What my Failed Tampon Experience Taught me About Period Poverty

What my Failed Tampon Experience Taught me About Period Poverty

I stood there waiting for the airport terminal train, breathing slowly in and out, squeezing my legs together so tightly my muscles were shaking. I was trying to hold back tears. I was trying not to draw attention to myself, but I knew it was too late. There I was in the middle of my international journey home and my trusty tampon had failed me. I knew I was out of period products, but all I could say to myself was, “just get to the plane and you can figure it out there.” So, that is exactly what I did. I worked my way to the plane and found my seat. Without even sitting down I opened my carry on and quickly grabbed my extra pair of pants and rushed to the incredibly cramped and stifling hot airplane bathroom.

I had lost all of my dignity.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and the tears started. Maybe it was the hormones that can crush upon you after having a baby or maybe it was that I had lost all of my dignity. I was 6 weeks post-partum, and my period was relentless, but I knew I couldn’t sit and hide in here for the next nine hours. Mortified, I stripped down in the airplane bathroom, and started using toilet paper to clean up what looked like a murder scene, but I realized quickly that one ply toilet paper wasn’t going to work so I moved on to the paper towels.

My period wasn’t stopping just because I didn’t have period products.

Once I had cleaned myself up, I rolled up some paper towels to create a makeshift pad, placed it in my underwear, put on my clean leggings, and shamefully walked back to my seat. I set the timer on my phone for one hour to remind me to change my makeshift pad to prevent anymore horribly embarrassing situations. For the next 9 hours I would be relying on airplane bathroom paper towels as a makeshift pad. My dignity slowly slipped away and what I realized at that very moment was my period wasn’t stopping just because I didn’t have period products.

Washing away the embarrassment.

Hour after hour I walked to the bathroom. Finally, I heard the pilot’s voice come over the loud speaker. We were approaching our final destination. If that was only the case for me. I still had a full 24 hours before I would be arriving home. Quickly, I got off the plane, headed through customs, and on to baggage. My trusty makeshift pad had about an hour before needing to be changed so I knew I needed to quickly get to the hotel so I could purchase period products.

My heart sunk as I walked in and saw that they didn’t have a gift shop. I panicked. In my quietest voice, as if having my period was not natural and I would be shunned, I asked the front desk if they had any for purchase. Thankfully they did. Packages of two regular absorbency tampons for $4.99 and a package of 6 pads for $5.99. I started doing the math in my head and I would need 6 packages of tampons and a package of pads. I spent about $40.00 on period products to get me through the next 24 hours. With period products in hand, I went up to the room. I turned on the shower and sunk in to the hot water and steam. Washing away the blood that had dried to my legs, washing away the embarrassment that this entire experience brought.

Period Poverty

As the day came to a close, I started thinking just how fortunate I am that I can afford period products and that I have access to shower and soap to ensure proper hygiene. Then I took it one step further and started thinking and reading about those individuals who do not have access to things such as tampons or pads. There is a name for it, it is called period poverty. Period poverty is known as the lack of access to period products (pads, tampons, menstrual cups), menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and, or, waste management. As I read more and learned more, I knew that the universe had revealed my purpose to me – I was put here to help others.  

Those of you know me know this already, but for those of you that don’t, I lived a magical childhood. It was filled with more laughter & love than most, but I always have felt others pain, like truly felt their pain. It is like it sits on my heart like a ton of bricks, begging & pleading for me to do something about it. I feel that we all have an innate purpose, mission, goal – whatever you want to call it – to make the world a better place. When our lives come to an end and we say our final goodbyes, it is not about the money we have made. It is about how we have helped. About how we have lifted others up. It is about how we have helped others live with grace and dignity.

A Revolution In My Heart

As Elizabeth Gilbert says, “create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” So, I am here creating a revolution not only in my heart, but in northern Colorado. A revolution so important. One that is life changing for not only myself, but for those families and individuals around me. I am taking a step to make this world a better place by following this revolution, which revolves around kindness, compassion, empathy, and GRACE. My experience of rationing period products and the shame that came with using airplane paper towels as a makeshift pad taught me that my purpose was to create a service for individuals & families that provide the most basic necessities such as tampons, diapers, and wipes & help them without judgment.

Big Magic

According to Elizabeth Gilbert, “the universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them”. The amazing results of exploring is known as, Big Magic and the results for me is Grace Upon Grace Project. A nonprofit that provides under-served families and infants in Northern Colorado diapers, wipes, and period products to live and grow with grace and dignity while addressing the roots of social inequities. We are committed to ensuring that everyone knows that they are seen, they are loved, they matter and they are not alone. We are warriors of change that show up to loan their strength and smiles to those in need. Each one of us shows up with open hearts to support those during their most vulnerable time. Our journey is just beginning, but I know it’s going to be great!

What strange jewels are deep with you? Enjoy the search and the Big Magic that comes from it!

To learn more about who we are and what we do, please visit graceupongraceproject.com.

Emily Jorgensen

Emily's roots will always be in Michigan, but she loves being able to call Colorado home. She has been married to her hunk of a husband for four years and they have two of the most amazing children. She believes in showing up for each other. Showing up to share the real, ordinary, and extraordinary parts of life. She thinks the three most beautiful traits a human can possess are grace, rawness and vulnerability. When people possess those traits and if they are willing to do the hard work of leaning in, feeling uncomfortable and owning their stories, they can find their true purpose. When Emily started doing the hard work, she came to the realization that her purpose was to serves others, while giving grace. When people are fully granting grace to others, they are loving them without judgment and accepting them for who they are at that exact moment in time. When people do those two things, they are able to truly show up for each other. It might be hard. It might take courage, but it is the most important thing people can do for each other.

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