Welcome, readers of The Montague Reporter! This post is especially for you, an addendum to my May 12 column, “The Surprising History of Menstrual Care, Part 2.” Thank you for joining me. 🙂
(I am a ciswoman—I identify as a woman and was assigned female at birth—and write from that perspective.)
I learned about menstrual cups at my hippie college (Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio). The idea was simple: Rather than absorbing menstrual flow like a tampon, cups collected the blood, to be dumped out periodically. (I even heard about an artist who saved her menstrual blood and painted with it.)
This totally grossed me out, because I’d spent my whole menstruating life absorbing period blood with tampons and pads. I rarely if ever saw it in its natural, flowing state. I thought it looked and smelled gross (on top of causing me much discomfort); I just wanted it gone, and between super-plus tampons and scented pads, that’s what I got.
It took me years and much education and exposure to warm up to the idea of menstrual cups. Then, the more I thought about it, the more appealing it sounded. I just had to buy the one thing, and reuse it, saving money and resources. As I became more environmentally-conscious, it seemed like something I should try.
There was a learning curve, but not as much as I’d feared. The cup was surprisingly comfortable and effective.
But I’ve always had a heavy flow, and still needed to use pads in addition to the DivaCup. It started to seem silly, using this reusable cup with disposable back-ups.
Lunapads also sells other menstrually-centered products: pads, padded panties, diaper-bag-like pouches for travelling, etc. I became a regular customer of Lunapads and grew quite the stash of reusable menstrual products and positive healing goodies like balms and essential oils and hormone-balancing chocolates (what’s better than that?!).
The addition of reusable cloth pads cancelled out the constant purchasing of products and accumulation of trash and added only one load of laundry a month to my routine.
Many years later, I made cloth pads out of extra cloth diaper pieces (classy, I know). Little changed in my femcare routine for a while, until a couple of years ago, when fancy period panties I mentioned hit the market.
Thinx panties were different. Aside from being high-tech, moisture-wicking, anti-microbial, leak-resistant, and highly-absorbent, they’re marketed to the masses with big (and controversial) advertising campaigns, rather than being relegated to the domain of the crunchy hippie.
(If you want to try Thinx, get $10 off with this link.)
Since then, other companies are making similar products. Go ahead, do a search for “period panties” on Amazon and you’ll see what I mean.
I’ve got a pair of Thinx and a few pairs of Padkix. I love them both, and they have made the ease of reusable femcare even easier.
I’ll be honest with you, bleeding for several days every month—and all the discomfort that comes with that—is still no fun. The 15-month reprieve I got due to pregnancy and nursing was wonderful. But since switching to reusable products, I have a much better relationship with the byproduct of my fecundity.
I found that, by taking out the synthetic materials of tampons and “sanitary napkins,” my flow was a lot less offensive. Conventional products try to mask the scent of menses with chemical deodorant, which, on top of potentially aggravating your skin, can just make everything smell grosser.
It’s like my experience with underarm deodorant: Rather than starting from the idea that this part of my body needs to be muffled, I instead start from the idea that, yes, it needs to be maintained because we live in civilization, but it is not inherently disgusting and therefore in need of chemical assistance.
Like the skin, the vagina is self-cleaning—and, just like your skin, this self-cleaning works best if you don’t interfere with it.
I focus on helping my body maintain its own state, helping it clean itself. That is a much smoother process when I use natural fabrics and water rather than bleached GMO cotton, plastic, lab-created scents and “sanitizers,” and lord knows what else.
It also allows me to feel better about my body: It is no longer something to fear and be repelled by and try to alter at its core being. It is simply a body, that knows what it’s doing, so long as I hear it out.
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