Updated: Mar 27, 2020
Growing up, my level of sex education was watching a few animated videos in primary school teaching you about reproductive organs and listening to a narrator confirm 'a man and a woman can remain together for some time performing this sexual act.' Beyond that, unless I was at the doctor surgery with period pain, there wasn't really any further information taught to us. Read on for an insight into my apparent sheltered existence!
Outside of meeting a boy, getting married, having a baby or two and living in a 3 up, 2 down style setup, I hadn't ever really considered anything outside of these boundaries set for me. And that's not to say that my family weren't encouraging or open to another way of me growing, but that's what seemed to happen in society and nobody had ever spoken of any struggles along this idealistic path. Now at 33 and being told it's impossible for me to conceive naturally, it does make you reconsider the life plan somewhat.
It sounds crazy to write this or say it out loud but you only ever heard of adoption or someone not being able to have children from afar. One of those 'awful things' that you think will never happen to you because you've never been given any reason to believe otherwise.
Now that I find myself one of those people, it's a strange mindset to switch to.
Even writing that last sentence I still seem to want to put everything in some sort of category or box but the more I go through this experience and what's still to come, the more I realise there are no boxes, or traditional ways of thinking. There are so many options - nobody has the same experience. It might be similar, but not the same.
School taught me very little about my body when I look back. At 33 I have only just discovered endometriosis, the size of my Fallopian tubes, how difficult it is to actually get pregnant and the trip those little sperm take once they come out.
The extent of what I was taught was a video about sex in primary school which was mostly animated, how to use contraception in secondary school (totally geared towards reducing teenage pregnancies) and a session dedicated to periods like how to insert a tampon, etc. And I kid you not, that was it. It was only through talking to girlfriends that you learn the juicy stuff like what your period feels like, what boys actually want (my mum might be reading this!) and all of those weird slang names for different sexual acts and when you're on your period, the worst one of all being 'flow's in town'.
I suffered chronically with periods in school. I was the girl who used to turn green precisely 3 seconds before she passed out in a science class whacking her head on the gas tap on the way down. I remember one instance where the school nurse asked if I could be pregnant, no doubt more concerned about that than my periods being far too heavy for me to bear.
I was diagnosed with anemia, told there wasn't enough iron in my blood and was put on tablets until my early 20s. I was also on the contraceptive pill from the age of 14 in a bid to reduce the heaviness of the periods, which worked for a time. During these younger years, it never concerned me that there might be something more wrong or that there was ever anything else that might be a possibility. I had friends who considered their periods to be heavy too but looking back I suppose everyone has a different perception of pain or how heavy, heavy actually was.
With my recent diagnosis I wonder if any of those school or earlier experiences could have taught me more about my body if the doctors were willing to investigate. Endometriosis only became an issue for me when I wanted to have a baby - what if it could have been prevented if I had my diagnosis at 14? What if that meant that I could conceive a baby naturally?
I wonder what other experiences other people had of this in school? Was I sheltered? Or is there just generally a lack of information for young people? Is the onus on you to find out about it yourself?