Tag Archives: life lessons

(wo)menstruation: Trying a Menstrual Cup for the First Time

Word Count
Vagina: 8
Blood: 7
Insertion: 10

In an effort to be more cost efficient and environmentally conscious, I purchased a menstrual cup (MC) back in October. It had arrived at the perfect time as my period started the day after it came in the mail and, as any millennial would do, I documented my experience on my Instagram (which has been shamelessly plugged here).

Before giving my thoughts, I was curious to know how much my followers knew about the cup. The results weren’t all that shocking to me. Only 16 out of 108 voters had tried/used an MC and 3 out of the 16 were guy friends trying to screw up my data (Calling you out Russell, Francis, and Devonte).

As a preface, I want to first mention that my goal here isn’t to provide a thorough, informational guide on what cup to use and how to use it, although I will touch upon some details here. I’m in no way an expert, and I wouldn’t want to lead anyone astray! Nor is my aim to convince you to buy a one, but if you did that’d be great. My goal is simply to share my own experience. And should any questions arise from that, feel free to leave it in the comments down below. I’d be glad to share more!

What is a menstrual cup?
Simply put, it’s a cup you insert into the vagina during menstruation. When the cup reaches capacity or after 8-12 hours, you empty the cup into the toilet, sink, etc., clean it, and reinsert it.

Product Details?
After a lot of research I finally settled on an MC that I felt would fit me best. You can find this brand here on Amazon.
IMG_4096Brand: Intimina
Model: Lily Cup A
Capacity: 18ml
Dimensions: Size A: 3.07 x 1.57 x 1.57 in.

IMG_4100

Unlike popular cups like the Diva Cup, Lunette, or the Lena Cup, the opening of the Lily cup is slightly slanted. It also comes with a nice pouch to carry it around in. There are many different brands, so make sure to research which one would make your vagina most happy.

The stem is also quite long, so I trimmed off maybe half an inch of it. Many sites recommend you do this. The MC shouldn’t extend past your opening and if it does, you’re likely to experience chaffing.

Inserting?
I tried different folds to make insertion easier. My two favorites are the taco fold and the punch down fold. The former is basically rolling the cup like it were a burrito and the latter is pushing down on one end of the rim as shown in the picture down below.

Did it hurt? No. But the first time using it was uncomfortable. With practice, however, that feeling went away.

Did I feel it inside me? No. When inserted correctly, I sometimes forget it was even there.

USING AN MC IN A PUBLIC BATHROOM???
Let’s get to the question everyone has on their mind: okay but using an MC in a public restroom is gross?

My first time cleaning out my MC in a public restroom was definitely nerve-wracking, BUT this is mainly because I was worrying about it so much. It’s not as weird once you get accustomed to it.

Was it messy? No. If you’re concerned about blood splashing everywhere, that did not occur at all for me.

Did I get blood on my hands? YES. But only the tips of my fingers. I should also mention that I do bring wipes inside the stall. To prevent this, bear down on the cup using your vaginal muscles and the cup should lower enough for you to get in and get out with little to no damage done. This also depends on how low/high your cervix is. You could also cover your hands with toilet paper when pulling it out.

As for cleaning, since I couldn’t always mosey off to the sink and rinse out my cup, I used toilet paper/baby wipes to wipe the inside after I dumped the blood into the toilet. This should work fine and most users will tell you this as well. IT’S NOT AS GROSS AS YOU MAY THINK.

Pros:

  1. Durability and Security:
    MCs  supposedly lasts hella long–– 10 years. And because I am not the plan ahead/track your cycle typa girl having the security of an MC always on hand was golden.
  2. Safety:
    It’s more hygienic than pads and it’s a lot safer than tampons (as it lowers the risk for TSS*).

    *note: While Toxic Shock Syndrome is most commonly connected to tampons, it can be acquired from a variety of (non-period related) things. So using a menstrual cup does not mean you will never get TSS, though the risk is very rare.

  3. Eco-Friendly and Cost Efficient
    If you’re aware of our environmental crisis, you might have heard that pads and tampons are not necessarily recyclable, although there are efforts to combat this (Check out LOLA  for more details!). Because MCs last longer, the need to purchase non-recyclable menstrual products is hardly ever a factor.
  4. Less Time in Between Changes
    Because the MC hold your period blood instead of absorbing it, I didn’t need as many stops to the bathroom as I used it. An MC can be left inside for a longer amount of time as it holds anywhere between 18 ml to 30 ml of blood. To put that into perspective, the average period is between 10 ml – 35 ml of blood. If it’s inserted correctly, it shouldn’t leak, which is something that always occurred when I used a tampon for more than half an hour. BUT MAYBE I’M JUST INCOMPETENT.

    On lighter days, I’d go to the bathroom maybe twice every 10 hours and that’s just to check if I leaked–– which wasn’t usually the case.On my heavier day (usually the second day), it’s a different story. Using a pad/tampon I’d go to the bathroom maybe 5 times every 10 hours. Using an MC I’d go around 3-4, which really isn’t that big difference. Again, I’d like to share that I’m still relatively new to using one so this might lessen with time.

