Saturday, January 16, 2010

'I don't trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn't die'

Stupid, yet common saying. Real dumb.

I keep finding myself in conversations with fellow women who about those 'personal things.' The two topics to come up specifically have been menstrual cycles and birth control.

I'll just touch on the latter briefly, but hopefully will come back to it later, when I can do a little more research on it. That being said, my opinion is just that, an opinion- and one that is only loosely based on fact and more so based on feelings. But, as someone who was on it for many years, I know I am glad to no longer be. While yes it provided me with three significant benefits- pregnancy prevention, decreased cramps, and clear skin- it also had negative effects- probably the most direct and significant one was a severe lack of emotion. Tricking your body into believing it is pregnant by ingesting hormones on a daily basis seems pretty nuts.

But, periods are something I know a bit more about. My quest to deal with the fact that I, as a female, bleed for a few days a month, every month, sort of began when I was a sophomore. I woman named Lizzy, who I don't really know, brought up something called 'tampaction' at a Green Network meeting. Tamp Action huh? The concept, as she briefly explained, is largely based on the idea that tampons are harmful, and there are more positive alternatives.

Here is a pdf one-pager on tampaction.

Here's my own mini-tampaction break down. Tampons are bad news for many reasons. The reason I initially began thinking about it was the waste they produce, how many tampons, wrappers, applicators etc find their way into the trash. From there, I began to think about what exactly a tampon is. A piece of tightly bond cotton that has likely been grown with some pretty sick pesticides and then bleached to be extra white. Gross. I don't really want that inside of me. That was enough to sell me on alternatives and the one I went for was the mooncup.

The mooncup, which is similar to the Diva Cup, is a reusable menstrual cup. It's made from silicone and you insert it (similar to how a tampon goes in), then empty it out a couple times a day and repeat. You just wash it out. At first, it was hard to get used to, it made me get more up close and personal than I had ever really wanted to with my period, and it was uncomfortable to insert- and even more uncomfortable to take out. But once I got the hang out if, it's been great (and comfortable). I don't have to 'change' it as often as you do with tampons, and it's a lot cheaper (I think it cost around $40, but it only needs replaced like every ten years or something crazy).

But more important than the moon cup being more convenient etc, was the process of getting to know my body better and to stop feeling so ashamed of a menstrual cycle. I used to be someone who would do everything I could to hide getting a tampon out of by backpack, because I think we've all been taught that it's gross and something we shouldn't talk about. So i never did. But when I had to empty out a cup and wash it to prevent bleeding everywhere, I really began to be more comfortable about my period. We all deal with it, so why are we ashamed? It's part of being a woman.

The moon cup, just like a tampon in my experience, sometimes leaks though. I've stained more than one pair of underwear because of it. So, I often wear liners in addition to wearing my moon cup, but then when I stopped to think about it, disposable liners are almost as nutty as tampons. So, I made my own. It was really easy to do, but I also like sewing a lot so I guess it could be more difficult if you're not into it. But I made it out of an old flannel shirt (soft and nice) and a scrap sweatshirt piece. The ones I made are fairly thin, but they could be thinner or thicker. Many people don't any kind of insert and use homemade liners only, which I also think is a good option (but not for me). But basically I just made a little pouch the shape of underwear (or a liner you may have bought) using two pieces of flannel, leaving one end open. I then turned it the right side out and put a piece of sweatshirt inside and sewed up the end. I also sewed a circle-ish shape inside the middle to keep the sweatshirt piece from crinkling up when I put it in the washing machine. So now I have a washable, reusable, free, thin liner I can wear- just in case.

The last thing I have started to do, which has just been recently, is to keep a menstrual calendar. The idea is basically if you keep track of your period, you can start to realize how long it is and how often it comes- so you can better expect it. In addition, I've tried to make note on the same calendar of what days I am feeling particularly moody. I've never heard of this part before, but I think maybe if I can see patterns in days that I am feeling super crazed, then I can know when I can expect that, too. The idea there being that if I know it's PMS or whatnot, then I can tell myself maybe that is why I am feeling really upset/frustrated/sad, and even tell other people that I am feeling that way and I do not mean to take those feeling out on them. Like I said, I just started tracking this, so we'll see if it is helpful, but I think it will be.

It's been a good experience for me to explore some options, and I think it's important to be comfortable with yourself. And if that means tampons, moon cups, or any other things than that's just fine. How to deal with a menstrual cycle is a very personal choice, but I think I've found some good options and feel comfortable about it, so I thought I'd share.

1 comment: