As some of you may recall, I’m doing some work with Mother Nature Partnership, a fabulous organization providing women in rural Cameroon with reproductive health education and hygienic, reusable menstrual cups to replace the dangerous, unhygienic, and just all around uncomfortable and inconvenient methods of managing their periods.
Obviously I think this project is brilliant and am a big fan of menstrual cups (fewer chemicals in my body, fewer tampons in the landfill, etc.)
At least, I was a big fan of them in theory.
Despite talking them up all over the internet and to anyone who didn’t look ready to keel over from squeamishness in person for the past couple of months, I had yet to actually use one myself.
Not wanting to be a hypocrite, and still unsure which cup manufacturer MNP would be partnering with, I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy one. I popped into Noah’s and, after determining my size (one for women under 30 who have not had children, and one for women over 30 or who have had children – which, by the way, alarmed me a little about what might happen to my vagina once I turn 30!) picked up my very own shiny new silicone Diva Cup, as it happened to be the brand they carried.
Of course, now I had to actually use it.
I should note at this point, that while I am quite comfortable with my body and most of its crazy functions, and while period blood doesn’t freak me out as much as it does some people, I am extremely squeamish about certain things. Sometimes I don’t know what things will freak me out until I am close to unconscious. In fact, the first time I ever fainted was in grade five health class. One minute I was watching a video about ovaries, the next, I had gracefully smashed into some desks and was waking up on the floor.
Talking too much about needles, pap smears or IUDs will achieve the same results even now if I’m not careful. It’s highly embarrassing.
One of the things that is almost always a trigger is the idea of having a foreign object stuck inside me. Oh, and as it turns out, also the words “elastic muscular tube,” which kept coming up in my menstrual cup research.
At this point you might be questioning why on earth I would ever subject myself to a menstrual cup, which essentially works by creating a seal inside your vagina so that it stays stuck in there until you’re ready to remove it.
What can I say? I’m really excited about MNP! Plus, I had the same misgivings about tampons before I’d used them and that turned out just fine. And hey, if this thing worked, I’d never have to buy tampons and worry about toxic shock syndrome again!
I remembered reading somewhere that it was a good idea to try inserting and removing the cup before actually menstruating just to get the hang of it without stressing about making a bloody mess (heh).
So, one evening after work, I popped the little sucker out of its box, cleaned it, and got down to business. I folded the silicone cup in half lengthwise, into the “C-fold”, as it seemed the simplest way to insert it, took a deep breath and pushed it in.
Unfortunately, I lost my grip before I could get it in as far as it needed to go and so it sproinged open, punching the walls of my vagina like a tiny, very out of place umbrella.
It was not even a little bit comfortable.
After a couple of failed attempts to push it further into place, I thought, “OK, clearly I need to start again.”
So I reached in with my index finger and thumb, trying to gently squeeze the slightly ribbed bottom of the cup to break the seal and pull the cup out and…nothing.
I pulled with more force.
Well, nothing but a sickening tugging feeling on what felt like all of my internal organs.
The damned demon cup was stuck.
I started laugh-crying as panic set in.
“Oh god!” haha. “I’m going to faint, hit my head and die and no one will know because I live alone and one day my landlord will find me, dead in my apartment and inexplicably naked from the waist down!” haha. Sob. Ha.
At this point I decided the best coping mechanism was denial. So I laid down on the couch and threw on an episode of friends to watch, just as if I wasn’t being held hostage by the iron grip of a terrifying vagina octopus.
While I was prone, I started considering who I might call if after a valiant effort I still couldn’t remove the thing. An ex-boyfriend or two came to mind (I mean, at least they’d be familiar with the area, right?), but then I remembered that all the ones I’m in touch with have current girlfriends who might not appreciate an explanation of “Be right back hon, just need to help Sarah with her vagina!” as they dashed out the door to my rescue. And while I’m pretty close with my girlfriends, this particular favour would definitely redefine “close” in a less than fun way.
Finally, when I had run out of potential gynaecologists in shining armour and determined that there was no way in hell I was going to my actual gyno with this problem, I took one more deep breath, reached down and yanked the thing clean out, suction be damned.
It felt like I had repositioned my uterus and possibly managed to suck my eyeballs a little further back in my head at the same time.
Now for some, this would have been the end of the story. Not so, our crazy heroine.
It turns out, this whole Diva Cup thing is where the intersection of my squeamishness and determination resides.
So the next night I tried again, with strikingly similar results.
I headed back to the internet for some tips where I read about a different method of folding one side of the cup down into itself, making for a less bulky initial insertion and a more gentle unfolding than the umbrella sproinging I initially experienced.
Lo and behold, this worked much better. And once it was in and opened, I was able to maneuver it farther in by putting some pressure on the cup’s stem and doing kegels.
Suddenly, I could no longer feel it. I squinted suspiciously while dancing around a little to be sure, and miracle of miracles, it was finally in the right spot, and I was totally comfortable!
Being comfortable with it in made it much easier to take out. I sort of pulse-pinched the base and wiggled it oh so slightly back and forth, and presto! Successful escape!
The next day I got my period, and the real test began. I wore the cup on a train ride home, and aside from my usual horrendous cramps, I was totally comfortable and had no leaks or spills. While you can leave them in for 12 hours, I took mine out at bedtime as I usually don’t need any overnight protection. I was stunned at how little blood there actually was to dump out of the cup (the Diva Cup has handy little measuring lines so you can be aware of exactly how heavy/light your flow is – like a gross, yet fascinating science project!). Tampons have always made it look like so much more! I was also happily amazed at how little mess there actually was in the removal/dumping/cleaning process.
By day two I felt like a pro, and unfortunately for my dad and my brother, felt the need to tell the entire family of my victory. They were impressed by the money-saving, environmental impact, and self-preservation may have made them stop listening after that.
Et voila. A menstrual cup convert was born!
So, for those of you who made it to the end of the longest post ever, would/do you guys ever use menstrual cups or do you think I’m totally insane for ever trying one?