This evening turning into an ... unusual (? I guess that's the best word?) one. But this is a story I can't really tell in real life.
Susan is 14. She's on the autism spectrum, very much on the high functioning end. She got her first period last summer. It resulted in a cancelled trip to the pool with her aunt and uncle and she's been wearing pads when necessary ever since. I've repeated the sex talk we had a few years back, now that puberty is clearly setting in physically, and have provided Advil on request as well as steered Mr D and brothers away at certain times as she navigates figuring out the cycles of her body. We've also talked about the importance of tracking her period -- both so she knows when to expect it and because she will be asked at every doctor's appointment for the next several decades: "date of your last menstrual cycle?"
Recently, she asked me to buy her a box of tampons and teach her how to use them. There's a pool party coming up and we'd discussed the need to ensure that her swimsuits still fit in enough time to go shopping if necessary. She wanted to try on the suits, but is currently in the midst of that time of the month. (I think she was also concerned that the period might not be over before the pool party.) I agreed to buy her some and to talk her through the process.
That last part happened tonight. Mr D is out of town; Peter had taken Edmund with him to check out a nearby park where he might play soccer in the fall. After the little girls were down for the night, Susan and I had complete privacy, so it seemed like the perfect time.
The insertion part was a bit of struggle, but she got through it and (I think) felt confident that she could do it again when necessary. She did state that she'd probably stick to pads unless absolutely necessary. She confessed that, once inserted, she didn't notice the tampon, but she didn't like the process of putting it in and she was worried by the warnings on the package about Toxic Shock Syndrome. (That's my girl -- worst case scenario finder.)
It was the removal that she really, really struggled with. She said it hurt, pulling it out, and she couldn't do it. We spent about 30 minutes sitting in the bathroom, trying to find ways to help her relax enough as she said that pulling it out was hurting. (In the end, she suggested I talk to her about something to distract her and then pull for her. Whenever she tried to do that herself, she either got so distracted, she forgot to pull or stopped being distracted as soon as she started pulling.) She kept asking me if this was "normal."
Truth? I honestly don't remember. I've had IUDs since Edmund was born and it causes me to have virtually no periods at all. So, I don't think I've used a tampon in over a decade. And my "first time" use? Was about 30 years ago. All I remember was struggling to understand the printed instructions that came with them because my mother certainly didn't talk me through it like I did tonight with Susan. I'd told her it's normal to feel uncomfortable putting it in until you get used to finding the right angle for your body, but I can't recall ever having trouble with getting it out.
I'm pretty sure Susan is now hoping not to need to try this again any time soon.
Heaven help me when I have to do this with Lucy and Jill.