to be prepared. Menstruators are going to be prepared for their first periods. They are going to be like, “Oh my gosh. This is it. This is happening and I am ready for it.” It is not going to be like, “I am confused. Am I dying? Is there something wrong with me?” Just kicking that stigma to the curb is our eyes our main mission here because it really does impact a lot of our lives. We should be proud of our bodies and not ashamed of what they do because we are creating life. Literally, people would not exist without us. We are amazing human beings. It is all normal and great.
Alice: Thank you. I think that is amazing. It is formal and great. It is so lovely to have you girls on this podcast to talk about your first periods and first period stories. Again, would you let us know how people can find you and find your Instagram handle and website?
Rachel B: Yes, for sure. So, our website is firstperiodstories.com. There you can go to the submit tab and fill in our little application. It is just your name, where you live, and your story. It is super fun. As I said, we get stories from all around the world From the U.S. to the UK. To Pakistan and to India. So, everyone is welcome to submit. We love it. The more the merrier, obviously. And then, our Instagram is @first.period.stories. There we post illustrations for each story. Rachel and Justine create those for each story. It is really fun. You get to see what your illustration is going to be. And we also pull quotes from our stories to get people to read the whole thing on our site. So, firstperiodstories.com. Check it out, guys.
Alice: That is amazing. Is there anything else you guys would like to add to our listeners?
Justine: I feel like we hit another high point.
Rachel W: I know. Just keep busting that stigma.
Rachel B: Just keep sharing her stories. Keep talking about it. There is a lot of progress happening and we have so much more to go. Just keep telling those stories. Keep talking about it and making it normal.
Justine: Yes, the more we talk about it, the more we can get rid of the stigma completely.
Alice: Thank you so much for being on today.
Justine: Thanks for having us.
Rachel W: Thank you.