Talking about menarche

How we speak to our daughters and sons about this topic is surely a pivotal time in their and our lives. My mother says her mother never spoke to her about her periods starting. Mum is the second daughter so her older sister got “the talk” from Nana and it was then my aunt’s job to prepare my mother.
Mum told me when I was 9. She was going to hospital to have my brother and she gave me a book called “Dear Daughter” and a set of sanitary towels. She obviously tried to improve on the preparation her mother gave her. I remember being confused about where the sticky part of the pad went and finally summoning the courage to ask a school friend. I asked Mum what she told my 4 brothers.
“That’s Dad’s job” she said. “He told me he’s told them the (Catholic) Church’s teaching”…

The subject probably comes up sooner and at younger ages for kids when bathroom doors aren’t locked and parents and kids are around each other for baths and showers.

Part of my problem here is that I don’t like any of the words we use. The Latin ones for a girl’s first bleed: menarche, and then menses and menstruation are all a bit distant and medical-sounding.
“Periods” just doesn’t convey anything much to me.
In secondary school, I had a headache and was accompanied to the Domestic Science room by a friend to request some paracetomol.
“Have you got your ‘friends’?” the teacher asked me.
“Well, C. came with me” I replied, wondering was there a new rule I’d broken, which stipulated 2 people got out of class to mind a sick person. It took a minute to click that this was the code word used by this woman in her middle years when talking to a teenager.

I see on facebook that AF (Aunt Flo) is the code.

I was in my late 30s before I read Anne Diamant’s book “The Red tent”, a wonderful novel which describes, among many other stories, the culture of menstruating women being apart from the community. It seemed to be a welcome break from the routines of home-making rather than a society’s attempt to isolate unclean females, but maybe I’m remembering the story incorrectly.

In our home, the youngest has haemophilia, a blood-clotting disorder, so bleeding can be extra-problematic and traumatic. I would probably hesitate to use the words bleed or blood to describe this occurrence.

I heard a woman on radio years back saying she describes the womb as a baby’s home and how the lining has to be cosy for the baby to grow and in the months when there’s no baby, the house has a kind of spring-clean and the lining comes away.

So that’s my dilemma: how to discuss this with my children, especially as my daughter is now 11, without being overly-medical and aloof, or coy and using euphemisms which convey the sense of the hidden and shameful.

Any suggestions welcome!