  5. Suited for active lifestyles
    I had no problems using it while I went for a run or for the one time I went swimming. I didn’t have to worry about hygiene (as much as I usually do) and changing it out right after a run as I would with a pad and I didn’t worry about leaking as I would with a tampon.

Cons:
I’m going to be real with you. As great as I believe MCs to be, there were a few cons I want to address here. It is also important to note that practice and consistent usage will definitely help or solve many of these issues.

  1. Hard to Open??
    Anyone who says an MC is easy to use IS A DAMN LIAR. While the benefits outweigh the cons, you really have to become intimate with your vagina and the cup when first using it.

    The Lily Cup material is extremely soft and very malleable. For some women, this might be ideal, but this made it difficult for me to open it up once inside my vagina because my pelvic floor muscles are relatively strong (weird flex, but ok?). And in order to prevent leakage, the cup literally has to suction onto your vaginal walls and the rim has to open up from the fold you used to insert it. That being said, it was especially challenging for me as I had been a first time user and was still learning the tips and tricks of using an MC.

    The second month was a lot easier. I spent a lot less time trying to get it to open as I had a better idea of what my vagina needed. I’d say the first month I’d spend 10 minutes on average in the bathroom trying to insert the damn thing correctly. The second month, I spent 3-5 minutes. Pretty good improvement, I’d say. I am still planning to buy a brand with firmer resistance to see if it really is just the cup or if I’M JUST INCOMPETENT.

  2. Leakage???
    One of the pros of a menstrual cup is that it does not leak. Caveat: it does not leak if it’s inserted correctly. Because learning to use the cup is the upward battle, I did experience leakage my first time using it. I will say, however, that when I did leak, it was not nearly as much as when I would use a tampon–– often times, it was just some minor spotting. I’d also like to note that I only leaked on my heavier days. The second month I used it I hardly leaked at all. Because of this, I do suggest wearing a liner on your heaviest day or the first time you try one–– at least until you get used to it.
  3. Cleaning
    Using a cup requires maintenance. You can’t just use it and throw it away like you would a tampon or pad. Before and after each cycle, you have to boil the cup in water for a good 5-8 minutes. So you will have to reserve 5-8 minutes of preparation after you discover you got your period. I could have avoided this wait time if I had some foresight and prepped my MC as I got nearer to my due date rather than waiting for the day my period actually came.

I’d like to conclude this section of my MC journey by letting y’all know I will have a part 2 to this post where I answer the questions others had sent to me and share some of the tips and tricks that helped me best. Before then, feel free to leave any questions you may have or share your experiences and insights down below.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

-petrichor-

Today, the book I was reading got wet
I left it outside on the porch, let the rain
Trample over the opened pages, and
didn’t realize what I had done
until the downpour subsided
And the rain slowed to a drizzle

When I picked it up next, I cried
Such a small thing to get upset over
But lately I’ve been feeling as flimsy as these wet pages
As bendable as the soft paper cover
As fragile as the watered down edges

And lately, I’ve been more and more like water
Like a stream traveling with no destination
Loose, unformed, lacking a single shape
So easily folded into nothing in particular
And as hard as I‘ve been trying,
it seems all I find are shadowed crevices
and because of gravity and because I am water
All I can do is fall through
Separating even more of myself
until I’m just
a
single
drop

But when I opened the book, I saw that my notes
Haphazardly scribbled– were unmarred
The spine of the cover– intact
and the dog eared pages– still folded

When I saw this, I cried again.
And as the droplets began to fall once more,
As the gray clouds danced against the wind,
I laid my book beneath the fan
Walked outside, let my limbs fall languidly
          Felt my body flow north
And joined the rain

Inevitable Lessons of Being A Sad Girl

Life is crazy. No surprise there.
It’s unpredictable.
It’s hectic.
It’s all types of fucked up and all kinds of beautiful.

Most of all, it always moves forward. Luckily for me, much of the momentum that pushed me through this past year and a half had comprised of bouts of sadness so deep, it scared me. It felt inescapable and unmanageable. With my graduation date quickly approaching, I constantly worried about the future: where I would be, what I would do afterwards, where I would work, and mostly how I would pay for myself once I became independent? How could I make something of myself if I was too afraid to take the risk of following my passion for writing? I was stressed and sad and angry that I didn’t have the answers so all I did was remain stagnant in my position. And because of that I felt I had no purpose. I was pushing against a rock I couldn’t move.

Without going into too much detail, much of the depression that I experienced was also a product of internal issues (self-confidence, stress, anxiety, uncertainty, etc.) along with a few other moving and unpleasant events that were outside of my control, but manageable had I simply approached the situation better (failed and strained relationships with friends, family, and lovers). I had harbored and nurtured these problems with negativity and worry and this reflected in my work ethic, my social circles, and my daily interactions with other people. I was easy to anger, to irritate. I pulled away from many people, and procrastinated at every opportunity. Most damaging of all, I convinced myself that I deserved to feel this way– to hate myself for having no “real” excuse for being sad, but still being so anyway.

