this one’s for the girls

Posted: February 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

This post comes with a warning up-front:  it’s kind of a ladies-only proposition.  Guys, you will probably want to just move along without reading.  To be more plain:  this post is about menstrual periods and products, and I only know how to write from my own perspective, so if you don’t want to know that stuff about me, run along now.  I’ll come back another day and talk about life and God and learning by messing up, never fear.

Shortly after I moved to an intentional community in Chicago, a friend there introduced to me the concept of making one’s own reusable pads.  I was intrigued at the concept and not really turned off at all – after all, I had used cloth diapers with both of my babies and don’t have any special aversion to dealing with washing up stuff that contains what we don’t normally touch much.

I was mostly game to try it, but in the end I didn’t, for one reason:  I had a roommate, and she could barely tolerate my baby African Violet plants (eventually I moved them to my office so she wouldn’t accidentally murder them in her attempts to get relief from what she swore was a mold smell in them) – so if live plants were a problem, I was pretty sure a bucket of bloodied pads soaking in the corner of the bathroom was gonna be a deal breaker.  Not to mention we did laundry in a shared area there, and I would for sure die of embarrassment if some dude saw me taking care of THAT business.

Also while I lived there I came across the “Diva Cup” online – a reusable menstrual cup, inserted like a tampon, but rather than creating garbage, the cup could be removed, dumped out, cleaned, and reinserted for years on end.  I read about it a lot and was more or less horrified.  It literally made me nauseous to consider using it, which was sad, since I’m all about green and sustainability and saving the planet from us garbage-overdrive human beings and our thoughtless ways.  I kept going back and reading and re-reading, trying to get myself there, but I always ended up feeling like I was gonna toss my cookies just even THINKING about the cup.  Wimp.

While I was considering all these things, I was sharing aloud about them with a friend I’ll call Zelda (hey, that’s a fun name, right?!)  She was basically mortified at the idea of reusable pads – I think they grossed her out as much as the cup did me.  We talked about it all repeatedly, but nothing really came of it.

At some later point, Zelda got a Diva Cup.  It was my turn to be mortified – but also jealous of her intestinal fortitude.  She had a difficult first try, as the cup retreated up into her nether regions and she panicked when she couldn’t reach it, requiring her hubby to actually reach up in there and rescue her, cementing him forever in my mind as a Major Hero and First Class Man – later she learned that the cup is easy to “kegel” right on down to where it can be reached.  But she persevered (what a woman!) and after awhile, she started trying to recruit me to the Diva Cup club, using words like “life changing.”  She swore it dramatically reduced her cramping, due to not being exposed to all those nasty chemicals in tampons.

It all sounded very good, but there was still the fact that my stomach lurched and I got light-headed at the notion of using one.  That’s kind of an obstacle, you know?  I worked and worked on my thoughts, getting basically nowhere.  I WANTED to want to do it, but the fact was I was too terrified and grossed out to want it.  I don’t even use tampons other than for the occasional swim, because even those make me nauseous and a little weak in the knees during and right after the insertion process and I almost never don’t feel it in there, bothering me.

I am a ridiculously delicate little flower, when it comes to this sort of sensitivity – though my ears were pierced since 3rd grade, I have almost never worn earrings as an adult because my dad’s not at my house to put them in for me, and putting them in myself makes my stomach hurt and makes me dizzy for awhile – I even get black spots in my vision.  Once the earrings are in, I can only tolerate them for a few hours and then have to take them out because feeling them bothers me – a lot (my holes finally grew shut earlier this year, so I can stop tormenting myself about not wearing earrings now).  I can’t wear bracelets for long for the same reason – and in the past year I’ve started getting that way about necklaces.  I can wear them maybe 6 to 8 hours, and then I am absolutely desperate to get that thing off as it is TOUCHING ME and I can’t stand it another minute.

So basically, it seemed somewhere between unlikely and impossible to get myself over the hump on this one.

But Zelda was persistent.  She kept bringing it up.  She kept bragging on how it had rescued her.  She really wanted me to try it.  I really wanted to want to.  I kept trying to want to.  Finally, she (supposedly accidentally) ordered 2 instead of just 1 when she was getting a new one.  She offered the extra to me, saying she didn’t want to pay the shipping to return it.  She wouldn’t even let me pay for it.  Here’s a free cup – just try it.

If you know me and my need to not waste resources, you know the power of this argument.  A Diva Cup is something like thirty bucks on Amazon.  I took the unopened package from her, my stomach roiling in horror, and agreed to give it a try.  I couldn’t even bring myself to open the box until the next day.

That was 3 cycles ago.  It has been a journey.  It turns out I did not actually die from inserting the cup, shockingly enough.  After the third day of using it, I stopped feeling like I was gonna faint, and these days I don’t even feel nauseous about the whole thing.  There is this amazing little teenage girl somewhere in the UK who does videos about cups (and reusable pads – we’re getting back there too) with an aplomb that blows my freakin’ mind – I want to grow up to be as matter-of-fact about my body as she is, but at just-about-50 there seems little hope of that.  Binge-watching her videos has helped me with a lot of questions.  The big thing about using the cup is that in my opinion you need a sink right beside the toilet while you’re emptying it – some on the internet allege that you can just dump it and wipe with toilet paper, but those folks clearly don’t have a lot of clot issues, is all I’m saying on that topic.  The sink ain’t optional, at least for me.

It’s not perfect.  I have yet to have had a leak-free experience, something Zelda has basically every single time – she doesn’t even need a panty liner or anything.  And you’re not supposed to be able to feel the cup in there at all, but I do.  I feel the whole thing, from bottom to top, regardless of positioning and almost always.  It’s not horribly intolerable, but by the end of the work day I need that cup out of there as badly as I would need to take off pantyhose or high heels or a push-up bra or too-tight pants (or my darn necklace) – I am LIVING to get it out by quittin’ time.  I have assumed that’s just my horribly oversensitive nature, but I’m considering trying a different cup to see if that would help – they come in lots of sizes and degrees of rigidity.  Maybe something smaller/softer would be better – the Diva is one of the biggest and most rigid cups on the market, from what I understand.  I’ve read that it might leak less if the rigidity is different, as well.

One final cup comment before moving on to the reusable pad topic:  using a cup is getting to know your body on a whole other level, or at least it has been for me.  I found one great mercy in that.  Every bit of information I’ve found seems to indicate that a cup can more than hold all the flow for a lot of hours – that even those who flow heavy don’t make as much as they think they do.  A cup generally holds enough that you should only need to empty maybe every 12 hours for a lot of people.  Even Zelda, who has killer periods, could get a full day out of her cup.  That was an appeal to me – only messing with stuff twice a day?  Sweet!  However.  When I’m having a killer first-day that includes cramps that, as I like to say, would bring an elephant to its knees, and when it’s so bad it’s making me literally weak…I can fill the cup to its rim in 4 hours or less.  Learning this has helped me to cut myself some slack, as I tend to spend a lot of time telling myself to “suck it up, buttercup” and stop being such a mamby-pamby crybaby on bad period days.  Now I get it – what my body does on hard days is pretty exceptional, I think, and I need to just cut it some slack and allow for rest as much as possible.  Now I don’t yell at myself or call me names – I just thank my body for working like a champ, and I offer it my kindness.

Okay, on to reusable pads.  Oh yeah, I went there on cycle 2 of the Diva Cup.  Clearly I still needed some kind of pad since I can’t get the thing to stop leaking.  Here’s the thing:  in our family, many of us are allergic to adhesive.  My body goes crazy on this subject.  Since I’m not willing to subject myself to tampons, over the years every month has been a struggle with the adhesive on the backs of my disposable pads.  Inevitably a corner turns and presses itself to my skin instead of my underwear at some point in the day or night, and then my skin goes into overreaction mode, and of course one cannot go around scratching and rubbing at that area when it’s inflamed.

Zelda (of course!) has “crunchy” friends who use reusable pads, and she was sharing about that as I complained to her.  So I ordered a pack of 6, just to try them and see how they were.  Half of them are fuzzy and way soft, the other half are more a slick/silkyish material.  Can I just say:  THEY ARE SO MUCH BETTER than disposable pads!!  They feel so much better that I had trouble not telling all the ladies around me about that.  And they absorb just fine, no leakage thus far across 2 cycles.  And they don’t smell bad, because the blood is not mingling with those nasty chemicals in the disposable pads.

Mine came with a little breathable but moisture resistant bag, so I can fold them and snap them shut (yes, they have snaps, so they’re not just wildly floating around in your underwear waiting for a chance to fall out your pantleg and embarrass you…or maybe you aren’t like me and wouldn’t worry about such a thing!) and put them in the little bag in my purse to take home later to wash.  No mess and I’m told no odor problem (my sniffer doesn’t work well enough to confirm or deny this last point).  They worked so well for me that I’ve bought more in other sizes.

Laundry is no biggie.  I keep a bucket with a lid in the corner of the bathroom, with some  cold water with OxyClean dissolved in there.  And I keep a squirt bottle of hydrogen peroxide there too.  As the pad comes off, a quick squirt with the peroxide and then into the bucket and close the lid (the little girl in the videos washes hers out in the sink rather than doing peroxide – maybe I’ll get there but peroxide is pretty cheap, so maybe not).  At the end of the cycle, the whole bucket just gets dumped right into the washing machine; it’s important not to use fabric softeners as those make stuff non-absorbent.  I hang them to dry, though I’ve read that some toss them in the dryer.

I’ve known since cycle 1 of this adventure that I’d be blogging about all this, much to my horror.  It’s not like I talk about these things easily – I’m embarrassed about this stuff to a stupid level.  I’m not crazy about sharing this openly.  But the thing is, I didn’t know about ANY of this stuff for most of my life, which means probably some of you don’t know about it either.  Maybe you’re not interested, but I can’t have good information and not share it.

Worst case scenario, it gives you something to giggle about with horror with your bestie – but look out!  That’s how I got started on this journey.  🙂

  1. Cindy Maynard says:

    I heard about the Diva Cup while on our mission trip. Never knew such a thing existed. So thankful I am not in that phase of life anymore……but can see where this would reduce waste and costs tremendously.

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