I Got My First Period on the Same Day as My Bat Mitzvah

For many, these are two separate but similar markers of adulthood. For me, they happened on the very same day.

This summer has practically been defined by coming of age book-turned-movie moments. First, “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” hit us with the jarring reminder of what it’s like to get your first period, and then “You Are so Not Invited to my Bat Mitzvah” reminded us exactly how crucial b-mitzvahs are to Jewish teenhood. For many, these are two separate but similar markers of adulthood. For me, they happened on the very same day.

As a perpetually awkward teenager who rocked a retainer for a little too long, I itched to be anything but 12 years old. Much like the beloved Jenna Rink of “13 Going on 30,” I craved a time when I’d no longer be stuck in a body that didn’t feel like mine. But any desire to develop instantly disappeared when my first period arrived… on the morning of my bat mitzvah.

Anyone who was once a Jewish teen can tell you that your b-mitzvah feels like the most important event of your life so far. The perfect storm of teenage hormones, peer pressure and (let’s be real) your parents’ need to impress their friends works together to convince you that any little detail can be what makes or breaks your entire teenage reputation. And for 12-year-old me — already riddled with social anxiety and too-high expectations — getting my period on this very special day really did feel like the end of the world.

So while my mom worried about my bat mitzvah being snowed out on a January Saturday morning, I sat on the toilet with my own mortification. I wondered if blood could somehow stain a giant, puffy, navy blue dress and debated whether I should run and hide or tell every single person I know. Gone were the fears of messing up my Torah portion or mispronouncing a distant relative’s name during the candle lighting — that all paled in comparison to experiencing my bat mitzvah and my first ever period on the same day.

I was never very religious or spiritual: I was raised going to Hebrew school because “it’s what you do,” always feeling culturally proud to be Jewish, but unsure if my connection to the religion was anything more than secular. So, as I prepared for my bat mitzvah, it felt less like a marker of womanhood and more like an extra fun birthday party. But when my period arrived on the very same day, it was hard to ignore the very literal, bright red sign of growth that I was met with.

For many Jewish teens with uteruses, your b-mitzvah and your first period feel equally monumental. Both are exciting, long anticipated moments of growth. They’re also two of the most talked about events of that time in your life. I spent many of my teenage years feeling awkward and out of place, constantly in fear of what people would judge me for next. So when it came to both my first period and my bat mitzvah, I racked my brain with worries of how they’d be perceived: Was 12 too early or too late to get my period? Would my boobs suddenly stop growing now? Was Broadway too cringey of a theme? Was it weird that I didn’t want to dance with any of the boys? There was nothing I hated more than being perceived, so perhaps what felt scariest was how visible both events made me feel. Theoretically, nobody had to know I got my period unless I wanted them to, but I also knew  that at any moment, my body could betray me and make a private matter much more public. If I’d had little choice about choosing to be visible and open myself for judgment in having a bat mitzvah, I had zero choice about getting my period. At a time when anxiety over community perception is at an all time high, experiencing a double whammy of potential visibility all in one day was a lot to manage.

And so, in my 12-year-old mind, my first true test of maturity came about three hours earlier than when I was due on the bimah. Suddenly, the pressure of entering “adulthood” in one single day felt all too real. Logically, I understood that nothing changed since the night before (besides the need to learn to use a tampon). But emotionally, things couldn’t have felt more different. I was suddenly hit with the fact that growing up is inevitable — and as uncomfortable as my childhood may have felt, it was at least familiar. Adulthood felt like an unknown that I was thrown into without being quite ready for it.

And while it may have felt like the end of the world at the time, everything worked out. My giant navy dress protected me from even the slightest semblance of a bloodstain, and I spent the rest of the day singing, dancing and celebrating with all of the people I loved most. By the end of the night, my period was nothing more than a minor inconvenience. But the lesson it taught me that morning remained: Adulthood is nothing but curveballs, and learning to adapt and embrace them is a worthwhile challenge. If I could do it at my bat mitzvah, I can do it for the rest of my life.

Emily Hein

Emily Hein (she/her) is a freelance journalist and social work student based in New York City. After graduating from the University of Michigan in 2019, Emily spent nearly four years on Insider's health and commerce editorial teams before pivoting to pursue a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree at NYU.

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