But I look back at those dark moments in time, even with the happy days in mind, and cannot think of anything I could be more grateful for. I mean that with the utmost sincerity.

You may be wondering why I would be praising something many would consider a misfortune. Why would I be happy to have been sad? I realize that may seem odd and perhaps offensive to some who have been clinically diagnosed with depression or mental illness. That is not my intention at all. But it is because of that deep depression that I have come to learn more about growth and happiness, and most importantly, myself.

Now, I am not a guru of life. I don’t have all the secrets of the world nor do I wish to. These lessons I’ve learned have not automatically brought me to a realm of absolute happiness. But I have learned that “happiness” as a perpetual state of being is not possible, nor should it be. I don’t say this because I am a pessimist, but because I’ve come to understand that the goal of life isn’t about finding absolute bliss for the rest of our days.
It’s about living.
And to be alive is to know pain and hardship and heartbreak and love and laughter and moments of joy so profound it’s impossible not to believe in something greater. It’s about trying to understand world and coming to terms with the fact that we never truly will. To be alive is to live in a paradox.

This leads me to

Lesson One:  Let go of the need for happiness. 
I read a quote once and though I am unable to relay it verbatim, it went along these lines: If you forbid yourself to be sad because there are others who suffer more, then you cannot allow yourself to be happy because there are many who are happier than you.

I spent many months being upset– mostly at myself.There was so much guilt whenever I felt sad or angry, because every night I took a step back and thought to myself: What do I really have to be sad about when I have supportive family and friends, food on the table, shelter over my head, and a stable education? If I started to feel sad I’d instantly beat myself up for looking at the world so negatively. I forced myself to be positive and would get upset when I couldn’t be. How could I when I would constantly meet and interact with people who suffered more tangible worries than I could even imagine?

But I had to learn that feeling completely out of sorts with the world and with myself is an inevitable part of living. Feeling guilty for natural, valid, and uncontrollable emotions is unproductive and unreasonable.

IT’S OKAY TO BE SAD SOMETIMES.

To be in a spectrum of emotion is to be whole. No matter my economic circumstance, my personal situation, my work or school life– be it in a terrible state or a great one– I learned that it’s okay to feel. To live. It was time to stop being so hard on myself for being human.

Lesson Two: Only I am responsible.
My parents, my friends, and my environment have all shaped me. Yet my mold isn’t merely governed by these outside forces. It’s subject to internal movement: my thoughts, my goals, my emotions. Every inch of my mind. The world I live in and how I choose to perceive it is up to me and whatever comes of that is my responsibility.

I worry about what’s to come constantly. I have no idea what will become of my life in ten years or five or even two weeks. What if someone I love dies? What if something comes around and completely throws me off my path and sets me back? What if I can’t get a job after I graduate? This anxiety only fueled what had already been a chaotic mind.

What I had to understand is that outside forces beyond my control will always be there, but to place blame on the state of my life on anyone other than myself is to disregard my ability to rebuild myself and grow from hardship. If someone pushed me down and I stay there, that is my full and conscious decision. Instead of blaming the world for placing a rock in my path, I learned to break down that rock into fragments so fine it would be unrecognizable. Weather it down with water and knead it until it became clay. Then mold that obstacle into whatever I chose. Because only I am responsible for it.

Lesson Three: It’s all about balance.
I remember a time where the playgrounds I once frequented had thin metal beams that I would walk with precarious steps. And I remember the time my friends had dared me to run across the beam without falling down.

I failed.

That experience taught me two things.

1. Balance is crucial.
2. I have to walk before I can run.

This past year I had to relearn these lessons. I reached my capacity for stress, but continued to add things that only pushed me even further past my limit. I overloaded on classes, work, and extracurricular activities and let my work pile up. And when I would silently crumble under the pressure, I’d beat myself up for not being able to handle the stress. I expected so much from myself for no other reason than I wanted to be better and I wanted that now. But rather than benefit me, it only weakened my resolve. I placed my goals on the foreground and pushed my mental health in the background not knowing that there was space for both in the front. Here I was walking on a metaphorical beam of life, holding a feather in my left hand with a ton of bricks weighing down on my right. How could I have possibly stayed balanced?

What I learned from falling too far over the edge is that I didn’t have to carry a huge weight on my shoulder in order to make something of myself. Most of all, I didn’t need to do any of that now. I was trying to fly through the stages of life, but I had no idea what I was rushing for. Maybe I had been in a silent competition with those my age who already seemed to have it all figured out. Whatever the reason, I have come to determination that when I reach my goals, I will go into them with a clear and balanced mind.

Much of what I’ve presented so far may seem preachy coming from a young adult who still has so much left to experience. I have no idea if I’ll come back to this and find that all I’ve written contradicts what I will learn in the following years. Or maybe I won’t.

I don’t really know and that’s okay.
I can’t unpack the entire world in only 21 years.
And you know what?

That’s okay too.