One day, at 11 years old, I found a brown blob on my pastel underwear.
I only had a vague idea of what this brown blob could be, because I'd heard some of my friends talk about it. My mom was absolutely no help at advising me about what was going on.
"You're a woman now," she said cryptically. I wasn't sure if it was meant to be comforting or an inside joke. She passed me some pads. She asked if I needed help putting them on. I pushed her out of the bathroom and closed the door.
I was left to figure out my period through inadequate Sex Ed and anatomy classes, TV, and my inexperienced friends.
My mom did want to talk to me about the blob and about my body and sex. But her talks always made me feel uneasy, uncomfortable and unwilling to actually have that conversation with her.
Growing up, I had a very complex relationship with my parents, which I attribute mostly to them being West African. Westerners and West Africans have a very different way of communicating things. American parents say "I love you" and African parents say something clouded in wit. American parents ground their kids, and African parents whoop and lecture them -- at the same damn time.
Fast forward 10+ years later. Now, I am no stranger to putting things inside me. However, no method of dealing with my period ever felt quite right. As I got older, my periods became much heavier, unpredictable and unpleasant.
I was not a fan of tampons, because they leaked too easily and I -- totally absurdly, I know -- worried they could get lost. One of my homegirls had a terrible experience with a tampon that went astray. This scarred me from ever putting another piece of cotton or rayon inside me.
About two years ago, I heard about the Divacup, from an unlikely source — my exloverboobestfriend. He's a pretty open-minded guy, and very much into science and innovative technology.
When he told me about it, he was so intrigued by it that you would've thought he was the one with a vagina. I brushed it off though, and didn't bother to research it. I kept trudging along with my wet diaper-pads feeling sorry for my heavy-flow-having self.
Yet, I started to hear more and more about the Divacup, the reusable menstrual cup here to capture our blood and shield us from leaks. One of my close friends has both a Diva and Keeper cup, and stands by both.
"You have to get one. Every woman should!" she urged me, more than once.
So I started researching them, and found that there is a whole world of menstrual pussy protectors — the cups are available in different colors, shapes, sizes, stem lengths, you name it. There's the Lunette, Lily, Sckoon, Looncup, Meluna, Moon cup, Fleurcup, Lena cup, Femmecup.
I was even more excited to start using menstrual cups when I found Bree, a young YouTuber who reaches out to the many menstrual cup manufacturers for samples, and gives precise reviews of each cup. Her detailed comparisons made my decision easier. In the end, I chose the Lena, for its bell shape, grip rings, and flexibility.
When my cup came in the mail, I excitedly tried it on to see what it felt like. It went in smoothly with the C-fold method, and I didn't feel it inside of me. The whole cup fit perfectly, stem included.
From my research, I knew that the cervix position can move higher and lower during the menstrual cycle, so I made a mental note that the fit might change during the my actual period .
I decided to document my first period with Pacpussy, my appropriately named menstrual cup.
Day 1: It took 8 tries to finally get the cup in. My vagina seemed way tighter than usual, and my cervix had lowered significantly.
After I realized my cervix was much lower than the first time, I was able to listen to my body. I took deep breaths, relaxed myself, stimulated my clit a little, and then finally eased it in.
Number of times I had to empty the cup: 2
Day 2: This was a heavy-ass bleeding day! Plus cramps and a severe case of the bloats. So much blood that I leaked. I had to use a pad in addition to the cup.
There was an incident this day. I had a poop+pee+period explosion on the toilet when I got home that night and emptied my cup for the fourth time.
One of the cons of using the cup: It plugs everything in. I've always felt that while on my period, my urinary, reproductive and excretory regions fall miserably out of sync, as if there is an internal debate about who is allowed to release waste first.
I'm usually the most constipated during my menses, and with the cup, it felt harder to poop and to release all my pee. Maybe I was pushing my cup too high, and it was pressing on my bladder?
Number of empties: 4. I also cut a small piece of the stem off.
Day 3: Normal to moderate flow. It wasn't bad. However, my workplace bathroom is not a private one — it has several stalls. On my first two days, I was fortunate enough to be in the bathroom alone and was able to wash my cup in peace.
On this day, the bathroom was on and poppin. After sitting on the toilet for 5 minutes waiting for some of the bathroom-goers to leave, I finally gave in. I got out and pretended I was washing my hands while I discreetly cleaned my cup.
Also, my cup popped halfway out my vagina while pooping! Note to self: push cup out with vagina muscles, rather than relaxing my muscles while pulling and tugging it out.
Number of empties: 3
Day 4: I forgot to reinsert my cup in the morning. I got to work with damp panties, but not soaked. I inserted the cup, and wished to myself that there was a laundry room in my office building. Note to self -- pack an extra pair of undies in my bag at all times.
Number of empties: 2
Day 5: Extremely light. And at this point, I'm much more skilled at inserting and releasing my cup. I also found that the alternative folds work for me, too.
Number of empties: 2
Day 6: Unrelated to the cup, but I'm an emotional wreck. I even cried while writing these sentences.
Number of empties: 1
Day 7: Period fin. I washed my cup and lay it to rest until next month.
Having used it for one full cycle now, I think everyone should at least try a menstrual cup. But I also know that it isn't for everyone, and it is NOT my place to tell people with vaginas how to take care of their vaginas.
If some of you are interested in using a menstrual cup, here are some good reasons to do so:
- It's environmentally friendly. Pads and tampons add to the growing amount of waste that humans produce.
- They make sense, economically. Buying one menstrual cup at $30 beats spending 6.99+ on pads monthly. That math adds up over our lifetimes. The disposable pad industry is trying to suck us dry while not even adequately keeping us dry.
- They can be more comfortable than alternative options. Even if the size or shape scares you, these things are highly flexible. They conform to your vagina's shape, and will not "loosen you up."
- They're kind of fun. It's really cool being able to track how much you bleed, and having a measurable way of determining it.
I'm thinking of investing in another cup that can hold more blood on my heavy days. I also want to try the Thinx period panties or the reusable cotton pads, for the extra protection.
My mom doesn't know about my menstrual cup. But I'm thinking about telling her, just to see her hilarious reaction and to actually have a productive conversation about the female body. It's long overdue.
Who knows, maybe I will tell her about my vibrators as well. (I will not tell her about my vibrators.)