“That time of the month,” “Aunt Flo is visiting,” “On the rag,” “Riding the crimson wave”—everyone knows what I’m talking about, and yet there remains a bit of a taboo when it comes to the topic of menstruation.
After taking an admittedly blissful 20-month hiatus, due to pregnancy and breastfeeding, I found myself having to reacquaint myself with my own cycle and the methods with which to deal with it. Confronted with a variety of options, which is more than I can say for many women and “all the inconceivable ways women deal with their periods worldwide,” I was still dissatisfied with continuing to use products that were perfumed, bleached, disposable, and still didn’t address my needs.
I briefly switched from tampons to disposable Softcups, but on my heaviest days I still needed to change more frequently than was recommended and had a few spills that left me looking like I had freshly butchered a pig, not to mention, the stains on my unmentionables. It always seems like nothing can handle the heavy days…
Enter the freaky way Facebook’s algorithm knew to start posting ads from feminine hygiene makers Thinx and Diva Cup. After the first few times they magically appeared on my feed, I gave in to the click-bait of the post titled: “Can These Panties Disrupt the $15 Billion Feminine Hygiene Market.”
They suckered my feminist bent. Heck yeah, I’m interested in something that could turn upside down an industry that only could have been developed by a group of men. (Even as I write this post, “tampons” was auto-corrected to “talons”—down with the inherent patriarchy in today’s technology!)
In the past couple of years, it seems there has been an effort to “reclaim our womanhood” and take ownership of the flow. There’s even a backlash against a luxury tax on “feminine hygiene products” that has long been on the books in most states and is as far-reaching as limiting the use of Federal Emergency funds for things like pads and tampons.
The more I looked into it, the more I discovered what could be described as a reclamation of sorts—an attempt to bring periods front and center, raising awareness for something half the world experiences for a significant period of their life (pun intended), yet one that many of us ignore or apologize for.
What many women in Western society may not know, is that not only is menstruation taboo, it’s debilitating in some countries. Girls are missing significant time at school, and as a result, are either shamed for their biology or are dropping out all together.
We all worry about the (sometimes perceived) social consequences of having a period, like limited physical abilities (I don’t know about you, but I’m not thrilled about swimming. working out, or generally moving the first two days of my period). We can’t all be this woman:
Furthermore, we all have horror stories about getting our periods at inconvenient times, or the discomfort and simultaneous relief of “getting it.” “It” takes up so much of our waking hours, billions are spent showing us the “right” products to use, and through all the B.S. it comes down on the same side of so many things in life: do what works for you.
So, I’ve made a radical departure from my own traditional ways of “dealing with it” (read: heat pads for cramps, tampons changed more frequently than I would like to admit, and a delicate pad that inevitably gets twisted and stuck to itself) to a more, shall we say, informed approach.
I’ve returned to using an app called “Kindara.” Originally, I used it to track my ovulation for pregnancy. Now I’m using it to track my menstruation (everything from flow to duration and temperature), and when we’re ready I can more easily predict our best times to get pregnant.
I went ahead and took the plunge per Facebook’s suggestions (it already knows what I “like” anyway) and purchased a set of five undergarments from Thinx and my very own Diva Cup (complete with Diva carrying pouch and sulfate free wash!). The underwear are comfortable, even for those of us who are “all about that bass.” They ride a little low, but the added lace and various cuts hold up well and are quite forgiving. The premise is simple: Get rid of your “period underwear” and wear these instead. You don’t stain your clothes or your “good underwear.” It actually wicks away moisture and keeps it away from your body. Simply pre-rinse, then wash, and hang to dry! Admittedly, I tried to use the Thinx all by themselves, and it simply wasn’t enough. Each style of underwear is designed to hold anywhere from 1/2 tampon to 2 tampon’s worth of menses. I was changing my underwear as often as I would my tampon, so that was a no-go.
Enter the Diva Cup, which was pretty intimidating at first, but now I’d say I’m a convert. First of all, yes, having a baby changes your body, so pick the right cup for you. Secondly, yes, you have to empty a cup of blood, BUT the design and removal method are really very intuitive. You may have to do a few Kegels to get a good grip, or bear down a little to ease the removal, but the rest of the time you (and everyone else) may actually forget your on your period!
It’s been five months and I’ve done everything I normally would have used my period as an excuse for not doing (well, except intercourse, but that’s a whole other thing). I’ve gone hiking, swimming, exercised rigorously, and breathed my way through yoga. I’ve gone on long car trips and sat through a second viewing of Mad Max Fury Road (yes, I used my woman card to avoid watching it again, yet I still have a visceral reaction to it). I’VE WORN WHITE PANTS!!!
I’ve finally found what works for me, my conscience, and my body. I don’t necessarily feel like I’ve reclaimed my period so much as integrated it into my life. I never felt like I lost it in the first place, and I certainly didn’t welcome it back with open arms. If nothing else, I feel like I’ve educated myself to a degree with which I will be able to do more for my daughter than many of us got from our predecessors. (Ever read Tina Fey’s Bossypants and her entre into womanhood? Yeah, confusing stuff like that still happens.)
On top of all that, I do feel pretty good about supporting women-owned businesses that are helping under-served women in other countries. Hey, if I’m going to buy something anyway, shouldn’t it do something good for other people, too? So, if you ask me, do something good for yourself: grab your emergency chocolate, chamomile tea, and heating pad and bone-up on everything that’s changed since health class and everything that hasn’t. Don’t take my word for it; check out what others are saying, and do what works for you!