The Secrets of the Birds and Bees: Iris Rosenthal’s Story

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Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.

Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Iris Rosenthal” is a pseudonym. Iris Rosenthal blogs at The Spiritual Llama. This story is reprinted with her permission. Also by Iris on HA: “Confessions of a Homeschooler,” Part One and Part Two.


When I was ten years old I saw blood in the toilet after I finished using the bathroom. Freaked out and thinking that I was dying, I ran and told my mom that there was blood in the toilet when I went pee.

She asked me if I was sure and said that it might be from her and she forgot to flush the toilet. I was then told to take a clean piece of toilet paper and check to see which hole the blood was coming from, if any. Then she proceeded to tell me that if the blood was coming from my poop hole I would need to go to the hospital, if it was coming from my vagina then she would need to have a talk with me, and if there wasn’t any blood then she just forgot to flush the toilet.

So I went to the bathroom to check and discovered that I wasn’t bleeding at all. Relieved that I didn’t have to go to the hospital and that I wasn’t going to die but still very curious what the talk would be about, I decided to fake my period. I picked a scab on my leg to make it bleed on the toilet paper and told my mom that it was coming from my vagina.

She then sent my siblings out of the room, turned the lights down and sat me down on the couch with her.

At this point I thought I was in deep, deep trouble (and so did my  siblings, because there was no sign of them lurking about).

Then my mom started explaining the bleeding. She told me that what I had experienced was my first period, I would get them every month for seven days, and that meant that I could have babies now.

At that point I was wondering what my deception had gotten me into, and decided that I didn’t ever want to get old if bleeding every month was considered normal.

The next day she gave me a book called Preparing for Adolescence by Dr. James Dobson. She told me to mark down on notebook paper how long I was reading and what chapters, so it would count as my Health subject.

The only thing I remember from that book (besides it being boring) was that I finally learned what masturbation was. That thing I did where I would touch myself finally had a name.

I would fake a period every month so that I wouldn’t get in trouble.

I didn’t get my first real period until I was 13. Even then I wasn’t any more ready for it than I was when I was ten. There was so much blood, I always felt angry all the time and my stomach would hurt.

I would get in trouble with my mom for “being in a bad mood” even if I tried to tell her that I was on my period. Apparently that was no excuse and since I was a Christian I had to always be in a good mood. “A crabby Christian is an oxymoron.” She would say.

One day I started my period at homeschool co-op, I didn’t have any pads with me but there was a basket of tampons on the back of the toilet. It took a few tampons for me to figure out how it worked, but I was finally successful… Or so I thought.

After co-op I went to my riding lesson, and an hour later I was very sore. I almost couldn’t get the tampon out and started freaking out thinking that it was stuck.  Thankfully I was finally able to get it out and wadded up some toilet tissue so that I wouldn’t bleed all over the place.

I was never really told how sex worked, so I had to figure it out on my own. Living on a farm I watched the animals and from there was able to get a better idea. But it wasn’t until I read a book on Native American folklore that I got a clear picture of how sex worked for humans.

When I moved out I did a ton of internet searches and then I had information overload.

After all, you can only learn so much from watching a goat.


  • I was smart enough not to search anything on my parents computer. When I moved out I tried to research, but I could only handle about one website every three months. It took me over a year to learn everything about my own female anatomy. It was grueling. I couldnt look up male anatomy for the longest time because it was “sin” and because I thought it was porn (also a “sin”).

    Then, I “became a cow.”
    And I have never been happier or more independent.

    • “Then, I “became a cow.” And I have never been happier or more independent.”
      Yes! That must be their fear – that if we understand how/why our bodies work, we will start making decisions for ourselves and our health, sexuality and general well-being. If we are left in ignorance, they assume that will leave them in control.

  • My mom told me about the period part when I was nine. I freaked out. But that’s really the only thing she told me. No sex talk.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Apparently that was no excuse and since I was a Christian I had to always be in a good mood. “A crabby Christian is an oxymoron.” She would say.

    “Hell hath no torment greater than Constant Forced Cheerfulness.”
    — G.K.Chesterton, “Three Tools of Death” (Father Brown Mystery)

    Reading this series of posts, I also had a do-it-yourself sex education, compounded by hitting puberty at the same time as The Fifties gave way to The Sixties. (I was told they’d tell me when I was old enough to understand; I’m 58, both parents dead, and still waiting). The difference was, mine was more a “What Were They Thinking?” comedy and the ones in these posts were “GrimDark as F**k”.

  • My parents didn’t touch each other or kiss in front of us. Until I was 14, I thought you must get pregnant through kissing, because it was so private that they wouldn’t do that in public! One night I was babysitting for one of our many neighborhood families when their toddler dragged some wrapping paper out from under his mom’s side of the master closet. Turned out to be Bachelorette party theme, with a Kama-Sutra pattern on it. MIND BLOWN at 14 yrs old.

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