I got my first period in the sixth grade, and like most, I've hated the experience ever since. But unlike most, I had a pretty restrictive routine from middle school into most of my adulthood: My first two days involved turning off all the lights, silencing all sounds, and lying in the fetal position. Part this was because of the pain, but mostly, I just wanted to withdraw from society because of the total frustration and inconvenience that comes with wearing menstrual products.
I've always had a hate/hate relationship with tampons.
They didn't seem to offer me a lot of protection. So many people I know love them, but for me, they've never been practical. For years, I dedicated myself to maxi pads—they gave me the coverage I needed and were cheaper. But the constant rubbing against my skin felt gross, and I wanted to move as little as possible to reduce the sensation.
As anyone who's worn a pad knows, they're extremely limiting. If they have wings, it's like you never have whatever underwear would actually allow them to stay folded. And if they don't, they could spontaneously compress and cause spillage over the sides.
A couple of years ago, after I gave birth, things got worse. Even my old faithful maxi pads started to let me down. I knew I had to make another change—so I started wearing adult diapers. Yes, I know. My friends laughed at me too. But it killed two birds with one stone: I stopped needing to soak my ruined underwear and I didn't have to change as frequently as I did with a pad. However, they're expensive, and it probably comes as no surprise that wearing them kind of sucks.
So my new answer was to test out the menstrual cup.
At first, I was pretty freaking pissed at the concept—at almost $40 upfront, it's not cheap. But I reminded myself that if used correctly, this initial investment is nothing in comparison to the $400-700 average periods cost per year. Another barrier for some people is that inserting your fingers into your vagina can feel invasive or uncomfortable, but personally, it doesn't freak me out at all.
I read a few forums to see what common first-time issues were, and many of them involved a slight amount of leakage due to improper insertion. When my cycle hit that week, I was ready to test out my new gear: I followed the directions on the packaging as well as the forums, and found I had no leaks at all.
It was weird knowing something was there catching everything, but I felt liberated. And that feeling promoted a total change in my routine—I didn't want to stay in my cave of gloom like usual. I went out and took a freaking yoga class. And as I reflected in downward-facing dog, it hit me that I was BENDING OVER ON MY PERIOD. And there was no murder scene!
I lifted my leg without a care in the world. Yes, the pain was still there, but my grumpiness and general sense of yuck, which had caused me to retreat for years, was gone.
My menstrual cup marked a new era for me.
I was done feeling gross during something natural and was finished with letting my period make me its bitch. I'm a free woman, dammit. Watch me forward-fold!
I was also pleased with myself for reducing waste and having a positive environmental impact. We didn't do goddess pose that day, but I didn't need to—I already felt like one. I know it isn't for everyone, but it's my hope that everyone who gets a period will attempt at least one month with a menstruation cup. The environmental impact would be astronomical, but the difference in how you feel about your body's natural functions would be even more noticeable.
This month was a game-changer for me—and I can't wait to see how the next one goes.
A. Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez is a diversity content specialist who produces materials relating to mental and physical health, sociology, and parenting. Her work can be seen on several national platforms. Check her out on Facebook and Twitter.